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Wolf Slaughter Continues in the Rocky Mountains

Fantasies of killing become increasingly bizarre

Lynne Stone, longtime wolf advocate and executive director of central Idaho’s Boulder White Clouds Council in Ketchum, couldn’t help but laugh. For the last two years she has routinely petitioned the Idaho Dept of Fish and Game for every single “ Big Game Mortality Report” filed on wolves killed by hunters —several hundred of them since the animals lost Endangered Species Act protection. Hunters and trappers are required to send in the report along with the skull and pelt for examination. In mid-January Stone ran across a November 2012 report that stated, “DNA came back as a domestic dog,” a light-skinned one.

wolf Photo Flickr/CC BY 2.0Hunters operating just west of Yellowstone National Park killed seven radio-collared wolves
from October through December, including the famous, often photographed 832F, the
majestic female alpha of the Lamar Canyon pack.

“Buy a wolf tag, shoot a dog, claim it was a wolf, get bragging rights and a dog-skin rug,” she chuckled “Life is wonderful in 3rd world Idaho. Is anyone missing a light colored mutt? Maybe it’s time folks put orange vests and hats on their dogs.”

Gallows humor is all wolf supporters have left. In February 2011, Congress removed gray wolves in the northern Rockies from protection by the Endangered Species Act, the first time a species has ever been delisted for political reasons. Before that, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s reintroduction of wolves to the northern Rockies in the mid-1990s appeared to be one of the greatest conservation successes in decades. Wolves had been killed off in the West in the late ninetheenth and early centuries centuries. But while tourists from all over the country came to Yellowstone in hopes of seeing “Cinderella” or “Limpy” — many of the wolves became named — in the Rockies a reactionary political movement developed against the animals.

By the late 1990s, the northern Rockies had become a redoubt for America’s far-right wing extremist groups: paramilitary culture advocates who saw themselves as armed warriors facing federal tyranny, ranchers angry that they did not own the lands they leased from the federal government to graze cows, hunters who saw the region’s deer and elk as their private property, and those who hated all forms of environmental regulation. These groups created a common mythology, both resurrecting old forms of wolf demonization — wolves as evil, related to the devi l— and inventing new ones: wolves as foreign invaders from Canada, wolves as icons of the federal government, wolves as disease-ridden with deadly tape worms, wolves as “killing machines” that would wipe out the region’s livestock, and in time, hunt people for food and sport. (For more, see my Earth Island Journal story, “Cry, Wolf” from the Summer 2011 edition.)

From the far-right, wolf demonization spread to the mainstream Republican parties in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and as the movement gained momentum Democratic leaders capitulated and began to advocate removing wolves from federal protection. Montana Senator John Tester, a Democrat facing a tough re-election bid in 2012 from Republican Congressman Danny Rehberg, sponsored a legislative “rider” to a federal budget bill that delisted wolves. The bill passed both houses and President Obama signed it.

In the spring of 2011 at least 1,000 adult wolves lived in Idaho. The state’s first hunt in 2011-2012 saw hunters shoot 255 and trap 124 — roughly 40 percent of the entire population. But that wasn’t enough for Idaho state officials, who want to reduce the wolf population to 152, the legal minimum before federal regulations would require wolf relisting under the Endangered Species Act. So for the current hunting season, wolf bag limits were increased to 10 shot and 5 trapped, more than twice the previous count. Despite the increased limits, hunters haven’t been able to dramatically increase their kills. In the current 2012-2013 season, hunters have thus far shot 157 and trapped 46.

“There’s less wolves out there,” explains Brett Haverstick, education and outreach director Northern Idaho’s Friends of the Clearwater. “The wolves are figuring things out, figuring out where is a safe place and where isn’t.”

Although the wolf body count is down, the demonization of wolves as symbolic enemies escalates. “The wolf hunts are part of a much larger culture war,” Haverstick says. “Out here many people still believe it’s an endless frontier. The individual should shouldn’t be held back by any restrictions put on them. The wolves were eliminated 100 years ago and that was part of being a good westerner, the conquest of nature. Now wolves are caught in a struggle between the Old West and the New West. Those wolf carcasses you see in social media photos, you would think it’s Osama bin Laden hanging from the rafters and that the hunters are proudly serving their country, posing with their assault rifles. This is about going into the forest and removing evils from American society.”

