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For generations, all of the Cundall family has been involved in ranching, but from pioneer beginnings on the plains of Nebraska to a pair of ranches on the prairie slopes of Wyoming, corporate interests overwhelmed their family operations. The opportunity on the last truly large working ranch in western Montana seemed perfect for them, a dream come true. But then came the power company, and then the federal government, and then there were...

The Cundall family, from left: Josh, Jerry, Sherma, Sharee, Jeston (holding daughter Myla), Molly, Jade, and Marta the dog.


By Tim Findley

Twenty-three-year-old Jeston Cundall looked out that February morning in 1996 from the apartment he and his new bride shared above the spectacular Lost Trail arena, out across the snowy nearest pasture to where one of their cows had died the day before. His day’s work was before him, and Jeston was planning in his mind when, strangely, the dead carcass seemed to be moving, as if it were being pulled by something. Jeston raced down the steps and toward the fence for a better look. Unbelieving of what he was seeing, he shouted back for his wife, Sharee, who had been raised in this country. It was Sharee, in her natural youthful enthusiasm, who first made the identification. Watching wide-eyed with her husband at the stark contrasts between snow and shapes, she said to him, “Holy cow, it’s a wolf!

Jeston took a better look through the fixed scope on his .22 magnum. Not just one wolf, but two, a female and a large male, were dragging the 1,200-pound cow toward the distant fence. In that fateful moment, Jeston only watched through his scope. The rifle remained locked.

Some will tell you there always have been, and always will be, wolves in this part of Montana northwest of Kalispell and only 60 miles south of the Canadian border. Look an old-timer like Bud Elberud in the eye and he might deny ever having come on one close enough to be bothering his cattle, but he leaves no doubt about what he’d do if he did. “Then again,” he says, “I wouldn’t even tell my wife about it.”

Certainly there were wolves here when Pleasant Valley was first settled in the 1890s. In those days, one or two professionals were likely to be kept busy hunting down marauders of all sorts, including wolves, grizzlies, coyotes and mountain lions. Even though they certainly never took them all, by the mid-1970s, wolves and grizzlies were both on the endangered species list and protected from a bullet by a potential $100,000 fine and jail time for anybody who even took a wild shot. After that, the code here, as elsewhere in the West, was “shoot, shovel, and shut up.” The wolves were assumed to be gone, moved north into Canada where in the presence of packs thought to total some 50,000 or more, ranchers still have a legal right to protect their herds. Around here, nobody said much about them.

Lost Trail Ranch is a consolidation of at least two former homesteads in this lush valley that once almost had itself a town made up of outlaws, renegades and railroad hands who built the near-forgotten line meant to connect Kalispell and the tiny town of Marion with Libby to the west. It was a much calmer and spectacularly beautiful place when a rich Los Angeles developer enthralled by his experience on a dude ranch bought the Lost Trail and its 8,000 acres as an intended gift for his pre-teen daughter in 1990. He acquired two stately mansion-sized Victorian houses along with the broad soft green pastures fed from the headwaters of the Fisher River all the way up to the tree lines owned by the Plum Creek Timber Company. It was an achingly beautiful place and the new owner, Dick Randall, set about adding to its charm with miles of new fences and gate posts, fresh bright paint on all the buildings, restored cabins with new foundations and even what he called a “calving shed” that was the size of a respectable county arena, replete with bleachers.

Randall is the grandson of one of the pioneer cattlemen who first brought white face steers to Texas, but he is a developer, not a rancher. Even as the obvious economic anchor to the entire valley, Lost Trail was meant by the owner to be a working view estate where the real chores were handled by a manager.

In Wheatland, Wyo., Jerry Cundall and his family could not boast of quite so opulent arrangements, but theirs was a comfortable place built up by Jerry and his father after they moved on from their original land in Nebraska. Jerry’s wife, Sherma, had grown up on her family’s own ranch east of Walsenburg, Colo. By then, the Cundalls had four strikingly handsome children, three boys and a girl, each of whom expressed their own special interest in livestock and agriculture. They were a strong family with values as simple and sturdy as the rural West where they all were raised. But on two separate ranches in Wyoming they found themselves in conflict with corporate and government interests meaning to gain control over the water.

It was almost by coincidence of friends who knew friends that after two failures in finding a manager for Lost Trail, the rich developer was led to a perfect match in an entire family willing to take over operations of his Montana treasure. To the Cundalls, it was an unimagined dream come true. They were promised the job would last at least 10 years and that their entire family would find the perfect setting for the ambitions they all shared.

