Wolf, © Michael S. Quinton / National Geographic Stock

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Elk org. disowned by trusted elk family –  You know something’s up when a leading elk conservation organization gets a rebuke from the son of “the father of modern elk management.” Olaus Murie was a well-known biologist and writer whose research was instrumental in restoring elk and other wildlife to the West. After his tenure with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, he co-founded and served as president of The Wilderness Society, and campaigned to expand Grand Teton National Monument and to create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. His brother Adolph was an expert on wolves, and the visionary leadership of both men help set the foundation of wildlife management in our country.

For years, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation granted the Olaus Murie Award to individuals who exemplified his commitment to protecting wildlife habitat. But this week, Olaus’ son Donald Murie sent a letter to RMEF asking the organization to remove his father’s name from the award. His reason? Murie said the organization’s unscientific, anti-wolf positions were untenable, running counter to the “careful and meticulous studies” his father was known for. This is yet another wake-up call for a once-great conservation organization, and reminder that protection of one native species should never come at the expense of another. See a copy of the letter here.

“Olaus was one of the first to argue that it is not about wolves or elk or Redwoods, or eagles or owls, it is about habitat, space where natural processes can work freely, as they have done for millions of years. Populations of prey and predators go up and down, but over time maintain a functioning system.” — Donald Murie

Hats off to Bob Ferris and Cascadia Wildlands for encouraging the Murie family to stand up for Olaus’ beliefs and the spirit of his conservation legacy!

On guard

This guard dog keeps a watchful eye over a flock of sheep grazing in the Wood River Valley of central Idaho.

A dog in sheep’s clothing– Livestock guarding dogs have been used for centuries and remain a very effective nonlethal deterrent when properly managed. A team of dogs can keep hungry predators at bay by barking and drawing the attention of a nearby herder or range rider who can more easily frighten wolves away. If left unattended, the dogs will even stand their ground and try to fight off a wolf or coyote, though they often find themselves on the losing end of the battle. Guard dogs can also be detrimental in spring if they get too close to wolf dens, which can trigger an attack from wolves defending their pups. Like all deterrents, proper management is the key to success.

Guard dogs are common in places like the Wood River Valley, where sheep graze on public land throughout the summer. But that also means there’s a potential source of conflict when people come into contact with the guard dogs. As this story from Public News Service points out, it’s important to keep in mind that these are working dogs, not pets. People should take caution while hiking or cycling in areas where livestock are grazing. Listen below to learn more:

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Check out our online guide for more information about livestock guarding dogs and other nonlethal deterrents.

Airing our grievances with Montana’s new wolf hunt regulations – Much of the debate about Montana’s newly approved, more aggressive wolf hunt regulations has focused on trapping. At least that was the main focus of coverage from NPR’s Morning Edition this week. Some wildlife advocates have decried the practice as inhumane, but that’s not the only issue. Wolf trapping is also a threat to imperiled species like wolverine and lynx that can easily be harmed or killed in a wolf trap.

More importantly though, the state has offered no legitimate reason for trying to reduce wolf numbers. Their specious arguments about impacts on livestock and elk are not valid since livestock losses are already very low, and the decline of certain elk herds is the result of multiple factors, not just wolves. There is no evidence that simply killing wolves will further reduce conflicts with livestock or boost elk herds, and just appeasing people who don’t like wolves doesn’t seem like sound wildlife management at all. Other wildlife species aren’t treated like this in Montana and wolves shouldn’t be either.

Listen to the NPR story below and let us know what you think of Montana’s wolf hunt plan.

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