Crying Wolf Again - The Federal
By Montana State Rep. Joe Balyeat
"Truth is violated by falsehood, but it is outraged by silence"
(Henri Frederic Amiel)
Federal wildlife biologists have taken much criticism lately for their
sins of commission-falsifying lynx evidence where there were no lynx.
But even more disastrous than their sins of commission, are their sins
of omission. MT House FWP Chairman Dan Fuchs has obtained hard evidence
of the following:
1)The Feds have known since 1997 that elk calf ratios were being totally
decimated in areas of high wolf concentration.
2)When MT FWP personnel attempted to release this evidence to the
public, the Feds aggressively barred MT FWP from doing so.
Represent Montana House District #32 Beginning in 1997, Carrie Schaefer
did a study of Yellowstone wolf/elk interaction entitled "Spatial and
Temporal Variation in Wintering Elk Abundance and Composition, and Wolf
Response." Amongst other things, her study revealed that areas of high
wolf concentration inside Yellowstone had calf ratios dropping
precipitously - 0 to 10 calves per 100, even while the ratio outside
high wolf concentration areas remained at 46 calves per 100! When MT FWP
biologist Tom Lemke and others made written request for permission to
release this data to the public; the Fed response to suppress it was
swift, aggressive, and sustained. On 2/18/99, Yellowstone Supervisory
Biologist Glenn Plumb wrote: "It is my position, after reviewing Ms.
Schaefer's investigation, that her raw data do not warrant full
distribution to the public."
On 3/18/99, in an interoffice Memo, Plumb again denied the request:
"Regarding your request for elk classification data generated through
Carrie Schaefer's ongoing research.we were remiss in presenting Ms.
Schaefer's.data in the Yellowstone Wolf Project Annual Report." And they
were able to hide this striking wolf predation in the annual reports
because they only gave averages for the entire northern herd - when the
0 calf ratios in high wolf areas were averaged with the 46 calf ratios
from elsewhere, the average was still up near the 30 calf ratio needed
to sustain herd viability.
Of course, the Feds rationalized their suppression by saying that
Schaefer's study was just raw data and still ongoing. Yet even after her
report was completed the Feds never publicized nor (to our knowledge)
ever gave permission to MT FWP to release the information. In fact, one
MT FWP biologist who is directly involved with decisions related to
Yellowstone elk has stated that the data was so well suppressed that he
hasn't even seen it. Rep. Fuchs only got a copy of Schaefer's study and
the related inter-agency letters after aggressively demanding copies of
all documents related to the incident.
Last winter when Fuchs, myself, and other officials did our own elk calf
survey we discovered the calf ratio had plummeted. The initial response
from amateur wolf advocates and some professional biologists was, "These
guys are hacks and don't know how to count". After the official elk
census came out and totally substantiated our claims, they changed their
tune. They said, "OK, they're right about the drop, but we can't prove
it's due to wolves. It could be drought or hard winters, etc."
Yet the Schaefer study strongly implicates wolves as the significant
factor in two different ways. First, geographically - during the course
of the same winter, she observed alarmingly low calf ratios in high wolf
areas even while calf ratios remained above average outside high wolf
areas. This mitigates against the notion that the low calf ratios are
caused by drought or hard winters.
Secondly, when coupled with current data for the entire Northern
Yellowstone elk herd; an alarming pattern is revealed. In
1997 and 98, the low calf ratio was confined to areas of high wolf
concentration - the Lamar Valley, etc. In this last year or so, as dense
wolf populations have reached critical mass across the entire northern
Yellowstone Range; we "surprisingly" see the area of low calf ratio also
expand to encompass the entire herd.
Let's cut to the chase (pardon the pun). Our ancestors realized long ago
that the wolf is a unique critter - a killing machine and a breeding
machine all rolled into one. Alaskan studies reveal wolf population
increases of 34% annually, even while being aggressively hunted. Data
from the first few years of our Tri-state wolf experiment also verify
this same 34% annual increase. It doesn't take a CPA (or a professional
wildlife biologist) to figure out that this rate results in a 1000%
increase in population size every 8 years!
If the Feds continue to break promises, suppress evidence, and drag
their feet for 3-5 more years; our wildlife and livestock may need to be
placed on the Endangered Species List by then (never mind our pet dogs,
llamas, and small children). I repeat - we are not calling for
eradication of wolves. We are simply saying that NOW is the time for the
Feds to move immediately to de-list the wolf; so that MT, Wyoming, and
Idaho state Fish & Game Departments can manage wolves like any other
species. It's time for the Feds to make up for past sins (of commission
and omission) by turning over wolf decisions to more trustworthy
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