RMEF Turns Up Heat on Pro-Wolf Groups

Discussion in 'Politics Of Hunting And Guns (NOT General Politics' started by loaders_loft, Apr 10, 2010.

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  1. loaders_loft

    loaders_loft Well-Known Member

    Feb 11, 2008
    As a life member of RMEF I felt compelled to share this news with all LRH members. Please read!

    RMEF Turns Up Heat on Pro-Wolf Groups

    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 both letters here:

    Letter from Defenders of Wildlife to RMEF

    Letter from RMEF to Defenders of Wildlife

    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.
  2. winmag

    winmag Well-Known Member

    Dec 23, 2009
    WAY TO GO RMEF!!!!! Its been way too long in comming, and Im proud of the Elk Foundation for finally making a stand. Thank you for posting.
  3. jmden

    jmden Well-Known Member

    Nov 2, 2003

    Exactly. It's about time. Although I've been an RMEF member for years and appreciate greatly what they do, I can't help but wonder which motivator or set of motivators finally spawned a response like this from RMEF, because it's been along time coming and it needs to continue and be heard and understood by a very large audience.

    I think one thing that has caused a great deal of confusion on the issue, in terms of the RMEF and many hunters even, has been because we've been told that overall, elk numbers seem to be staying steady even with rising wolf populations. Which then begs the questions and should of begged the questions from many of us, including the RMEF, many years ago: "How are the counts accomplished?", and "Are those elk counting methods valid or declining in validity with increasing wolf populations?" I think many are starting to just now to realize that the counting methods used for decades before Canadian Gray Wolf introduction (NOT reintroduction) are not valid and become less and less valid as wolf pops increase.

    When the rising wolf population forces elk behavioral changes, the most pertinent to this particular issue being the behavioral change of herding up and forcing elk out of the woods and to spend much more time that would otherwise be the case in open areas...and it is the elk out in the open that are counted and estimates made for the rest that can't be seen...well, you can see where this goes. There appears to be the same number of elk out in the open as there used to be because they are being forced out into the open more and more often as a defense mechanism to be able to see the predators coming. As the wolf pops rise, more elk spend more time in the open until a much greater percentage of the remaing elk population is out in the open than there used to be. All the while the same formula is being used to estimate the number of elk that can't be seen, while this number that can't be seen is actually being drastically reduced in many areas.

    The old counting methods don't work anymore and I think the numbers they've gotten for the last several years are skewed and have placated many that shouldn't be.

    This is just one issue of many rolled up in this debate, but an important one.

    But now in some areas with wolf populations, calf recruitment especially is many times lower (many elk calves are aborted over the winter as the cows are getting run around much more than they used to by the wolves) and overall population numbers are recently seeing decline--even with the old counting methods. This indicated that some elk populations have reached critical mass or critical 'no mass'.

    This is now coming back to the hunter in the way of reduced harvest opportunities . (The very folks that largely paid for this abuse of the ESA in the first place through excise taxes from Pittman-Robertson and the Dingle bill, license fees, etc., etc., are the ones most likely to suffer from the wolf introduction...hmm... Who would've approved a move like that? Using hunter's tax money to introduce a non-native species (not the wolf sub species that was there to begine with) that kill huge amounts of elk and deer that otherwise would've been potentially available for hunters.) Just this year, for the first time, in an area where I shot my first elk in Montana several years ago, the anterless permits for that GMU went from 200 to 25--a nearly 10X reduction. Wolf activity is very high there. This is just one example. Less elk/deer meat on the table. This kind of thing is being played out in a growing number of areas as the invalid couting methods are finally starting to give indicators of what is going on.

    Wolf ‘reintroduction’ still rankles Wildlife and People

    Last edited: Apr 26, 2010
  4. cowboy

    cowboy Well-Known Member

    Jul 14, 2007
    As has been said above - It's about time . RMEF has finally come out publicly against wolves. It has not always been that way. When wolves were being discussed initially for reintroduction the RMEF would not - and I repeat would not say a word. For all the years after wolves were reintroduced RMEF stayed quiet. I was one of the very early members of RMEF and talked till I was blue in the face with the local RMEF representative and their response was their mission was something like enhancement for all wildlife not just elk. I was so upset that I never renewed my membership and quit going to any banquets (I know of many others who did the same). I'm afraid for us that have seen up close and personal what has happened here in Mt., Wy., and Idaho with our elk herds where wolves are previlent that it may be too late. There has been a lot of damage done that has no solution in site. Now with the agriculture community so against elk due to the brucelosis outbreaks we have had, I fear for the future of the elk herds in and around Yellowstone Nat. Park for a number of reasons - and wolves are just one of them. I find it ironic that after all these years the RMEF has finally come to their senses - I hope it's not too late. RMEF has a lot of fences that they need to mend on this subject with a lot of former members and I guess this is just the start. We'll see if their actions are louder than their words or if this is just talk.
  5. Chas1

