These false estimates “have obscured the magnitude of poaching as the major threat to endangered wolf populations.

In Oppose Welfare Ranching, Protect The Wolves, Sacred Resource Protection Zone by Twowolves2 Comments

Wolf Poaching is not something happening

only in distant regions


Three sentence summary: Poaching is not something happening only in distant regions, it is the most common cause of wolf mortality in every population where it has been measured accurately. During the period U.S. wolves were listed under the ESA, the relative importance of poaching was systematically and substantially under-estimated while the relative importance of legal causes of mortality was systematically over-estimated. We correct the algebraic errors and errors of inference that led to these biased estimates.

Last year, Treves and others notified experts on Northern Rocky Mountain wolves that the assumption was flawed and in the ensuing year, the current team of authors investigated red wolves and Mexican wolves to confirm the same phenomenon applied. We now believe our finding applies to all studies of marked animals in which a perfectly reported cause of death occurs alongside imperfectly reported ones. Moreover, for populations with cryptic poaching – in which poachers conceal evidence – the biasing effect of the false assumption will be amplified.

Why does the article state that one error is a mathematical fact? Isn’t this a dispute over interpretation of data? We identified an error that is simply algebraic and an error of estimation that are separate issues. The algebraic mismeasurement is the over-estimation of the risk of legal killing. This should always be calculated as a proportion of all dead animals, not as a proportion of known fates because known fates over-represent legal causes of death by a known amount (Figures 1a,b below). We also identified an error of inference about the other causes of death. After one corrects the calculation of risk of legal causes of death as above, then one has to confront what might have happened to the unknown fates.

These unknown fates have been ignored traditionally, which discards useful information. We therefore presented a method to estimate what happened to those unknown fates. In the case of marked wolves, we show that poaching in particular has been under-estimated because cryptic poaching has not been accounted for properly. We presented two methods to account for cryptic poaching and one method that ignores cryptic poaching



  1. To help simplify for readers:
    “Unknown fates” refers to absences (1) or observed mortalities of unknown cause (2).

    (1) First, weather changes remove tracks – snow melts, vegetation either springs back or grows, rain removes traces – even slugs eat scat. Known wolves can tend to remain in a group . It seems relatively few disperse before 22 months, as this is age to sexual maturity (think of it as puberty). Wolf families are thus continual, with a minimum of about two cohorts of pups, and usually more, wherever they establish.

    Wolf biologists have observed some family breakups when one parent dies, and a far larger likelihood when both parents die. Here’s a study estimating 77% average dissolution from KNOWN loss of either one or both breeders. Likelihood of dissolution is greater when the female breeder is lost.
    Borg, Bridget L., Scott M. Brainerd, Thomas J. Meier, and Laura R. Prugh. “Impacts of breeder loss on social structure, reproduction and population growth in a social canid.” Journal of Animal Ecology 84, no. 1 (2015): 177-187.

    BUT, this 77% is a final general figure. Go to figure 3 for a better understanding of how much KNOWN breeder loss affects the family. Far northern wolves and open-country wolves tend to develop larger packs. The bison wolves of the plains were like this, although since Lewis and Clarke they have been gunned down, by the L& C group for the crime of merely chewing on tack at night. If possible, another time, Ill describe how wolves cycle their diets to obtain complete nutrients and self-medications. The urban-oriented hunting lobbies and livestock interests paint , and have always painted a completely false picture of the wolf.

    The whole situation of mortality is complex to talk about, with ecological, behavioral, learning, and genetics involved..
    This comment uses some info from numerous studies to help you picture the human problem. There’s a whole lot more – even some famous wolf biologists have insufficient familiarity with appropriate disciplines to grasp why they misuse such concepts as Population Viability, and wrongly submit to “social carrying capacity” as factors in management decisions.

