Jimenez: no to relocating wolves

By Jim Stanford on February 28, 2012

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A wolf comfortable near homes inevitably will get into trouble, Jimenez says.

Despite pleas from the community, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not relocate wolves from the edge of town and instead will euthanize them once captured.

Mike Jimenez, the service’s wolf recovery coordinator for Wyoming, said Tuesday he has fielded calls from concerned residents who wish to see the wolves released elsewhere. Jackson Hole homeowners even have pledged money to cover the agency’s costs.

But Jimenez said relocating the predators isn’t feasible, won’t work and won’t benefit wolves in the long run. Killing the wolves is a pre-emptive move to avoid potential conflicts, he explained.

“They’d be home before I’d get home,” he said of the three or four wolves roaming the west edge of town and South Park.

“We did this for years and years in the early days,” Jimenez said of relocation. The wolves would “take off on their own and end up hunting on their own, by people and livestock. It didn’t go well.”

He reiterated that wolf packs already occupy most of the suitable habitat around Jackson Hole. Wolves are territorial, and while sometimes packs do welcome new members, most will fight other wolves that intrude on their habitat.

Jimenez’s phone has been ringing off the hook since he announced Monday that the Fish and Wildlife Service plans to kill the wolves, which have been seen around the Indian Trails neighborhood since late December. Once the wolves move into an open area, away from houses, the service will hunt them by helicopter and radio signal, then dart and euthanize them.

Jimenez patiently has been explaining his rationale to all callers. He has fielded everything from complaints from wolf lovers to hunters asking for a hide or skull. He invited concerned citizens to phone his office at 307-733-7096.

Mike Jimenez, right, talks with Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, during Ashe's visit to Jackson Hole last year.

Many commenters have pointed out that the wolves haven’t attacked any pets and only have passed through a residential area on their way to wilder country. Jimenez countered that the wolves eventually will become habituated and get into conflicts with people and their animals.

“As wildlife managers, it would be totally irresponsible on our part to see all the red lights go on and sit and wait for something to happen,” he said.

At least one citizen inquired about the possibility of moving the wolves to some sort of an educational facility. “Do you really want to do that to wild wolves?” Jimenez asked.

Jimenez acknowledged the situation is a “harsh reality.” While wolf conflicts have been mostly an abstract concept for Jackson residents since reintroduction (ranchers like Steven Gordon of Dubois might beg to differ), reality finally has set in, and wildlife enthusiasts aren’t happy.

Jimenez says people need to take the long view. Of those who pride themselves on living among wild animals and say the wolves should stay, he said, “Is that helping wildlife or helping people? The fact that people like seeing wildlife close by, that’s cool, but that has nothing to do with what’s best for wolves.”

There’s still a chance the wolves could escape, Jimenez said. Biologists won’t fly until the weather clears and the predators are out in the open, away from town, so that means the wolves have at least a few days to wander to a safer area.

“If they disappear, that’d be great,” Jimenez said. “I’d be the happiest person.”

Update 3/13: Wolves have evaded capture.

(Wolf photo by Scott Flaherty; both via USFWS)

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Posted under Environment, Politics, Wyoming Legislature

34 Comments so far

  1. Rob Weinstein February 28, 2012 8:21 pm

    This article makes Jimenez seem as if he has been patient and translucent in his explanation behind his reasoning. If that is truly the case, I applaud him.

    However–and you know there was going to be a however–WTF? Relocation WON’T be beneficial to the wolves…but killing them IS beneficial to the wolves?

    He is going to wait until the wolves LEAVE the area to kill them for BEING in the area?
    C’mon, Mike.

    Excuse me while my mother fucking brain explodes.

  2. J February 28, 2012 9:13 pm

    What a piece of sh** this guy is. Seriously. What harm have these wolves done? This is senseless and tragic.

  3. Aaron February 28, 2012 9:58 pm

    Still a chance they could escape? Sounds like Mike is saying that to assuage his opponents. These wolves can’t “disappear” as one is a collared wolf. They will be murdered by the government for no good reason.

  4. js February 28, 2012 10:23 pm

    That’s my hopeful line of questioning, and Mike conceded it’s possible.
    It’s fair to ask whether the process in which these wolves were chased by helicopter, darted and fitted with radio collars previously perhaps has left them more likely to become habituated to human presence, i.e. establish territory close to a residential neighborhood. I have not yet asked Mike that, but I will.