Some people even fantasize about mowing down entire wolf packs with assault rifles. In early January — not long after the shootings in Newton, Connecticut renewed national calls for limiting semi-automatic rifles with large magazines — a wolf-hunter social media site with the rather ironic name, Save Western Wildlife, came to the defense of these weapons. It pictured a dozen wolves frolicking in a snowy meadow. Here are some of the choice comments that accompanies the wolf photo: “Perfect reason for a so-called ‘assault weapon’”; “Proof as to why we need AR-15s”; “Nothing a 30- round clip wouldn’t take care of”; “Looks like a good place for more TARGET PRACTICE on some moving targets that BLEED!!!!!”; “Unleash me!” If the wolf killing represents target practice, then evidently the practice is for shooting humans. The fantasy war against wolves overlaps with fantasies of killing people.

Facebook screenshotFB ScreenshotSome people even fantasize about mowing down entire wolf packs with assault rifles, as this
Facebook comment thread shows.

But these paramilitary warriors did not kill enough wolves to satisfy state officials. Idaho Fish and Game will now pay the expenses of trappers. A bill in the Idaho house proposes that wolf traps can be baited with wolf carcasses and those of other big game animals so that a hunter could kill a deer or wolf and then stake out traps. The IDG has reallocated $50,000 from the state’s coyote eradication campaign to the federal government’s Wildlife Services, a branch of the Department of Agriculture that kills wildlife. Wildlife Service shooters in helicopters will be deployed against wolves, not because the wolves are thought to have killed livestock, but simply to reduce their numbers down to the legal minimum on the grounds that fewer wolves means more elk for hunters.

Suzanne Stone, Defender of Wildlife’s regional leader in Boise, disputes this reasoning. “We’re down to less than 500 wolves,” she says. “Idaho’s got 3,000 mountain lions, 20,000 black bears, 50,000 coyotes, 250,000 deer and 100,000 elk. Wolves are being treated very differently than other wildlife. Wolves have become the poster-child of the far-right — it’s anger and fear. People establish their identities around hating wolves. The state’s goal is not recovery. It’s as if they are trying to manage a patient on life support and keep them there.”

The situation is much the same in Montana. So far more than 170 wolves have been trapped and shot in the state’s still ongoing 2012-2013 season; that figure is roughly equal to the number shot in the 2011-2012 season. But although Montana lacks Idaho’s theatrics, this year’s hunt had a special sadness. Hunters operating just west of Yellowstone National Park killed at least three radio-collared wolves in the fall of 2012. These wolves lived primarily in Yellowstone and their deaths received national attention — the first sustained publicity in the 2012-2013 season. As one wolf hunter commented on a blog: “The hunts have flown under the radar to a much larger extent nationally than a lot of the NGOs had hoped … Drilling wolves that are well known inside the park by large numbers of visitors presents an opportunity to elevate the wolf issue to the national level.” Montana wildlife commissioners apparently concurred, voting on December 1 to close wolf hunting in several areas adjacent to the park.

However, Big Game Forever, a hunting organization, filed suit to reopen hunting and won its case in early January on the grounds that the commission had not conducted adequate public hearings before closure. The Montana House subsequently voted 100-0 on a bill recommended by the Department of Fish, Game, and Parks to make the commission’s prohibition of wolf hunting in areas adjacent to national parks illegal unless an area’s quota has been met. If the Montana Senate passes the bill and it is signed into law, wolves in Yellowstone will more likely remain confined, unable to disperse west of the park and breed with other wolves.

Wolf isolation also figures in Wyoming’s management strategy. Wyoming wants a maximum wolf population of 100. Officials classify wolves as “trophy” animals regulated by bag limits in roughly 15 percent of the state just east of Yellowstone. Hunters shot 46 and trapped 31 in the 2012-2013 season, including at least three radio-collared wolves, among them the famous, often photographed 832F, the majestic alpha female of the Lamar Canyon pack. In the remaining 85 percent of Wyoming state officials have declared wolves “predators” that can be shot, trapped, poisoned, or killed in any other way, with no limits. Hunters do not report their kills. It is not clear how many of Wyoming’s estimated 330 wolves that were alive in early 2012 remain. The Yellowstone wolves are thus blocked from further dispersal to the east.