    Chas1 Well-Known Member

    Feb 15, 2009
    As they say sometimes the best defense is a good offense...hats off to RMEF.
  6. jmden

    jmden Well-Known Member

    Nov 2, 2003
    RMEF's Letter:

    April 8, 2010

    Mike Leahy
    Director, Rocky Mountain Region
    Defenders of Wildlife
    303 W Mendenhall
    Suite 3
    Bozeman, MT 59715

    Kirk Robinson
    Executive Director
    Western Wildlife Conservancy
    68 Main Street
    Suite 4
    Salt Lake City, UT 84101

    Dear Mr. Leahy & Mr. Robinson:

    I am in receipt of your letter of March 30, 2010. I will address your points factually and straightforward.

    We would be happy to meet with you to discuss conservation issues and the destruction of specific herds of elk in North America. We believe; however, that your organizations and others are contributing greatly to
    perhaps one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19​
    th century. Until the lawsuit relative to re-listing the wolves is settled or until you withdraw your support for
    such, there really isn’t much need to meet as we continue to be at opposite ends of this issue. Once again, I will state that elk are not flourishing where wolves are present. Contrary to what you have
    suggested many times to claim otherwise is disingenuous and “cherry picking” data. Elk populations are being exploited at a high rate by predators, primarily wolves and somewhat by grizzly bears. However,
    since the introduction of the Canadian gray wolf into Yellowstone this exploitation has become worse for elk numbers in the same areas. Yet, you would have the public believe otherwise.

    The numbers and facts do not lie and they are as follows:​

    *The Northern Yellowstone herd, trend count has dropped from nearly 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 wolf numbers in this same area are on a steady increase. Nowhere can I find where a 60% reduction of this herd was a goal of the wolf introduction.
    (Source: 2009 Wolf-Ungulate Study Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)

    *The Moose population in Yellowstone National Park trend count shows a decrease to almost zero.

    (Source: 2009 Wolf-Ungulate Study Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)​

    *The Gallatin Canyon elk herd trend count between Bozeman and Big Sky has dropped from
    around 1,048 to 338 in 2008.

    (Source: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)​

    *The Madison Firehole elk herd trend count has dropped from 700 to 108 in 2008.

    (Source: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)​

    The calf survival rate for those same elk herds mentioned above, where wolves (and bears) are present, is extremely low amounting to as little as 10% or less recruitment or survival rate. Nearly any wildlife professional will tell you this is an unacceptable recruitment or survival rate. Acceptable wildlife science tells us that a 25-40% survival rate is necessary for herd sustainability. Further, a recent MSU study shows those elk that remain in the Northern Yellowstone herd are in below standard health as they are not feeding where and how they normally do and the females are
    not getting pregnant as they should, due to hormonal imbalances. How and why did this behavior change?

    (See Montana State University Study by Professor Scott Creel in July 2009; funded by the
    National Science Foundation)​

    Wolf numbers have far exceeded what sportsmen, ranchers, wildlife conservationists and the public at-large were told was a desirable goal. Specifically, 30 breeding pairs and 300 total wolves was the goal line when wolves were released in 1995. The minimum number of wolves is now over 1,700 according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and a number of animal rights groups
    such as yours believe those numbers should be 2,000 to 5,000.
    This is the most disingenuous and deceiving issue relative to the entire Canadian gray wolf introduction and your groups and others perpetuate this every chance you get. We call it, “keep moving the goal line” politics. It is doubtful even you believe that 2,000-5,000 wolves in this area
    is sustainable. However, this allows you to keep saying “We haven’t reached the goal line yet”. It is sad wildlife management has to come such political posturing. Wolf population goals established at the introduction in 1995 have been surpassed by some 300-500%. Yet groups like yours continue to move the goal line and yes, continue to cherry pick your
    facts to push an agenda.

    Studies show that each wolf kills up to 23 elk from November through April; that equates to up to 40,000 elk killed in six months. This number does not include those elk killed for food by wolves from May through October. While the number of elk killed per wolf from May through October is less than the number from November through April, it is still considerable; and that is just the elk killed for food. These numbers do not account for those elk simply killed by wolves (surplus killing) and yes, that does happen. Nowhere near the majority of these elk kills are simply the sick and the old.

    The habitat loss that you cite in your letter is yet another critical reason why wolves must be properly managed and managed now. As elk ranges shrink and are encroached upon, the elk have less chance for survival in areas where wolves are concentrated. Elk become trapped with less habitat available. Your organization talks about elk and wolves coexisting on the same terms as if it were the Old West again. It clearly is not and that is why man must manage wildlife as we havefor over a century.