  5. Nancy Spears February 28, 2012 11:11 pm

    This murdering of the wolves is a political game between the cattlemen and ranchers who want the wolves gone and the Government which are in the pockets of each other for favors during an election and killing the wolves. The Wolves have done nothing but live in fear and try to survive humans. I despise cattlemen and ranchers and the crooked politicians who have caused the great wolves to be in danger of extinction.

  6. Tina February 28, 2012 11:30 pm

    Why can’t these wolves be put in zoos? To say killing them is the only option is ignorant. We as humans are better than that. Tell Mike to have them put in zoos.

  7. Kristen February 29, 2012 7:11 am

    Why are they only considering relocating the wolves in the immediate vicinity? Why not Montana? Or Canada? Let’s look into some other possibilities!

  8. crusty ol' monkey February 29, 2012 7:35 am

    I am strongly in favor of letting the wolves be, even if pets/children including my own are at risk. I am not thrilled about killing them, but still prefer it to the zoo option. If any one has been up to West Yellowstone and spent time watching those wolves in captivity, I bet they would agree that the wolves just might prefer death to endless pacing for thousands of hours on end! Besides, how many zoos can we build to keep housing the growing wolf population?

    I say let them live in peace at least in Teton County, and let us be the smart stewards who minimize conflict by never feeding them, or making it too easy for them to become habituated.

  9. Tater February 29, 2012 9:03 am

    Unfortunately we build our subdivisions in prime wildlife habitat…until we change our ways conflicts such as this will occur.

    These poor wolves and many other animals will continue to be run over, pushed out and exterminated for trying to eek out a living in our back yards.

  10. dave February 29, 2012 9:15 am

    the majority of comments on this subject are shortsighted and crass. if you want to be heard try communicating without personal attacks and F words.

    The usfws removes many many wolves every year. the success of the wolf reintro project hinges on their management. without the usfws oversight the project would of never started. nobody cares more about wolves than mike jiminez.

    in the unlikely event of a wolf/human attack all hell would break loose. in the more possible event of a wolf/ pet attack then the whining of every pet owner would sound like a fleet of 767′s taking off. in the even more likely event of a wolf/ livestock attack the rancher loses but no one cares. the USFWS has to manage all these scenarios.

    no responsible agency is going to allow top line predators to stroll through a residential area for now over a month. the reason we are talking about this now is because people take pictures out their windows and exclaim that they are glad fido is in the house.

  11. Ed Condra II February 29, 2012 9:19 am

    Are you people retarded? I love wildlife, but it is humans first. For the idiot that said he doesn’t care if it puts his children and pets at risk, you are either a liar, or the worst parent alive. All you people that are extreme do with these comments and opinions, is make it harder for sane people like Mike Jimenez to do their jobs. The wolves were reintroduced to live in the protected areas, not freakin live among humans. Another stupid comment above is the one by Wienstien. It is beneficial for ALL wolves to minimize potential conflict, not this particular group. Good lord people if you really love animals, use some common sense. The center is where it’s at, not life on the extremes of ideology. You morons have watched too many Disney movies.

  12. D February 29, 2012 10:04 am

    The blatant lack of reality based thinking in this comment sections, makes me wish they would leave the wolves. Let them run around Jackson so the hysteria can be cranked up few notches. This should really help the wolves cause in the long run.

    I would advise all of you to read the original reintroduction AGREEMENT, we have meet or exceeded all of the original objectives. Like always the line has been moved in order to continue the fight. It’s not about wolves or bears or any other wildlife. It’s about the phony “conservation” societies continuing to have a fundraising pawn, and something to tie up the courts with.

    @ Kristen “Why are they only considering relocating the wolves in the immediate vicinity? Why not Montana? Or Canada?”
    Did you just assume this? I never read this anywhere.

    This proves you have no idea what the agreement was. They don’t want them #1 and #2 because that wasn’t the deal. The deal was for the greater Yellowstone area to have wolves. It was not for the western United States to have wolves and Canada to have more. What makes you think they should be allowed to move them to an area that never agreed to have them in the first place? That’s kind of like me dumping trash in your back yard, because I don’t want it in mine.

