Wolves and Snakes: Is There a Connection?


January 4, 2003


By John Nelson, Idahoan flypole@earthlink.net


Dr. Tom Bergerud from British Columbia, Canada (University of British Columbia), has more dire predictions about wolves. "I predict that you´re going to have major impacts from wolves in this state," (Idaho) he said. I predict a major elk decline.

He said that he saw wolves "repeatedly depress moose, caribou and elk populations while studying them throughout Canada (from which these wolves came) and in some cases they wiped out local populations of caribou."

"I've watched herd after herd (of caribou) go EXTINCT across Canada," he said. The problem: wolves have no known predators to keep them in balance with the ecosystem. Indigenous wolves weighed only 80 pounds and roamed in pairs.

The subspecies Canadian gray wolves run in packs of 14 or more, weigh up to 135 pounds and -- given the fact that it takes 2500 elk per year to feed 100 wolves with an excess of 1200 or more -- they are also now known to be killing humans.

In northern India, wolf populations have gone uncontrolled for years, wildlife is all but gone, leaving domesticated livestock and humans for prey.

Since 1996, over 80 people have been killed and eaten by wolves in northern India.

We must realize that the species of wolf introduced in the tri-state areas (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) is an exotic subspecies that is not indigenous to these areas.

One must also take notice of past history when non-indigenous animals are introduced.

Whether intentionally or inadvertently -- such as the "Brown Tree Snake" inadvertently introduced to the Island of Guam by aircraft -- the island's millions of jungle birds have been literally silenced, eradicated by the non-indigenous "Brown Tree Snake." The snakes have killed every jungle bird, they are now EXTINCT.

These snakes are also killing humans, having no known predators to keep it in balance with the ecosystem. The snake's population has multiplied to over 3 million in Guam. Biologists now are introducing chemical warfare to eradicate the non-indigenous "Brown Tree Snake."

The same will apply in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where the exotic non-indigenous Canadian gray wolves were introduced in 1995.

Enormous negative impacts have occurred and continue to occur on the elk and moose herds in and around Yellowstone National Park and in central Idaho.

Documented cow-to-calf ratios are at record lows: 0 to 12 calves per 100 cows are the current level. It takes 35-40 calves to maintain a healthy elk herd.

Unless predation by the wolves is stopped immediately, the moose and elk herds will become extinct.

We want to see other animals in the wild besides wolves. Those of us that live, work and recreate in the tri-state region -- and those who would come here to vacation, hunt, fish, hike, etc. -- are faced with drastic changes in the great outdoors in the very near future because of this prolific breeder which has no known predators to control its population the Wolf.


Other recommended reading:



Excerpt from the May 3, 2001, Gazette:

Dr. Michael Nolan, of Salmonier Line, Holyrood (formerly of Donnell's), passed peacefully away at the Health Sciences Centre April 19, 2001. Dr. Nolan received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Memorial University in 1983. Dr. Nolan was honoured for his work with the provincial wildlife department where he surveyed the Avalon Peninsula caribou herd. Under a conservation plan worked out by noted American biologist Tom Bergerud and managed by Dr. Nolan, the herd went from a few dozen animals to several thousand.



U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Mountain-Prairie Region Gray wolf Recovery Status Reports From: Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Helena, Montana, July 19, 2002


On the 6th (of July 2002), Wildlife Services confirmed that 2 cattle in the Graves pack territory southeast of Eureka, MT had been attacked by wolves on the Forest Service Deep Creek/Grave Creek allotments. This week another carcass was found -- it was probably attacked about the same time as the first 2 but it only recently died and was just discovered. The Graves Creek female and pups remain east of the Whitefish range. Trapping to lethally remove 1-2 wolves was unsuccessful and traps were pulled on the 19th. No further control is planned unless additional livestock are attacked.

A wolf-like canid killed a llama between Whitefish and Columbia Falls, MT, the morning of July 18. Eyewitnesses described a light-colored wolf-like canid that looked like photos of a seemingly "tame" wolf reported in the Ferndale, MT area in June. It reportedly was hand-fed a hotdog. It probably was the animal that killed a llama north of Ferndale on June 21. The kill was assumed to be a dog depredation because of the "messy" kill until wolf-sized tracks were discovered nearby. Several subsequent sightings indicated it was slowly traveling moving north. The latest llama kill was investigated by WS trappers North, Meier, and Hartman, who set traps around the llama carcass. This is being treated as a depredating released captive or hybrid "wolf" and it will be removed from the wild ASAP. On the 19th, it was reportedly shot by a landowner as it fed on an old dead horse carcass. Meier said it was certainly "wolfy" and matched earlier photos of the wolf-like canid by Ferndale but was a hybrid with brown eyes and a small nose. Wolf-like canids that have been raised around people and are released, always end up dead. They often cause problems before they die. We know of no instance in North America where they have ever became "wild." The most cruel and inhumane thing captive wolf or wolf-hybrid owner can do is release their animal believing it will become a wild animal. Please, if you know of someone who no longer wants their wolf hybrid -- make sure they are aware of the harmful image that if released these animals can give wild wolves and urge them to have their "pet" wolf-like canid humanely euthanized.

Trapping/shooting control continues in the Dunoir Valley near Dubois, WY. Trapping will continue for another week and the next 1-2 uncollared wolves that are captured will be killed. Two attempts were made to fly the area and shoot any wolves in then open this week by a WS fixed-wing aircraft but none were vulnerable.

