Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Wolf Delisting Commentary:
Adirondack Wildlife Refuge’s Steve Hall

Cree_HowlingThe recent proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) is almost entirely about politics. The American alligator and the bald eagle, to use two examples, were not delisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until they had repopulated their former ranges, while wolves have repopulated only a fraction of their former ranges, and are already under heavy hunting pressure by the state governments of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

How many Americans are aware of the fact that in 1915, the US Congress, acting, as usual, under pressure from special interests, in that case, the ranching and hunting lobbies, provided funds to the Interior Department, to eliminate wolves, mountain lions and other predators from the United States? The Interior Department set up their “Animal Damage Control Unit”, and spent millions of taxpayer dollars to shoot, trap and poison wolves over several decades, with the only survivors being in the Boundary Waters area of Northern Minnesota, one of the most inaccessible regions of the U.S., not to mention a paradise for kayakers, canoeists and fisherman.

Wolves are “keystone predators” who help control over population of wild ungulates like deer, moose and elk, essentially culling the very old, very young, sick, lame, and basically animals which are genetically challenged, in other words, animals whose removal keep the ungulate breeding pool healthy and strong. Wolves also control their competition for food, keeping coyote numbers down, and cougars up in the highlands where they won’t be caught out in the open by wolves.

Not surprisingly, the removal of wolves was followed by an explosion of white tailed deer (sound familiar?) as well as dramatic increases in elk. Wolves also prey on very young and very old moose, but moose have much bigger problems than wolves, their principal tormenter being the increase in Winter tics, enabled by too many warm Winters, this Winter notwithstanding.  As a result moose are in decline across the northern states. I haven’t seen DEC estimates for 2013, but I won’t be surprised if we turn the corner, and see those numbers begin to decrease.

The wolf issue out west is primarily about economics, but in its political expression, it is largely driven by bad information. For example, two of the most important businesses in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are big game hunting and ranching. Out of state hunters spend money on hotels, restaurants, guide services, etc. Over the last 20 years, the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone and Idaho, and their subsequent spread, have returned the naturally varying range of elk numbers to what they were in the functioning ecosystem of the past, when wolves were the key controllers of elk numbers. The folks who wish to eliminate wolves again claim that wolves are causing the extinction of the elk, but fail to acknowledge the fact that wolves and elk and moose shared the lands that became the American west for at least 3 million years prior to our arrival on the scene. If wolves could cause the extinction of elk and moose, they would have done so long ago.

They also claim that the wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone are Canadian wolves, larger than the wolves exterminated in Yellowstone a century ago. There is extensive forensic evidence published in 1995 by wolf taxonomist Ron Nowak which debunks this claim. There is no genetic difference between the wolves trapped in Alberta and British Columbia, and released in Yellowstone, and the wolves who lived there in the past.

Wolf detractors also refuse to recognize that wolves draw tourist dollars. The towns of West Yellowstone, Silver City and Gardiner are to Yellowstone National Park, what Lake Placid, Wilmington, etc. are to the High Peaks areas, towns largely dependent on tourist dollars. Surveys indicate that at least 7% of Yellowstone tourists would not have come to Yellowstone, but for the hope of seeing wild wolves in the in places such as the Lamar Valley. This translates into about $30 million in revenue for the towns surrounding Yellowstone.

There are outfitters in the Yellowstone area who specialize in guiding tourists to areas where they are likely to see wolves, grizzlies, etc., just as there are outfitters who specialize in guiding hunters in season. Wendy and I have visited former hunting camps in British Columbia, which discovered that greenies have money too, and their visits during the hunting off season have the added benefits that hunting with the camera, does not remove the animal, or, as one guide told us, “I can show that same grizz to multiple tourists!”

Wolves are also very important to tourism in the Boundary Waters area, as well as in Canadian Parks like Algonquin, Banff and Jasper, or Denali in Alaska. The irony is that wolves tend to avoid people, so the chances of seeing wolves in these Parks, at least for more than a few seconds at a time, are not that good. Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, with its wide open vistas, remains the best bet for wolf lovers, but be sure to bring your spotter scope. What is inescapable however, is that wolves mean tourist dollars. I assume that many of the hunting outfitters, who see hunting wolves as a business opportunity, will expand into the camera hunting business in the off season.

Many ranchers are nearly religious in their hatred of wolves. About a quarter of western livestock is grazed on BLM lands (public lands owned by the taxpayer) at anywhere from 10 to 50% of the private market going rate. This is a large entitlement program for ranchers, who howled in protest when the Obama administration suggested raising the cost of an “animal unit” by a buck, from $1.35 per unit per month (e.g. one cow and calf, or five sheep), to $2.35, which would still leave it far below standard private land grazing fees. Thanks to incompetent management of BLM lands, 23% of the ranchers using BLM lands for grazing were not even billed by the government. Ironically, many of the folks who support the ranching lobby, are the first to level the charge of “socialists” at those who don’t see things the way they do.