    *Canadian gray wolves introduced in Yellowstone in 1995, simply are not endangered, it is quite the opposite. There are thousands of these wolves in North America. Remember this reintroduction was classified as an experimental, non-essential re-introduction in the first place. Your groups would have today’s public believe that it is essential. These wolves are not endangered.

    You contradict yourself as you point out in your letter how there is a “legitimate federal role in ensuring states manage wildlife in the best interests of all Americans…”, yet you circumvent and disagree with the federal opinion (USFWS) that the wolves are recovered. Further, you disagree that these wolves should not be listed as endangered and be managed by the states at this time. You can’t have it both ways but you continue to try as long as you can get away with it. Do the federal authorities know what they are talking about or not?

    It is likely that your groups have reaped large donations from your campaign to keep wolves on the endangered species list. This is a common tactic for animal rights groups. It is apparent that if the entire wolf controversy went away it would represent a considerable revenue loss for you. I don’t see what your costs are relative to the wolf recovery program as it is likely you are getting federal funds to pay some or all of your legal fees under the Judgment Fund or EAJA funds.

    Could you confirm for us and the public at large if you are receiving such federal funds (taxpayer funds)to offset your legal fees? Frankly, I don’t believe most of the public know about or understand the Judgment Fund or EAJA but they should. It sheds light on potential motives and tactics. Idaho’s elk numbers in units where wolves exist are far worse, with two units showing over 80% decline since wolves were introduced. If wildlife conservation was your true agenda you would not stand for such losses of any species.

    The facts are there – the numbers do not lie! Our elk herds cannot be sustained if wolf numbers continue to expand without proper management. What is happening now is not sound management, it is simply an assault. Re-listing wolves will worsen the issue dramatically.

    Your letter states, “(Defenders) position is not one of opposition to sustainable hunting practices or to the important role that hunting plays in conservation. Responsible hunters are some of the most knowledgeable wildlife conservationists and we seek and find common ground with them regularly. It is unfortunate we have not been able to do so with RMEF recently but would like to work together in the future.” You have never sought common ground with us once that I recall.
    Let’s consider those words a moment. We do not believe that your organizations subscribe to hunting as a viable conservation tool; in fact we believe you and other animal rights groups have an overriding agenda
    to decrease hunting until there is none. If you truly want to “work together” as your letter suggests, then you will step forward and show a sincere willingness to manage wildlife as they should be managed and
    not continue to promote a hidden agenda or continue to move the goal line.
    In fact, I invite you to come to my office and let’s resolve this issue for the sake of those responsible hunters and those responsible non-hunters you reference. Enough of the legal maneuvering and posturing, let’s resolve this now.

    Plain and simple, wolves are predators, nothing more and nothing less. They need to be managed like other predators by the folks who manage the rest of our wildlife, the state wildlife agencies. This wolf amnesty
    program is poor wildlife management. The American sportsmen deserve better respect for all they have contributed to wildlife while groups like yours play games with the system. Your letter states you have called for a scientific review of the wolf recovery program. Who are your
    scientists conducting the review? We have never heard of this scientific review? We can find no announcement of such nor can we confirm it. Why isn’t the wildlife science of three of the leading western states (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho) and the USFWS credible? Is it that you are not getting the answers you are looking for? If so, that is not subscribing to science that is manipulating it to get a desired answer.​

    We live within the rules and game management policies of all the state agencies and when we have differences of opinion we go to them and work it out like adults. The United States has the best system of
    wildlife management in the world, yet you reject the system of states managing their wildlife. Among your tactics are filing lawsuits to stall and extend the process and then point fingers at others like RMEF and say
    we are polarizing the conflict! Managing wildlife in court is a recipe for disaster.

    Again, you seem to contradict yourselves in your letter; on one hand you trumpet the success of the overall elk populations in these three states (which are managed by those states, I might add); and on the other
    hand you reject those same three states’ ability to manage wolves. That is a curious contradiction. Either these states know what they are doing or they don’t.

    No one is promoting an annihilation of wolves, so let’s stop pretending such exists. However, there is a great need for sensible balance and the current wolf numbers have long since crossed over the tipping
    point. If your organizations do not begin to subscribe to sound wildlife management soon, this disaster will lay squarely on your hands for history and the public to judge. Feel free to use the dat​
    a enclosed in this
    letter when talking to media and legislatures in the future. As I said at the beginning, the numbers and the facts do not lie.

    Respectfully submitted,

    M. David Allen
    President & CEO

    Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation