Gray wolf, © Sandy Sisti

Wolf Advocates Across the West

Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies Representative

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for wolf advocates in the West. My colleagues and I have been traveling from city to city and state to state organizing wolf supporters to attend meetings set by state wildlife commissions and agencies. Some of these were set to vote on proposals  that could be particularly dangerous to wolves, while others opened up a broader conversation about wolf management. But for all of these meetings, it was important that people who care about the future of wolves in the region were in attendance to testify, to question, and to learn.

Boise, Idaho
On January 16, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission held a public hearing. There were many important issues on the docket, but we were most concerned about agenda item #6 – a measure to set aside $50,000 exclusively to have the federal government kill more wolves in order to boost elk numbers for hunters. We sounded the alarm to our members in the area, and they answered the call.  I met a group of them at a reception before the meeting, and we talked about the challenges that often come with advocating for wolves in an area where myth and misconceptions about these animals are still widely regarded as fact.

WolfThe hearing was amazing. The first hour of public testimony on agenda item #6 was nothing but 100% positive support for wolves.  In fact, everyone who spoke about this issue opposed the measure and supported more protection for wolves. Our members were respectful, eloquent and well-informed, and the commission was visibly blown away by their testimonies. When my turn came, I was able to focus on specific concerns with the measure, including the fact that the proposal could allow for the use of more controversial “management” practices, like aerial gunning. And the fact that lethal control fails to work in the long term – no matter what the reason for wanting more elk, killing wolves is not a solution. I spoke about our Wood River Wolf Project and its success in protecting 27,300 sheep living among three resident wolf packs with only one incident that resulted in the loss of 4 sheep. I asked them to use the $50,000 for nonlethal methods of preventing predation on livestock instead of just continuing this endless and wasteful cycle of loss and killing.

Sadly, when it came to the vote the following morning, the commission approved the proposal. Even though they heard that so many residents were staunchly against it, they still designated $50,000 for federal wolf killing.  Defenders is working to raise twice that amount to put toward protecting wolves and other wildlife in the region. Though the commission approved the proposal, I think our collective testimony surprised them. To have so many people willing to speak out on behalf of wolves here in Boise is unprecedented, and at a public hearing like this one, it showed the decision-makers that the people of Idaho care about how wolves are managed, and we’re watching their actions closely. The days of passing awful management proposals without public opposition is over.

Seattle, Washington
Later the same week, I set out for Seattle. After the fiasco with the Wedge Pack last summer, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is making an effort to keep the public better informed about their management methods. We let our members in the area know about this great opportunity to learn more about wolves in their state and to ask questions of the agency in charge of managing them.

The meeting was a bit of a challenge. First, the location of the meeting was moved, so we sent out an update. Then, the new location proved very difficult to find, so we posted signs along the road to point the way. Once WFDW arrived they quickly realized the space was far too small and moved the meeting to a warehouse across the street for the more than 300 people who attended! It was incredible to see so many people interested in wolves in a state that is still welcoming the species back to parts of its native range that have been wolf-free for over a century. Carter Niemeyer, retired wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was one of the key speakers and did a great job answering questions and providing an expert overview of the challenges and opportunities of restoring wolves in Washington.   Similar meetings took place in Spokane and Olympia, and we were able to have someone from Defenders attend each one.

We have some great supporters here in Idaho, out in Washington, and across the nation who are invested in the future of wolves in the U.S. Wolves are still looking at a tough year ahead, with premature hunting paring down their numbers, and dangerous legislation in most states in the region threatening to strip them of their remaining protections. But it’s encouraging to know that despite the misinformation out there about wolves, and the many industries and agencies interested in halting their recovery, there is still a growing number who want to see these majestic animals protected and restored to their rightful place in the ecosystem. We’re going to have to unite with other like-minded residents in the West and build a great network of activists who will work together to safeguard the future for wolves in the region.

71 Responses to “Wolf Advocates Across the West”

  1. Vera K White

    Keep doing what you’re doing and our elected officials will have to take notice. I applaud you.