In fact, “open range” laws demonstrate that there is a very clear culture of entitlement for ranchers out west. Open range laws vary from state to state, but basically, they say that if you wish to protect your property from the grazing of your neighbor’s cattle, it is up to you to put up fences to keep the cattle out, and not the other way around. In the wide open spaces, land tends to be less expensive than it would be in suburban New York, so many folks who do not raise livestock, own large tracts of land. Imagine the cost or fencing in, not to mention maintaining, one hundred acres of land just to keep your neighbors livestock out. Other aspects of open range laws govern who is responsible for livestock struck by cars on public roads. In many cases, the driver is legally at fault. There are actually court cases out west, going on now, in which homeowners who shot their neighbor’s cattle, which were caught in the act of eating the homeowner’s vegetables, are being charged with destroying the rancher’s livestock.


The USDA keeps records on the reports of livestock deaths, for purposes of understanding what health issues need to be addressed. In 2012, respiratory problems, digestive problems and calving problems were by far the overwhelming cause of death amongst cattle.  In 2008, wolves were responsible for killing 569 cattle and sheep, less than 1% of livestock losses. The government responded by killing 264 wolves out of the 1,600 estimated to be in those states at the time. Coyotes kill 22 times as much livestock as wolves do, especially sheep. Domestic dogs kill five times as much livestock as wolves do, but I don’t recall any campaigns to kill all the dogs.

Politics generally involves compromise, and as part of the agreement to allow wolves back into Yellowstone and central Idaho, the government agreed to compensate ranchers for livestock lost to predation. Now consider how complicated this would become. One of your cows dies out on a remote stretch of BLM land. While you use a combination of range riders and employees in four-wheel-drive vehicles to patrol your widespread herds, you don’t discover the death right away, but the noses of wolves, bears and cougars do, and they come to feed.

Predators like wolves will always prefer to eat dead animals, rather than go after live prey.  Elk, moose and bison, for example, are five to twenty times larger than an average wolf, so even if you are one of several wolves attacking a moose or elk, there is considerable personal risk involved. One of the of the main causes of wolf deaths are when they are killed by their intended prey. The rancher discovers the dead animal, and seeing that its carcass has been chewed on by predators, calls the USDA, who sends out an animal pathologist, who delivers the bad news that the rancher is only compensated when the predators were the cause of death. (Defenders of Wildlife has a special fund, which compensates ranchers who have lost livestock to predators).

By the way, “Animal Damage Control” has shifted from Fish and Wildlife to the USDA, under the more benignly named “Wildlife Services”, and in these times of alleged austerity, still spend millions of tax payer dollars, shooting, trapping and poisoning predators on Bureau of Land Management lands (public lands), to benefit ranchers and farmers out west. Visit PredatorDefense.org for more of this story. Good understandings of the politics of wolf tolerance out west, may also be found at National Geographic’s Wolf Wars website, or by reading the book by the same name, or Wolfer (Bottlefly Press, 2012) by Carter Neimeyer.

At Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, we are not opposed to hunting wolves under any conditions. What we’re opposed to is allowing politics as usual to drive the policy. This has been evidenced by state governments, which ignore their own scientists’ reports on the issues, and allow hunting to reduce wolf numbers to unsustainable levels. They also ignore the public will, as recently happened when Michigan sanctioned wolf hunting in defiance of 80% of polled Michigan residents. As with so many other political issues today, what is the point of paying scientists to analyze an issue, and then discard their findings?

Among the pro-wolf factions, there are also unfounded claims, the most popular of which is that wolves never attack people. Statistically, this is accurate, in that the number of verifiable wolf attacks is insignificant when compared with how many people see wolves. In the half century up to 2002, there were 8 fatal attacks by wolves in Europe and Russia, and none in North America. But statistically, these facts extend to more dangerous animals like grizzly bears, which average five or six attacks on humans in an average year in North America.

Thousands of people see grizzlies every year, many fairly up close, still others closer than is obviously prudent, but we only hear about the sows who occasionally kill a tourist, responding to what they interpret as threats to their cubs, or other grizzlies who suspect a threat to a carcass they’ve been guarding and slowly consuming. All of this makes for exciting media fodder, but doesn’t change the fact that when you are camping in grizzly country, you are far more likely to die of a bee sting, or a broken leg if you’re hiking alone, than any encounter with wildlife.

Unfortunately, Hollywood does its best to manipulate our fears by creating fantasy horror movies like “The Gray”, or the old “Bart the Bear” movies like “The Edge”, which encourage us to forget that Hollywood is trying to entertain us, not educate us. I’ve seen dozens of Grizzlies in Canada and Alaska, and their reactions ranged from ignoring us, to detached curiosity, to fleeing.

