Tuesday, February 26, 2013

E-Mail To Montana Governor Calling For Emergency Predator Control

Following is an e-mail that went out this morning (2-26-13) to Montana Governor Steve Bullock, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission, to some upper management with FWP, about 50 state senators and representatives, the state's media, dozens of sportsman/conservation organizations, and to some 200 Montana sportsmen, ranchers and rural residents.  The e-mail calls for Emergency Predator Control Legislation.

To read the LOBO WATCH release on this issue, go to the link in the e-mail.

Toby Bridges,


Dear Governor Bullock;
The token wolf seasons which have been conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, coupled with totally inadequate harvests of other major predators for more than a decade, have resulted in a glut of predators which are now destroying the past 75 years of wildlife conservation in this state.
Following the 2012 big game hunting season, during which hunters in roughly the Western 1/3 of this state experienced the worse hunting season of their lives, preceded by seasons that have progressively gotten worse, the sportsmen who have funded MT FWP clearly see the problem. Our state wildlife agency has concentrated way too much on managing predators, allowing our big game herds to take a real beating.
There is only one way to reverse the loss, and that is to dramatically reduce the number of wolves, mountain lions and bears in Montana. The attached LOBO WATCH release takes a more detailed look at the problem...and what it will take to allow big game and other wildlife populations to recover.
This will be the hottest issue you will have to face through your term in office. How aggressively and effectively you work to save this Montana treasure during your first term in office will surely dictate whether or not you even have a shot at a second term.
MT FWP has already proven that predator management does not work, now it's way past time for some serious predator control.
Toby Bridges
Missoula, MT
The attached release has also been published at http://www.lobowatch.com/adminclient/Legislation12/go

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It's Time For The MT FWP Overhaul To Begin!

Last October, a friend from back in Wisconsin contacted me for advice on a flat shooting load for his .50 caliber in-line muzzleloader.  He had drawn a tag for one of the premier muzzleloader deer hunts in America.  While he followed my NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website (at www.namlhunt.com ), he just wanted to know what I felt was the absolute best powder, charge, and saboted bullet to use.  Then, he inquired whether or not I had any truly great hunts scheduled for last fall.  So, I shared with him how bleak my hunting was looking, since I would be doing the vast majority of it very close to home in Western Montana, and how devastated our game herds were - due to excessive depredation.

Now, my friend also happens to be the editor of several Midwest outdoor magazines, and he shared that MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks had advertised in those publications that non-resident tags were still available...and that wolves had not significantly impacted big game herds.  The ad proclaimed that great hunting awaited those coming to Montana.  I hunted the entire season with the thought of how dishonestly the State of Montana was trying to sell those excessively priced non-resident big game licenses. 

By the time I finished what had been the worst hunting season of my life, the manner in which MT FWP has lied and deceived hunters, both resident and non-resident, had pushed my anger to the boiling point.  Early this past Thanksgiving morning, I drove out to an area where I used to regularly see elk and deer...and saw nothing...not even fresh tracks.  When I got back home, I knocked out the following e-mail and circulated it to more than 400 members of the shooting & hunting industry, and members of the outdoor media.

We now have a new Governor...now we need a new Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  It's time for the complete overhaul of that department to begin.  No more chewing gum patch jobs...no more recycling of former has beens.  We need new blood that is willing to get off their asses and out of their offices...roll up their sleeves...and to start taking care of the wolf and other predator problems in this state.  -  Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH


                                                                                                     Thanksgiving Day 2012

Dear Outdoor Industry & Media;
How many of you hunted in Montana back in the 1980's?   Among the outdoor writers and editors receiving this, how many of you attended the 1987 Outdoor Writers Association of America Conference held in Kalispell, MT?

