Now is the winter of our (predator) discontent

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Ah, the Northern Rockies. Soaring mountains. Rushing streams. Beargrass and aspens. Mountain bluebirds. Deep forests, wide open prairies, abundant native wildlife. What’s not to love?

Well, it depends on whom you ask.

“I want them to open their (expletive) eyes,” said Toby Bridges, founder of Lobo Watch (Sportsmen against wolves–united we stand!). Bridges wants Missoula County to follow Ravalli County’s lead in drafting a wolf “management” policy.

“If enough counties cry (expletive) on this, at least you’re going to get their (expletive) attention. I’m going to keep throwing gallons of gasoline on this fire and it’s going to get hot.”   Read more: Missoulian

Bridges believes that the state management agency, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is incapable of “putting together effective wolf control.” While I certainly have my own gripes with FWP (continued wolverine and fisher trapping, wild bison mismanagement), anyone with half a brain can see what would go wrong with issuing fiats on a county-by-county basis.

Down in Ravalli County, which borders Missoula County to the south,

…commissioners have drafted a proposal that calls for removing the kill quota on wolves, allowing hunters and trappers to take up to five wolves a year, and allowing hunters to use their elk or deer tags to shoot a wolf in the general hunting season. It would also allow black bear hunters to use bait, which is currently illegal in Montana. Read more: Missoulian

It’s not at all unusual to spot trucks from Ravalli County sporting bumper stickers that advise, Wolves: Smoke a pack a day or No grizzly reintro in the Bitterroots or Save 200 elk, kill a wolf. I once saw a hand-lettered job that advocated spaying and neutering “enviros.”And now, having dug up a state law from circa 1930 that allowed for predator bounties, the Ravalli County Livestock Protection Group is calling for a “wide-open season on predators.”

The bounty would pay $100 for a wolf or mountain lion and $20 for a wolf pup or mountain lion kitten. Coyotes will bring $5 for an adult and $2.50 for a pup. The funds for the bounty would come from a fee imposed by the Ravalli County Commission on livestock.

…”This is totally different than sport hunting,” said…a Darby outfitter and member of the loose-knit Livestock Protection Group. “It would create a wide-open season for predators. The bounty system was created before there was a big-game season. It will be interesting to see who trumps who (sic),” he said. “We’re not lawyers. We just found this statute and we intend to follow it through.”   Read more: Missoulian

At least one rancher is unhappy that livestock producers “will have to foot the bill for the bounty. There should be a tax on the Defenders of Wildlife or the federal Fish and Game. They are the ones who put them (wolves) here.” This comes from someone who grazes his animals on public land at ridiculously low, taxpayer-subsidized grazing fees.

But Montana’s county vs. state predator management struggles pale in comparison to Idaho’s most recent actions. The state’s Senate Resource Committee just passed a bill (S 1305) along to the full Senate with a “do pass” recommendation:

The bill would let livestock owners whose animals are molested by wolves shoot the wolves from motorized vehicles, powered parachutes, helicopters or fixed-wing planes, by night or day, using rifles, pistols, shotguns, or crossbows, night scopes, electronic calls, and traps with live bait.

The bill’s sponsor, a sheep rancher, called for the live bait provision because “the darn things keep coming at us in the night … You just literally can’t find ’em.” (Spokesman-Review) The bill passed out of committee on a party line 7-2 vote. Imagine being the two dissenters in that goon squad!

So extreme is Idaho’s Senate proposal that U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)–the author of the federal legislation (along with Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT) that removed wolves from Endangered Species Act listing–is concerned that it goes too far. And no wonder. Get a load of this:

Siddoway used his wife’s dog Sophie as an example of how a dog might be used as bait to lure wolves in.

He said he would place Sophie on a 20- to 30-foot chain and then set up in a blind with a rifle some distance away. Then he would turn on an electronic wolf howl.

“You try to get Sophie to chime in with the wolves,” Siddoway explained. “If they come down you just start shooting,” he said.

Siddoway also said he would place sheep in a corral surrounded by traps in the mountainous area along the Wyoming border in the Targhee-Caribou National Forest where he grazes his sheep.   Read more: Idaho Statesman

One of the two dissenting Democrats is concerned that the bill “…sets no parameters for the use of live bait, and she worries that could lead to the possibility of torture of these animals used as bait.” Wonder what Sophie thinks of this nimrod plan?

Back at the Missoulian, the Mule Deer Foundation’s regional director is also belly-achin’ about too many predators. “I would suggest the commission (FWP) look at predator quotas for mountain lions, bears and wolves. I will be an advocate for deer hunters to take some time to coyote hunt to give our deer a chance.” Did you catch that? Our deer. Hunters’ deer. The deer who grew to be fleet of foot because they evolved with pressure from predators. The predators now reviled as competitors for “our” deer.

Now is certainly the winter of our predator discontent, and every time you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

6 Responses

  1. Lunched today with a friend visiting from Michigan — a self-described “animal-lover.” Animals, to her, means dogs, cats, and horses. And she truly *does” love them!