If you’d like to learn more about wolves, their roles in nature, their history with man, and how that relates to your dog, not to mention meet some wolves up close, visit us in Wilmington at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge.


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Steve and Wendy Hall run the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehab Center in Wilmington. They've been rehabbing and releasing wild animals for over 45 years, specialize in predators, keep wolves as the cornerstone of their educational program, and have lived in the Adirondacks for the past 20 years. The Adirondack Wildlife Refuge became a non-profit about 10 years ago.Visit www.AdirondackWildlife.org to learn more.

48 Responses

  1. Pete Klein says:

    “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf” is the problem.
    I understand ranchers and hunters don’t like wolves so I discount anything they have to say about wolves.
    The West screwed up years ago when they got rid of the buffalo who knew how to survive on the plains with wolves and then introduced cattle who are among the dumbest, least adaptable animals on the planet, surpassed only by sheep.
    Hunters? They just don’t like any competition.

  2. Steve Hall says:

    I agree on both points,Pete. Economic problems draw economic solutions. At times, I aspire to be a vegan, but I’ve never been able to stick with it. However, we won’t buy beef. Fortunately for meat packers and unfortunately for us, the packers are not required to list origin of the meat on the label, so it’s tough to boycott beef from the wolf hunting states.

    Many of our friends hunt, and we get some venison from them, while the wolves, foxes and bobcats enjoy the parts people generally don’t eat. Whether or not you’re a hunter, you can buy specialty meats, such as fully organic Bison meat from the Adirondack Buffalo Company, three and a half miles east on exit 29 off the Northway. In a pinch, Hanaford sells pre-packaged ground bison from a Colorado company called Great Range, again organic free range, no additives. Bison tends to be 90% lean, and it’s quite tasty. I believe there are other sources for non-additive meats in the Adirondacks, so we’d be grateful if commenters could add any suggestions, in the spirit of eat healthier and buy local whenever possible.

    We believe that one of the great tragedies of the green movement is that hunters and greenies often seem to be at loggerheads, as both groups ultimately share the same goal, connected wilderness with wildlife.

    Having said that, in the past, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have allowed elk to overpopulate in the name of more out-of-state hunter dollars in local economies. Generally speaking, the more elk there are, the better the opportunity for less skilled hunters to bring home a trophy and some meat.

    The bottom line is that there are many more greenies who travel around the US, Canada and Alaska to National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, than there are hunters, but since there is no simple formula for identifying them as a block, such as hiring guides, purchasing ammo, etc., they remain a much less vocal and not efficiently counted majority. One of the odder facts about firearms in America today, is that there are more firearms than ever, while hunting is declining in all 50 states, partly because our children and grandchildren are growing up in the age of electronics and personal communicating devices, and not spending enough time out doors.

  3. TiSentinel65 says:

    Your premise that wolves only eat the weak and the old and the genetically challenged is wrong. They eat what ever they can get their fangs on. Western ranchers complain about wolves because they attack and eat livestock. Are you telling me these animals are in some way weak? Wolves hunt in a pack as it gives them an advantage to take whatever they zero in on. Prey animals can usually deal with one threat, however as the numbers of predators on the hunt increase, it lessens their chances of survival. If a prey animal makes a misstep he becomes feed. They complain about wolves out west because they are seeing elk herds plummet in numbers. People eat elk, It is an excellent source of high quality meat. What gardener would allow his crop to be ravaged by pests? It is increasingly becoming harder for people to put food on the table. The economy is in the doldrums. The dollar does not purchase what it used. Everything is more expensive. People hunt to live. People have filled the predator role that wolves and other predators used to fill. It is a model that has worked for years. We conserve our game resources with seasons that allow a carefully selected harvest. The Fish and Wildlife’s proposal is based on the fact that the gray wolf is not endangered. Go to the wilds of Canad and you will see that the gray wolf is doing quite well. Those states out west that have opened hunting and trapping seasons have done so to keep the wolves population in check. They do not want to see game numbers implode. You have a problem with the proposal, others do not. Calling hunting and ranching, the actual act of feeding ones self, a special interest, betrays yours ignorance of the issue. The only special interest here is your own.

    • Eric says:

      One study has shown that wolf predation on moose targets older cows. In territories without wolf populations these older cows dominate and produce one calf. In areas with wolves, younger cows produce, and tend to have two calves. More and more biological studies show that all species thrive when top predators are present.

      Additionally, when individuals of a wolf pack are killed, the pack becomes less effective in taking wild prey. These disrupted packs are more likely to infringe on ranching.

  4. Steve Hall says:

    Ti, thanks for your comment, but you’ve made several questionable claims. The first is that wolves “eat what ever they can get their fangs on”. One of the most basic methods wolf researchers employ when trying to understand wolves and their impact on their habitats, is to follow the packs, and examine the remains of animals they have killed and devoured. Go to http://www.isleroyalewolf.org/, to follow the longest predator-prey study in history, in which the subjects are wolves and moose.