Jerry set about to build the kind of cow-calf operation the owner wanted, improving on the year-to-year grazing leases on 20,000 acres of the neighboring Plum Creek timber land. At its peak, before environmentalist pressure demanded reductions on the leasehold, the Lost Trail ran about 900 head. Young Jeston and his bride found managing the horses and the nearby pastures perfectly suited to their interests. His sister, Cheyenne, soon to go off to college back in Wyoming, delighted in working with the livestock. Teenager Josh Cundall loved the tractors and machinery, and even more than that his seemingly endless solitary treks on hunting or fishing trips in all directions. Jade, and his wife Molly, kept an interest in the haying and daily operations. Their mother, Sherma, was perhaps happiest of all with her grandly preserved double-storied and porched home, around which she carefully planted and nurtured a brightly blooming showplace garden. It was perfect.

Wolves had almost nothing to do with it. In 1989, before the Cundalls arrived, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had stunned the neighbors in Pleasant Valley by announcing that a pack of wolves had formed there, “by natural recurrance.” Doubtful ranchers were informed that the animals would be monitored and that any losses would be reimbursed.

“We tried to tell them it wouldn’t be good for any of us or for the wolves either,” said Martin Anderson of the Big Meadows cooperative which borders Lost Trail, “but there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it.”

Within months, the wolves had caused the predictable trouble. Between September 1989 and June 1990, at least 13 calves and two cows in the valley were acknowledged by federal authorities as having been killed by wolves. There is a story frequently told in Pleasant Valley of one older rancher who spotted a wolf on the frozen surface of Dahl Lake and fired a shot over its head. To the rancher’s shock, instead of running in the opposite direction, the frightened wolf ran directly at the rancher and then cowered down at his feet. Around the same time, a rancher thinking he was aiming at a coyote killed what was up to then one of the largest wolves recorded within the lower 48, a 130-pound male.

Concerned by the loss of livestock, federal authorities set up traps to capture, without harming, the wolves in Pleasant Valley. A group of environmental activists, some on trail bikes, moved into the valley behind them and sprung every trap they could find.

Even so, all of the wolves said to have “recurred” in 1989 were dead or relocated by federal authorities by the time the Cundalls arrived at Lost Trail in 1990.

Five years later, the winter of 1995-96 would carry on with some of the deepest snows and continued high water in local memory. State and federal officials agreed with the account of locals that the exceptionally heavy winter had seriously depleted the population of white-tailed deer in the region–the most likely natural prey of wolves. Yet it was in the coldest midst of that winter when Jeston Cundall and his “holy cow” bride spotted the wolf pair in a pasture barely 100 yards from the barn. Officially, the government and animal rights activists pronounced that this pair had simply migrated down from Canada. If so, they had blundered into a range made by that year’s winter less likely than in many years to provide their natural food source.

“Does it add up? Does it make sense? I don’t know,” said Jerry Cundall. It was up to Jerry to make the decision after his son first spotted the wolves dragging away a dead Lost Trail cow. He didn’t think about it for long, and he didn’t discuss it with some of his older neighbors before Jerry instinctively followed his honest streak and reported the wolf sighting to Montana Fish and Game.

“Well,” said Bud Elberud, “it might not have been the smartest thing to do, but I guess I understand it.” Cundall himself acknowledges that if he had known what was likely to happen otherwise, he might well have decided to deal with the wolves himself. But with his call to authorities, the bureaucratic wheels were put in motion.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife experts, using a helicopter and trackers, set up new traps for the wolves. They captured the female in what was meant to be a non-injuring leg snare, but by the time they found her she had already tried to chew her leg free.

“So, one day, Carter Neimier [Fish & Wildlife’s wolf expert] drives up and says he’s got the wolf,” remembered Josh Cundall. “He asked if I’d like to see her, and I said, ‘Sure,’ and I followed him down to his truck. He had the wolf on the front seat, right beside him. She was drugged, but I still thought that was pretty crazy. He just said they were easier to control that way.”

The wolf, found to be pregnant, was treated for her injuries and then fitted with a radio tracking collar and released back into Pleasant Valley to whelp her pups. Without really meaning to, Jerry Cundall’s honesty had virtually assured the return of a wolf pack to Pleasant Valley.

If it were only just about wolves and letting them find their share of nature, there is probably no one familiar with this region of Montana who would object to seeing more of what is already a cherished wild all around them. If it were even that wolves behaved in much the same way as they do in Canada where the sight or scent of two-legged beasts sets them fleeing, perhaps the arguments would be lessened. But the wolves of Pleasant
Valley seemed to understand the difference south of the border.

