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Wolves are going to be killed. It's unavoidable that wolves are going to have to be managed and at some point if the recovery effort is as successful as it's been it's reasonable to assume that wolves will be harvested or culled through hunting and other harvest measures.
Well, I would like to point out again that as an experienced rancher of the past, my family have raised cattle and horses for many years and it was a risk factor. Animals out in the wild predating on horses and cattle were something that we accepted and we knew it was a risk factor. Granted the reintroduction of the gray wolf has brought on other particular concerns and, and risk factors, but indeed if we're ever to hand off a legacy, a heritage of this country that is so rich, it must be with sacrifice. It must be with cooperation and coordination and I applaud those who have tried and are using the non-lethal mechanisms as well. I do believe that lethal control, legal taking of, of predators is necessary. When we look at the cougar and we realize that the populations are growing and, and out of hand so to say it's because we as humans have disrupted and interrupted the balance and, and we removed wolves and bear long ago and now we're wondering why have we this problem. We've mixed ourselves so much into this that it's tough to find a way out. And I think that is something the Nez Perce Tribe, other tribes within the northwest are concerned about. They have not been given their opportunities to work as co-managers in, in an adequate way.
What if we bring them back to the point where we can start hunting them again with the wolves?
I would support a hunt, but I think that in a way that it should be left to Carter or perhaps to Jim in their official capacity as it has been limitedly been working. I would also support and advocate that the tribes also have a purpose and a desire to conduct ceremonial hunts, so perhaps as we craft the management plans the tribes would be invited to insert and partake in this manner. That's something that we've always advocated for.
Bill Wall your organization has done a lot of work with hunting obviously, also a lot of work with habitat, what role does hunting play in this conversation?
Well I think hunting plays a major role and, and that was one of the things that I wanted to address because there's a big difference between lethal control as carried out by government hunters and sport hunting. A huge difference. And iIf you turn around and look at the history of sport hunting in the west it was hunters and their desire to hunt and their passion for wild places and wildlife that brought the prey back so that we have the predators that we have in the system today. I also think it's very important that we start thinking on a system approach to this, not only from a private landowner's perspective, but also from the system of carnivores as well as ungulate species out there which are the primary prey. Because if we're not thinking holistically we're not going to deal with the issue very effectively. And we of course believe that sport hunting not only provides economic incentive, but also political incentive to manage these species in an appropriate approach.
I know some groups like yours say hunters have been responsible for bringing back a lot of the prey base, which is responsible for bringing back some of the predators as well. Is it your feeling that without hunters we wouldn't even be able to have this discussion right now?
I think at this point they played a major role in what's going on in the west historically as far as bringing back the prey base and continuing to support good management of carnivore populations across the west. So yes I don't think we would be having this conversation if there hadn't have been some strong-willed, passionate people who were willing to step up to the plate years ago and continue to step up to that plate both with their passion, but also with their, their financial assistance.
I guess my comment on how, how hunters and how America has shaped the populations today from the travel perspective we've, we were trying to get people here the newcomer, the, the new kid on the block so to speak to be able to learn and, and live with wolves and we've been affected the same way just as when, when the calvary came after us during the Nez Perce War -- the same kind of government programs were instituted to remove large predators -- and so we feel the same anguish that when we prospered before the coming of the white man in this country we prospered with the wolves, the grizzly bears. There was no problems between us, and we want the, the people here to be able to understand that there has to be a way and a solution to be able to live together.
Is part of that solution hunting?
Hunting is a tool that can be used to harvest wildlife. It's a mechanism that if used properly is a very effective tool. A lot of people oppose hunting, but they think of hunting well before the conservation era when there was uncontrolled, unregulated killing of wildlife for meat or other purposes. Hunting today is very different. There's rules and regulations and typically game harvest occurs after everything else is considered and it's a surplus. And wildlife is a renewable resource that if managed properly perpetuates itself every year. And we can use that resource and maintain it in a healthy state. The issues oftentimes revolve around values, personal values. Some people are adamantly opposed to killing animals, others find it very acceptable and that's where the struggle really exists today. It's a social struggle about whether we should or should not hunt an animal and that struggle gets more amplified when you talk about hunting animals for meat subsistence purposes, which a lot of people accept, as opposed to hunting animals as a trophy, which a lot of people find objectionable. And then that's elevated even higher when you talk about hunting an animal like a carnivore for its hide and typically unless it's a black bear for example you don't eat the meat. So people perceive hunting in very different ways depending on their background and their value system.