    Those studies. and many others conclude that moose between the ages of two and ten are pretty much safe from wolf predation, assuming there are not debilitating conditions such as lameness, severe winter tic infestation, brainworm, arthritis, jaw necrosis or starvation. The reason they are relatively safe from attack is that wolves quite practically, understanding how dangerous full grown moose can be, approach and test twenty moose for each one they decide to engage in a full blown attack.

    You claim that people have fulfilled the predator role previously occupied by wolves, cougars, etc., but while that is partially true of subsistence hunters, who use all parts of the animal, it is not true when it comes to trophy hunters, who want to remove the biggest and strongest, precisely the specimens you want breeding, thereby strengthening the herd. It also ignores the fact that hunting is actually declining in the United States.

    Finally, why should the American tax payer, in times of alleged austerity, subsidize western ranchers? If they are allowed to graze their livestock on lands owned by the tax payer, at discounted rates, why isn’t the presence of predators on PUBLIC land fall under the topic of the cost of doing business?

    Everything in nature is connected. We are not opposed to hunting per se, nor are most of the wolf researchers which we know. Many of them are hunters. What we’re opposed to are arguments based on emotion and anecdote.

    • TiSentinel65 says:

      The Isle Royal study may be good for Isle Royal wolves and moose, but it is an isolated island in Lake Superior. It has a uniqueness unto itself. Saying hunting is declining may be true if you only count purchased licenses. Many hunt, but do not purchase licenses. Poaching to feed a family happens. The rancher provides a needed service to feed people. I am not one for farm subsidies either, however I am equally against 501c advocacy groups. These groups pay zero taxes and border on political advocacy, which is illegal. The money that finances these groups is always suspect. You claim your opinion is in the majority, try running it up the flag pole out in the states that have open seasons for trapping and hunting gray wolves. The only reason many groups opposed to delisting are seeking redress in the federal court system is they know they will be rebuffed in the states where the gray wolf is having the largest impact.

      • Steve Hall says:

        Ti, the “unique” aspects of Isle Royale do not include the basic behavior of the moose and wolves. When you take issue with a study’s findings, you’ll be more convincing if you provide alternative studies which contradict the isle Royale studies. You will not find any. There have been other studies in Northern Minnesota, Alberta and BC, which reflect the same predator-prey behaviors.

        Has unlicensed hunting increased in the US? With the population shifting more towards urban areas, and since it is likely that poachers will be local, rural folk, I doubt it, but again, in science, verifiable and measurable statistics rule, not may-bees and could-bees.

        With respect to 501cs, if I understand this correctly, according to the IRS, 501cs are very much allowed to engage in political lobbying and persuading, as long as less than 50% of their activities are geared towards political activities, as the recent Congressional hearings on the IRS non-profit scandal revealed. Three quarters of political non-profits are conservative in orientation. Again, with respect to this paragraph, would like for folks with a better understanding of non-profits to vet these opinions.

        Finally, for Paul’s and Ti’s questions about hunting wolves, does open season mean year round, or within confined dates? If the former there are no open seasons on wolves in the lower 48, if the latter, there are seasons in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Minnesota and Michigan, but that is not really the issue, as not all pro-wolf (which is to say, pro science) orgs are opposed to wolf hunting. As I said in the article, we’re opposed to states and their hunting-ranching lobbyists, who want to set allowable wolf populations at such low levels as to make them unsustainable, and with the obvious problems in performing census, possibly enable their extinction again. You both should come on the wolf walk at the Refuge… you may find it interesting and enjoyable.

        • TiSentinel65 says:

          Extinction again? You can’t go extinct twice! Gray wolves are doing fine in Canada and Alaska. You may advocate for wolves in the the lower 48, but that is where the most conflict is going to occur. The states have set very limited seasons with very specific quotas. They are not going carte blanche as far as their management goals are concerned. They however are trying to also keep game animals at higher levels. I am not advocating wolf extinction either. I am only saying their numbers need to be kept in check so as not to hurt game harvests. I am not even going to try to argue about 501c groups. It would take to much time. I will let the facts speak for themselves as far as science is concerned. More wolves equals less game animals. It is not rocket science.

          • Steve Hall says:

            Elk harvest in Wyoming was at near record levels in 2013: http://wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/news-1001959.aspx

            Montana elk were up 25% over projections for 2013: http://fwp.mt.gov/fwpDoc.html?id=60250

            idaho State Fish and Game: Elk in cyclic pattern with highs in 2000, 2005: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/docs/fgNews/2012feb.pdf

            • Paul says:

              I am not sure I understand the point here? Are you thinking that these harvest numbers are up because of wolves. That could be a huge stretch. It may have something to do with it. It may also have nothing to do with it.

