National Geographic : 2010 Mar
• wolves can live in normal packs that won't get shot to pieces. run 800 head of Angus cattle in western Montana's Hot Springs area. ey grew up in America's golden age for pasto- ralists, in rolling valleys of bunchgrass and sage with forested mountainsides---with virtually all large native predators wiped o the landscape. "We'd usually be missing three to ve calves at roundup," John says. "Now it's closer to 25. is spring our calving grounds down near the house got hit. Seven calves were con rmed wolf kills, so we were reimbursed for them." e trouble is if ranchers don't come across a carcass right away, scavengers may drag o or shred all the evidence. Many say in some areas the actual kills by wolves may average as high as seven for every one that can be proved, but no con rmation, no compensation. And dead and missing animals are only part of the toll. Cattle harassed by wolves over one season can lose 30 to 50 pounds each. On top of that, hormonal e ects from stress kick in. "We had 85 pregnant heifers this spring, and 60 aborted," John says. " e worst part," Rae says, "is that 23 of the cows that aborted were in our son's starter herd of 25. He's stuck with a $7,500 bank note and two calves to pay it o with. We'll end up selling some mother cows to o set our losses, so we'll be going backwards." Stock with leg injuries from chases or infections from wounds become unmarketable. And a er brushes with wolves, mother cows stay ornery and extra protective of calves. e Hermans aren't the only ranchers to say it is harder to wrangle such cattle in pens; who don't even think about using their dogs; who consider the fact that if you drive those cows onto prime range the next summer, they may not stay because the upland forests are where the wolves hang around. ranchers---a coop- erative established in 1993 to conserve the rural setting in west-central Montana's Blackfoot River watershed---are trying a range rider pro- gram. I'm patrolling with the lone rider himself, hands and to hell with the Feds. Bumper stickers show a crossed-out wolf and the slogan "Smoke a Pack a Day." In May 2009, the wildlife service declared the species recovered in the northern Rocky Moun- tains and handed over responsibility for them to Montana and Idaho. Both instantly labeled them game animals and set quotas for the rst legal wolf hunts in either state's memory---75 in Montana, 220 in Idaho. "It's amazing---from a single, endangered pack to a huntable surplus across a whole region," says Jim Williams, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks wildlife program manager for northwest Mon- tana. " is is the most striking Endangered Spe- cies Act success story I can think of." Maybe. In November 2009, Idaho extended its season to last until the quota is met, or until March 31, whichever is sooner. e change could open the door to hunters traveling by snowmobile and to the killing of pregnant females. After an earlier federal decision to delist Western wolves in 2008, Wyoming essentially de ned the animals as varmints, or pests, allow- ing virtually unlimited shooting and trapping year-round. A resulting lawsuit forced the wild- life service to temporarily put wolves back on the endangered list. (Since then, the service has refused to take them o in Wyoming until that state comes up with a di erent plan.) Mean- while, a coalition of 14 environmental and animal protection organizations led by Earth- justice is suing the federal government to relist all wolves until the Western states develop a regional conservation strategy that includes core protected areas and buffer zones where Guys mutter to hell with the Feds. Bumper stickers show a crossed-out wolf and the slogan "Smoke a Pack a Day. "