If you have not been to Montana in the past 15 to 25 years, and you were to return today, you would find this to be an entirely different state - one with far less wildlife than 25 years ago.  And that can be largely credited to one of the worst state wildlife agencies in America - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  This agency now bends over backwards to insure that a minimum number of major predators are eliminated annually...to insure that the number of wolves, grizzly bears, black bears and mountain lions continue to increase year after year - even when the agency fully admits that it is escalating numbers of these carnivores which have caused big game numbers to nose dive.  Most major elk herds in the western 1/3 of the state have been decimated by as much as 80-percent.

Most of that loss has occurred over the past 8 years, under the watch of Governor Brian Schweitzer...and the current MT FWP Commission, which has been headed by Dr. Robert Ream.   This one individual has done more to destroy wildlife resources and hunting opportunities in this state than anyone else who calls Montana home.  (Ream is very much a part of the wolf problem...he was part of the team which wrote the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan...and has absolutely no business heading the FWP Commission...or being on the Commission period!)

Last night, I returned from a lone six-day hunting trip, hunting an area in Montana where, just ten years ago, one could see upwards of a hundred deer a day.  Spending every day from daylight til dark in the field and hunting hard, the most deer I saw in one day was 14.  On three of those days, each day spending a full 10 hours still hunting and glassing some of the finest mule deer habitat in North America or sitting in a stand overlooking a river bottom hayfield (which normally drew 50 to 60 whitetails every evening)...I saw just 2 or 3 deer all day.

A few days before leaving on this hunt, the local NBC station here in Missoula aired a story on how the 11,000 hunters in MT FWP Region 1 (around Kalispell), during the first 4 weeks of the 5-week general gun deer and elk season, had "enjoyed" a 4.9% "success rate".  Now, that has to be the absolute worst "hunting success" rate in the entire United States.  As a member of the shooting and hunting industry...why would you waste your time and money to come to Montana?  Many other states offer far greater hunting opportunities.

Being as this is Thanksgiving Day, a day devoted to cooking and for being thankful for all we have, I pulled up a very appropriate LOBO WATCH release from a couple of years back which takes a harsh look at a not so tasty dish - one which the sportsmen of Montana (and Idaho) have had forced down their throats. 

When is our industry going to pull its head out of the sand, or out of wherever, and stop funding new agenda driven fish and game departments like Montana Fish, Wolves and Parks or the Idaho Department of Fish and No Game?

With the success rate so low here in western Montana, the number of hunters going afield is now plummeting quickly.
Hope your Thanksgiving Day is filled with a lot more thanks than mine, and hope to visit with many of you at the SHOT Show in January.
Toby Bridges

PS - The same stupidity that destroyed the hunting in Montana and Idaho is now spreading into the states of Washington and Oregon.

To Read The Release Mentioned In This Letter To The Hunting Industry & Outdoor Media Go To -

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Are The Northern Rockies In A Predator Pit?

On the LOBO WATCH Facebook page, there have recently been numerous comments made on "how wolves do not kill for fun"...or that "wolves kill only the sick and weak"...and even "wolves only kill what they need for food".  Nothing could be further from the truth.

We will be using the Montana Mountain Chronicle to share the truth - that wolves will kill just about anything that they come across, and especially anything that runs...and as often as not, they eat nothing.

The following was written and circulated back in June 2010.  Since, those who live in the Northern Rockies have come to realize that the damage wolves have dealt other wildlife resources and to livestock and pets is much greater than we knew then.  The real damage has come from the manner in which wolves do indeed kill far more than needed for sustenance - especially the near total loss of the young of the year.