              I notice that in Idaho and Montana, two of the states where they indicate having good harvests is where wolves were taken off the endangered list in 2011. It says that in Idaho 269 wolves were legally harvested last year. Shouldn’t we see the Elk harvests there dropping if the wolves are having some beneficial effect on the Elk herd?

              And this seems to completely contradict some of the other comments here (LOWER calf productivity in the areas with more wolves!:

              “Wildlife managers continue to monitor the decrease in elk productivity and subsequent hunter opportunity in some areas of northwest Wyoming near Yellowstone National Park. Nesvik notes that while hunter success is high on a statewide basis, there continues to be elk herd units in the Jackson and Cody Regions where hunters are concerned about lower elk numbers and lower hunter success. The Department has documented lower calf productivity in many of these areas.”

              • Steve Hall says:

                No, paul. What I am saying is that elk numbers are a lot more complicated than the number of wolves. Are you aware of the fact that Rocky Mountain Elk were driven to extinction by over-hunting, long after wolves were gone, and that this was one of the primary reasons why states began instituting limits and seasons? Hunting interests try to suggest that wolves are the only relevant factors in reduced elk herds, and they’re also not willing to admit that elk numbers have varied over time for a multitude of reasons.This was also true of wild turkeys and beavers. A good read on the relative impacts of hunting, harvesting and green movements is “Nature Wars” by Jim Sterba.

                • Paul says:

                  I agree elk numbers are very complicated. I find it interesting that Elk in PA don’t spread into neighboring states. Of course these are RM Elk and not the Eastern Elk that were native to places like the Adirondacks (also hunted to extinction.

                  I don’t think that hunting interests try to suggest that wolves are the only factor in herd numbers. Hunting groups out west are responsible for lots of habitat acquisition and restoration. They understand that land preservation is key and that it is more than predators that affect the numbers of their quarry. Hunters today have no interest in killing off their sport? Quite the opposite.

                • TiSentinel65 says:

                  No, Merriams Elk and Eastern Elk are the two subspecies of Elk that are extinct, Not Rocky Mountain Elk. This from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s own fact page. And yes overhunting was the problem. Wolves are not the only problem for elk. Severe Rocky Mountain winters claim their share. Hunters claim the majority, and that is the point. A carefully managed and conserved resource, that renews itself with the birth of new calves every spring, provides food for people.

                  • Paul says:

                    The Elk that were introduced into PA (and now into other states) are Rocky Mountain Elk.

        • Paul says:

          Steve, I think that you may have misinterpreted my comment. I am not opposed to the idea of leaving Grey Wolves on the list. I was just curious about where you think the populations need to be to get them to that point.

          What was my question about hunting wolves?

          The question I had was – what are the protections afforded the animal being listed and how would that change if they were taken off the list. That is just a question not any sort of position one way or the other?

          I also question whether much of the US is suitable habitat for wolves. Some of it obviously is but some of it is far different now than it was when the animals had a larger range. Again not a position but an observation. One that could be wrong.

          I would love to see the wolves you have. I personally would love to see or at least hear a wolf in the wild. But I also can sympathize with someone who’s livelihood is called into question by an animal like this.
          So I don’t really see this only as a pro science anti science issue. That type of thing just makes people dig in their heels and cover their ears. There is no doubt that these are political decisions. Just like requiring vaccines is one. Should we allow the influenza virus to run free in the population because we don’t want to prevent it from living in all of its “habitat”? Or should we control it as best we can? Either way you are playing with the natural order of things just like we are doing here with wolves. It is just that people see one as all vermin. Just like some ranchers see wolves. That may be an extreme comparison but you get my point. It is not just a question of what science dictates what we should do. We obviously have choices and yes they all have consequences.

          • Steve Hall says:

            Hi Paul, sorry about missing the gist of your question. On the comical side, I’m realizing that writing the article is half the job, with the second half being trying to keep up with replying to comments, so I find myself trying to consolidate answerss.

            What constitutes successful reintroduction is a good question, and strikes to the heart of the controversy. F&W seemed to be on board with an honest appraisal of the issues, but were caught trying to stack the advisory deck with scientists who were likely to render the desired political opinion, one which had not much to do with the generally accepted science. Now the reconstituted board has come back and said, delisting can be on the table after we settle the question of wolf classification, particularly where it concerns the eastern coyotes, or, as we call them, coywolves, found in the northeast, and apparently slowly spreading at least as far south as Virginia and the Carolinas. The red wolf is a whole other related question.

            I agree that there are habitats where gray wolves don’t belong, and probably can’t make a living, but nature tends to sort those issues out through starvation and migration, while presenting new issues, such as the self-inflicted spread of wild boars, which are showing up in the Adirondacks, though they may be a local strain. Would wolves make a difference there, and should hunting for the boar be more opened up?

            I agree that there are many voices that need to be heard, but they can not simply ignore the science, which we can summarize for you when you come up and go on the wolf walk, which takes about an hour and a half.

