Recently I attended a hearing in Helena where I heard numerous people, including many in the state Legislature, asserting that wolves were "decimating" Montana's game herds. Unfortunately due to the widespread repetition of the lies and distortions, the only thing being decimated is the truth.
According to MDFWP in 1992, three years before wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone and Idaho, there were an estimated 89,000 elk in Montana. By 2010, elk had been so "decimated" that MDFWP estimated that elk numbers had grown to 140,000-150,000 animals.
Indeed, in 2012, according to MDFWP statistics, out of 127 elk management units in the state, 68 are above objectives, 47 are at objectives, and only 12 are considered to be below objectives. And even among these 12 units, the causes for elk declines are often complex and involve more than wolf predation. In at least a few instances, overhunting by humans is the primary factor.
Beyond hunting, the presence of wolves has many other benefits. Wolves cull sick animals such as those with brucellosis and Chronic Wasting Disease from herds that could threaten both humans as well as livestock. Wolves shift ungulates away from riparian areas, resulting in greater growth of willows and other streamside vegetation. This, in turn, creates more habitat for wildlife including songbirds, and beaver. Healthier riparian areas also results in greater trout densities.
It is disturbing to me as a hunter and ecologist that MDFWP repeatedly fails to aggressively counter the distortions and misinformation.