I'd like to begin with the label of predators. I think is unfair because it immediately evokes a fear people are going to be preyed on if they go out, outside their doors and I think we have to realize these animals are teachers. They're telling us what's going on in their environment, why they're, they're in the urban areas, why they aren't in the mountains and we're refusing to recognize those lessons that they're showing us. I, the comment I'd like to make about the hunting was I, unfortunately I think the ethical hunters, the good hunters are outnumbered by those that, that don't care and they're hurting everybody more than the good ones are helping because they, they, they don't care who's land they're on or how the means they take to get that animal and it's usually because of the horns or the hide and then they, they don't cherish it and they'll, they'll give it up for a dollar and I think that's an enforcement is way overtaxed to try to resolve that.
Some people who are watching are going to be coming into hunting season pretty quickly; what should they be keeping in mind?
There's a couple issues regarding hunting of these large carnivores. For one, bears and lions in Idaho are considered big game animals, black bears and mountain lions. And when we start enveloping wolves into state management what we're hoping to do is to classify wolves similar to how we classify bears and lions and manage them similarly. That would entail potentially, eventually somewhere down, down the road an attempt at getting sport harvest that might alleviate some of the tensions that are currently, or currently exist between sportsmen or hunters of big game or other big game animals like deer and elk it might give them an outlet for some of their frustrations. But also right now in the west wolves don't have any real sportsman champions, and as Bill indicated earlier bears and lions are here today predominately because we have bear and lion hunters. Bears in Idaho are our #3 big game species as far as numbers of animals taken behind elk and deer and the effort put into them. As many people support bear hunting as opposed to the, or more people actually support bear hunting as opposed to those that might think of bears as a predator. Eventually somewhere down the road maybe people will consider wolves similarly and we'll have sportsman championing oh long-term population viability and healthy populations of wolves. That's what we're hoping for kind of bring wolves into the fold. As far as lethal control of wolves that, that's a little bit different, little bit different issue, but there's room for thinking. Currently we don't, I mean we don't want to open the barn doors and we don't want people to perceive state management of wolves as opening the barn doors, and, and letting all the horses run loose that's, now that's not the perception and that's not reality. Reality is that we're going to try to use non-lethal methods like we do with bears and lions currently. There are lots of other approaches. And with wolves, wolves may be easier in some fashion to actually have you know some non-lethal methods. It would be exciting for me for instance to have a pack of wolves that establish a population in an established territory in an area around a rancher and don't predate on or depredate on cattle or sheep if you could train somehow the wolves to establish a pack that are not be constantly having to kill them and having a new pack move in and constantly you know emptying the leaking boat syndrome, then that would be a real bonus. That would be something to look into. On the other hand there are, there are times and places where it's absolutely necessary to solve the problem. And with bears and lions what we do is, if, if the animal is in active molesting of livestock people are allowed to protect their property and, and self-defense and that's an issue that's, that's national, it's not just a western issue. It doesn't have anything to do with just predators, but that, that's the way that we would incorporate bears or wolves with bears and lions you can protect your property and, and sustain a living. But that doesn't mean you can shoot 'em indiscriminately.
I've noticed that a large part of our conversation has been devoted to killing wolves, killing predators, whether we're talking about whether we should use lethal control versus non-lethal. What do we think about hunting? I'd like to suggest a shift in focus to recognizing the life, the life force that predators such as wolves insert into the ecosystem. And that when we recognize large predators such as wolves as being, and here biodiversity is a term that's commonly used. What we're recognizing is that it is the presence of these species that drives the strength, the integrity, the sustainability of all the other organisms in the ecosystem and I think that another way we could focus our discussion in general about predators and informing the public is recognizing the value that they give to our ecosystems which in-turn gives to us.
And while we recognize the role of hunters and hunting in the conservation movement we need to also recognize the role ranchers have played in the conservation movement. They're the ones that are maintaining the open space; they're the ones that are providing the critical winter habitat for many of the species that now will support the predator populations. So we need to have a holistic look at this and recognize that the ranching industry is facing cumulative impacts of a whole host of issues that bring to bear economic pressures on their industry. And we need to recognize their desire and need to survive as well as the desire of the species to survive.
