Wolf Predation on Wildlife a Major Threat. Pt 1 By Jim Sherman - TimberLine Archery
Aug 30, 2007 - 6:19:59 AM
Those who are planning on hunting elk in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming will find that elk behavior has changed since the introduction of the wolf in 1995. 66 wolves were originally introduced in Idaho. The goal in Idaho was 10 breeding pairs. There are a minimum of at least 10 times that number today. According to their own conservation estimates there are a minimum of 700 wolves in 46 packs. Most hunters believe that the number is closer to 1000.
Sick environmentalists worked relentlessly to see the wolf reintroduced but now other wildlife are paying the price.
The wolves kill thousands of elk every year, which keeps depressed herds from recovering and healthy herds from expanding. However, the biggest problem faced by hunters is elk behavior has change making it harder to hunt them.
This cow elk was chased, dragged down and killed by wolves.
Calling bulls or cows has always been a successful way to hunt elk. Nothing gives an elk hunter a rush like a bugling bull. Elk have adapted to wolves by being less vocal. You don't hear bulls bugling as much as they use to and seldom do you hear cows chirping. They have found that their sounds attract wolves. Keeping quiet helps keep the wolves from locating them. That also makes it more difficult for hunters to locate them.
A few years ago I was on a late hunt. There was 6"-12" of snow on the ground and lots of wolf tracks. I located a herd of elk across the canyon. I went over there first thing the next morning. I got into a herd of about a dozen cows, calves, spikes, and a rag horn. I spooked the herd in the noisy snow and they broke up. Normally you would hear the cows and calves chirping trying to locate each other and get back together. Using a cow call can be very successful to bring the herd to you. I never heard a single elk make a sound. I tried cow calling and got no answer. After calling for a while I decided to try and track them. I turned around and a calf stood 10 yards from me. It came in silent looking for the cow. Normally a calf would have been very vocal but the wolves have taught them to be silent.
This cow was killed and the fetus ripped out of her body leaving the rest to rot.
We use to hear bulls get themselves into a bugling frenzy. Now you occasionally hear bulls bugle, but not like they use to. They are much more discreet about bugling. The more wolf tracks the less likely they will bugle.
The elk tend to move to the most rugged isolated areas to avoid the wolves. Last year I couldn't find an elk in the usual places so I kept getting farther back. I finally found a herd of 50 that was in the last batch of trees before the mountain turned into vertical rock. A lot of people think that wolves eat only elk. Actually elk are a small part of their diet. They eat anything they can catch. I watched a wolf last year catch a sage hen. I watched it from across a canyon moving through the sage brush. Then it leaped straight up in the air grabbing a sage hen in mid flight. The real rugged high country has little wildlife. The wolves tend to stay lower where there is more prey. That moves the elk into the most inaccessible terrain. The country is more open so they can see wolves from a long way. It is pretty difficult getting up on an elk herd in open country. An even bigger problem is getting an elk out if you are successful. It basically puts a lot of elk off limits for the average hunter without horses.
This young horse colt was also killed by wolves in NM.
Another strategy that elk are using is grouping in large herds. Elk normally gather in small bands. Most small side drainages in a major drainage would have a small band of elk. There would be a bull and maybe half dozen cows. This is nature's way of making sure that all cows get bred and a diverse gene pool. A hunter could usually find several small bands a day. Now the elk are grouping in large herds with the theory that there is safety in numbers. That makes it a lot harder to locate elk. You might hike miles every day and never see a track. When you do find them there are lots of them. That also makes it harder to hunt them because there is safety in numbers. Getting past all those eyes and noses is very difficult. Spook them and you will hunt several more days to find an elk. In the past, you would just hike over the ridge and find more elk.
This elk was killed only feet for a stock yard.
As elk spend more time living with wolves they will adapt new ways of coping with them. Our problem as hunters is trying to develop strategies that will make us successful. The key to success for us is to be observant. Forget what you read in a magazine or book and start observing what is happening. Bowhunters have always got to hunt elk before the gun season so elk were acting natural. Now with wolves it is hunting season all year long for the elk. They no longer act like what we called natural. It is like hunting them at the end of the gun season. Some of the escape techniques they use are the same as they use during the gun season. There are only a couple of things that will make you successful. Hunt where there are no wolves or be creative.