    Legal hunting usually occurs within limited seasons. Idaho nearly totally fails to limit their seasons since public hunting was allowed. WY’s genocidal state policies will likely equal that loss where wolves are “game”; in most of the state, where it will be legal to shoot on sight, it will be worse. essentially none will survive, with the vast amount of eager pleasure-killers.
    Wisconsin with its excessive roading (the great lakes states had a lot of logging, and if you are a wolf advocate, you must also be a wilderness advocate, as the USDA Forest Service does not sufficiently close roads smashed into public lands), also has the problem of huge surrounding state populations and legal dog use for hunting bears – There they are allowed to train dogs in summer, and of course, the wolves, trying to keep pups safe are at their most desperate in protecting home range-territory. The relatively unbound dogfighting enthusiasts are highly vocal with lots of political power, as are all hunting groups.

    Most of you know that wolf dens are occupied for over two months total, from selection through moving to rendezvous site. Wolves seek well-hidden densites, and since humans are the major cause of mortality, almost no den occurs when human access occurs at a density of .75 miles of road/path per square mile.
    Rendezvous sites are places where pups can easily be seen by their elder caretakers, with nearby water (in dens, milk sufficed). They base here for at the least, a couple more months.
    So, for about 5 or six months wolves are quite tied down to highly detectable places.

    The high legal mortality shown in figure 2 of Borg et al., is due to the young wolves being extremely naive, failing to hide themselves.

    Most observations show families only relocating with better prey availability.
    Forensic science used on wolves is not at all extensive when compared to forensics done on human remains.

    Remains of anything found in natural surroundings have experienced far more loss of carcass than is commonly publicized. Mesopredators, and all predators, often carry off parts, and in some vegetation and geologic terrains, such remains are neither searched for, nor easily found.
    Familiar with observation of carcasses over time, one can observe scats, but precipitation does dissipate those. Most of the natural world is not as simple as the north side of Denali, where Murie made his great studies of those wolves.
    Skin and bone can be eaten by certain larger predators. Bears leave skin/fur, but so many smaller animals eat it that it is gone over a varying short time.
    Because a relatively healthy natural area is populated with predators and carrion eaters – most predators also must eat carrion – as a mater of fact sometimes up to 85% of wolf diets are carrion! – you do not smell the dead as often as you might where canids are relatively absent.
    Wolves rarely ever eat wolves and rarely coyotes, although the reverse is not true.

    Having spoken with admitted enthusiastic coyote killers, I’ve inspected their weapons – many spend huge amounts on sniper rifle technology. I strongly feel that Northeast California suffered that loss of the Shasta Pack from these guys, who are quite secretive. I had to be introduced locally, to gain access.
    There’s a personality that seems to occur from WY, MT, ID, across to the Pacific areas east of the Cascades, and well up to the coast in more rural areas, that wants to be able to kill anything their gunsights can focus on. Speaking with wildlife rangers and officers, even present when some poachers are discovered, I’ve privately noted that greater drug/alcohol use is a factor in these personalities.

    But back to the article:
    The meaning of “algebraic differences” is that x, the total killed has been measured as = to 1/3 Total known human-caused, rather than = to all (x=1/6)mortalities. And we know from the mortalities shown in this study admittedly subject to exactly the problem quantified by Adrian Treves, Chris Darimont, Kyle Artell, and Dave Parsons, (3 of whom are well-known decades-long wolf researchers) in Twowolves article above, that legal hunting alone is far to excessive:
    : Creel S, Rotella JJ (2010) Meta-Analysis of Relationships between Human Offtake, Total Mortality and Population Dynamics of Gray Wolves (Canis lupus). PLoS ONE 5(9): e12918. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012918

    I’ve lost months of work (well, months in each of several years – lost a 32 Gig stick when I left University. I failed to back it up, having used U computers) showing that even legal public wolf hunting is, as Creel & Rotella showed, unsustainable.

    I’m convinced that illegal poaching and legal hunting prevents gene flow between the Rockies population and Pacific west (entirely Cascades – Interstate 5 with it extreme 24/7 traffic effectively prevents recolonization of very good habitat. Management biologists make the mistake of equating the more sparsely traveled I-84 , which is permeable with the monster that is I-5. The coastal ranges have better cover and steeper terrain, which could preserve a healthy population, once established)

    Mammalogists have long understood that Minimum Viable Populations of mammals require connected populations above 5000 and more likely, over 9600 to prevent the Isle Royale-type of loss. Since wolves are predominantly monogamous (that famous female shot up near Gardner MT began her career when equivalent to our mid-teenage, and was actually a rare case. Teens don’t stick with a mate for life – I would have to speak in person for others to understand that wolves are highly emotional about their bonds, moreso than humans.), wolves need even larger populations allowed to connect.

