A new study confirms what animal advocates have been saying all along: Don't blame the wolves for killing elk. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game conducted studies on collared elk in 11 study areas, and examined the causes of death. According to the Times-News, "Though statewide numbers have dropped some, claims that wolves are wholly responsible for declining elk populations aren't holding up . . . Biologists found that wolves killed significant numbers of collared elk in only one area." What were the other causes of death? Severe weather, bears, cougars, and hunters. In two of the 11 study areas, hunters were the number one elk killers.

Last year, Idaho Fish and Game wanted to kill 40-50 wolves in their Lolo zone because of their perceived effects on the elk population, yet they offered 1,492 elk hunting permits for that same zone.

These findings contradict hunters' claims that wolves are to blame for a declining elk population. Ecologist Scott Creel of Montana State University pointed out that the reintroduction of wolves may create an illusion that there are fewer elk, because the presence of wolves means that elk are less likely to stay out in the open.

Populations of wild animals go through natural fluctuations. When the number of prey animals drops, the number of predators will also drop. This leads to a recovery of the prey species, which leads to a recovery of the predator species. It's important to understand this, because hunters will often call for more hunting of whichever species is rising at the time, regardless of the fact that these populations will stabilize and fluctuate naturally.

Given time, Creel said, he thinks both populations would stabilize. He noted population sizes are only considered "good" or "bad" based upon arbitrary ideas of what the size should be. "No predator has ever eliminated its food," Creel said. "Change is always the most dramatic at the beginning, then population numbers settle."

Of course, there is also a problem with state wildlife agencies intentionally keeping populations high for hunters. And I have to be suspicious of Idaho Fish & Game's motivations for publicizing this study. Their survey of out-of-state hunters found that "three in 10 didn't plan to visit Idaho because of the perceived effect of wolves on elk populations." Is this study an attempt to draw more hunters to Idaho, which will lead to more sales of hunting licenses? Or is that just a happy coincidence for Idaho Fish & Game?


Responses to "Don't Blame Wolves for Elk Deaths"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Make a petition! This is ridiculous!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well, not only did they 1492 Elk permits, there are the poachers ! Now I understand that there wern't 1492 elk killed, Don't know the number, but what ever it was, the did not the number poached ! So stop blaming the wolves !!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Among hundreds of Zebra a group of lions will kill just one. The rest continue to feed freely in meters beside. The wolfs kills 70 sheep and eats only on few.

    Hunting licences contributes to the budget and care for the wildlife. Or maybe you want to pay loans to the gamekeepers and bring food and take care for the animals when they need it. Please grow up.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Kill the hunters!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous 5-14am. I'm grown up & i think your post is a load of rubbish. Wolves only kill to eat, unlike people who kill for so called "sport" or "fun".

  6. Anonymous says:

    We need more people voicing out about this, enough so that they won't be able to ignore us.

    "Wolf management" isn't needed. Like it said in the article, prey and predator populations level themselves out without help from humans.

    Some people say it gives a "tolerance to the wolves" for the hunters and ranchers. I hate most people so can I kill some of them to tolerate them better? No obviously not, so why should it be that way with the wolves?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Sounds to me like you people are money hungry and the wolves dont have a chance. Why are you selling that many permits if there wasnt that many elks in that area. I think the authorities need to look into the wildlife shennanigans! Somdthing does not sound right here!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Exactly right!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why does my post keep disappearing, I can call Washington just as easy as I can type my reply to your so called problem wit the wolves. Leave the wolves alone and look into the number of permits sold in that area. Sounds like a little money makjng scheme on the side and you are trying to blame the wolves instead of your own greed. The wolves eat what they kill and yiu wjnt find a elks head over the fireplace in the wolves den! Washington could probably suspend hunting permits of all skrts until thdy look into this great mystery! Leave the wolves alone!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think nature is nature,What makes man the the only one who has a right to eat. Get a life!!!! Nature was ment to go full circle. Man can go to the store, a wolf-bear ect.. can't. How about the wolf control mans population. Get out of their SPACE and there wont be a problem. THEY have to eat, and THEY have the right.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I don't understand why they always blame everything on the Wolves and other animals, when it's us humans that are killing and ruining Nature and it's Animals. We are the ones that need to STOP ruining this Planet. Who knows with this flu virus that is so bad this winter may be caused by the dam hunters hunting these PRECIOUS Animals that are VERY important to the ecosystem ( like the Wolves are VERY important, and look what the humans are doing to them precious Animals). Blame the human species and NOT the animal species. Stop the killing and the ruining of Nature and her Beautiful Animals.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Not to rain on the animal rights stuff but if the the decline in Elk population is what it is, no matter what the cause and the Wolf Population is growing.. doesnt that point to a good food source and possible effects of the Wolf having a plentiful food source? The Natural process of the Wolf is to chase down the easy targets, young immature Elk or older Elk that are near end of life.. The first being the bigger issue.. The babies are taken because they are easy targets.. the process repeats and you will have a decline in Elk Population.. Balancing the process is never easy.. if the Elk herds were un-managed you would have a problem with Elk. If the Wolf Population is not managed you will have Wolf as a predator finding other food sources. As they did years ago, they fed on Cattle, Sheep, horses and occasionally people. We don't have a natural balance any more.. that will never happen again.. The process of natural animal predation and repopulation is out.. The Elk would naturally over run the grounds they live on and flood the area. Wolves are the natural predator, so are big cats and bear. But again.. none of them will be allowed to prosper to the point where they will look for alternative food sources.. Humans, Live stock or domestic animals.. Some management of the herds has to be done.. Is there a balance in this..probably.. but not by natural process any more.

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