Last November, 12 national and regional conservation groups — including the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Clearwater, and Western Watersheds Project — filed suit in a federal district court against Wyoming and the US Interior Department. The suit claims the plan violates the Endangered Species Act by writing off so much of the wolf population and leaving the remaining wolves genetically isolated in the Yellowstone “island.”

Only one other hope for wolves remains open in the short-term. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, who oversaw wolf delisting, announced his resignation in early January. It is possible that another secretary — Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva is the environmental movement’s preferred choice — might change policy. In the long run wolf advocates cling to the hope that the urban New West — with its more wildlife friendly populations — will gain political strength and spearhead a national movement to put wolves back on the list of endangered species.

For now, however, the wolves are on their own.


(A previous version of this report located Boulder White Clouds Council in northern Idaho. It is in central Idaho. It also inaccurately reported that hunters have shot 152 and trapped 124 wolves in Idaho in the current 2012-2013 season. The correct number for wolves tapped in the current season is 46. The kill number, as of January 31, is 157.

Also, the famous 832F alpha female from the Lamar Canyon Pack, were not killed in Montana. She was shot in Wyoming, outside the park.)

Earlier Journal stories on this issue: 

January 17, 2013: Wolf Hatred is a Gateway to Bigotry

April 13, 2012: Idaho Fish and Game Report Says Trapped Black Wolf Not Shot, “Just Nicked”

March 28, 2012: Wolf Torture and Execution Continues in the Northern Rockies

November 14, 2011: Hunters Have Killed More than 180 Wolves in the Northern Rockies

July 21, 2011: Dead Wolves Walking

June 1, 2011: Cry, Wolf (Summer 2011 cover story)

James William Gibson
James William Gibson writes regularly for Earth Island Journal. Among his books is The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam (1986).

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All I see with you wolf killers are killers.

If you could kill me for wanting to protect Wolves
you would, Not one of you killer will stop wanting
to kill. You are just like the NAZI only hating
Wolves and coming up with what ever BS so justify
your killing.

I the world of Hate you can justify anything just
ask the German people.

You killers are a bunch of sociopath Just like
the Night Stacker. You just can not kill people
so you Kill Wolves.


By Harold on Tue, June 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm

I really enjoy hunting the elk and deer in the sawtooths, dont get a tag but since you all say the wolves ate them all, I can take what I want to eat. If you spend time in the forest deer and elk are not that difficult to kill, sure like seeing the wolves which I rarely see.

By richard roberts on Tue, June 04, 2013 at 11:53 am

London, the only hack I see here are you and those who dare bash Lynn Stone and Co. Three times as many as reported? More like 1/3 as many as reported. Hacks like you give this country a bad name. And not a day goes by without me hoping that any nukes the likes of Iran and North Korea may have decimate the likes of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming (after evacuating the area’s wolves, that is.)

By Shark Attack 458 on Sat, May 04, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I have read many articles about wolves in my day, but this one takes the cake. Quoting Lynn Stone is hilarious. She has been a paid hack for 20 years, advocating for wolves, and slandering any person opposed to her lunacy. She is nothing more than a bull, bullying anyone exercising their right to protect their property.

The author should know, no game agency has a clue about the total wolf population, nor do they have a clue of the total number of wolves killed. The fact is, three times the wolves were killed than reported, and three times the wolves exist than reported by game departments. This story and the others representing to know anything about the wolf dynamic is nothing more than a fairy tale. It is this organization and Lynn Stone that created the monster it is today. Whipping up emotions of people who live thousands of miles away, only created a monster that cannot be stopped. You ruined wolf restoration by giving a lunatic like Lynn Stone a voice.

By London Peterson on Tue, April 30, 2013 at 5:15 pm

I see Lynne Stone is up to her fraud again planting poisoned meat and blaming hunters. Wolves will continue to be managed by our state’s plan and you stinking liberal wolf humpers are going to have to learn to deal with it.

