Wolve sightings......then venting

9:06 p.m. on July 4, 2011 (EDT)
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My wife and I just got out of the Sun River Basin in the Bob Marshall wilderness: 4days, 40 miles, sunny & 80's, & only saw one group of hikers 3 miles from the end of our hike.....doesn't get much better than that!  We jumped a wolf stalking two whitetail at no more than 25 yards away from us.  We were crossing a heavily wooded creek bottom on the moose creek trail (131) heading towards the N. Fork of the Sun River, in endless meadows.  As we crested the ridge out of the creek bottom and into the meadows he popped up broadside and stared at us.  I grabbed my grizzly spray, my wife grabbed the camera, and off he went.  By the time the camera fired up he was already a good 100 yards off.....typical predator encounter right?  We sat for a couple minutes taking it in, and two whitetail came trotting by no more than 50 yards away.  We walked a quarter mile down the trail and a very loud and close howl grabbed our attention...... just up the hillside was the wolf sitting under a tree howling at us!  The next day we spotted a whitetail bedded down under a tree in a swamy marshy area about 75 yards below the meadows, maybe 4 miles south of our first sighting.  It stood up, and then two heads popped up in the brush 25 yards behind it.  It was two wolves just waiting the deer out....I assume waiting for the deer to make a mistake so they could make their move. The deer actually ran at the wolves and they began playing a game of cat & mouse chasing each other around.  The deer took off with the two wolves close behind.  It was rad.....our first wolf sightings on foot in nearly five seasons and thousands of miles of wilderness trail in Montana.  It was amazing watching this all unfold....wolves are indeed incredible hunters. 

Speaking of hunters......there's ALOT of anti-wolf sentiment in MT.  Hunters are typically anti-wolf and many will actually shoot them every chance they get.  I understand that their numbers should be managed, but the vibe here is to totally eradicate them.  I think the real outdoorsmen and lovers of nature and wild places respect the wolves and there place in the ecosystem.  I am a hunter myself, but the vibe I get from other hunters in MT is pretty negative.  I live in Missoula, MT, and the anti-wolf sentiment seems to increase as you branch out into more rural areas.  Hunters typically go into the woods one month out of the year, take as much as they can, and then profess to be lovers of the mountains and nature.  Then the elk and deer numbers go down and hunters don't go into the mountains anymore, "because there's nothing left"!  They get angry because the wolves are taking all of "THEIR"elk!  Last time I checked, elk don't BELONG to anyone.  Half of these guys don't walk more than a block from their vehicle, and would rather shoot them from the road.  Backpackers & hikers are in the mountains 12 months out of the year and take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but bootprints.  Sorry if I offend any hunters out there, I'm just calling it like I see it.  The reason I'm writing this is because the first person I told about our wolf encounter (in Augusta, MT) response was "Did you get a shot at it?"   

10:29 a.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Very cool, I would love to see some wild  wolves up close! I was quite excited when I saw some at a distance while I was in Wyoming last fall.

 

I do have to take exception to this:

Kleon said:

 Hunters typically go into the woods one month out of the year, take as much as they can, and then profess to be lovers of the mountains and nature. 

  

Sorry man, but this kind of egregious stereotyping is inaccurate and primarily responsible for the unwarranted and false idea many people have about those who personally source wild game.  Are there people who behave that way? Sure. There are also Italians who are in the mob and Asians who are good at math, African Americans who are good at basketball, Celts who drink too much, and Latinos who are good at soccer. Please, lets not be that simple minded and offensive. Those are all ridiculous misrepresentations of particular people groups.

None of the hunters that I personally know match the caricature you've mentioned above. And yes, frustration with wolves increases in rural areas. The people there are the ones who actually have to deal with the wolves and their increasing effect on a daily basis. If you were to continually loose many thousands of dollars to wolf predation, have family pets eaten, and your daughter shadowed by wolves as she played outside, you might not be so thrilled. Especially if you have absolutely no legal means of managing them at all.

(BTW, I do not live in a rural town, am not a rancher, hunt seldom, and am in favor of the wolf reintroduction)

10:10 p.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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There are legal means of removing nuisance wolves that are a threat to human safety, livestock, pets, etc...  Wolves are shot by legal means all the time in MT.  In 2009 wolves killed 120 sheep in one night in Dillon, MT.  The wolves were identified and put down.  I understand the need to manage wolf populations, but the overall consensous I've gotten from the hundreds of people I've associated with in MT want to wipe them out.  Is it still stereotyping if every hunter I've spoken to in MT is anti-wolf?   Like I said, I'm just calling it like I see it. 

