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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:41 pm 
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The letter from the ECOLI...er ...ECCOLA Wolf Task Force representative in last week's paper sparked my interest. He questioned the information in a previous column that I borrowed from John Andre, a hunting trip broker in Montana. The ECCOLA guy called it "barstool biology." I guess a lot depends on whose bar you're sitting in. It's always kind of rattled me when some people think the only intelligent people in the world or people who know anything about the outdoors are ECCOLA members or wildlife biologists.

I've often wondered just how many of these self-proclaimed wolf experts ever get off their barstools and go check some things in the field. It's like those who want to ban snowmobiling in Yellowstone. Most have never been there to know what it's like.

In the past five years I've spent an average of three months a year in Montana. Even before that, I spent a lot of time in the West. I've spoken to a number of outfitters and a lot of ranchers who deal with wolf-related issues all the time. These people are in the outdoors every day rather than sitting behind a desk in a Forest Service office.

If you think I'm being flip about the "behind-the-desk" business, I'm not. My friends and I have literally had to show Forest Service employees and managers how to find their way around in parts of the Gallatin National Forest. Too many Forest Service management types only know the forests by maps and aerial photos.

In light of the letter in last week's paper, I did a little checking myself, on the Internet and with sources I know in Montana.

Yes, according to U.S. wolf recovery folks, there are only 66 verified wolf breeding pairs in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Andre told me that he took the last KNOWN numbers and multiplied that times the accepted wolf population growth rate of 34 percent annually. I'll explain later in the column about the last known issue. Regardless, even if 66 packs is correct, it's still more than double the 30 intended.

HOWEVER....Yellowstone's chief wolf biologist, Doug Smith, stated at a meeting of the Alliance for Wild Rockies in Missoula, Mont., in September, 2002 (a public meeting), that due to a lack of financing, equipment and personnel, it had been the government's policy since 1995 to only collar half the packs in Yellowstone. Only the collared packs are considered verifiable. He also acknowledged that probably no more than one-third of the packs outside Yellowstone are collared. The reality is, they have no idea how many wolves there are since the initial numbers were re-introduced!

Already in 1995, in a memo sent to Smith, another Yellowstone wildlife biologist, Tom Lemke, stated that they were noticing an alarming change in the cow/calf ratio in the northern Yellowstone elk herd due to wolf depredation.

The ECCOLA guy claims that the reduced northern Yellowstone elk herd numbers are due to an "extended hunting season around the edge of Yellowstone." Well, he'd better change barstools because I checked. Montana has not changed elk seasons or quotas in that area since the 1960s. Those herds migrate only into Montana, not Wyoming.

The only major variation in elk kill numbers since the '60s was in 1991 when there was a heavy snowfall in Yellowstone early, then a major thaw, followed by a hard freeze. The elk couldn't paw through the ice for forage and migrated out of the park in record numbers. Some 3,000 bull elk were killed along the north Yellowstone rim in Montana that year. That's what the wolf lovers use to claim increased hunting has depleted the elk herd. Elk numbers did rise again, however, until dramatic changes began due to increasing wolf numbers. As I said, there have been no changes in hunting seasons or quotas in those areas in at least 40 years.

Think guides and outfitters are exaggerating the wolf depredation and numbers? Don't say that to Bill Hoppe, a former outfitter now working at an hourly job in Montana. Five years ago he says he could have sold his outfitting business for half a million dollars. Now he can't give it away.

John Andre told me that before the wolf re-introduction effort he had 37 outfitters who he worked with in the Yellowstone eco base. Today he has just four, each of whom has a private ranch with a local elk herd.

As far as wolves in Wisconsin, anyone who believes there are only 450 animals here either never leaves his barstool or works for the DNR and never leaves his Madison office. Ask the loggers. Ask Northern Wisconsin residents who live in wolf country and see them all the time. Ask hunters. One group of hunters this year saw 11 at one time in one clear cut.

I've only seen four wolves in the lower 48 states - three at separate times on Tannery Road and one on Peaceful Valley Road. Not exactly the wild expanses that wolf lovers claim the critters need. I wonder if those four or the packs they run with have been included in Wisconsin's count?

Want to know why people question the DNR's wolf count here? Because there are too many instances of the DNR's inability to count anything else!

Take DNR's unwillingness, for example, to acknowledge that we have cougars in Wisconsin. Hundreds of people see them every year (including some prominent ECCOLA members).

Assume you're an average outdoorsman. Not a wildlife biologist, but you know your critters reasonably well. You're surprised to see a cougar in northern Wisconsin and report it to the DNR. Their response?

"You're an imbecile! That had to have been a bobcat!"

So what do you think of the DNR now?

Consider DNR's estimate of the Wisconsin deer herd. They claim there are 1.4-1.5 million. So you go hunting on land you and your family have hunted for generations. You see very few deer so the DNR says you must have been sitting on the wrong stump!