We will be publishing several other similar reports/articles on this blog through the remainder of this month.  -  Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH


Just what is a "Predator Pit"?
            Wolf researchers have come to use the term when referring to an area where predators have pulled prey populations down so low that recovery of those populations is impossible, unless there is a drastic reduction in the number of predators. The situation results from how predators affect prey numbers in two different ways. One is the manner in which predators, especially wolves, kill far more adult prey animals than needed to survive, commonly referred to as "surplus killing". The second is the destruction of the prey age class, due to the loss of newborn young of the year.
            The loss of that recruitment can be either due to outright killing of fawns and calves in the spring (with excessive surplus killing), or due to the stress predators (especially wolves) place on pregnant females in winter, causing them to abort their fetuses. In the classic predator pit situation, a rising number of predators results in a constant decline in prey numbers, with the average age of surviving prey animals becoming older and older with each passing year - to the point that reproductive growth becomes impossible and the prey base begins to die off from old age.
            This accurately describes the situation in much of the Northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming today.
            Through the 1970s and 1980s, populations of elk, moose and other big game had recovered well from the record lows of the early 1900s, and by the mid 1990s many areas of the Northern Rockies boasted record wildlife populations. And through all of that recovery from the market hunting era of the late 1800s, there were still viable populations of mountain lions, black bear, and in some areas even a few grizzlies. The only missing predator was the wolf. America's sportsmen had poured billions of dollars into modern conservation projects, many of which took decades to accomplish, and they had been rewarded with an abundance of game. So much so, that during the 1980s and 1990s many joked that "The Good Ol' Days Are Now!".
            Now, they know there was more to that feeling than anyone at that time could have realized. 
            Against the wishes of the vast majority of sportsmen in this country, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began releasing wolves back into the Northern Rockies in 1995. And as wolf numbers quickly grew, thanks to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, the dynamics of the predator to prey ratio likewise quickly changed. When the first 31 wolves were dumped back into Yellowstone National Park (1995-1996), close to 20,000 elk made up the northern Yellowstone elk herd. Today, there are more than 400 wolves within the Greater Yellowstone Area - and the northern Yellowstone elk herd, which is one of several herds in the region, has plummeted to fewer than 6,000 remaining animals. And those that have managed to survive the constant pursuit of wolf packs, some of which are now known to number 20 or more adults, have become a very geriatric herd. In 1995-96, the average age of that elk herd was around 4 years of age, today the remaining animals are an average of 8 to 9 years of age. Calf recruitment in the spring is presently near zero.
            Yellowstone's elk herds are dying. And so are the elk herds in many other areas of western Montana, northwestern Wyoming, and the northern half of Idaho. The area is definitely well into a predator pit situation. And the elk aren't the only big game that's now quickly disappearing. Moose, which were once plentiful in the Northern Rockies, have become nearly non-existent. In fact, within Yellowstone National Park, they could probably qualify as an "Endangered Species". Likewise, throughout the entire region, mule deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goat populations are also in serious decline - and the problem is wolf depredation.
            Sportsmen and others who are concerned about the future of wildlife in this once wildlife rich region of the country are now beginning to organize to take on those who seem to have one goal in mind - and that is to put an end to sport hunting. Who are the enemies?
            Topping the list is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We now know that when Congress denied funding for capturing Canadian wolves and transplanting them into Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, USFWS literally stole the money needed for the project from the excise taxes sportsmen paid on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and fishing gear, through what is known as the Pittman-Robertson Act. These funds are to be used exclusively for wildlife habitat and fisheries improvement. USFWS helped itself to somewhere between $60- and $70-million dollars to finance several unauthorized uses - including the funding needed to dump wolves back into the Northern Rockies ecosystem. 
            Right there with USFWS is a long list of anti-hunting "environmental" organizations, including the Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States, and a few dozen others. These groups have learned to use wolf impact on big game populations as a tool to put an end to hunting. Without a surplus of big game, there's no need for hunters. It's that simple. And one former upper echelon USFWS division chief, who blew the whistle on the theft of millions from Pitman-Robertson funds, also says that USFWS has entered into under-the-table agreements with the environmentalists - those who want more wolves, and fewer hunters.
            And as absurd as it may sound, several of the state wildlife agencies which sportsmen have funded and supported since those agencies were founded have also bought into all the lies, deceit and theft that has now been associated with the Wolf Recovery Project of the Northern Rockies. And as these same sportsmen learn more about all that's wrong with introducing non-native, non-endangered Canadian wolves into Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, upper management within a couple of these agencies continues the cover up of the damage wolves have already dealt big game populations, livestock impact due to wolf depredation, the loss of hunting opportunities, how USFWS manipulated wolf science to justify the introduction of an invasive wolf subspecies, the true number of wolves in their respective states, and what it is going to take to gain control of this problem. 