Thanks for your response, I understand what you're saying.  If you want to have a good chance of seeing wolves, head into the Sun River basin in the BOB.  We spotted the wolves within three miles of the moose creek trail #131.  There is a game preserve within the wilderness where hunting isn't allowed, and the wildlife is relatively protected.  If you head there in fall when the snow forces everything down low into the valleys, you have a good chance of seeing a ton of wildlife and few people.     

(BTW, I lived in a rural MT town, work with ranchers regularly, hunt often, and am in favor of the wolf reintroduction)

7:54 a.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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Kleon said:

There are legal means of removing nuisance wolves that are a threat to human safety, livestock, pets, etc...  Wolves are shot by legal means all the time in MT.  In 2009 wolves killed 120 sheep in one night in Dillon, MT.  The wolves were identified and put down.  I understand the need to manage wolf populations, but the overall consensous I've gotten from the hundreds of people I've associated with in MT want to wipe them out.  Is it still stereotyping if every hunter I've spoken to in MT is anti-wolf?   Like I said, I'm just calling it like I see it. 

Thanks for your response, I understand what you're saying.  If you want to have a good chance of seeing wolves, head into the Sun River basin in the BOB.  We spotted the wolves within three miles of the moose creek trail #131.  There is a game preserve within the wilderness where hunting isn't allowed, and the wildlife is relatively protected.  If you head there in fall when the snow forces everything down low into the valleys, you have a good chance of seeing a ton of wildlife and few people.     

(BTW, I lived in a rural MT town, work with ranchers regularly, hunt often, and am in favor of the wolf reintroduction)

 I agree about the observation of hunters in your area. They now have the same issue outside Yellowstone as well as Big Bend since they reintroduced the wolf to both area's. I also agree that both you and Gonzan do not believe it's every hunter. But from your experiance it's the majority.I concur. I also had a friend donate his wolf. Yes 100% to the Big Bend project once they started it. He had it from a pup and was protecting it and got involved with the project and donated his to the program.

8:59 a.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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My comments about stereotype were regarding the general tone and specifically your words in the quoted block. That is what I was most bothered by. I don't doubt that the majority of ranchers and hunters would like to see most if not all wolves removed.

Perhaps the regulations are different in MT than WY. From what I was told while there, and what I found in research, killing a wolf as a private citizen was categorically illegal. Everything I found last year was that any removal of a wolf could only be done by the authority of a state or federal representative, and then only after an investigation determining that multiple kills were made by the same wolf or pack. To do so there would have to be direct evidence that it was the same wolf or pack. So it wouldn't matter if you're losing pets or livestock, nothing will happen until a bureaucrat comes out and decides if they think wolves are confirmed repeat offenders. Meanwhile your animals are already dead and dying. Maybe that has changed, or was specific to the areas around Yellowstone- It's been a year since I looked up the info.

 Considering the reintroduction project has succeeded in producing over ten times the sustained wolf population of the original goals, I think it is time to reevaluate regulations and management.  

9:18 p.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for your response guys.  When I first posted this thread I was just feeling a little agitated about the initial repsonse I got to my wolf sightings from the locals.  It was wrong for me to stereotype the hunters in the way that I did.  There are a lot of ethical hunters out there, and to lump them in with the stooges wasn't cool. 

In retrospect, this may not be the proper forum for me to "vent" on issues such as this.  I'm not the most eloquent dude around, and I may come off as being abrasive at times.  Again, thanks for your comments.  

9:33 p.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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No worries, man- sorry if I was overly assertive in my response to the generalization.

I relate to the frustration with the "stooges," it is unfortunate that they are the most visible to most people and color perceptions of what hunters are like.  

I share your enthusiasm for wildlife, and hope I get to see more wolves when I am out in Wyoming again this autumn.  

11:44 p.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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from both of your posts you both want the same thing is what I got from both of them... It's all good. We all agree protect our enviorment and manage it  so we can enjoy it..I think we all hunt and can relate to the "stooges"..

11:45 p.m. on July 6, 2011 (EDT)
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The reintroduction of wolves is a touchy subject no doubt.  I'm on the side of reintroduction.  It's a sad thing that when trying to have our resources as natural as possible, it causes so much controvercy.  Today a trial date was set for three members of the same family who are accused of killing at least half (I heard on NPR that there are now only two left in this pack)a pack of wolves.  This "was" the first pack of wolves re-introduced in the state. 

http://nwsportsmanmag.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/sept-trial-date-set-for-twisp-family-accused-of-killing-wolves-other-federal-crimes/

 

http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2011/jul/01/twisp-family-denies-killing-gray-wolves/

1:33 a.m. on July 7, 2011 (EDT)
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I agree that the reintroduction of wolves is a controversial one. A proposed law in Utah, would allow wolves to be shot on sight. In effect, the legislator does not want wolves coming into Utah. WHile I think some management may be useful, it is important to note the decline of many species of prey and predators since we began "managing" wildlife. The same is true about "managing" our natural resources. In the era of dwindling salmon runs, pine beetle infestations(part natural,part manmade) it is heartening to see one of the world's top natural land predators making a comeback.