            The science is not all about wolves being cuddly – on the contrary – but about how wolves fit into nature – what is their role, and by the way, how did we get from wolves to dogs, as the DNA has settled that issue, and led to very interesting speculation about how dogs happened. I hope to contribute an article soon that speculates about that.

            • Paul says:

              Steve we appreciate you writing the article and being in on the discussion.

              Having a science background (although I am no longer doing research) I find it strange that F&W is able to find scientists that are willing to “render the desired political opinion” but I guess it is possible. I suppose I give them far too much credit. I would think that finding wildlife biologists that have the skills and then ones you can manipulate politically would be a pretty tough job. But I guess it is possible.

              Having lived out west for 8 years before coming back east (probably a bad decision!) and seeing the changes going on out there I am afraid that much of the wolves habitat there is starting to get to the point where it may be one of those places “where wolves don’t belong”. Sad.

            • An says:

              In Europe and Asia wolves prey on wild boars – so I think it would be the same here. Eastern Coyotes and bobcats could probably only take the young. Wolves can take some of the larger ones. Cougars also can probably take medium sized boars – because their larger leopard cousins kill them in Africa and South America. Of course wolves or cougars wouldn’t eradicate them – but they could certainly keep them in check.
              I personally think wild boars should be hunted more by humans as well. They are most certainly an invasive species. Unlike wolves and cougars – they were not in this area historically.

              • Paul says:

                “I personally think wild boars should be hunted more by humans as well.”

                I would tend to agree, but it appears that hunting these can actually interfere with other more effective eradication methods.


                • An says:

                  no one has seemed to be able to eradicate wild pigs ones they get entrenched… so NYS has to hurry up.

                  Interestingly I was just listening to a study that in Florida – some of their panthers diet is 50% wild pigs. Of course they breed too quickly and there are not enough panthers in Florida – but it helps.

    • An says:

      Yes – humans can’t cull the herd in the way an animal predator can.

      • Paul says:

        I don’t know. If we can exterminate a species it seems like we can be a pretty effective? Humans are animals and they are predators. Just have to be careful not to go too far.

        • An says:

          I was talking in the sense of the sick and weak animals. Humans have to go by sight. Our other senses aren’t sharp enough to discern often times.

          In terms of eradication – humans are all by ourselves.

        • Steve Hall says:

          Keeping in mind that eventual extinction is the end result of 99% of the creatures which have ever lived on earth, mankind has been directly responsible for the extinction of many species, if what is meant is that in our absence, without hunting and habitat destruction, there were no other compelling reason to cause the extinction at the time it happened.

          For example, great auk, stellars sea cow, passenger pigeon, tasmanian tiger, etc. An excellent book for the lay person on he subject is “Where the Wild Things Were”, by William Stolzenburg, which gets into Trophic Cascades, or how chnages i the environment, for example, by removing or adding a species of plant or animal, can affect ecosystems. A great book is “The Wolf’s Tooth”, by Christina Eisenberg, and for understanding invasive species issues,”Out of Eden”, by Alan Burdick.

  5. Eric says:

    Thanks Steve for the excellent article. There is currently a relentless campaign to kill wolves in three western states. Bounties, hunting and trapping as well as poisoning, using taxidermied pups as lures, and extermination of families at dens are all being used.

    The fight to maintain federal endangered species protection is being waged by many environmental organizations. For more information on wolves and wolf conservation I recommend the highly effective Earthjustice:


  6. Paul says:

    Steve, where would be need to be in your opinion to be at a place where we could de-list the gray wolf?

    Also, in these articles I have read it is not clear what “protections” the animal receives. From Eric’s comment it sounds like they are not really protected even in states where there is a fairly large population.

    What would the consequences be in a place like here where we don’t currently have any wolves. It seems to me that much of the east coast is no longer suitable habitat for wolves?

    As far as “special interests” go those that want the wolf around and those that don’t all fit the definition. You see both of their lobbyists cruising around capital hill.

  7. dave says:

    Great article on a very important topic. Thanks, Steve.

    Hope to see more from you on these pages!

  8. Charlie S says:

    Eric says: There is currently a relentless campaign to kill wolves in three western states. Bounties, hunting and trapping as well as poisoning, using taxidermied pups as lures, and extermination of families at dens are all being used.

    My,aren’t we such a compassionate species us humans. Poison! What a horrible way to die.Twice I have come across screech owls that were shaking violently,their eyes constantly moving around in their sockets and near death when I found them.More than likely they nibbled on poisoned mice (or rats. Poison should be illegal! But then large industries would be put out of business wouldn’t they and we wouldn’t want that. Our government wanted to poison a quarter million geese just a few years ago because they were in the flight paths of airliners and a threat.I haven’t heard anything about that in a stretch but I’m certain they received a ton of slack on that one.I suppose if our government can drop napalm on a foreign population why not kill 250,000 geese too. Walt Whitman once said our government is lacking soul. That is more true nowadays then it was then when he was alive.

