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Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks In Dire Need Of New Calculators!

I have no doubt that there are plenty of knowledgeable wildlife managers and biologists working with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Some are surely well versed in most things which positively or negatively affect big game numbers. But after clashing with a few FWP regional managers and biologists, I’ve come to realize that just about everyone at FWP who I’ve been in contact with truly sucks at math. When it comes to their numbers, their percentages, their projections, their calculations, and just about everything and anything else requiring some degree of mathematics…MT FWP’s numbers simply do not add up.

At one county commissioner meeting (on predator control) in Ravalli County, MT FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager Mike Thompson actually tried to present “wolf math” without using any numbers whatsoever. Using the chalk board in the meeting room, he drew base lines and growth curves, throwing in projected decline curves in an attempt to show those attending where the wolf population was…is now…the probable growth rate…and the drop in the wolf population should this year’s wolf quota be filled. And other than the verbal use of the “220” quota for the season that’s now underway, no other numbers were used, implied, and especially not written on the graph Thompson shared. The result looked a lot like something Picasso may have sketched at the height of a drunken “stooper”[sic]!

Mike Thompson was quick to erase his masterpiece of deception before sitting down.

FWP has become well known for its “voodoo math” and biased pie charts and graphs which have thrown up a smoke and mirrors cover up for the REAL wolf numbers in this state, and to hide the degree of damage wolves have dealt our big game populations. And when concerned sportsmen, economically impacted livestock producers, and living scared rural residents have the opportunity to call their hand when it comes to FWP’s lack of REAL numbers, the citizens of this state who are being severely impacted by growing wolf and grizzly bear numbers are no longer backing down.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the agency is now realizing that what WE SEE and what THEY CLAIM are not adding up.

I received an e-mail from one LOBO WATCH follower yesterday (November 3) in regard to a meeting he attended in Kalispell the evening before. At that meeting, FWP Region 1 Wildlife Manager Jim Williams told those in the audience that in just that region they now acknowledge 44 wolf packs, averaging 7 wolves per pack. Now, just a few seconds on a calculator reveals that the “pack population” of wolves in that region adds up to 308 wolves.

But, what about the wolves that do not run with a known pack?

MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks…ID Department of Fish and Game…and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have, since the launch of the disaster known as the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan, have tended to only recognize a “pack” as a group of wolves with a breeding pair. These agencies have recognized that there are likely as many or more groups of wolves without a breeding pair – and these wolves tend to be forgotten when these “experts” determine the “at least” numbers they throw around as if they are the REAL number of wolves. The last “at least” number I saw for Montana was 637 (I believe).


Let’s say that Jim Williams is correct about the 44 packs…and 7 wolves per pack…count in Region 1. Now add to that the “probably at least” additional non-pack wolves. Let’s say an average of 3.5 wolves per group. And to be fair, let’s say there are “at least” as many non-breeding groups as there are “breeding packs”. That would add another 154 wolves to the equation.

Then, we have the lone wolves. Over the past 12 months, I personally have seen 17 wolves. Five of those wolves were as alone as a wolf can get. One was down near Dillon, out in the middle of a huge open flat…and there was not another living thing within 2 or 3 miles of that wolf. Another loner I spotted worked the entire side of a fairly open mountain slope for nearly an hour, while I watched from across a wide valley. There was not another wolf with it. I’m sure we would be a lot closer than FWP’s assessment of lone wolf numbers by saying that in Region 1 there is “at least” 40.

Now, if we add those numbers up, we come up with a “probably at least” Region 1 wolf population of 502 wolves, +/- 2%.

Now, if there is a like number of wolves in Region 2 and in Region 3, plus allowing for wolves in at least half of Region 4 and Region 5, and a few in Regions 6 & 7, there is a very, very good chance that the REAL number of wolves in Montana is more like 1,900 to 2,000.  And that’s a far cry from the “at least” 637 being touted by MT FWP earlier this year.

Wolves are not the only thing that FWP seems to have severely miscounted.  At that same Kalispell meeting, FWP Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Williams also told those attending that in Region 1 alone, there are now right at 1,000 grizzly bears.  Wait a minute, hasn’t FWP been claiming there were “at least” something like 800 of the big bears in the entire state?  What gives?

Yes, perhaps it is time that FWP added another slip of paper for our wallets, to go with the licenses and permits we buy, along with the conservation license and hunting access enhancement fees for which we fork out more dollars.  That new slip of paper could possibly be called “Game Numbers Assessment Enhancement”…and the money used to buy every FWP manager, biologist and officer in the field a new calculator…a note pad…and maybe one of them fancy space pens that writes upside down, under water and when temperatures get down to -60 degrees.  –  Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH


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