A 45-day permit to shoot up to 2 wolves that are seen in the act of attacking their livestock, was issued to livestock producers who graze sheep on USDA Forest Service allotments in the Gravelly Range in SW Montana. These producers had several sheep killed by wolves earlier this spring on their private property and recently moved their bands onto their Forest Service grazing allotments.

Contact Ed Bangs, Wolf Recovery Coordinator


406-449-5225 ext. 204

Mr. Bangs is in charge of all federal wolf management in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.




There was a party of hunters packed in near Big Sand Lake that had their horses attacked in camp. They were able to run the wolves off.

A backpacker spent 3 hours on a rock in the lake treed by Wolves.

Wolves attacked horses near the Little North Fork of the Clearwater River. One horse had its back broken during the attack and two more were last seen being pursued by wolves.

A Moose hunter (Guy from Guys steakhouse in Lolo) said there were four wolves sleeping on the beach at Big Sand Lake when he arrived.

In addition, a group from Kamiah packed into Chamberlain Basin for a week. Each person averaged seeing four wolves a day. No game was spotted.

Wolves [are] likely to wipe out the wildlife resource in the Tri-States.

Scientific research on wolves has been conducted by Warren Ballard, now a professor of wildlife biology in Texas. He is a former biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Wolves are multiplying at an alarming rate, at 34-37 percent per year in the Tri-States (ID, MT and WY). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a very conservative number of wolves approximately 570. Other credible resources place the numbers at 1200 or more.

Assuming the conservative number, by 2010 wolf populations will exceed 5700 if these predators are not controlled immediately. Recent studies in Idaho showed some very troubling numbers. Ninety percent of all Wolf kills are elk, 58 percent were calves, 31 percent adult cows and 11 percent were bulls, with deer comprising of the remainder.

Contact: Daniel James Hendricks, Editor/Publisher

Horizontal Bowhunter Magazine

P.O. Box 251, 20 NE 9th Ave.

Glenwood, MN 56334






Dr. Tom Bergerud published a paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 1974 saying that predation by wolves and bears is recognized as a major limiting factor on caribou and moose. If wolf numbers could be managed game numbers would not decline. Without management, wolves will regulate the ungulates, with the biggest impact being on recruitment. Don't count elk on winter range to get density. Count them when calving. When wolves were poisoned in BC in 1982, prey species boomed and hunter success also, then wolves boomed, followed by a decline in prey and hunter success. If you want to recruit 24 elk calves per 100, you can support 9 wolves per 1000 kilometers squared. Predicts major impacts by wolves on game populations, including a major decline in the elk herd in northern Yellowstone. Dr. Dennis Murray U of I on impacts of wolves and mountain lions on deer and elk in eastern Idaho. Predator/prey theory says additive predation would eventually eliminate prey completely. If predation is compensatory, taking only those animals who are doomed anyway; but if predators also take viable healthy animals it can result in better food and conditions for remaining prey, resulting in more offspring. To determine predation rates on prey populations, you need to study predators and prey year-around. Updates figures on Gary Power's study in Unit 28. Wolves are coursing predators that chase prey over long distances in open habitat and have a relatively low success rate and select substandard prey. Twenty percent success rate on elk. Cougars hunt in heavier cover and have variable selection. Often select prime condition prey. Hornocker reported 82 percent success rate on elk and deer. Wolves are more likely to be compensatory predators, cougars additive. Powers study covered 1999-2001. Wolves and cougars were radio collared and tracked and their kills analyzed. Deer and elk kills were nearly identical in proportion, with winter kills running about 25 percent deer, for both predators. In elk kills, both selected calves when possible. In deer, the majority of lion kills were adults, but for wolves it was fawns. Wolves and cougars both killed elk that were significantly older than did hunters. The animals killed by cougars had higher bone-marrow fat levels than those killed by wolves, indicating the prey was in better shape. Again, the wolves being compensatory predators. Wolves utilized eighty percent of carcasses, cougars about 85. Each pack of wolves killed an animal every 2.2 to 2.7 days, on average. Cougars killed an animal about every 9 days. Wolves are taking about 2.1-2.5 of the elk population in unit 28, cougars about 10-15 percent. Likely effects of predators on prey in Idaho are that cougar predation is additive and wolf predation is mildly additive/compensatory. Keep in mind this study was a small snapshot in time and in space. More study needs to be done on prey, and predator-prey studies need to be done under a range of predator and prey densities. Wolf harassment even if they don't make a kill causes "sub-lethal" impacts that stress out animals and cause further mortality. If the study were done year-around there would be more healthy animals in the mortalities. Jim Hayden, Panhandle Region wildlife manager on modeling impacts of wolves on elk in Idaho. Calf ratios began to decline in some areas in the early 90s, factors being severe winter in the Panhandle and large fires 1988-2000 in central Idaho. Adding wolves in the mid 90s was an additive impact. One model showed that in Unit 28 in good habitat elk would stay fairly stable in good habitat over five years but in poor habitat they would decline seriously. With no wolves they would increase sharply. Units 66 and 69 showed the same. Units 10A and 15 were places where the model did not track known data. In Unit 28, population is declining by 13 percent annually. The second model showed that with 36 wolves instead of 18 the decline would be greater, but without wolves it would still be almost 10 percent. Something else is going on. Model shows how the population would change based on changing the number of kills by hunters, or the numbers of wolves, lion or bears in the unit. Conclusion is that adjusting populations of predators and hunters will compensate for wolf impacts in some units. Nadeau wraps up."


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