    When I mentioned that another Michigan friend despises deer hunting season, she said it’s necessary, because otherwise they would starve.

    I tried to explain that state game departments allow deer to be bred for hunters. “Not in Michigan,” she declared authoritatively.

    I didn’t know for sure, so I didn’t respond.

    When I got home, I searched and found:

    Kathleen, you chose the perfect photo to illustrate your essay.

    I would quibble only with the movie ad’s last two words: “COMING SOON.” Unfortunately, the human predators arrived long ago.

    And now it’s time for them to leave. Time for authentic men and women to leave behind this unnatural, abnormal, unmanly/unwomanly lust for stalking and hiding and deceiving and killing innocent animals. Time to find in themselves the real man, the real woman, who is not, and never was, a desensitized taker of life, but a tenderhearted protector of life. All life.

  2. The meat industry is at it again. It includes ranchers and hunters of course, it’s all the same, motivated by the insatiable hunger for meat.

  3. The relationship between people and predators has been, for various reasons, strained. I’ve long felt that predators don’t get proper appreciation and respect.

    However accurate this essay might be in portraying some of the more prevalent stereotypical attitudes among hunters and ranchers — I think it also falls back on oversimplification, as well as painting with a rather broad brush.

    I, for one, am a hunter who was very happy to hear about the wolf’s return to this region, and have been supportive of it all along. And in visiting with other hunters, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts of various stripes, I’ve found there is far more tolerance and appreciation for wolves and other predators than the typical polarized loudmouths spouting off in the press might lead one to think. Reporters looking for good quotes might now always give a full picture.

    The wolf controversy has been unfolding in my homeland for over 20 years now, and the press seems to always gravitate toward the extreme voices — either those who balk at any hunting or control of predators whatsoever, and those who would just as soon kill them all. Frankly, the blustering from both those extremes is long past being tiresome, as well as not really couched at all in reality or facts on the ground.

    As with any cantankerous issue, one isn’t likely to find much truth from either polarized end — but rather, that wide variety of views in the middle.

    Having grown up in the region and lived extensively in all three states, I’m confident state management of wolves will work in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. And I’m also sure that those with polarized views will never be happy, no matter what. But I’m also done listening to them gripe about it.

  4. Thanks Kathleen for an excellent round up of the real predators.

    And BlessUsAll – It was a good move for you to let your friend know about the deer farms. It absolutely boggles the mind how society can claim an over-abundance of these beautiful beings – And then cry the crocodile tears at having to “manage” them by killing them… All poo-hoo and all. And then at the very same time condone facilities that genetically breed the deer for the biggest racks and release them for the most “bang” for the buck (excuse the pun). It’s insane!

    “Tucker said most farm-raised deer in West Virginia are destined for hunting preserves. When a buck’s rack is large enough, the animal is sedated, loaded onto a trailer and transported to the preserve, where a customer will pay to hunt it.”

    Yet – It’s considered “dangerous” to relocate deer somewhere where food is plentiful due to “safety” concerns for them. They lie!

    “There are about 40 deer farms in West Virginia. Lanny Clay, 55, runs the “Buck Acres” deer farm in Barboursville. He got his first deer three months ago and has one buck, three does and three female fawns. Clay said he’s been around cattle all his life but there isn’t much money in raising cows. Selling trophy bucks to hunting preserves, however, can be quite lucrative.

    Some farm-raised big-rack bucks are worth more than $50,000. Clay spent $25,000 to start his deer farm and expects to make that money back in three years.”

    If deer breeding ranches and deer-killing enthusiasts have their way – The management will go from the Dept of Natural Resources to the Dept of Ag… Figures as they certainly are bred like livestock. Only difference is that cows get the “benefit” of a “humane” slaughter while the deer get the benefit of a “humane” kill. It all sounds the same to me: Like Bull excrement.

  5. Oh… And I didn’t intend to slight the wolves either – They certainly are running for dear life!
    “Oregon is home to over 1.3 million cows and 29 wolves. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association wants to kill wolves but the law won’t let them. Now they want to change the law, but the pesky pro-wildlife public keeps getting in the way.”

  6. Idaho Senator Withdraws his Wolf Measure

    “fighting back tears”??? Good grief.

    “Siddoway acknowledged that his bill threatened to return wolves to the Endangered Species Act.” I bet Sophie the dog is breathing a big sigh of relief!

    Full story here:

    Regarding all the comments on so-called game farms: Montana banned game farming by citizens initiative in Nov. 2000. Less than 3 years ago the US Supreme Court refused to hear arguments and ended all constitutional challenges to the ban. “…the Montana Supreme Court decision stands, in which the justices decided 4-3 that the initiative did not constitute a “taking” of property and that the ranchers weren’t due any compensation.”

    And then there’s this, from Provoked: 1.3 million cows and 29 wolves…it is to laugh.

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