            Perhaps the worst of the state wildlife agency lot has been Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
            Sportsmen in this state have become extremely agitated at MT FWP's inability to get a handle on the impact wolves are dealing elk, moose and other big game - and that was very evident at one of the agency's regional meetings to discuss wolves and wolf "management" on June 2, 2010. That meeting took place in Missoula, for the state's Region 2 management unit.
            A presentation by Regional Supervisor Mack Long, Regional Wildlife Manager Mike Thompson, and Regional Wolf Coordinator Liz Bradley, to detail the impact wolves were having on big game populations and various proposed wolf season harvest quotas, only tended to further agitate the 150 or so attending the meeting. Their anger was very evident, and some of the accusation very pointed. It was clear that they had had enough of wolves, and enough of losing the wildlife populations they had funded to build. And they wanted something done, and done quickly to turn things around.
            But, there was no encouragement from those making the presentation. They presented three different levels of harvest. If the statewide quota was set at 153, they claimed it would reduce the number of wolves in the state by only 9-percent. Should FWP go with a harvest quota of 186 wolves, that would reduce the state wolf population by 13-percent. If the quota was set at 216, Thompson claimed that the overall state wolf population would be reduced by 20-percent.
            But, 9-, 13- or 20-percent of what? The sportsmen of Montana are fully aware of the fact that MT FWP does not have a clue about the true number of wolves within the state. During an Environmental Quality Committee meeting at the State Capitol Building in Helena in early March, the agency admitted they had not done an official wolf count since 2008. The Chairman of that committee questioned the accuracy of their counts when he shared that two years ago, when he asked how many wolf packs were in the area of his home in northwest Montana, FWP told him just one. Then, this past winter they admitted they knew of at least six, maybe eight packs there.
            Extremely few of the sportsmen in that room for the meeting bought FWP's claim of having just 500-550 wolves in the state. Most feel there are at least twice that many, as evidenced by the loss of big game numbers all along the western side of Montana.
           Attending the meeting was Bob Ream, Chairman of the MT FWP Commission, who had willingly worked with the introduction of the non-native Canadian wolves throughout the Northern Rockies at the start of the project. 
            He angered the crowd even more when he stated, "More than 60-percent of the wolves now in Montana came here from Canada on their own."
            If that's true, why did USFWS feel so compelled to embezzle more than $60-million dollars from the funds provided by sportsmen for improving wildlife and fisheries habitat - in order to introduce wolves? Many of those at the meeting felt that it was just more of the agency's cover up of a mad-scientist experiment gone bad.
            So, what would it take to bring Montana's (along with Idaho's and Wyoming's) elk, moose and other big game populations out of the predator pit situation they've been thrown into by misguided federal and state wildlife agencies? One thing is for certain, it'll take a heck of a bigger reduction of wolf numbers than 20-percent!
            Before writing his acclaimed book, "Wolves in Russia - Anxiety Through the Ages", author Will Graves spent several decades researching and studying wolves and their impact in that country. He shares that to reverse the negative impact wolves have on wildlife populations, livestock production, plus the emotional, health and safety threat to human inhabitants of a wolf populated region, the Russian government found it necessary to reduce wolf populations by as much as 80-percent. And they did so by using semi- and full-auto gunfire from helicopters. During Grave's research, wolf control in that country carried a price tag of about $45-million annually.
            Will Graves claims, "Wolves cannot be managed...they have to be controlled!"
            In his May 2008 declaration for the wolf delisting hearing and pending "wolf management hunts", Dr. L. David Mech stated, "It has not been demonstrated that 'a substantial reduction' in wolf abundance will occur, and my opinion is that it will not because merely to hold a wolf population stationary requires an annual take of 28-50% per year."
            Mech went on to declare that wildlife agencies outside of the Northern Rockies recovery area try to kill 70% of the wolf population annually in order to achieve a reduction in wolf numbers. He was referring to what it takes to keep wolf levels low enough to prevent a predator pit situation in Alaska and areas of Canada. According to this wolf biologist and researcher, who is considered by many to be the top wolf expert in the world, sport hunting as currently being implemented by the wildlife agencies in Montana and Idaho normally do nothing to reduce wolf populations.
            Even if MT FWP goes into the 2010 wolf season with a quota of 216 wolves, and that quota is met, it simply means that by next spring there will be still more wolves on the landscape of Montana than there are as this is written - and that western Montana's predator pit situation will only worsen. More elk, more moose, more deer, more bighorn sheep, more mountain goats will be lost to the wolves, and those animals that do manage to survive the continuous onslaught of those apex predators will inch one more year closer to being lost to old age. The big game populations that have provided food for western families, an opportunity for sportsmen to harvest the surplus bounty and enjoy time afield with family and friends, and which have simply provided viewing enjoyment for countless wildlife watchers are dangerously close to being lost forever.
            Sportsmen fully realize what they are losing, and they feel those who they have entrusted to wisely manage these wildlife resources are now asleep at the wheel - or just don't care anymore. Wolf impact on the Northern Rockies is a bomb that's about ready to explode, and the fuse keeps getting shorter and shorter. - Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Winter 2012-13 - Oh, How Montana Has Changed...