  2. Gina

    I wished every anti-wolf advocate would read this excerpt from Aldo Leopold’s book, “I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddle horn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, was bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or moldering under the high-lined junipers. [Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There.]

  3. Susann Pedersen

    Thank you Suzanne for your courage to do whatever it takes to protect our wolves and educate the people out West. Yes, I hope the days of just passing laws is over…Educate and may we all live together, man and beast, the lion and the lamb. Thank you from a Midwestern girl who doesn’t understand the need for such killings of wolves. I hear the words wolf in the Midwest especially up north Wisconsin and Michigan and have heard the word “problem”. I don’t like that….God bless you. Susann Pedersen

  4. Rhonda Lanier

    Thank you Suzanne for this incredibly encouraging news from Idaho and Washington. The fact that so very many people were willing to take a public stand IS the first step to combat the constant misinformation repeatedly quoted by the antis. And thank you to Carter Niemeyer for continuing to speak out and educate people about wolves. Not even the antis can drown out the plain truth that he speaks; his knowledge comes from first hand experience. The wheels of justice are beginning to turn for our wolves. We just have to keep up the momentum.

  5. Jack Bresnahan

    Thanks Suzanne for all your efforts. And thanks to Defenders of Wildlife in general for all its efforts in protecting wolves in America. However, it has become painfully obvious to me that the process of attending hearings, meeting with legislators, submitting petitions and filing lawsuits are not enough to to stop the slaughter. I think it is time to take our cause to the next level: Organized direct physical intervention by our members. I’m talking about non-violent measures of course, but publicized and very high profile. We must find methods to physically stand in the way.

    We have all seen the efforts and accomplishments of the Sea Shepherd Society in protecting whales from slaughter by piratical Japanese whalers. I think it’s time for Defenders to respond the same way.

  6. Suzanne Stone

    Thanks very much for all the encouragement and kind words. It’s deeply appreciated. We need to keep working together to build support for wolves. It’s really the only way that we can secure their future.

  7. Robert Watson

    I am heartened by the local opposition to the anti wolf measures, unfortunately however they still pass. Wildlife Services (USDA) will do the killing so until the the federal govt. gets back involved in a positive way sadly I see no hope for wolves.

  8. James R (Randy) MOnroe

    What is extremely sad is the fact that in the Idaho Fish & Game Commission hearing, numerous folks came out in support for science and fact-based, non-lethal means for controlling wolf depredation and yet, the bureaucrats/politicians over-seeing the whole process already had their narrow-minded views formed and voted for lethal actions anyway.

    “Yeeha, if it moves, shoot it”!

  9. Arden Allen

    At age 71 I’m in no condition to participate in direct physical intervention of the wolf hunts, but I would if I could. But that is what is needed to raise the spectacle to greater public consciousness of the ignorance driven slaughter programs fashioned for the trigger happiest. It’s time to reward the Constitution to, “..of every living creature, by every living creature, and for every living creature…” That’s what the Right to Life is really about.

  10. Heather Stewart

    People should be educated that wolves are so necessary to the ecosystem and that there can be harmony between the wolves and man

  11. Marcia Mueller

    Some democracy! It doesn’t seem to matter how many people speak out for the wolves, wild horses, bison, etc., the hunters and ranchers get their way.

  12. Cindy Wines

    I am so glad you are there to represent the wolves. I was so impressed wit the movie I just saw “Living with Wolves”. They are being demonized. There is so reason for the aerial shooting, the poisoning and trapping (which also gets other intended victims like your pet dog or other local wildlife) or the gassing of the pups.We can live in harmony with them. There are 13 ranches in Idaho that do!! The electric fences with the red flags surrounding the sheep. The 24/7 150 lb. Peronese dogs are all protection instead of the slaughter!!

  13. Rita De Ferrary

    I THINK IDAHO SHOULD BE BOYCOTTED. IGNORANT FEDS! Spending federal taxpayer dollars to encourage drunken hunters to go out and kill wolves. I really wish that the Native American Indians had not been so friendly to the Puritans on the Mayflower!