And if I could just expand that beyond grizzly bears, the Bitterroot is such a key area. It's great habitat for all sorts of wildlife. A recent study published in the leading scientific journal found that 10 predator carnivore species were looked at from Yellowstone all the way north to Jasper up in B.C. and Alberta and found that Idaho contains the largest block as Chris mentioned, of undeveloped great habitat for these species. And not only that it, that its great habitat, but it's also a linchpin for connections for all those animals south and north. And that's where its particularly frustrating for the current administration federally, the Idaho governor to come out against restoring grizzly bears and, and often the, the, the places where its best to be a predator in terms of the habitat turns out to be the most politically hostile climate. And what I think you know the reason I'm here is for that vast constituency for these wildlife that go beyond the people that want to kill them, that go beyond the people that just deal with the problems that they pose. I don't want to belittle those problems, but in the grand scheme of things there's a tremendous upwelling up support for these animals lives, living, breathing along the landscape and people want to hold on to our heritage. And its really frustrating because the predator policy sometimes does not reflect the will of the majority of these, of Americans and Idahoans who, who support predators in the state and it doesn't, it isn't grounded in good science it's instead often co-opted by politics, by special interest groups that unfortunately are, are concerned more about you know just maximizing elk numbers for hunters or simply trying to make Idaho and the Northern Rockies like every other place in the lower 48.
I think one of the things we've learned in managing endangered species is, is that if you don't have the support of the local population that lives with them they're very difficult to recover. We have a syndrome called shoot, shovel and shut-up that occurs oftentimes when the local population doesn't support having these species co-mingle with them. And so the secretary in her determination not to reintroduce grizzly bears into the Bitterroot area determined as was articulated by the Governor of Idaho that there was not popular support for having these species there and that it would be difficult to conserve them there without that popular support. And when we get to talking about corridors the only reason we can talk now about establishing corridors between the Northern Montana area and the Yellowstone area is because through the good work of several federal agencies, state governments, private landowners, hunters, outfitters and guides we now have a strongly recovering grizzly bear population in the Yellowstone area. So now we're talking about the finer points of how do we achieve the next level of conservation and that next level of conservation is going to be achieved by working cooperatively with the private landowners who own the land that make up these corridors and so we're at, we're at the next level of conservation what Secretary Norton calls a new environmentalism where we need to work cooperatively in consultation and with communication in order to achieve conservation.
You know most of the problems that we're talking about here are not ecological problems, they are social problems and there's no time in the future that is going to be better to address those social problems then now when we have the least level of constraints on our options in any time in the future. We're going to see continued development, we've got 150 years of change that has occurred without these considerations ecologically and we've talked a lot of about the individual impacts to commodity driven type issues, cattle operators, to hunting, sportsman's hunting and we, we really do tend to stray away from the, the ecological issues and the ecological role of these species in the ecosystems that we're trying to manage. We tend to error towards to the social and that's natural. The big problems are social in nature. But if we ignore those, those ecological issues we ignore the design that was behind them that was not of our making and we do that at our peril.
One of the things we found working on the book was that there's some really smart answers out there already. The Hornacker Institute talks about sort of concentric rings, there are places cougars don't belong. I talked about that earlier. When you've got cougars in downtown Spokane, downtown Salt Lake, all of the cities of the west, Olympia Washington, you name it. They don't belong there, they're not endangered those ought to be eliminated. I'm sorry for people who think we should use non-lethal, but it makes no sense. There are places where people don't belong. I mean I, I think with all due respect to the ranchers there are places where if you move in and set up horse corrals in steep country riparian zones where there's a fair number of deer, you're moving into cougar country, that's a risk you should take and I frankly don't think the government has any responsibility to protect you from that. That's too bad for you. You had the choice to be there, you weren't forced onto that spot, too bad. So that's the, that's the trick that we're coming to now is the public needs to give the agencies some leeway to solve these problems and they need to support them in doing the sensible thing and I think where it needs to start is wildlife groups need to stop talking about cougars as if they're endangered. They are not! It absolutely is not a fact, this was formerly the most widespread land animal in the country in what we now know as the U.S. They were hunted back to about 12 states and they're re-colonizing eastward at the rate, as far as I can tell of about two states a year, it's incredible. You know we went from 300,000 white tailed deer in this country when Teddy Roosevelt sort of kicked off the conservation revolution. There are now like what is it 350 million where there are deer there will be cougars. You move there and put your horses in you're going to lose horses and I don't think that cougar ought to die for that. If a cougar comes in and starts being threatening, habituated yeah, but yeah, but the whole management of the urban area is, is fascinating it's different from, from many of the other species because cougars tend to tolerate interaction with human activity a lot better than other predators at least as far as we know right now. They have actually done some collaring studies on how cougars interact and it's fascinating. I mean they're, this area in Santa Ana there were cougars that sat three feet from a bicycle and hiking trail all day, never bothered anybody, people had no idea they were there. There, there's one story like that of a grizzly bear and I think it was Libby or something, but among predators it's kind of unusual they, they do pretty well in the suburbs a lot of food there, because people build their yards in Boise and those subdivision you know not for your view and my view, not your view, up in the south of the foothills. They're all great deer habitat now, because they water the heck out of it, they grow all these bushes that were never there before. The deer and the cougars are coming. Whose fault is that?
