Out of Bounds

Wolf Plans Draw Feds Back Into Fight

No sooner did the snares and snowmobiles come out than the Feds perked up like a bird dog hearing a pheasant’s predawn cackle

By Rob Breeding

Since the late ’60s, frontman Mick Jagger has been serenading Rolling Stones fans with one of rock and roll’s classic lines. It’s a warning of sorts, an admission we’re not always the best judge of what’s best for us.

“You can’t always get what you want,” Jagger sings, echoing the song’s title, “but if you try sometimes, you find, you get what you need.”

For me it’s always suggested the pursuit of some imagined brass ring may blind you from realizing what you need is often right there before you.

So I think it will go with the folks driving the kill-the-wolves train in the Northern Rockies. They got what they wanted in 2020, when Montanans elected a government in Helena as hostile to wolves as those in Cheyenne and Boise. 

Snares, night hunting and baiting are back in fashion in Montana, while Idaho now considers snowmobile and ATV pursuit sporting. 

The Associated Press reports that Montana wildlife officials expect these new methods will lower the state’s wolf population from about 1,150 to 950.

This may seem like Nirvana for the anti-wolf crowd. Idaho and especially Wyoming have always been hostile to wolf recovery. Now Montana is all in too, with a governor who takes pride in trapping and killing a wolf under dubious circumstances. 

For most of us, receiving a warning or citation from a game warden for violating regulations would be mortifying. Montana’s governor seems to consider his warning for failing to take a required trapper education course beforehand a badge of honor.

The Stones warned, however, that being granted your wish doesn’t always end well. No sooner did the snares and snowmobiles come out than the Feds perked up like a bird dog hearing a pheasant’s predawn cackle.

And so did a familiar trio of environmental groups that might prefer not a single wolf meets its fate at the hands of man: the Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity and the post-Wayne-Pascelle, but still dangerous, Humane Society of the United States. 

Hold the letters, please. This Humane Society has nothing to do with the one that finds new homes for abandoned pets. This Humane Society wants to outlaw your leather billfold.

If Montana and Idaho had just quietly increased wolf permits and promoted more aggressive management by state wildlife agencies, the goal of reducing the population might have been reached unnoticed, and the Litigious Three would have been left to tilt at windmills on their own. That’s what wolf opponents needed.

Instead, the states unleashed a dungeon chamber of violence on wolves. The cruelty almost seems the point.

And when big media reports this story, they will describe these medieval methods as “hunting.” There’s nothing more soul-crushing for those who model their outdoor ethics on the Fair Chase wisdom of Jim Posewitz than when non-hunters mistakenly confuse hunting with running down a wolf on a snowmobile.

Back on the table now is the specter of the Feds concluding that state management is irresponsible and reassuming management of wolves. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just announced a yearlong review to determine if these populations are again in danger.

I’ve said it many times: the Northern Rockies has plenty of wolves. I’ll never hunt them, but more aggressive management isn’t going to easily remove these animals from the landscape. 

Recovering wolves and placing their fate in the hands of the states was a great victory for the Endangered Species Act. And while screwing that up by unleashing war on wolves utilizing an arsenal of tactics that would make the cruelest dungeon master blanch may finally grant wolf haters some satisfaction, this isn’t what the rest of us want. 

And it’s definitely not what the world needs.

Rob Breeding writes and blogs at www.mthookandbullet.com.