  14. Jennifer


    If there is anything I can do to help with the save the wolves effort, please let me know. These beautiful animals need our voices behind them. Let me know if there are any petition or calls I could make for this cause.



  15. Jan Lowe

    Dear Suzanne
    I think that the work you have committed to over the years is so so important for saving these magnificent wolves. I recently visited the Wolf Haven in Oregon in December and was so thrilled to see this work to help save these amazing creatures.
    Although I live in another country, my contribution is minimal, but I can give what I can to support to save these animals, if everyone gave a little – it will be huge and make a difference.
    I just wish to say, thank you Suzanne, we need more like you.

  16. Matt Folkmuse Stone

    Gina, thank you so much for taking the time to quote this. We must keep working until most people understand the true nature and role of the wolf in our world.

  17. Silver Fang

    The only way to save wolves is to get republicans out of office. Republicans side with big business interests such as sportsmen, ranchers and oil barrens against nature.

  18. Amelia Holstein

    We would have no wolves were it not for the hard work of yourself and Defenders. Thank you for everything you do!

  19. Deb Reis

    Please let those of us who live in Jackson,Wyoming know how we can help. I would be happy to attend a meeting to let electeds know that I care about the future of wolves!!!! Thank you! Deb Reis

  20. LInda

    I agree that the wolves are magnificent, beautiful animals and deserve the right to flourish. How do we get the lawmakers to stop the killing if they ignore people who come to testify? Just vote them all out of office , I guess. Next election, vote against all those in Idaho who did not listen to the populace!

  21. carmen winter

    always interested in this fight, thank you for caring for our world! I do too if there is something to do will be happy to help

  22. carmen winter

    I think this is true! but not only republicans it is a lack of humanity in the world that is destroying it! we don´t think anymore that taking care of nature will help us also to live in a better way and world!

  23. aznu2me

    Hmm.. I guess everything is the Republicans fault, however, if I remember correctly Idaho is a Democratic state! Let’s continue to make a stand for the wolves as like so many others have written, it’s not all the wolves fault that there is so much tension between the ranchers and them.

    Let the government give the ranchers with livestock the assist they need in order to protect their income source. I get that part of this equation!

    Let’s get our government to provide the grants necessary. Hell, the big corps get to contribute what they owe in taxes each year to allow grants to be given out and then get to write the debt I mean tax owed as a charitable contribution!

  24. john davis

    wild horses are an non-native species that are one of the greatest threats to the wildlife in the west. When I was a resident of Wyoming I saw first hand how during times of drought large stalions would guard water holes and the carcases of antelope and deer that died of stress and lack of water within a few hundred feet of water. I have watched these feral (there are no wild horses in America) horses run herds of antelope and deer from a waterhole over and over.

  25. Craig Bunting

    Last night, I went to Missoula online paper and left a comment. I tore into the state of Montana and their legislative henchmen. I told them I was tired of my taxes going to subsidies for cattle, coal and killing. I’m not going to frack with these politicians in these states anymore. A number of us are forming coalitions to boycott their states, products and services. Making coal obsolete will kill part of their economies, going vegetarian or vegan means less cattle, targeting specific products from these states will diminish their economy. Look for the origins of products, post them boycott them. These henchmen only care about one blood and money. Knock’em down.

  26. Ed Michaels

    First of all learn how to spell. Secondly, every politician follows the money regardless of Republican or Democratic party affiliation. Making this political destroys any credibility you have. We should all focus on the wolves and the agencies doing the damage. Doesn’t matter what political party they belong to, it is the people making the decisions and it is to the people we must make our voices heard.

  27. barbara russell

    I wish people would get more connected to the truth and facts right in front of of our natural resources and all its wildlife is the key to the failing ecosystems..each has a place and job to fullfill for the ecosystem..Man has done nothing but destroy to fill thier own agendas and pockets. Sad to have to fight you you thugs and thiefs to save the earth and animals.
    Walk in the beauty of motherearth..listen to her calls she has so much to teach and you dam thugs have a lot to learn.

