Elk vs. Wolves

Joined
Dec 16, 2020
Messages
36
Location
Colorado
To all of you hunters in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho I have a question about elk behavior and the presence of wolves.

I’ve been elk hunting in Colorado all my life, we have an amazing resource of elf habitat and a large elk population. The Yellowstone wolves have made their way here. There have been a few north of the Yampa river for 10 to 11 years and yes, we have heard them howl and no coyote can ever match that distinctive howl. They moved south of the White river several years ago and we have seen a pack of three multiple times each summer since 2016 while hiking the Flat Tops.

This past fall and hunting season there was a change in the elk behavior that we noticed. Every small herd group we saw was noticeably alert, heads up noses in the wind and ridged body stature. My kids commented that something must be bothering or harassing them. I was glad my kids were starting to notice behavior finally. Then in early August, after setting up camp we glassed a west facing slope and watched small elk from the river all the way up to the cliff bases graze out in the evening sun. Elk were everywhere from the willows to the oak to the aspens to the sage flats just happily grazing away and enjoying the evening. All three of use were sitting back against a huge Spruce log enjoying the show. It’s so fun to see the elk calves chasing and butting each other.

My daughter noticed it first as she had the spotting scope and was glassing the sage flats up near the cliffs. All the elk in a slow ripple from uphill to downhill, oriented their noses to the southeast, looking up slope. The breeze must have carried the scent to them as the wave of head turning went right down the slope. My daughter said, dad, look at the aspen tree wall across the sage from the elk, a group of ‘something’ just walked out and they are too big to be coyotes.

We all rotated and watched 11 wolves wander out of the trees into the sage. Holy crap are those things big! It was liked all the elk were on the same communication plan as they all turned and ran, as each group got to the next, they kept turning picking up more and more all heading down hill. By the time they all made it to the bottom there were about 90 to 100 cows and calves spilling out across the county road and into the hay fields. And that is where they stopped. Unfortunately, the setting sun prevented us from seeing what followed but I’m sure a few calves got culled that night.

Now, fast forward to the second day of first rifle season (elk only). My friend got a nice bull opening day, so we spent the rest of that day humping it back to camp. The second morning we crossed the valley from camp to get to the ridge top for glassing at first light. The other side of the valley from the glassing point is private but the valley and far slope is public. At first light we saw a large herd deep into the private. A few small bulls and one nice 7x6 (he had a broken brow tine). The rest of us had cow tags so horns didn’t matter but they are nice to glass up. These elk were just slowly feeding among the aspens, oak and sage, scattered out and relaxed. Again, the shock wave went through the herd as they went on alert, noses all pointed the same direction and ridged stature. We thought the rancher, or a vehicle of some sort might be coming up. Then the herd turned away and bolted into a large clearing. And here came the wolves, we only counted 8 this time but the brush was thick so there may have been others we didn’t see. Now the strange part, the elk milled around in the large meadow then rocketed through the oak and aspens into another meadow and turned and milled to watch their back trail. I’ve never seen elk act like this, they usually just run to the next county when I bust them.

We hustled down the hill and got halfway up the slope when the herd crossed out of private came crashing through the oak on top of us. We managed to get 3 cows as they stopped to look back at the wolves.

Sorry this was very long winded but I’m trying to figure out if this agitated alert elk behavior will become normal or if the elk are still trying to figure out what is happening to them. So, if you have experience with this wolf/elk interaction please relate you’re experience. And is a wolf pack 11 strong reason enough we might want to consider switching hunting areas. The draw is not open yet, so we still have time to make changes.
 

SAJ-99

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Montana
So, if you have experience with this wolf/elk interaction please relate you’re experience. And is a wolf pack 11 strong reason enough we might want to consider switching hunting areas. The draw is not open yet, so we still have time to make changes.
Sounds normal. Wolves and elk have danced like this for thousands of years. Elk will change their behavior when the wolves show. Mostly elk are pretty calm in wolf areas unless the wolves are hunting, which makes sense. They stay in larger groups and in open areas. I have no opinion on if you should change zones. You may be going from an area with one predator to an area with more of another, if you know what I mean.
 
Joined
Dec 16, 2020
Messages
36
Location
Colorado
We did tell the warden and having five witnesses he knew all about them. His comment was, 'they are here and we know it' but we cant say anything.

The lions and bears are one thing but knowing this pack this size is going to have to make a kill everyday? You can do that math in your head. When the snow gets deep soon the wolves will move into the valley and then the fun will start. Sheep and sheepdogs are no match for these critters.
 

ClearCreek

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Jul 13, 2017
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350
There is a lot of information out there that documents the changes in elk behavior after wolves were established in Yellowstone.

You should be able to find this through google searches.