    Trapping! My brother’s dog Shep didn’t return home one day on the farm where he lived.High and low he searched for Shep to no avail.It was odd that Shep did not return home. Some months later my brother was hunting in his woods and there was Shep hanging from a snare that some trespasser had set up and who never returned to check his trap.Shep was such a beautiful dog i’ll never forget!
    Us humans are by far the worst thing that ever happened to planet earth.We are cruel by nature no doubt.Not all but too many of us.No thing alive has a chance on this planet so long as man continues on his destructive course.

  9. An says:

    Yes it is indeed hypocrisy that ranchers could use public lands and then complain about predators. On private lands it should incumbent upon the private owner to protect it’s own lands. Predators are a part of a healthy ecosystem – which benefits the whole public. No predators should be killed on public lands UNLESS it’s a human they attack.
    For thousands of years – all across Asia and the Near East ppl used livestock guardian dogs to protect their flocks against predators. Even in Africa now they have imported them from Asia – which has greatly reduced losses for farmers. Important ecologically is that the ranchers are not killing as many cheetahs and leopards because they know to avoid those flocks. The cheetah and leopard populations have stabilized in those areas.
    Some ppl in the US have finally caught on to that – but then complain that the dogs get killed. Two livestock guardian dogs – can keep away bears or cougars – but they CANNOT match up to a pack of wolves. They need to spend the money and have 6, 7 or 8 – as is done in Asia (and also in Europe and parts of Canada). In that case it becomes a canine territory issue and the wolves are more likely to respect the territory. It’s not guess work… Ppl have experienced for a long time. It seems many ranchers out west are too cheap. They don’t want to pay for the upkeep of that many dogs nor properly secure their land – and they want public lands for their use. It’s just not fair.

    Closer to home – I see no reason upstate NY couldn’t have wolves return naturally. If they can live peacefully in Ontario and Quebec – they can do so in upstate NY. The coywolves where are her in NY partially migrated from those places.. so there is no reason their bigger cousins can’t. Well we already saw a couple years ago as one was killed – that they do. I wonder how many others are killed after being mistaken for coyotes…?

    • Paul says:

      “Closer to home – I see no reason upstate NY couldn’t have wolves return naturally. If they can live peacefully in Ontario and Quebec – they can do so in upstate NY.”

      Perhaps this is true but it looks like they prefer to stay up north or it seems like they would be here already. This was a good winter for them to get across the ice!

      • An says:

        Well we really don’t know. For instance – the one that was killed 3 years ago. It was proven to be a fully wild wolf. How long had it been here? Where did it come from? No one knows. That’s just it… we usually don’t know these things until well after. Who is to say some didn’t make it down over the winter? Maybe.. maybe not.

        • Paul says:

          Like I said, it was a good winter to make a crossing. Maybe we will see or hear some wolves this summer.

          Of course now they need a passport to cross the Canadian border!

          Do you have a link to the info on the wolf killed in NY 3 years ago?

          • An says:

            Yeah – who knows. We usually don’t observe trends until years later. They might not even just come from Canada. If a male cougar can pass through NY and die in Connecticut after travelling from South Dakota (so they say it came from there) – there is no telling how far animals will travel. The key is having a breeding pair.

            Meant to say that the information was confirmed about 3 years ago. Th wolf was shot in the early 2000’s (there was one in Vermont in 2006):


            • Steve Hall says:

              Generally speaking (with lots of variables affecting the following), Predators need three basic conditions to set up a territory: an open territory,sufficient prey to make a living, and at least one member of the opposite sex in the general area.

              If you’re a male cougar east of the Mississippi, this is a very tall order, especially since male cougars not only do not participate in raising or providing for their own offspring, but will expel their own male offspring as tresspassers. In addition, since the only other felids in their areas are bobcats and lynx, there are no other felid species for them to interbreed with, .

              When it comes to wolves,coywolves and coyotes things are different, namely that members of the canid family often can and do reproduce. If eastern wolves dispersing from Algonquin Park, can’t locate other eastern wolves, they can and do mate with western coyotes, eastern coyotes, etc. While western gray wolves tend to kill western coyotes, Dave Mech, working with the Minnesota Science Center demonstrated through artificial means, that western wolves and western coyotes, can produce offspring.

              All of this means, if I’m interpreting Kays, Jon Way and others correctly, that “coyotes” in the northeast are a real mixing bowl for canid genes, with the possibility that there are gray wolves, eastern wolves, coywolves and coyote in the mix, which brings us full circle to the delisting issue. U.S.

        • Paul says:

          Do they have genetic markers that discern a “fully wild wolf” from a pure wolf that could have come from a one-time captive population. I had a friend who’s father had a wolf as a pet just outside of Saranac Lake many years ago. It was a pure wolf, and a weird pet!