By Cory on Tue, April 30, 2013 at 8:57 am

The kill isn’t down because of lower wolf numbers, it is most likely down due to weather,accessability and the fact that when hunted , they like every other animal who is hunted or trapped - get more wary and elusive.
  You who claim to love and respect the wolf so much more than us heartless hunters do not give him his due as an intelligent and wary animal who under todays management laws and practices would never have been endangered in the first place.
Only poison -now illegal ( rightfully so)- resulted in the decimation of canine predators numbers.
  The wolves will be fine- ( They didn’t spay and neuter the wolves they trapped in leghold traps and reintroduced into the Yellowsone ecosystem or the upper Midwest) Y’all can take the knot out of your panties and turn your ambitions back to hungry and abused dogs in puppy farms, starving horses and pet hoarders where it is needed and productive.

By bob on Sun, April 28, 2013 at 5:02 am

Yeah Bobbie…
That aint gonna happen….but make your lawyers fatter if you wish…
Good luck

By Lynne Stoned on Wed, March 13, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Very one sided. The numbers you quote are guesses. There are no firm numbers. Except for those given out by Fish and Game on the harvest numbers. Also, how come no one ever show the Elk, Moose and Deer killed and maimed by the wolves? I have hunted wolves for two years. They are harder to hunt, than people think.The only way to get the balence you want. Is to stop ALL building of roads and houses. Stop ALL hunting. This would have to be done for twenty to thirty years. This is based on a study of a island off the coast of Alaska. One breeding pair was placed on it. It had a high population of deer. There was no influce by man. Except for putting the wolves there. It took twenty years to achive balence. If you could do this in Idaho. I will support you.

By Calvin Wood on Mon, March 04, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I personally don’t debate the issue with those who support it because their social demographic would make my arguments get very ugly, but I’d rather see less pissing and moaning about how bad the decimation of wolves by humans is and more action.
I also don’t have the slightest ounce of care for those anti-wolf extremist who make me reiterate the following video.

By Big Al' on Mon, February 11, 2013 at 7:40 pm

The wolves have a right to be here… We also have the right to manage them… The wolves catch a bad wrap as we are also over run with bears and lions… But our elk and moose population are in serious danger… This isn’t just a complaint from a Trophy hunter… Yes I like big antlers but I also like organic meat… I can no longer hunt cow elk here. There are no tags for sale… According to the local biologist the elk and Moose are “critically threatened”... but all the predators are thriving… Elk have had a 3% survival rate here in District 203 for 3 years in a row… It so sad to see 97 out of 100 elk calves not show up the next year… We need to save the wolves but also save the Elk and Moose… I don’t mind getting out of the truck to hunt as I am a bowhunter… But the sate can’t even sell me a license to hunt… Pretty soon the predators will have eaten themselves out of most their natural prey. Then problems will arise and wolves and other predators will suffer from the states mismanagement… They added a mouth to the table but never made any room for them… The wolves were just the straw that broke the camels back… The wolves deserve to have elk to eat, and so do I. Predator management is the only way thats going to happen…

By Lobo Bandito on Sat, February 02, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Excellent article. Third world countries protect their wildlife better than the United States does. These wonderful creatures are finite and vulnerable and once they are gone, America will suffer and loose so much. These wolf killing states will face terminal decline in their natural wildlife and habitats, as well as millions of tourist dollars paid by visitors hoping to catch sight of wolves in their natural habitats. Many will never visit Idaho, Montana or Wyoming again - it is the only protest they can mount, especially non-US citizens. It is a national disgrace that this slaughter has been allowed to happen. Lawmakers who continue to allow it should hang their heads in shame.

By J Danes on Sat, February 02, 2013 at 4:47 am

That page Justin mentioned was originally a PRO-WOLF page! The haters hacked it and turned it to the dark side. Whoever wrote that comment saying those who don’t want to live in a world without wolves should take themselves out ought to be marched into the woods and shot dead themselves!
If I were in power right now, not only would these hunts be illegal, but those who back them would declared as domestic terrorists and be punished severely. There would be only two fates for the anti-wolf crowd in my America: Jail, or death.