Well, what I would say is that potential of running into the lion whose aversion has broken down exists, but the, the fact of the matter is that these lions are and the bulk of the population has interaction with humans on a regular basis and makes no attempt to cause them harm and because that's the way they're wired, they're kind of wired that way, but there are individuals if that breaks down and for whatever reason they will key into a human being and it, it doesn't happen that commonly, but when it does you can effectively deal with that individual, with their vulnerable to capture, with trained hounds and experienced hunters.
During the course of our conversation we've heard a lot of terms like ecosystem management, ecosystem integrity thinking holistically, managing holistically, terms like keeping all the tools in the toolbox. I think when we think about ecosystem management, we've got to realize that humans are part of that equation. And particularly when we're dealing with these large predators. When you come to a predator, well when we talk about control of these predators whether its non-lethal or lethal control or using sport hunting, all of those are viable tools and it is going to be specific to the situation. With a predator like mountain lions they are much more adaptable than for example the grizzly bears. I've personally been in a situation where I watched my son being stalked to within about 30 feet of an adult mountain lion, that was the exception, not the rule and I was able to scare him away. But I think we have to realize that all these things have their place in this ecosystem management, we've got to, we've got to, we are managing and that's a dirty word to some people, but as humans we have always managed our environments, actively, passively, sometimes more aggressively, sometimes less aggressively, but we are here because we're talking about managing for these large predators. We've got to keep in mind that, that there's going to be times when, and I've personally had experience for example with both the lethal and non-lethal predator control mechanisms with coyotes around sheep. Ranchers for their part have done a great job of adapting, especially sheep ranchers to using non-lethal control. But there's sometimes when those flat don't work and you have to take out the problem animal. That can be done without sacrificing the integrity of the ecosystem.
Jim, I think one of the things that we, we haven't talked about yet, we've talked about private lands and human interaction, etc. One of the key issues I think that exists though is taking a look at this thing at a system level. We did hear something about ecosystem management. We've got to look at the prey base that exists that maintains these carnivore populations throughout the west. And the interaction of humans with those prey bases as well as the carnivores with those prey bases. And when you look at where the funding comes from for Fish and Games agencies to both manage these prey bases, which are ungulates, which are elk and deer primarily as well as the carnivore populations, it's the hunters who are paying for that. And one of the issues that we have to look at is a balance, as we manage these carnivore populations with maintaining good healthy productive prey bases, elk and deer populations as well. Because if we lose that hunting tradition, my question is, who's going to pay for all of this? It's hunters who've paid for it traditionally.
One other thing that's been sort of interesting in talking with Bill and talking with Nancy is that when you two talk about habitat and about wildlife, about prey base, about predators, you both want them there. You both want to see them increase. You both want land set aside for them. You want this to basically work. You [Bill] want them to be able to be hunted, you [Nancy] don't, and it seems like that's obviously a major sticking point between the two of you, but so much of the rest of it is right online. Am I incorrect?
Essentially the same thing and that is that we have to take a system approach to the issues that we face and that system approach includes various perspectives from the sociology side of things, but also it takes into consideration the entire ecological approach to the way that we deal with habitats, the way we deal with ungulate species, the way we deal with, with what's going on with, with urban sprawl etc. All of this is, is still something that, that hunters who are a specific group that, that I represent that I'm a hunter too and involved in a part of our passion and part of our conservation heritage. And I think it's, it's a mistake not to recognize that, that conservation heritage is why we're sitting here today and it will and should play a role in the future of the management of these systems as we try to figure out these very, very difficult problems from private land owners, private land owner rights which also are very important in this process as well as the ecological part of this thing.
And are you going to say hunting should play no role?
No I, I think that he's right in terms of hunting also being a part of our cultural heritage. It is a part of human heritage for centuries, for millennia. I think that the concern that our organization has about hunting is not whether it occurs but how quickly it occurs after species are de-listed. Specifically with respect to the state wolf management plans in Wyoming or Montana or Idaho we'd certainly like to see a five year moratorium on hunting while we can see whether or not populations continue to be viable as the plans intend for them to be. So I think it's more a matter of timing.