          • Paul says:

            Steve probably knows the answer to this question.

            • Steve Hall says:

              Good question, Paul. Roland Kays is the former curator of Mammals for the State Museum in Albany, and a good source of information on wolves in general, and the eastern coyote or coywolf. He’s been involved in a number of useful DNA studies, like the one described at the link below.

              In short, they did carbon isotope testing of eight wolves killed in the northeast, and determined that five of them were apparently being fed mostly dog food, making them either escaped pets, or pets without collars. Since its illegal to keep wolves in New York, and since getting permits is understandably very difficult, owners are not likely to leave incriminating evidence like collars on their illegal wolves. Three of the wolves were eating what wild wolves eat, with heavy emphasis on deer, followed by beaver and hare, and the occasional moose.

              Everyone said… ah ha! this proves wild wolves in New York, but before we leap to conclusions… our captive bred wolves also eat diets of mainly local deer killed by cars, so if one escaped and was killed, and had their tissue tested, they’d appear to be wild. A great deal of the uncertainty concerns not only what this testing means, but which “wolves” we see running around outside muddles the discussion. To further confuse matters coywolves are anywhere from a third to twice the size of western coyotes, and as with most wildlife sightings we only see them for seconds at a time, and we generally lack what Einstein called the frame of reference, meaning a nearby object whose size is known or can be measured. You’ll see photos of such coywolves at http://www.AdirondackWildlife.org, on the Eastern coyote page. Anyway, here’s the link, here’ the link to the Roland Kays study referenced above: http://www.academia.edu/1042985/Using_Stable_Carbon_Isotopes_to_Distinguish_Wild_from_Captive_Wolves

              • An says:

                Steve – what do you think of the wolves natural re-colonizing of NY and New England? We’ve seen recently that a male cougar made it all the way here from South Dakota. I know female cougars tend to stay closer to where they were born. I wonder about female wolves. They travel further – but do you know their range?
                I think female wolves would be the obvious key. Apparently in Algonquin Park in Canada – coywolves and full wolves are apparently still breeding with each other and blurring the lines. I wonder if that is going on – to a lesser extent – in NYS and New England…?

  10. Elaine George says:

    Wolves are magnificent! Your article is a nice commentary and I truly hope that the USFWS regrounds themselves in the science and not the hysterical hype which pervades the wolf topic. Have seen wolves in the southwestern United States in the wild and they just trot along minding their own business in the wild.

  11. Henry says:

    Good article. Thanks! Are there any precautions hikers and campers need to take in wolf territory?

    • Steve Hall says:

      Yes, make sure your camera’s batteries are charged, and that you have a sports setting for your lens speed. Seriously, Wendy and I have camped out often in wolf country, and contrary to Hollywood movies, wolves will not approach people. Actually, wolves are so shy of people, the only park in which you are likely to see wolves is Yellowstone, and even then, you’ll probably need a spotter scope. If you want to see live wolves, come see us.

  12. Randy Haugen says:

    Well written and spot on right Steve thank you.

  13. Carole Lyle says:

    You state that the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge is not opposed to Wolf hunting of any kind – therefor I consider any favorable opinion from you Null&Void

    • Steve Hall says:

      I said “under any conditions”, which is still a poor choice of words, particularly when you read what I said afterwards about the states’ different approaches to the control of hunting.

      My point is twofold. People are not going to go away, and therefore their considerations can not be dismissed, particularly if you wish to protect wolves, and see them fulfill their roles in nature, which are largely beneficial. In addition, as that aspect of nature that we call “wildlife”, is today, in effect, largely controlled by humans, human behavior has to be a part of any solution.

      Hunters and fisherman, for better or worse, are the only outdoorsman who have to purchase licences from the state and local governments for their activities. this is part of the issue today, as state bureacracies respond more to the folks who ultimately pay their salaries than to those who can only control them through the ballot box.

      In short, you can dismiss everything I say, and label my opinion “null & void”, because of a difference of opinion on a single aspect of the discussion, but if you’re honest enough to admit that you will not see hunting banned by any government, and you won’t, I prefer to work with the only other interest group within conservationists, which shares my goals, the sustaining of wllderness, not to mention wolves, moose, etc.

  14. Steve Hall says:

    Are wolves “devastating” elk herds and rancher’s livestock in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho? Steve


  15. Linda Lanham Summitt says:

    I have watched birds feed and protect young of different species in the wild. I have seen them share a feeding station with raccoons and the raccoon never attempt to harm them. I have seen a grown shepherd stop an attack on a small chipmunk simply because it was told no. Animals are amazing; they do not play politics; they simply try to survive. If humans would learn the simple joy and wonder of life just imagine. Wolves have taught us so much about keeping the balance. We still need them to teach us about life.

  16. Hannah Harris says:

    love it! Keep Cree and Zeebie protected plz!

    Be there soon, (4 days)
    Hannah Harris

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