Every day, shortly after noon, I shut down the computer...load my three dogs into the Suburban...and get out for a couple of hours.  Some days we head over to a mountain recreation area on the Southwest edge of Missoula to hike a closed Forest Service road...or head down along the West side of the Clark Fork River to where an old bridge used to cross...or maybe to the private shooting range I use to get in a little hiking and some target shooting.  No matter where we go, we very seldom drive more than 12-14 miles from home.

This spot is one of our favorites in winter.  What's really great about the area is that it is all public land...and it is just 5 1/2 miles from home.  Depending on the weather, and the work load waiting for me at home, we can get in a 30-minute stroll...an hour walk...or an hour and a half hike.  A number of trails allows the dogs to cover a lot of territory, and they easily get in 2 to 3 times the distance I cover, and when we get back home they expect a dog biscuit...then a nice long nap.

For me, a brisk walk on a cool 30-degree afternoon gets the juices flowing again, and no matter what I had been working on before the daily outing, I come back more than ready to jump right back into the project.  Often, that walk gives me an opportunity to ponder whatever I'm writing or constructing on the internet, and I dive right back in with some fresh new thoughts.

Home is actually about half-way between where Bob is enjoying a bit of a January wade and the high ground seen in the background.  As wild as the country may appear here...a city of 70,000 people lies just a couple of miles out of sight behind those trees.

One of my 2013 resolutions has been to make much greater use of this blog.  Since posting on here last year, I've taken my photography digital - and will be sharing a lot of Montana scenic shots, such as that of the early evening walk shown here, which reminds me of Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening".

Montana has changed a great deal in just the 5 1/2 years that I've been here, and not all for the better.  There has been and remains those who were attracted to Montana for what it has been, a wild and beautiful place - and since moving here they have worked hard to make it more like wherever they came from.  The clash between those who love the country and the lifestyle just the way it has been, and those now pushing for change will escalate.  Some hard battles lie ahead, and these will become topics on this blog.

Our goal is to make two or three new posts here monthly...so drop back from time to time to see what's happening in Montana - no matter if you still consider it the "Treasure State"...or "Big Sky Country". - Toby Bridges, Montana Mountain Chronicle