MISSOULA, Montana-Pro-wolf groups were admittedly "surprised and disappointed" when the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation publicly challenged their mischaracterizations of the real impacts of wolves in the northern Rockies and are feeling even more heat today. Their recent call for a truce has been met with a scathing letter from RMEF President and CEO David Allen, who says Defenders of Wildlife, Western Wildlife Conservancy and others are party to what may become "one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19th Century."
Allen said, "These animal rights groups seem to think that every individual wolf is worth filing another lawsuit to protect, but the decimation of local elk herds is unimportant. What is truly ironic is these folks claim protection of the Canadian gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act. However these wolves are not endangered. There are thousands of them throughout North America. The ESA is being manipulated far beyond its intended purpose." One can find the text of the entire letter on RMEF’s website www.RMEF.org.
Factual examples cited in Allen’s recent letter:
• The Northern Yellowstone elk herd trend count has dropped from some 19,000 elk in 1995 before the introduction of the Canadian Gray wolf to just over 6,000 elk in 2008. At the same time the wolf numbers in this same area are on a steady increase.
• Yellowstone’s Madison Firehole elk herd trend count has fallen from 700 to 108.
• The Gallatin Canyon elk herd trend count between Bozeman and Big Sky, Mont., has declined from 1,048 to 338.
• Wolf numbers in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have far exceeded the original goals of 30 breeding pairs and 300 total wolves. Population estimates now exceed 1,700 wolves. And yet and others want to push the total up to 2,000 to 5,000 wolves.
• Studies show that wolves kill up to 23 elk per wolf from November through April alone or up to 40,000 elk in just six months. A smaller but still significant number are killed from May through October; with total annual elk kills by wolves just for food potentially greater than 50,000 at the present level of wolf population. This accounts for only the elk needed for food, not surplus killing, which are elk killed by wolves and not eaten, which also occurs. The majority of all these kills are not elk that are sick or old.
• Elk calf survival rates where wolves (and bears) are present are extremely low in specific herds, resulting in a survival rate of 10 percent or less-too low to sustain the herd over the long-term. RMEF points out this is a major issue as elk numbers going into the future, where wolves are concentrated, will suffer even greater losses and replacement becomes out of balance.
"Pro-wolf groups like to cite statewide elk numbers because it glosses over the ongoing annihilation of local elk herds," said Allen. "They like to say that elk and wolves evolved together and would coexist now if man would just leave them alone, which completely ignores the fact that this is no longer the Old West and millions of us live here now. Habitat is shrinking at a rapid pace and the wildlife that lives here must be carefully managed. Man must manage wildlife and we have done so very successfully for over a century. We’re long past the day when wolf populations can be left unchecked. Right now this is simply a wolf amnesty program and the results are becoming alarming."
"Managing wildlife in the courts, as opposed to science and the proven expertise of state conservation agencies, is a recipe for continued disaster," stated Allen "These groups do not want states to manage the wolves as they manage other wildlife including predators. Why? It is curious that Defenders of Wildlife and others now boast about the statewide elk management numbers, which are managed by the states; but they do not trust those same states to manage wolves. Again, one should ask why?"
In late February, Allen sent letters to legislators and newspapers across the West calling out Defenders of Wildlife, Western Wildlife Conservancy and others for misleading the public through disingenuous use of current data on wolves and elk. In late March, group representatives accused RMEF of polarizing sportsmen on the wolf issue, and, ironically, to ask for collaboration rather than conflict.
In his letter Allen challenged Defenders of Wildlife and the others to meet face to face. " I invite you to come to my office and let’s personally resolve this issue for the sake of those responsible hunters and those responsible non-hunters. Enough of the legal maneuvering and posturing, let’s resolve this now," Allen said in his letter.
"We will collaborate with those who believe in sound wildlife management, not promoting one species over others for what we believe are hidden agendas. There is no one proposing annihilation of the wolves, yet Defenders and others like to act as if such a threat exists. It helps their fundraising efforts but does little to solve the issue. Constantly moving the goal line and ignoring the future consequences are just two reasons we do not collaborate with such groups," Allen added.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.7 million acres-a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. RMEF also works to open, secure and improve public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.