    We did it the wolves are back! They are a great success story and I am happy to have them. Now let’s move on to the management part, it has been neglected for years!

  13. Jim February 29, 2012 10:55 am

    @Dave, your comments are right on. Personal attacks and polarizing language don’t help on either side of the issue.

    @Ed, you should read Dave’s comments. Calling people “retarted” and “idiots” isn’t helpful. Your statement of “the center is where it’s at” is correct, but your straw-man argument doesn’t support your position.

  14. Cori February 29, 2012 12:07 pm

    I cannot believe that a community that survives because of our location to two national wild parks is so up in arms about wildlife roaming outside of the park boundaries. These wolves dont know the boundary and oops, wandered out for a moment. They are back in the Elk Refuge as of yesterday, where they have plenty of deer, elk, etc to live off of and have not been a problem to our community. Instead they have been a joy and a pleasure for wildlife enthusiasts(which are the ONLY people that should even be in Jackson in the first place). Why can’t we just let them be, since they have gone back to where we want them.. Do you want all the bears, moose, mountain lions and wolves to be gone so we can expand and become Vail, Colorado. For god sake. Wyoming is the last special unique place in the entire country. Sometimes, no progress is progress.

  15. randosteve February 29, 2012 6:47 pm

    kill dogs…NOT wolves!!!

  16. fiesta bob February 29, 2012 6:58 pm

    This is copy & pasted from Facebook, from a smart lady by the name of Erin:

    http://www.hundefarm-eifel.de/index.php/forschungsberichte/engl-publikationen/23-a-review-of-wolf-behaviour-patterns-in-a-human-dominated-environment

    Scroll down to the section titled: “The difference between adaptation and habituation”

    Most overtly bold or threatening behavior by any healthy wildlife (even squirrels) toward humans occurs after being food-conditioned, which is a different matter all together.

    Read James Peck’s account in the article Wolfwatcher linked to. This describes adaptation not habituation nor food-conditioning. Hazing by the neighbors with even a jar of pennies instead of grabbing a video camera would probably teach the wolves to avoid the right people.

    There was an article yesterday where Jimenez mentioned that he thought this pack was being attracted to elk in Snake River bottom. In that case the attractant will remain and a new territory will simply open up. In the new article Tenley Thompson mentions having watched these wolves for five years. If he’s right about Old White and his suspicion that this pack will move on after breeding season ends, well… that should be any moment now.

    Hazing is key. Even Jimenez says that it works even as he says it doesn’t, because the wolves are smart enough to learn to avoid federal hazers. So don’t rely solely on federal agents, educate the neighbors to not just stand and stare. Then the wolves can’t anticipate which humans are threatening and may be more prone to avoid using the development as a travel corridor. That sounds like all they’re doing, for crying out loud! Not even hanging out. On the move. They could den elsewhere should they have pups which will be the nucleus of their activities for the next while. Wolves have been known to abandon dens when faced with human disturbance, it is a sensitive time.

    It wouldn’t take much for people to slightly alter their behaviour, and if they did so collectively the wolves could learn that their travel corridor is too unpredictable and threatening. Teaching wolves is easier than changing the mindset of people, granted. It’s kind of disgusting that these wolves might be killed because people are only complaining and aren’t willing to be proactive. Especially when what they percieve as reality is fairly skewed. Jimenez has already seemed to decide of certain strategies that, “This will fail.” In his mind there is only one choice. But there really isn’t.

  17. Rob Weinstein February 29, 2012 8:59 pm

    You’re right, ‘Condra.’ It’s beneficial to ALL wolves to kill these wolves.

    It’s a modest proposal.

  18. James Peck February 29, 2012 9:02 pm

    @fiesta bob: It’s funny that you make that comment about the video cameras, because after they ran up the street, the first thing that came into my mind was that if they ever come back, I should do something to frighten them, not just for my pets’ sake, but for the protection of the wolves themselves. I have spoken with lots of people about this event, of course. But what crystalized events for me was Cory Hatch’s use of the words “brazen approach” to describe this event. I took him to task for this on the phone, and have also reiterated to Mike Jimenez on the phone as well that these animals appeared to deliberately take the path that took them half-way between my house and my neighbor’s so as to avoid both, struggling through deep snow rather than the easy route down my driveway. I’ll wager that there are many people in my neighborhood who would be willing to give hazing a try.