Ellen Hargrave, a wise-cracking ’60s survivor out of Kansas who still rolls her own with Zig Zag papers, today operates the Hargrave Cattle and Guest Ranch with her equally unceremonious husband, Leo. They run some cattle on the 1,400 acres, primarily for the dudes, but seriously enough to make an income. The first time her foreman, Ryan Reynolds, came upon the big black wolf, it was after dark and he just kind of stumbled up to it near the calving corral. “I saw its eyes first, and then it just stood there and snarled at me,” said Reynolds. Another employee, a young woman given to nature trails, came across one of the wolves on the road one evening. “She stopped and got out to look at it, and that wolf just stopped and looked right back at her,” said Hargrave.

In almost no encounter of the many told by neighbors around Pleasant Valley did the wolves seem at all impressed by two-legged creatures. Through that summer of ’96, and on into the next two years, the wolves were spotted occasionally. The Cundalls at Lost Trail began adding up the disappearances among the herd at the end of each grazing season–22 cows and 30 calves were missing by the time the snow began flying in 1998. Other outfits told of similar losses–13 calves off the Baker place, three cows and seven calves off Bob Monk’s range. Some losses are always expected, but this many seemed extraordinary. The wolves, apparently indifferent to human presence, were seen even near the small elementary school in the valley. Like others in the ranching families, Martin Anderson of Big Meadows insisted that his 10-year-old step-daughter not play on the nearby hillsides any more.

Any wolf-lover anywhere will tell you it’s myth. Wolves aren’t killers, they will say. The wolves just hunt for survival, and only among the weakest animals, probably most likely to die anyway. Friends of wolves will tell you they pose no threat to humans.

By the official records of federal authorities, the alpha pair which appeared in Pleasant Valley in 1996 produced only one pup that season. The deer population was slow to recover from the hard winter, adding to the predators’ difficulties. By early winter 1997, the pack was said to consist only of three adults and one pup. In 1998, with officially still a “paucity” of natural prey in the region, the pack was reported to have had “a large litter.”

By then, Sherma Cundall had other worries on her mind. The promise of 10 years or more on the Lost Trail was beginning to fade with Randall’s own financial problems in Los Angeles and with his concern that his daughter’s love of the ranch itself might lead her away from better ambitions. In any case, the Montana Power Company had recently evidenced interest in Dahl Lake, a shallow, algae-clogged pond at the eastern extreme of the ranch that was slowly evolving into a peat bog. It was fenced from the cattle and generally unused, but it was large enough for the power company to have interest in “saving” it as wetland which could serve as mediation for what the government said was loss of wetland created by the company’s dam on Flathead Lake to the southeast. Dahl Lake alone might have been no great loss to the magnificent expanse of Lost Trail, but the absentee owner saw in the power company’s offer a $5 million chance to dispose of it all.

That was Sherma Cundall’s biggest worry. She kept a diary as she saw it moving closer and closer to the same nightmare her family had experienced before in Wyoming. The power company didn’t want a ranch. It wanted to be off the hook with the federal government. When the deal was made with the Lost Trail owner to buy the place, the power company wouldn’t even listen to the Cundalls when they suggested other buyers. Montana Power wanted only to sell the whole place, the last great working ranch in western Montana, to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, which had no intention of going into the ranching business. The Cundalls would have to leave.

“More packing today, books and things,” begins Sherma’s diary on January, 11, 1999. “Jeston and two friends walked out behind the barn and discovered 10 wolves eating a roping calf. They ran them up the hill and then left. Later, Don Bernal from Libby and his son and two other relatives came up to rope. All 10 wolves were back in the corral and had attacked the pen of calves. One calf was completely eaten and only his carcass remained. The second still alive, but so badly ripped up he had to be shot, and a third had teeth marks all over his rear and was so sore he could hardly walk. Jeston doctored him and he seems okay now....”

For the few remaining months the Cundalls were still in charge of Lost Trail, the wolves seemed almost to sense that it was ending. From Sherma’s diary, January 15:

“The wolves came back, killed and ate another 450-pound calf in the same pasture after running the whole bunch through the fence. All 10 wolves were still there when the boys went to do chores this morning....”
Although they had never informed the Cundalls or anybody else in Pleasant Valley about it, federal authorities knew the pack now numbered at least 13 individual wolves and presented a formidable threat to all the livestock in the valley.

“The wolves have nothing to be afraid of,” Sherma wrote. “As a result they just trot off and watch us. It makes for great picture taking, but it is very unnerving to say the least!”

Now, the sightings in Pleasant Valley and nearby Lost Prairie took on more disturbing proportions. Calves and cows were being attacked in winter pastures, virtually at the doors of every ranch. The Cundalls had brought from Wyoming their two Great Pyrenees dogs, gentle white giants known to protect sheep and cattle herds. Jerry Cundall made a point of “bonding” the two dogs, Rush and Marta, to the herd, and up to now they seemed to be a deterrent to the wolves.