    People often cite Canada as good source population, but SE BC hates and kills wolves, even with aerial gunning. Outside Waterton Lakes NP, heavy shooting also occurs. Remember, that human populations have doubled to tripled in the past few decades.

    There’s FAR more to share than can fit into comments.

    Related to this, the use of Facebook for information has several drawbacks.
    FB reaches many more, but is both highly exposed to antiwolf people, and has (not as badly as twitter etc) caused people to flit about their lives, abandoning real information, meaningful sharing, and worse, real knowledge, exploration, and commitment.
    I hope that this site will continue, although it’s likely that most people will just go to FB and such places merely because of raw numbers of an increasingly ADHD culture.

    Last week through next week CA DFW is conducting an elk tagging, and GPS-related survey to explore the two mountain elk subspecies. Unfortunately, even the knowledge of where elk thrive in greater numbers has in the past led (as in Idaho’s Lolo in the Clearwater NF) to falsehoods about wolves:
    When the forest regrew sufficiently following long-past fires, that natural succession caused the only Idaho area where elk actually diminished – actually due to elk being a disturbed/early-to-mid-successional habitat-using animal.
    The hunting lobby and individuals, falsely blamed the reduction on wolves. In spite of ecologists and biologists clearly identifying the actual cause, Idaho embarked on increased wolf-killing.

    Such falsehoods add to the emotional incentive for poaching; anger at government for other, often unrelated reasons, adds to poaching.
    So, human overpopulation, excessive wealth resulting in free time and gun ownership and use, ridiculous cultural antipathy, personal fear (there’ a Kazahk video of several snowmobile-riding shooters circulating world-widely, showing them killing steppe wolves, outspeeding them in snow, One young wolf, knowing (s)he has no chance, opens his mouth in a desperate social gesture, toward the recording killer, and got the gun poked directly into its mouth. The hunters spreading this sick human incident attempt to portray it as somehow “dangerous” to the humans, when in fact, they were then and extremely often elsewhere, engaged in pure slaughter. In research I’ve cited, along with personal communication by the sniper-rifle people I encountered, and many, MANY males across the US and part of Canada, I’ve heard, boogeywolf-type fear is a huge factor. This has become amazingly common in the US and some other cultures which “I’ve experienced), and lies, all are combined to dissociate humans from life itself, and the native other animals that only a few of us knew, understood, and sought to know, from childhood.

    Last year, a former Montana wolf biologist, involved in, yet denying that Montana’s wildlife/wolf policy is clearly game-farming – “managing” for the ungulate-hunting public, and engaging on their wolf-reduction hunting policies for this clear purpose, became a head of Mexican Wolf reintroduction. Whie Laudon may appear to some to be a proper choice, his preference is what is called “social carrying capacity” rather than even sound scientific principles of ecological effective population or actual habitat carrying capacity.
    I believe PtW’s point of view is one closer to real habitat carrying capacity, where wolves play their ancient part in balancing and enhancing all lives.

    In the present we know of three tribes in WA and at least one in BC who are quite antiwolf, unlike most of North America. There are other indigenous, who came more recently, who are all-too involved in “harvesting” wolves. While I and you, must be wary of overgeneralizing, these instances show that those who feel any deep recognition or reverence for wolf’s place in the world, have to more specifically choose with whom they develop mutual close trust.

    Although it’s possible that few lay persons know it, there are differences among scientists in their own personal interest in the welfare of the wolf.
    Bias is a word meaning deviation from absolute impartial even psychopathic unconcern. So, although psychopathy is more and more appearing in the present culture, it is normal for humans to have biases. But when combined with power, anti-something biases can cause extreme harm. Pro-anything biases, can and do cause violent, fearful response in those anti-.