  19. bee February 29, 2012 9:09 pm

    sometimes i think this town cares more about wildlife than people !?

  20. sc February 29, 2012 11:34 pm

    I said it before and say it again now. The only reason this is now a “situation” is because the dogs wandered into the wrong neighborhood. Seriously in 95 when wolves were re-introduced, development in JH was what (?) maybe 1/8 of what it is now? Wolf, bear, deer, lion, moose, elk, trout, dog, eagle, cat, human, raven, tourist, resident/worker bee, commercial/residential/ranch real-estate baron, habitat. Small valley, many issues.

  21. Common sense March 1, 2012 7:34 am

    The Black wolf that was filmed with the deer at NMWA is now dead- it seems he came down hill- crossed road- went out thru the elk where sleigh rides are and another pack- one of 3 on refuge right now took him out. I find it ironic you won’t listen to science- reason or the experts when even the wolves are telling you there are too many locally. Delist and let the Wyoming Game and fish manage them— NOW while you can still find a moose- see an elk and watch science at work—

  22. Jim Stanford March 1, 2012 9:58 am

    I asked Mike Jimenez about this yesterday, and he said it’s not true, as far as he knows. Any report of a dead wolf, from natural causes or otherwise, would land straight on his desk.
    He also dispelled the rumor about the South Park wolves moving up to the refuge. There is an old white wolf on the refuge from the Pinnacle Peak Pack, but that’s a different one from the South Park group.
    I also asked him whether the previous chasing, darting, collaring and handling of these wolves perhaps has made them more prone to become habituated to humans. Not surprisingly, Mike denied that and said it usually has the opposite effect — that the wolves become even more shy of people and will run at the first sound of a plane or helicopter. I remain a bit skeptical. If what he says is true, though, the collared South Park wolves will be hard to catch.

  23. Tater March 1, 2012 10:24 am

    Oh Boy! Common cents I agree we need to start managing the wolves better, but I whol heartedly disagree with the concept that the wolves will decimate the moose, elk, deer etc. You talk about science working…I guess you mean human management. Well I think mother nature always manages species better than we could ever hope. The wolf and the ungulates survived just fine for many thousands of years.
    It may be harder to bag that elk, because they are now more warry, but the idea that wolves will irradicate the herds is total propaganda spread by uninformed, uneducated idiots. Get informed people and quit listening to the wolf haters.

  24. Tater March 1, 2012 10:33 am

    Really Dumbo Steve “Kill the dogs”!!! Of course if a wolf pack blocks your skin trak like the bear did then I’m sure your all for killing them! I know there are many many bad dog parents in this valley, but Dumbbosteve your an idiot!

  25. Cindy March 1, 2012 3:46 pm

    Jim – thanks a million for keeping the accurate facts coming, much appreciated. I believed there were two different white wolves being discussed but not sure enough to comment earlier. Where did the story of the black “museum” wolf dying on the refuge come from? And lastly, from a wolf class I took with Doug Smith up in the Lamar Valley (who has darted nearly as many wolves as Carter Niemeyer) there is no way in &*$@ wolves become “use to” the helicopter/darting experience. They actually become very keen to the unpleasantness and it can become impossible to get close to them ever again!
    Healthy wolves DO NOT like to be around human beings.

  26. randosteve March 1, 2012 4:21 pm

    get-a-grip…tater-tot.

    …and pull those freaking stop signs already!!!

  27. Marguerite March 2, 2012 7:33 am

    I thought I would take a moment to post a comment on this website. Usually, I make it a point not even to read these kinds of blogs. You see I find the name-calling (usually done by people who claim to love wolves yet seem to hate wolf biologists) and the nasty tone of much of these debates a bit hard to take. You’d think after over 25 years of this it wouldn’t bother me, but it does. Mike Jimenez has spent the majority of his adult life dedicated to restoring the vitality of wolf populations in the Northern Rockies, working in every state where wolves have been successfully reintroduced, and as a result, in the middle of one of the most difficult management debates in recent history. Being between a rock and a hard place would be a step up for Jimenez. Put very simply: Jimenez can’t win.