  28. Justin

    I wholeheartedly support everything that you’re doing and admire you and your colleagues for speaking out against these overzealous hunters and ranchers. Wolves are truly amazing creatures and are extraordinarily important to the Northwest ecosystem as keystone predators.

    Still, I can’t help but feel dismayed and hopeless when these measures pass despite the hard work of people at Defenders of Wildlife (and other conservation groups) and the tens of thousands of dollars raised by people all over the country. This year in particular has been tragic for wolves, with over 1000 dead and many states removing the wolves’ much-needed protection as they cave into the powerful lobbyists backed by hunters, ranchers, and oil barons alike. I agree that a grassroots approach is necessary to educate and raise support for these animals within each state, but at what point does the wolf population in the United States dwindle to unsustainable levels? How can we be putting out all this time, money, and effort and yet lose almost every single battle?

    I love these animals dearly and it breaks my heart to see them persecuted, but do you believe they have any hope?

  29. kangi

    the deciders s/b made 2 watch the doc “lords of nature” – it illustrates, very well, the necessity of large predators in the environment (along the lines of the Leopold quote in the comment above)
    sadly, the deciders had already made up their mind beforehand – I will continue to pray for them…

  30. rebecca vitale mandich

    Unfortunately, the commissioners are hunters. They see these depts as the “big USA hunting club”. They are not protecting our wildlife, they are protecting their right to kill anything they want. They are controlled by lobbyist and we will never win until some of these guys leave or get fired, which they never do. The stewardship comes from the top, under Sec of Interior Bruce Babbitt it was a different story. He reintroduced the wolf because he knew their relevance in keeping the ecosystem sustainable as pointed out in the beautiful Also Leopold quote stated earlier.. But these commissioners say kill first and don’t ask questions later, must be the wolf’s fault. It is at all of our own peril that we allow these folks to continue their draconian reign. There is hope, Sally Jewell has been appointed and may be confirmed. If she brings sanity and scientists back into the fold, we will have a chance to solve our climate change problems as well, because as we know we are all connected in the web called life.

  31. Natasha DeMatto

    Thank you, Suzanne and thanks to all who speak for the wolves. I am blown away by the coordinated attacks and efforts to wipe out the wolf. The taxpayer monies that are being spent on this is staggering. And after the monies and effort spent to bring back the wolf…the disconnect is astounding. I agree, special interests have the ears of elected officials. We must stay angry yet focused in our efforts to be heard above this deafening jingling of money.

  32. George Lingo

    Yep; in fact get rid of the Republican party period! I hate those who sell out their constituants! And I detest the LIES too!

  33. Dolores Birt

    Having owned a wolf I loved,….for him ,I want to do all I can to help their cause. I am a senior and a widow living on S.S.but I am an artist, and I paint beautiful wolves. I am going to start painting them on tiles, and every cent I get is going to the wolves

  34. Barbara Bussell

    I am a republican. I am for the Wolves. I am not wanting any more wolves killed, trapped, and poisioned. It is the Secrectary of the Interior who is for the destruction of Wolves and their packs.

  35. S. O. Rooney

    Wow. I am so impressed with this quote. It is quite moving. I wish everyone, especially wolf haters, could read it. It would give many pause. Thank you, Gina.

  36. Suzanne Stone

    Thinking like a Mountain is one of my favorite essays of all time. I first read it 25 years ago just as I was starting to my life’s work for wolves. Aldo was one of the first to speak out on behalf of wolves and I often send this essay to those who ask me “What good are wolves?” Thank you Gina for adding it to our discussion. Here it is in its entirety. And to be honest, I can hardly read it without tearing up even though I’ve read it more than a thousand times.

    Thinking Like a Mountain
    By Aldo Leopold

    A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world. Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.