2:15 p.m. on July 7, 2011 (EDT)
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I like using my binoculars.

6:49 p.m. on July 11, 2011 (EDT)
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I just returned from a fifty mile out and back into the Danaher Valley of the Bob.  Other than horse traffic I saw only one other hiker, who was on his way out as I was headed in.  He told me that he heard wolves howling in the Danaher at night but he never saw any and unfortunately I did not hear them on any of the nights I spent there.  The trip was beautiful, however I did encounter a good bit of snow as I climbed out of the valley floor.  I am curious, Kleon, as to the snow conditions on the east side of the divide.  I spoke to some folks in the Rocky Mt. Ranger district and I was advised to stay out of the sun river, chinese wall area due to the lingering snowpack, so I alternated my route to go up the Blackfoot, Dry Fork area. Hearing that you managed moose creek alright makes me think that they may have exagerated a bit, no? 

I must also comment on the rural peoples of this fine state.  Being a resident of a rural ranching community I must agree fully with Kleon that people here hate wolves.  I live over 100 miles from the rocky mtn. front and yet I am regularly hearing about the wolves and how destructive they are, and truly the people over here don't know, they base their criticisims entirely on heresay.  Over the winter it was believed that a lone wolf had migrated to the mountains south of town here and the ranchers were ready to send out the linch mob to locate and take out that wolf before 'he brought the rest of the pack here'.  And as far as there being a 'legal' way to deal with the wolves, the folks around here believe in the shoot/shovel/shut up method of doing business. The joys of a small town.

8:28 p.m. on July 11, 2011 (EDT)
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I'm a hunter and I think that the more cougars, wolves and grizzlies the better, to a point (we won't ever be overrun by them so its kinda academic to say).  I think the wilderness ought to be wild.  If I want a sterile park experience I will go to one. 

I think that when there is a chance of getting eaten by a sneakier or more powerful predator in the back-country it makes life more real. 

6:31 p.m. on July 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Stevie....that's funny, we were going to go in the Blackfoot & Dry Fork & changed our route to start at the Gibson Resevoir.  Our plan was to just wing it and have a couple of "outs" if we hit too much snow.  So we headed N. from Gibson Resevoir up Mortimer Gulch, then NNW on Big George Gulch up and over a low pass (6500') w/ about 200 vertical feet of patchy snow on the N side.  Then we headed up & over an unnamed pass (approx. 7200') heading W. down Cabin Creek.  The higher pass actually had less snow since it was more open and rocky than the lower pass, and we only had to deal w/snow for approx. 500' vert. feet.  We encountered patches of snow here and there, but it was spotty enough to follow the trails without a problem.  Once down low in the Sun River Basin we were good to go.  We were on the E. side of the Sun river, and only hiked the Moose Creek trail for about a mile to the N. Fork Sun ford.  The Sun River was ripping, absolutely not crossable!  So if you hiked N. up the W. side of the Sun to the Moose Creek ford, you may have been stopped in your tracks as well....although last time I was through there, there was a good log crossing.  From the Moose Creek ford we hiked S. along the Sun and came out on the Gibson Resevoir trail. 

Having hiked up Moose Creek to the Chinese Wall in early July 2009, which was a normal to below normal snow year, and still ran into some snow.....I bet it's still pretty buried up there.  The loop described above would be a great early season hike in a normal snow year.  I bet it would be doable by early June. 

10:34 a.m. on July 15, 2011 (EDT)
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MFWP (Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks) just announced the limit for the wolf season - 220 wolves. 

Clearly with some of the lifestock attacks and the increased pressure upon the elk herds, some regulation of the population needs to occur.  They're simply the top of the food chain and they fearlessly know it right now.  I argue with the efficacy of an open season on them.  I would think that the thinning/regulation would need more of a plan.

BUT, I am not a wildlife biologist, so I bow to their wisdom. :)

Plenty of ranching friends both in the Bitterroot and the Gallatin who have been shooting a few very large stray dogs...

10:39 a.m. on July 15, 2011 (EDT)
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Unfortunately, much of what we do in terms of wildlife "management" can have long term effects that we only discover decades later.

http://earthfix.opb.org/fish-and-wildlife/article/oregon-state-study-wolves-important-to-ecosystems/

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