This calf elk never had a chance against the pack of wolves that attacked it.
NOTE From Rich Walton: This article by Jim Sherman piqued my interest so I did some additional research and came across a Mr. Jess Carey who has more information relevant to this subject: also, to learn more simply go to Google and type in Wolf Predation. Here is Jess Carey's email.
Mr.Walton, I investigate wolf depredations on livestock, pets, and wolf human interactions for Catron County, NM. I normally do not investigate wildlife killed by wolves, but have at times. I am sending you 2 such investigations that are confirmed wolf depredations, one is a spike bull elk and the other is a spotted elk calf.
Where the wolf packs are located in Catron County they do reduce the elk cow/calf ratio, in areas where they are not yet there is no effect. When the wolves saturate every mile of our county they will be no elk left to hunt. The USFWS will never keep the Mexican wolf population at a non-impact low level and the wolf will never be de-listed. The new Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish has already reduced elk permits in some of the hunting units where there is wolf depredation resulting in a reduced elk population.
It seems hunters either do not know what is going on, or they do not have enough conviction to get involved to save our hunting custom of life. The bottom line is by the time the hunting community gets educated and unit to try to save their heritage, it will be to late. I tell hunters that come into my gun shop, If you are not willing to keep yourself informed on all things that will take away your hunting, write letters, attend meeting, donate, and stand and fight to protect every form of hunting ( from archery to trapping) then do not teach your children to hunt, the way your father has taught you. Why, because by time your children grow up, there will be no hunting opportunity left.
We have had the Mexican Wolf now for nine years, but we do not have any real protections for our children, they have to be bitten before a parent can act without being charged for killing an endangered species and looking at $100,000.00 fine and one year in jail.
You cannot protect your pet from being killed in your own yard or even on your front porch, if you shoot the wolf you will go to jail. There is nothing that can be done to stop wolves from over-populating Catron County or all areas of New Mexico if the new NEPA/EIS wolf changes that are being sought are successful in favor of the environmentalists.
Hunters must get involved, know the facts of what is going on, they all have a voice and now is the time for them to come together and unit, not for just themselves or their neighbors, but for every child's future to be able to hunt, fish and trap. I have personally seen the adverse effects of wolves, I have looked into the eyes of children who were having nightmares, could not sleep, afraid to walk to the school bus stop to go to school or go outside their homes to play in their yards. I have talked to distraught parents that had just had a bad event with wolves in their yards.
Psychological trauma has been documented in our children and parents.
The Reserve School Board has passed the construction of "wolf proof"
enclosures for bus stops so children have a place to escape a wolf while waiting for the school bus. They do not have the money to buy the materials to have the shop teacher and the school students to build them. We are trying to find donations to help the school buy the materials needed.
We do not have any private property rights anymore. I will tell you this, as the elk, deer and other wildlife decline, so will the game tags which will result in lost hunter opportunity. The cost of tags that remain will go sky high because we have to pay to keep the New Mexico Game Department financially sound. Once there is no hunting, you do not need your firearms anymore, the same people against hunting are the same people who want to take away your guns. All I can say to the hunters of America is; you either get together now and fight for your rights, the rights of your children and your customs or live with the consequence of your inaction............Jess Carey, Catron
County Wolf Interaction Investigator
Over the next few days we will post 2 reports: The first will be a record of wolf interaction. the second will be the dates/times and meeting place for the NEPA/EIS on the upcoming Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, All hunters should write their state and congressional representatives, attend meetings, voice their opinions, send in comments. This is one more insidious way the anti-hunting movement is working to take away our rights and putting wildlife and humans in danger. I urge you to attend, and as Jess said, write your congressmen, join others.
Photo Credits: Lewis
Turcott. Lewis is a 69 year old retired man from
ID. These elk photos were taken on the North Fork of the
River in North Central Idaho. The large cavities on the rear of
the cow elk are where the fetus was removed. The photographer found and
documented that the wolf always ate the fetus first and sometimes the cow was
still found alive after the fetus was removed and eaten.
Lewis also found that many elk were killed in surplus, or "Sport
Killed", and left to rot. During the winter when the elk are driven down
low and concentrated along the river, they are easy prey and the wolves just
keep killing both old and young.