LETTER: We Need a Common Sense Approach to Wolves

By Beacon Staff

On my recent annual spring outing I encountered some very large paw prints of a canine creature. They could have been tracks of a mighty big dog, but in the remote location where I found them, I think they were the tracks of a wolf.

To begin my hike, I had driven as far as my vehicle could go, and walked the remaining couple miles to a familiar little lake and spectacular view of the still snow-covered Whitefish Range, that day glistening in sun rarely seen in western Montana on a March day. I popped open my Keystone Light, and seated on a perfectly situated stump, drank in both the view and the brew.

While doing so, though, I was not completely at ease. I had recently read of a woman jogger in Alaska apparently attacked, killed and eaten by a pack of wolves. I looked over my shoulder a time or two as I performed a favorite ritual of building a fire. For me, for more than half a century this has involved the careful gathering of pitch and chips of bark. There are probably a dozen ways to build a fire, but from my experience, the ones that have a chance of success involve matches. I can proudly say that I virtually always get my fire started with just one match. The key, of course is plenty of pitch on a base of dry bark. That day my search for tinder was more vigilant than usual. I have been in that place many times before. Was it now wolf territory?

My spring outings are always liberating from the long dark winter. But as I sat there surrounded by spectacular beauty and tranquil solitude, with the silence gently accompanied by the primal crackle of my fire; those tracks were still not so gently on my mind. I reflected back to a traumatizing story my mother told me from her childhood. She had witnessed a baby calf being eaten alive by a pack of coyotes, while it was being born.

I placed chunks of melting snow on the embers of my flickering fire, and headed back down the muddy and snow-covered road. Again I saw those big tracks. I’m sure they were three inches wide. I knew the chance of being attacked by wolves is extremely rare. Still, I was at least a little bit relieved to get back to my SUV.

In subsequent research I’ve learned that wolves are far from endangered. There are an estimated 10,000 wolves in Alaska and more than 50,000 in Canada. We were “reintroduced” to wolves in 1995 by a plan of the federal government.

The initial reintroduction target was 300 wolves in 30 breeding packs centered in remote selected areas. Now, $30 million tax dollars later, an estimated 1,588 wolves in over 200 packs range hundreds of miles across the Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming region. An adult wolf devours about 3,000 pounds of meat a year. When its prey of deer and elk are not available, a pack will establish new territory where it can supplement its kills with livestock and household pets.

As the wolf population became sustainable, the plan was that the states would assume management of the wolves, controlling populations by hunting. Predictably, that needed and necessary prospect is now tied up in court.

In nature, wolf populations are regulated by food supply. In civilization that means domestic selections are on their menu. Our wildlife and livestock can’t be sustained if there are lengthy delays in court. We need a common sense decision and we need it soon.
Bob Brown
former Republican Montana state Senate president

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.