Ravalli County (MT) Predator Management Policy
The above photo was taken near what “used to be” one of my favorite camping spots, high in the Bitterroot Mountains of Ravalli County, MT. My wife, our dogs, and I loved to camp here because of the rich wildlife population. Every day, deer would walk in and out of our camp, and moose would be in a small nearby lake just about every evening…and come September, at night we could lay in the tent and listen to the elk cows call and the bulls bugle through much of the night. That was before wolves moved in…or were dumped in! Now, it’s all just a lot of pretty, and empty, real estate.
Following is an e-mail I sent to the Ravalli County Board of Commissioners, following a 2-9-12 meeting by that board to work out the details of a county predator management policy. What are your thoughts on predator management/control being held on a country level? – Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH
Ravalli County Board of Commissioners;
First of all, I would like to thank the Ravalli County Board of Commissioners for taking a lead role in working toward a solution for the escalated loss of wildlife and damage being dealt to livestock producers by predators in your county. While I am not a resident of Ravalli County, I have in the past spent a great deal of time recreating there, mostly camping, hiking, hunting and fishing in both the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains. Last year was the first summer that my wife and I did not camp in Ravalli county, and that is due to the fact that there are no more moose where we camped in the Bitterroots or elk where we hiked in the Sapphires. The place is not the same without the wildlife.
Yesterday’s meeting made the fourth of the Ravalli County predator management meetings I have attended. I actually video taped two of the meetings, which were shown on You Tube.
I spend a great deal of time in the outdoors, most days at least 3 or more hours, walking with my dogs on closed Forest Service roads. I have seen the damage predators have dealt our wildlife resources all along western Montana. And despite the great efforts of this state’s wildlife managers and biologists to quickly blame mountain lions and bears for much of that loss, the truth is, that loss can be and should be mostly attributed to wolves. One cannot walk anywhere without encountering piles of wolf scat…and without fail that wolf scat is always filled with elk, deer or moose hair. And as pointed out several times at yesterday’s meeting, there is a direct correlation between growing wolf numbers and the precipitous crash of the elk population. Yes, lions and bears have always had some impact on big game populations, but predator impact has been greatly escalated with the presence of wolves.
One question asked by a County Commissioner yesterday, centered on “What is Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ goal for wolves, lions and bears?”
If you have not already, educate yourself on the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. This is the collective effort of more than 100 collaborating environmental groups, organizations and agencies that seek to establish a 2,000 mile long wild corridor from Yellowstone National Parks, up through western Montana and much of Idaho, all along the Canadian Rockies, all the way to the Yukon. This, for the most part would be a human-free wilderness corridor – and sitting smack dab inside the planned corridor are settled areas like Ravalli County. Another goal is to greatly reduce human management of most everything inside this corridor, including the management of wildlife. In essence, the carnivore predators which are now dealing a death blow to the County’s wildlife would become the managers of tomorrow’s big game populations, as those radical Y2Y collaborators seek a “natural balance” in the wild. For more on Y2Y, go to – www.y2y.net
One of those collaborators just happens to be Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Another is the University of Montana, where many of today’s new wave wildlife managers are being educated…or perhaps brainwashed.
One policy of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative reads…“The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative neither endorses nor condones the hunting of carnivore species such as grizzly bears, black bears, wolves and cougars.” And our state Fish, Wildlife and Parks is an acknowledged partner in all of this.
Ravalli County is now establishing a much needed precedence, and that is that we can no longer rely on MT FWP to do the right thing when it comes to controlling predators. And that ‘s what it really has to be…CONTROLLING…not MANAGING. Currently, we have way too many wolves, mountain lions and bears. Before the Bitterroot’s elk herds can begin to pull out of the predator pit situation they’ve been thrown into, predator numbers must be reduced…by as much as 70-percent. That cannot be done as long as FWP continues to treat these destructive carnivores as “big game animals”. Current FWP regulations in regard to “methods of take” are far too restrictive to allow enough of the predators to be taken out of the equation.
Until wolf numbers are brought to reasonable and KNOWN numbers, we need to have shoot-on-sight 365-days a year opportunities. Quotas on mountain lions anywhere within Ravalli County need to be eliminated. And bear hunters must be allowed to use baits, and to purchase two tags…plus establish a season for hunting bears with hounds. Anything less is an undesirable compromise, and keeps the door open for predators to continue to destroy big game populations – and when there are no more elk, moose, deer, mountain goats and bighorn sheep, those predators will turn more and more on livestock, and present a far greater threat to residents.
I will “Cc:” this to my good friend Will Graves, the author of the book “Wolves in Russia – Anxiety Through the Ages”. Will spent several decades researching the past 150+ years of wolf control, and the damages and threats wolves have posed in Russia. His book is a look at what lies ahead for the Northern Rockies unless we take control right now. The statistics and documented research in this book is a far cry from the lies told to us by federal and state wildlife agencies, and agenda driven radical environmental groups. If any of you have questions, please drop Will Graves an e-mail. He and I discuss wolves at least once a week, and he has come far closer to establishing what we are now experiencing than anything that was included in the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan or the USFWS 1994 Environmental Impact Statement on the Wolf Recovery Project. I will also “Cc:” a few other wildlife professionals who have remained true to their professions, and see the wolf for what it really is – a continued threat.
MT FWP continues to be less than honest in their presentations to county commissioners – and to everyone else in this state.