    Wolf management isn’t easy. You have to want it badly enough to be willing to make extremely difficult decisions that outrage people on all sides. Successful wildlife management requires being willing to say: “Okay, if wolves are killing livestock or becoming a reoccurring problem in a specific area (like a housing development), we need a solution. A solution that may piss some people off, but that will allow the reintroduction program to succeed in the long-term.” Jimenez is one of these individuals who wants wolf reintroduction to succeed badly enough that he has been willing to make these difficult decisions and accept the fall-out over the course of the past 25 years. For those who claim to love wolves, I assure you, your passion and enthusiasm for wolves and their successful recovery will never have a better champion than Mike Jimenez.

    All of the comments questioning whether or not Jimenez is sincere, whether or not he is being honest, or whether or not he has exhausted all options available to him while still being the most responsible public servant and wildlife manager possible, are unfortunate in my opinion. They blur the reality and take the focus off the issue of wildlife management and the extremely delicate balance that people like Jimenez must work to preserve in a place like Jackson Hole between endangered species and human populations. Additionally, they put Jimenez at the center of the debate as though he were simply making decisions at random or on a whim, when in fact he agonizes over these decisions knowing all too well, that after over 25years in this business, he can’t win. Thankfully for the wolf recovery program Jimenez doesn’t care about winning, he cares about wolves.

    I have spent my entire life following his career. I’ve heard the nasty phone calls and gone to visit ranchers who have just had their family pet torn apart by wolves. I’ve seen him in every situation imaginable and have always been extremely proud of his conduct and commitment to the long-term viability of the wolf recovery program. Wolf management isn’t easy. Mike Jimenez appreciates and is undeterred by this fact. My hope after having watched my dad fight to protect wolves for as long as I can remember, is that even though Jimenez can’t win, thanks in part to his dedication, maybe wolf recovery can.

  28. Tater-tot March 2, 2012 9:27 am

    My dog and I look forward to running into you on a skin trak some day Bumbo Steve…maybe I can help ya pull ur head out or maybe we can discuss how u like to kill dogs. So do you prefer the Vick and just slam’em on the ground or are you more of a drop poisoned meat on a trail kinda guy?!?!

    I agree with Marguerite…people need to give Mike Jimenez a break. He does a thankles job that inevetaly pisses of one side or the other. We need to all get off our soap boxes and realize in life there will always be dificult decisions to make and he unfortunately has to make some very difficult wildlife management decision. I still hope those wolves run for the hills before you have to do what you have to do Mike. Keep up the good work Mike.

  29. joe March 2, 2012 11:07 am

    thanks marguerite honest thank-yous are sorely missing in our community.

  30. Brad March 3, 2012 2:41 pm

    Jim, adding my thanks for your efforts at getting the facts straight. And Marguerite, your post is welcome and well-taken as well. Funny how when wolves were introduced, everyone fell back on Mike Jimenez and his expertise. And now that things are not to the wolf-lovers’ liking, Mike’s full of it. I, too advocate relocating or at least hazing, not killing. But it doesn’t mean all of a sudden Jimenez has no expertise.

  31. Tetonrick March 3, 2012 10:13 pm

    How much time before wolves become habituated to humans and pets? For the privilege of living here, giving them ” a few days to disappear ” does not live up to the standards of our community
    Why not extend the wolves additional time or least the winter to see if they find other home ranges or if they remain near Indian Trails?

  32. joe March 4, 2012 12:47 pm

    are these the wolves that have been eating the trumpeter swans at 3 creek?

  33. Common sense March 5, 2012 9:05 pm

    It was an eye witness account of several folks that viewed the black killed- Jimez not only does not hear see and know everything he also doesn’t know how many wolves are there unless collard—- WHo is going to pay me haze the wolves from my pasture? Or do I pay that myself too? Material time labor are money which of you is going to donate?

  34. Ed Condra II March 6, 2012 10:42 am

    Common sense from “common sense”. Sorry about the harsh terms earlier, but the extremes of both sides are hard to swallow. I love bison, but they are not going to, and don’t need to be allowed to roam wild outside the parks. I love wolves, and mountain lions, grizzlies also. When I go into their habitat I know anything that happens is my responsibility. It sucks that they have to be closely managed, but these are not humans. Their continued exsistense and well being depends on common sense, and is the responsibility of people with common sense. I do not apologise for the Disney comment. You extremist people have watched Bambi and Jungle Book too may times.

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