ClearCreek
 

Jason73

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Nov 4, 2020
Messages
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Actually, 50.91% of people who were compelled to weigh in do want them. "We" are a minority, and I don't understand the perceived beneficial outcome of intentionally breaking the law and risking one's hunting privileges.
Folks on the Western Slope are growing tired of front range suits deciding how these lands should be managed. I know not one person who was contacted and asked for opinions or comments before most of our units went draw for archery, just as an example. The majority of hunters I know are not interested in wolves and won't cry over a dead one.
 

Oak

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Folks on the Western Slope are growing tired of front range suits deciding how these lands should be managed. I know not one person who was contacted and asked for opinions or comments before most of our units went draw for archery, just as an example. The majority of hunters I know are not interested in wolves and won't cry over a dead one.
I get that, but it's not the point I'm making. What's the end game of taking "matters into one's own hands?" That's not an original idea. I'm sure there were more than a few folks in the Northern Rockies who felt that way back in the 90s. How did that work out? Vigilante killing of wolves isn't going to make them go away, and it likely means it will take longer before we can manage them legally.
 

smw110136

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Nebraska
I get that, but it's not the point I'm making. What's the end game of taking "matters into one's own hands?" That's not an original idea. I'm sure there were more than a few folks in the Northern Rockies who felt that way back in the 90s. How did that work out? Vigilante killing of wolves isn't going to make them go away, and it likely means it will take longer before we can manage them legally.

Do you think it's a reality that hunters will ever be used as a management tool for wolves in Colorado? Or do you think when the time comes that Colorado wolf populations require lethal management, state agents will be doing all the killing? Similar to large predator management practices currently in place in other parts of the state? I have a feeling there would be even more public opposition to a wolf hunting season than what's going on with the Piceance Basin Plan.
 

sethkuhl

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Mineral County
Years ago when it was pushed into other states, I wonder if we all as hunters stood together saying no it would of mattered. Now years and states later it is "your turn" to have it done in your state. It is worse than you think it will be. The good old days are gone.
 

Oak

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Do you think it's a reality that hunters will ever be used as a management tool for wolves in Colorado? Or do you think when the time comes that Colorado wolf populations require lethal management, state agents will be doing all the killing? Similar to large predator management practices currently in place in other parts of the state? I have a feeling there would be even more public opposition to a wolf hunting season than what's going on with the Piceance Basin Plan.
I believe that limited hunting will eventually be used as a management tool, as long as we ensure that it's in the management plan that is to be developed over the next year.
 

shootbrownelk

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Wyoming
Years ago when it was pushed into other states, I wonder if we all as hunters stood together saying no it would of mattered. Now years and states later it is "your turn" to have it done in your state. It is worse than you think it will be. The good old days are gone.
Well, if the Ranchers couldn't get the introduction stopped in Wyoming, the hunters sure won't.
 

Bowhunter999

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Somewhere else
The wolves bring/provide no financial support to businesses in any state, nor do they add financially to conservation funds. However, hunters do and many businesses depend on hunters support to stay in business. Money talks.......and when business owners start to complain about lack of hunters due to lack of elk, due to wolves, there just might be some ears opened of those in power. If the wolf issue is controlled through wolf tags, keeps the numbers in check, then it just might quiet enough complaints. But, if the wolves are left protected and not managed, it will undoubtedly turn into a worse scenario !
 

Carl 9.3x62

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Jul 4, 2016
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Laramie, Wyoming
The wolves bring/provide no financial support to businesses in any state, nor do they add financially to conservation funds. However, hunters do and many businesses depend on hunters support to stay in business. Money talks.......and when business owners start to complain about lack of hunters due to lack of elk, due to wolves, there just might be some ears opened of those in power. If the wolf issue is controlled through wolf tags, keeps the numbers in check, then it just might quiet enough complaints. But, if the wolves are left protected and not managed, it will undoubtedly turn into a worse scenario !
Lots of people go to Yellowstone to see the wolves. Brings money to WY, MY, and Idaho.
 

Bullbrl

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Jan 7, 2021
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Tumalo, Oregon
I believe that limited hunting will eventually be used as a management tool, as long as we ensure that it's in the management plan that is to be developed over the next year.
That's hilarious! Ballot box biology and you think your state will use hunters as a management tool, SMH. If you were in a blue state, maybe, but not one controlled by the other side. We've had wolves in our state for years before the ODFW ever even made it public, even though hunters and ranchers knew it. The red tape and lawsuits are ridiculous. Have fun and welcome to the club.
 

Bigjay73

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Oct 28, 2017
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Denver
That's hilarious! Ballot box biology and you think your state will use hunters as a management tool, SMH. If you were in a blue state, maybe, but not one controlled by the other side. We've had wolves in our state for years before the ODFW ever even made it public, even though hunters and ranchers knew it. The red tape and lawsuits are ridiculous. Have fun and welcome to the club.
This isn't Oregon
 

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