I doubt most hunters believe there are excessive deer populations in the Northwoods. At a public meeting I attended earlier, DNR officials admitted that there are factors that are not included in their counting system that could easily skew the number.

Oh, and Mr. ECCOLA claims that 75,000 deer are shot in Wisconsin and not recovered. A guess, I'm sure, but I'd venture that even if he's right, 70,000 of them aren't recovered because they survived!

How many reindeer does Santa have? Twenty-six by DNR count! That joke (not mine) gives you an idea of DNR's credibility.

I hunt in Unit 25 in Price County. It had one of the few early T-zone hunts this year. I know I said last year that I would not hunt in the gun season again but I'm weak. I broke down and bought a license Wednesday before the gun season opened and I regret it. I hunted opening weekend, along with a friend. Between the two of us we each saw one deer. I think we each saw the same deer. We didn't hunt any more.

Don't tell me I sat on the wrong stump. I only have 80 acres and I know all the stumps pretty well since I've hunted nearly every day during the early archery season for the past 13 years. In 12 of the last 16 times I've hunted this fall (including bow season) I have not seen a deer. Only twice this year have I seen more than two deer in one sitting. I used to see 6-12 at every sitting (before the T-zones).

Opening day this year I heard more shooting between six and six-thirty a.m. (illegal) than I did after eight a.m. - if you don't count the equally-illegal shots fired after 4:45 p.m. I heard two shots between 5:05 and 5:15 while I was fixing dinner on my barbecue grill. I'm anxious to see the kill reports for Unit 25 this year.

I know that the problems where I hunt are not all related to T-zone hunts. There are too many bears, for one thing, that prey heavily on fawns. In the past two years I have yet to see a doe with two fawns and I saw a buck fawn this year for the first time in three years. I've seen a number of does with no fawns.

Last spring I was discussing the issue with an area DNR game manager who told me he'd been trying to get the bear kill tag numbers increased for several years. Instead, the DNR reduced them! If Madison DNR officials don't even listen to their own game managers, who are they listening to?

And there are wolves not too distant from where I hunt.

I've never had a problem with the reintroduction of wolves, so long as the governments involved keep their promises. When the populations grow large enough, we were told the wolves would be controlled. Well, that was a lie. By anyone's count, there are more wolves in the West than the re-introduction plan called for. By most counts outside the DNR and pro-wolf groups, there are more in Wisconsin than acknowledged.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 10:58 am 
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This column was a reply to a Letter to the Editor that was being discussed in a previous forum. To see earlier discussion on the topic please visit the link below.

Ignore barstool biology...


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 6:10 am 
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There seems to be an awful lot of human problems in the above letter. Not to many wolf problems. I have read it three times now. In the Paper, on another link and then now. Lots of coverage on this one. Did any one else notice the childish rant of the first line. Name calling how mature. It kind of told me alot about the person writing it right of the bat. It also made me wonder about the rest of the letter. How much is fact and how much is just fear and child like ranting.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2005 9:30 pm 
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posted December 04, 2005 10:03 AM
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Wow, talk about spin!!!

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I particular liked the one about two or three years back where he admitted to breaking the law while riding his ATV illegally on public lands in Montana and blaming the forest fires on the evil environmentalists.
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Let see, he (and many others) rode ATVs off a legal trail while hauling water to PUT OUT A FOREST FIRE!!! Gee, that's a really horrible offense, he should be sentenced to life in prison!

The column also pointed out that because some of the loggers were kept out by lawsuits areas that were burned STILL have dead timber standing. Loggers wanted to go in and cut the dead trees, clean up the brush, etc. Now there is an area with nothing growing, a bunch of black tree stumps standing and the logging industry is basically dead in Montana. An area very close by that was logged just a couple of years before the fire has a lot of new tree growth, etc.

If you are going to complain about spin try to not do it with spin!
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Posts: 315 | From: Tomahawk, WI, USA | Registered: Jul 2001 | IP: Logged

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WOW, yes talk about spin.

Nature has managed forests for millions of years without logging. Now the republican party/timber lobbyist line is that we need to cut it down to save it. Convenient considering what they stand to profit. The biological life and activity of the tree and its remains sometimes goes on for decades or even hundreds of years after it dies.

What the right-wing spin artists left out is that the areas burned have been logged several times since the arrival of European settlers. It is not like Wisconsin with its 30 inches of percipitation per yer. The slash left behind by loggers in many areas of Montana and Wyoming remains as tender for decades in some cases. In Wisconsin it decays within a few years. Include the damage to trout streams from erosion and debris and the fact that we receive only about 4% of our timber from public lands and one has to question why we log public lands at all.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2005 9:36 pm 
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On the number of deer eaten by wolves, it varies. Most authorities put it somewhere between 15 and 19 or so in Wisconsin where other large hooved prey is limited. For convenience say 450 times 20 equals 9000. Reported car kills are at about 50,000 with estimated unreported car kills at another 50,000.

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