    Those unable to decipher the hidden meaning know nevertheless that it is there, for it is felt in all wolf country, and distinguishes that country from all other land. It tingles in the spine of all who hear wolves by night, or who scan their tracks by day. Even without sight or sound of wolf, it is implicit in a hundred small events: the midnight whinny of a pack horse, the rattle of rolling rocks, the bound of a fleeing deer, the way shadows lie under the spruces. Only the ineducable tyro can fail to sense the presence or absence of wolves, or the fact that mountains have a secret opinion about them.

    My own conviction on this score dates from the day I saw a wolf die. We were eating lunch on a high rimrock, at the foot of which a turbulent river elbowed its way. We saw what we thought was a doe fording the torrent, her breast awash in white water. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error: it was a wolf. A half-dozen others, evidently grown pups, sprang from the willows and all joined in a welcoming melee of wagging tails and playful maulings. What was literally a pile of wolves writhed and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rimrock.

    In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks.

    We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.

    Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.

    I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.

    We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men

  37. Gwen P Straub

    Wolves are magnificent creatures whose noble sensibilities rival our own. We extirpate them to our own peril – and lose of our souls.

  38. Gwen P Straub

    Wolves are magnificent creatures whose noble sensibilities rival our own. We extirpate them to our own peril – and loss of our souls.

  39. Marsha

    I applaud the efforts of Defenders. My question is what is wrong with this country that people are do hell bent on killing?
    They have successful programs with Anatolian Shepherds and protection of livestock against cheetahs. Why is it that the US response to everything is shooting . And we think we are world leaders? What a bunch of good ol’ boy rednecks are elected . What an embarrassment !
    Just remember we live in a country that voted for Palin. Talk about a self serving ignorant savage. Good luck but as long ad all the interest groups are a bunch of self serving, trigger happy rednecks , I can’t be optimistic . Idaho isn’t smart enough for more than potatoes .

  40. Anne Lewis

    I agree that many Republicans are allies in this wolf thing. Well O.K., NOT Steve Pearce, but many others. Also wolf-hater Ken Salazar is a Democrat and appointed by Obama. Hopefully Sally Jewell will be better.

  41. Betsy and David Borthwick

    Dolores we would love to see some of your paintings if possible. We support Suzanne and all her efforts. We do not live in the U.S.A. so cannot give ‘hands on’ support, but we follow and support all the efforts being made to protect the wolves. They are beautiful mis-understood creatures. We are just sorry this Bill was passed in spite of all the opposition, which seems to have been made very eloquently. Continue the good work you are doing – it really looks as if you are making some headway. We do wonder, though, if the comment made above about using more high profile methods should be considered too, non violent of course. Thank you for all your efforts.

  42. Lisa

    It’s great there’s so many supporters for wolves…but what good does it do if the mornoic fish and game dept in ID passed the proposal anyway?? I’m in tears after reading this story, and I contacted them and asked what’s wrong with them. DOW is doing so very much to try to protect the wolves, and none of it’s doing any good…it just keeps getting worse…poor wolves.

  43. Lisa

    Good for you…not that it will do any good, as just witnessed by this article. They passed the proposal anyway. They’re still still going to keep killing wolves, the morons!

  44. Connie

    Thank you for your wonderful work. Can you tell me where to buy some of your art? you may email me.


  45. Denise

    During the horror of this wolf slaughter, my heart would be completely broken with out the thousands of people that understand how incredible these creatures are. I don’t stand alone.

  46. Jim Salkas

    The Idaho Fish and Game, along with the anti-wolf governor, are kowtowing to the ID cattle industry and the elk hunters in an attempt to turn Idaho into a game farm. I refuse to travel to Idaho (to visit my brother) until the state amends their ways and let science dictate wolf numbers and range. I am so glad and grateful to those who have bravely attended the public meetings to express support for ALL creatures which belong in our NATIONAL forests.

  47. ava green

    It’s not really necessary to bring such unkind hateful political comments into this. This is about saving wolves, not bashing politicans with whom you have political disagreements.

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