Elk NetworkNorthern Rockies wolf management gets big boost from RMEF grants

Conservation | January 1, 2016

Northern Rockies wolf management gets big boost from RMEF grants

State wildlife agencies in the northern Rockies received a welcome boost for wolf management in 2013. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation gave $50,000 grants to Idaho and Wyoming’s game and fish departments as well as a $25,000 grant to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

These grants will help expand knowledge about predator-prey interactions between wolves and ungulates, support radio collaring programs that provide the core data on pack sizes, territories and movements, and help managers gather other vital biological data about wolf populations. These grants come in addition to RMEF funding for ongoing predator-related research such as the Bitterroot Elk Ecology Study in Montana. A major landscape-scale study of the dynamics between elk, wolves, mountain lions and black bears in the East and West Forks of the Bitterroot Valley, it is a joint effort by Montana FWP and the University of Montana. So far, the RMEF has contributed almost $150,000 over the past three years to help support the research.

“Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks appreciates the partnership it has with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation,” said department director Jeff Hagener. “This recent donation is another example of RMEF’s long-time commitment to wildlife conservation in Montana.”

Brad Compton, Idaho Fish and Game’s assistant chief of wildlife, says this partnership only stands to strengthen the traditional bond that has united hunters and wildlife agencies for generations.

“This grant will help IDFG gain a more thorough knowledge of wolves and wolf behavior so it can better implement its approved predator management plan,” Compton says. “This grant is another example of the outstanding support we’ve received from RMEF and elk hunters for nearly 30 years. It is particularly important because it comes at a time when federal funding is being incrementally eliminated, thus allowing us to continue to maintain our active wolf monitoring and management program.”

Tom Ryder, wildlife assistant division chief for Wyoming GFD, feels similarly.

“Our partnership with the RMEF is extremely valuable to us and this grant shows how this relationship continues to develop great opportunities for conservation,” Ryder stays. “This grant will help the department execute its adaptive wolf management plan by increasing our knowledge of wolf/elk interactions, wolf home range, and pack and territory size. Each of these biological components is important for the management plan and to our shared constituents.”

The Elk Foundation’s commitment to rigorous wildlife science dates back to the very first project of any kind the RMEF funded. In 1985, when the organization was barely a year old, RMEF contributed $450 to help study the ecology of the Northern Yellowstone herd. Since then, the foundation has funded 273 research projects in 25 states to the tune of $4.3 million.

As for wolf research, RMEF’s history of support predates even the Yellowstone and Idaho reintroductions. RMEF funded its first wolf research project in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwest Montana in 1989. Since then, the Elk Foundation has invested more than $660,000 in grants that advance scientific understanding of wolves, wolf interactions with other species, and overall wolf management.

That total includes more than $200,000 in research grants in just the past five years. Most of the contributions paid for independent studies by leading universities, state and federal wildlife agencies and tribes.

“Part of RMEF’s mission is to ensure the future of elk and other wildlife,” said Allen. “These grants help managers do just that by helping state biologists know how many wolves are out there, where they travel and what effect they have on elk, deer and other ungulates. This is a part of a continuing commitment by RMEF to support the ultimate goal of state management, which is to sustain all species in balance with the available habitat and local communities where people live.”