By Pete Braun on Fri, February 01, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Please don’t lump me in with your conspiracy theory.  By your standards I’m probably about as right-wing as they come. Yet I’m a proponent of maintaining healthy wolf populations.  I think you might be missing the mark here, it’s the almighty dollar that’s driving the whole thing. Well-heeled hunters from abroad pay professional guides 10-20K for guided trophy elk hunts, those outfitters are making bank, and want to make sure they have plenty of elk around to keep making bank. 
  As far as the idiotic FB trolls putting up material that’s offensive to you, just don’t look at it, don’t respond to it. That’s like getting in a scat-flinging contest with monkeys. Put on your grownup pants.

By Chris Leete on Fri, February 01, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Thank You for another article in your series of
articles exposing the atrocities going on here in the Northern Rockies.
The so called “management” of wolves here is driven by misguided fears, outright lies, greed and hatred, and comes to fruition in backroom deals. 
We have no one to turn to for help within our own states and must look to the rest of the country for help to save the wolves. 
Idaho is working towards eliminating all but 150 wolves in our entire state, and they are well on their way.  Hundreds of wolves have been killed…379 in last years hunt alone.  This year’s numbers are quite a bit lower, because we are running out of wolves. 
Of note, the first wolf killed in Idaho’s Wolf hunt was a four month old puppy.  He was so young he still had his baby teeth.  He was lured out into the open with his family of six with an electronic predator call and shot with an arrow. 
Is it ok with the rest of America that in Idaho it’s a legal recreational pursuit to shoot and kill four month old puppies with arrows???? 
Ann Sydow
Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance (NIWA)

By Ann Sydow on Fri, February 01, 2013 at 7:18 am

This article makes me very angry. It goes to show you how many of the people who live in this country are f#$king nuts. And, not to mention IGNORANT.
We have to keep fighting for the wolves. We need to come together as one.

By ramses09 on Fri, February 01, 2013 at 12:03 am

Thank you for this article. I am astonished at the attitude towards such a magnificient creature who has plays an integral part of the ecosystem. It sends a very strong message, worldwide, that the US is a country that does not value life or planet with a reputation as an out of control red neck country bent on destruction and vile bloodsports. Our tourist dollars will not be spent in a country that does not respect wolves, for wolves are the only reason we would visit & we are not alone.

By Vanessa Wolfe on Thu, January 31, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Reading this makes me sick to my stomach. If this country had any clue how things work maybe people would care.  Senator Tester should be ashamed. It is so insane that the will of a few hunters can make the rules and we are supposed to be ok with it. I have stronger words but I have to be civil…

By Jeff Tisman on Thu, January 31, 2013 at 7:32 pm

This makes me feel sick inside.  Not even mentioning Wisconsin where it looks like dogs will be trained and allowed to hunt down wolves.  Management is one thing, but what is going on is blood lust.  Almost makes you ashamed to be human.  This video is dedicated to this beautiful majestic animal.

By Robert Schmidt on Thu, January 31, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Take a look at this wolf hunting page on facebook. In the group statement they express their hatred for wolves and their plans to make them extinct. This page also tells wolf lovers to commit suicide. Yet these are the people our government puts on a pedestal over us.

Support Wolf Butchering, Cooking and Recipes
I have been kind of busy lately & I have not been able to see how beautifully this page has been developing. It is about time the wolf numbers have been dropping. They are nothing but a parasite on the world & should be weeded out as such. I’f you’d hate to live in a world without wolves, I suggest taking yourself out.

By Justin Forte on Thu, January 31, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Great article—concise and comprehensive.

By Karen DeBraal on Thu, January 31, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Thanks for posting this.  It is extremely important as the US Fish and Wildlife Service contemplates western wolf reclassification this spring that the public be aware of what the wolves are facing post-delisting—nearly 1000 wolves killed so far.  The public needs to request that federal protections remain in place until this man-made barrier to continued wolf recovery is removed. 

Thanks again,
Bob Ferris
Cascadia Wildlands

By Bob Ferris on Thu, January 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm

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