    In this case, wolves die from the battle of biases, as well as by those who use guns without regard for life. I happen to have known several hunters from several states, including Alaska and Idaho, who fit the psychopathic profile, whenever outside their own nuclear family. For this reason I also mention that military training and membership should have extreme limits. The very methods used are known to us involved in cognitive and behavioral science, to be efficient education in developing psychopathic personalities, most of which remain throughout a lifetime. People, in other words, are vastly different than those known to those of us who were raised with strong normal ties to natural world.

    For those of you who are interested in how some traditional peoples worked around the social difficulties created by warring, please explore the Dine’ “Enemy Way” and one or two other related rituals created to heal this problem. Any who have experienced deep fear and killing, can also check the rituals of several western and plains tribal methods of overcoming the problems created byanger, hate, discord, and war.

    As I have implied, some people are involved in wildlife sciences for quite different purposes than are others. Scientists, like anyone else, can be very similar to any general populace. sometime their jobs are more important than other live, while others have changed their original anthropocentric views as they have watched scientific understanding develop. Several famous and influential wildlife and wolf biologists are in fact rather antiwolf. Usually these are “management”-oriented, favoring game-farming or livestock-keeping interests over others.
    The media and self-interest groups may use one scientist and ignore the findings of others. All people, though, have to learn to understand themselves, in order to understand the results of what they do.

    To continue, we have also to explore present cultural habits – they have everywhere changed hugely within a couple generations, and more vastly in a couple hundred years:
    Once, in parts of India, parents kept close tabs on their very young. Because that nation has suffered an extreme loss of predatoes, and has also become more focused on the dissociated technological and industrial life, they now spend far less time monitoring the toddlers and very young. Wolves there had begun to recognize that the young of humans were too unattended, and took what they need from the hugely overexpanding human population. This has caused a backlash against the wolf there.

    In Europe, the human connection with wolf depredation resulting fro the massive population growth in medieval times coincident with heavily increased animal agriculture, resulted in recurring plagues of communicable disease. At times since the 1300s, that excessive domestication, excessive reproduction, and resultant disease caused the dead to become so numerous that they could not be buried. As I mentioned far above, wolves are also nature’s cleaner, taking carrion.
    Because much of Europe was cleared of forest, this could be easily seen, and the response was to kill the wolves. That response is rising again in this time, although disease and dead are no longer factors.
    THIS is the source of Euroamerican antipathy to wolves.

    But human antipathy now includes close record-keeping as humans pinch pennies. I cannot do the subject justice here, but this and guns, and the increased ease of access to poisons, has caused the entire culture to have developed kill-as-default-method of dealing with every problem.
    Once there were no guns , except for the militaries after the 1300s. Once poisons were the mark of individuals who delved into such knowledge. Once roads did not penetrate everywhere and no motors existed – I even had grandparents who knew that time well.

    Once, there were only 1/4 as many people on the earth – only a century ago.
    This is an ill time for the earth and for its balancers, the wolf in the Northern world. The hate aimed toward them for taking so little is multiplied by the frustration that humans in a world too overpopulated by themselves feel toward all others.

    Humans are still mired in beliefs that once served tiny ecologically-separated populations.
    The idea that we are highly vulnerable to loss had meaning when each person had an almost unique place within the band or tribe. You will see news about one person’s difficulty or death nation- and world-wide. Yet, you will also see tiny populations of Mexican Wolves reaching 100, less than the number just about any human ever knows of one another, and there are seven and a half thousand million humans.
    If a mortality source kills 100 MILLION people per year, that still allows for an average 75 year lifespan. Wolves live generally up to 10 to 12 years in nature, on their own terms. Any biologist will tell you that wolves and other predators were not selected to experience human caused mortality. When you see the hunting tags given out for wolves at 25 to 40 or more % of any state’s wolf population, you see a “managment” attempting to kill off that percentage of the entire wolf population in a single year. Apply such thinking to the human population, and you get the equivalent of attempting to kill off from almost 2 BILLION to 3 1/4 BILLION
    each year.
    Yes, wolves can have more pups, but only about 1/4 of pups survive to their second year in nature anyway. I can quote the ancient survival rates of humans (there are sex differences complicating it, and to give raw figures would not be descriptive We are more like deer, which increase reproduction in response to violence, unlike wolves), but ours are far higher than that of unpersecuted wolves.

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