Jim just a response please real quick?Well, because one of the key issues here again is prey base and the interaction of the, of that particular species, and to be quite honest I don't particularly like to talk about wolves separate from the rest of the carnivore system that we have. Because I think it's very important that we think beyond individual species at this point. And that we think about ranchers and their issues. We think about wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, black bears, which we haven't talked about at all. They're impacts on our native ungulate populations and the interaction of different user groups that go out and use these species and use these habitats. And of course hunters are one of the key ones that, that we're interested in seeing utilized in the process. Whatever needs to be done I think we shouldn't, I think we shouldn't restrict ourselves and say we need a five year moratorium. What we need to do is look at this thing in a systematic approach and take the appropriate actions that maintain what we're looking to maintain out there within this system. Which is wild productive ungulate populations, maintaining rancher viability on their land bases, because without their land bases we don't have the habitat. And that we're looking at maintaining viable predator populations. Now obviously we may differ on what that is specifically, but generally we agree so.
You also see us out in the landscape. We happen to the be the organization that started a wolf compensation fund back in 1987. We started a grizzly compensation fund in 1997 that we took over from the Great Bear Foundation. We have started a proactive fund. In all of these efforts we work with livestock producers. We're trying to figure out how to do similar reach out with hunters because obviously we do have a lot in common. But sometimes those aren't the only way things get done. Why do we have laws if they're not going to be enforced? I, I'm assuming that if someone did a great injury to you that was against the law you would strongly consider taking it to court if you found that there was no other remedy. If you found that sitting down with them, speaking with them absolutely did not solve the problem. You would rest upon your legal right in this country to take a matter to court. We're simply resting upon a legal right that all citizens in this country have. Citizens have a legal right to petition that a species be listed. That's not just an agency action that's a citizen right. It's a legal right. So we're resting on our rights as well. And we're resting on those rights for the benefit of the people that aren't getting their remedies answered any other way.
Being a hunter I have to admit to my bias in favor of what you've been saying all along, which is that hunters fund a lot of this. But being a journalist, the thing that's been interesting to watch in Idaho over the last 16, 17 years has been the degree to which the so-called mainstream conservation movement and hunters have become disassociated. And it, you see it here really clearly today. It's not a difference in beliefs or approach so much as it is a difference in style and it's I you know Carter has a lot of faith for the future I have some real fears about that, which is that as our culture becomes more urbanized hunting becomes, hunting and hunters become more marginalized and even within the hunting community you have a lot of marginalization. When we debated bear management in Idaho 8 years ago I had one set of beliefs about hound hunters. Then when I went and did this book and I met hound hunters I'll tell you what you send me any randomly selected list of 10 people from Defenders or from Predator Conservation Alliance and I'll take 10 randomly selected hound hunters and we'll debate biology and the hound hunters will clean up. The image of hound hunters is that they're a bunch tobacco spitting you know game wasting fools. The fact is they're the most committed hunters there are because you have to train dogs. They're really more into it for the dogs than anything else and they really have to know the wildlife to be involved. There's all these cultural and sociological divides between people who have basically the same goals. I mean I listened to Levi and, and Aaron talk about the spirituality of hunting as if that was the exclusive preserve of the native community, it's not. Hunting is deeply spiritual part of my life and eating meat that I killed is really important to me on a spiritual level because I don't really like the way domestic livestock is treatment. I'm not squeamish about it. I just think I'd rather eat something that was happy when it died that something that was squeezed into a chicken shoot. So you know what I mean there's all this sociological stuff where we question each other's science. Like John was saying, we question the biologist because they disagree with our values and we're not getting the job done. Somebody's got to be able to bring everybody together and say whoa wait a minute. We're all, we're all different flavors of the same ice cream.
It seems to me that we there's a, a tendency to apply a different standard or a different view, viewpoint at least when we're talking about hunting a an ungulate for example like deer versus hunting a predator. And certainly we've, we've already heard and it's true that conservation, conservation hunting modern hunting with highly regulated means and so on has really contributed to the conservation of wildlife in North America. And as in terms of ungulates and these predator species its interesting that you know hunting of predator species go, or excuse me carnivores whatever you want to call them goes way back as well, even in the native American cultures all you have to look at is headdresses arrow quivers and so on to see that. And while you know certainly there's not the amount harvested or shouldn't be of predators for example as you might harvest a deer animal I don't understand why that would cause such a problem for people to think of harvesting a predator, especially the situation where that predator is inflicting or has inflicted damage. And I think that's something that needs a hard look.