David Allen of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s recent letter to Bob Ream—chairman of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission—is a further example of Mr. Allen’s war on science and wolves. Though craftily written, his continued evoking of “science” reminds me of the uber patriots we frequently see who scream “love of country” while at the same time refusing to pay taxes to support the very freedoms and benefits they enjoy. Collectively they repeatedly demonstrate their dedicated fondness for a word they neither understand nor support.
FWP commission chairman Bob Ream said he hopes wolves can ultimately be managed like mountains lions, a predator he said outnumbers wolves by four to five times and is responsible for just as much killing of game. He noted there is comparatively little opposition to hunting lions and little call to significantly increase hunting of that animal.
"There are heck of a lot of people who hate wolves or love wolves," Ream said. "We do take public input seriously. This is a tough issue. This is not easy. It has become so polarized."
In the second line of the letter Mr. Allen asserts that the wolf hunts are “necessary.” Not only that but implies by the use of the phrase “[a]s you know” that Dr. Ream has that understanding as well. The above quote from Dr. Ream implies that the escalation of wolf control is driven more by public opinion than science—public opinion that Mr. Allen has been instrumental in influencing in the absence of supporting science. (It is interesting that Mr. Allen’s missive was written less than a week after The Great Falls Tribune ran a story entitled A trophy season: Elk hunters enjoy record success along the Front)
Scientists predict that the loss of the collared wolves will have a big impact on both the park's research project and numerous other independent studies investigating a variety of issues, such as elk management and ecology. The collars collect data intended to help wildlife managers better understand wolf behavior, particularly the canids' effect on elk. And unless a wolf is wearing a collar, researchers say they can't be sure that it is an animal that uses the park. The killings are "very unfortunate, because of the harm it does to the research," says Bob Ream, a retired wolf biologist from the University of Montana, and chair of the state's Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission, which oversees the hunts. "I would like to think this was not done intentionally." Intentional or not, Smith notes that of the killed wolves that were known to have used the park, an estimated 70% were wearing collars.
Mr. Allen continues by saying that there is no science or rationale for a “no hunt” zone surrounding the Park. Really? Here again Mr. Allen needs to see what Dr. Ream is saying about this and should understand that “research” is another word for science. In addition, this clearly demonstrates that Mr. Allen or his advisors might not want to know what science might actually have to say about the need to control wolves or not.
Further, there is an authenticity factor here. Those who are “deep conservationists” have generally worked with scientists in some capacity and would therefore understand how important these study animals are and defend them. In the abstract it is easy to take a “so what” attitude—as Mr. Allen has—about the work of scientists and not realize the effort that goes into capturing and collaring study animals. I worked on deer myself and used to have nightmares about losing study animals and the implications that would have for my experimental design and my ability to even answer the scientific questions I was posing.
Mr. Allen’s letter underscores several things. First, he does not understand or respect science and is driven much more by his transparent hatred of wolves. Second, it exhibits a large measure of hypocrisy in his calling out of other groups using this for fundraising when he is doing exactly the same thing through a public letter on his blog. And lastly, this once again underscores Mr. Allen’s role with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and how he is little qualified by background or standing to guide this organization.
And, Mr. Allen, about your closing salutation: If your comments were submitted respectfully and with awareness of the players you would have addressed the chairman as Dr. Ream rather than Mr. Ream. Bob has an earned PhD in science and should be recognized for that achievement.