But the winter of 1998-99 would be drastically different. “We became very concerned for Rush and Marta after the January incident,” Sherma wrote. “They would be no match for 10 wolves. Several times, the dogs showed up at the house or barn, exhausted and very visibly terrified.... On one occasion, the male would not even leave the porch for three days....”

There was still more to trouble the people of Pleasant Valley that winter. U.S. Fish & Wildlife had moved with surprising bureaucratic speed to produce its report on what it now called the proposed “Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge.” The feds had made a show of inviting all the ranching neighbors to “scoping” meetings where their views could be heard and squeaked onto butcher-paper tablets by the felt tip of a “facilitator,” but most of the ranchers knew the futility of that exercise. Now they were being presented with a federal report on the options that left only one really likely–Lost Trail, the economic engine of their valley, was to be a federal refuge, returned, somehow, to a more “natural” condition. Already, a former federal “bison manager” had moved into the big main house and evicted the Cundalls to the apartment over the arena-sized calving shed.

Wolves were only one species the new federal managers proposed to protect by their new refuge. There were also grizzlies which occasionally passed through the range, and eagles, and lynx. And now, for the first time, there appeared the “surrogate” species being used throughout the Pacific Northwest much as the spotted owl was to halt logging. These headwaters of the Fisher River, the federal report said, were home to the threatened bull trout.

At Big Meadows, Martin Anderson expressed it to the nodding agreement of neighbors around his kitchen table: “Who in their right mind would want the federal government for a neighbor?”

Still, even if anything could be done to save Lost Trail, in that winter the battle was more concentrated on saving the herds.

“Joe Fontaine [of Fish & Wildlife] and his crew came up the 18th [of January] with plane and helicopter and removed four of the wolves to Spotted Bear,” wrote Sherma Cundall. “Upon arrival here, they announced that the pack was located several miles to the west of us, eating on an elk calf. When they got there to examine the kill, it was not an elk calf but a 600-pound Big Meadows calf....”

Federal authorities could no longer deny that the wolves were feeding on cattle. They distributed radio trackers to some of the neighbors so they could monitor the presence of the pack. Bob Monk was among the first to receive one. Monk, 79, has lived in the valley since 1946. In 53 years, he had only seen two wolves, but by that point, the indirect damage done to his, and his wife Donna’s, future was even greater than a season’s loss of calves. “At my age, I make my most reliable living by leasing out pasture to others who bring their cattle in. It’s a fair income, keeps us going. But word gets around about the wolves either taking cows or running them through fences. Nobody in their right mind is going to bring their cattle up here.”

At Lost Trail, they began calving on February 13. Just five days later, Sherma Cundall glanced out her window and saw Marta, one of their Great Pyrenees, running toward her with a terrified look in her eye. Sherma and Jeston’s wife, Sharee, went out to the fence where the other dog, Rush, was barking frantically at something to the north of him. “And there they were, not 300 yards away,” wrote Sherma. “Six wolves, two of them dragging a newborn calf under the fence.”

There was nothing they could do except to take pictures and shout at the wolves in hopes of frightening them off enough to recover the dead calf as evidence. The wolves didn’t go far, and the Cundalls could see them on the hillslope watching calmly as Jerry covered the calf remains with a tarp. As evening fell, Jerry Cundall moved all the cows and heifers into a corral, except one cow which had only dropped her calf late that afternoon and was not yet ready to move. She had bedded the calf down between a large rock and a tree for some protection. Jerry drove out in his pickup just after dark to check on them and found two wolves lunging and harassing the cow. Not until Cundall was within 50 feet of them did the wolves even pay attention to his spotlight.

With Sherma’s help carrying the calf, Jerry walked the cow back to the barn. By morning, they found her weak and bleeding from the mouth. She died that afternoon. A vet who examined her found her lungs had burst, probably from terror and shock. The calf died the next morning.

Now with their own government- provided monitor, the Cundalls kept track of the pack that remained almost continuously within half a mile of their house. Federal authorities responded by saying they had shot and killed one young female and two males. That left three wolves, including the alpha pair, still within easy monitoring range. The cows and calves, needing to be turned out to the drier hillside, remained in the wet pen.

The answer provided by the United States was a siren hung from a tree that periodically sounded by a timer, and a curious little propane-powered cannon that the Cundalls were advised to fire off now and then in various directions. That February and March, Pleasant Valley echoed with booming retorts of cannon volleys and the penetrating periodic whine of the siren. It terrified the dogs, which hid in the barn. The wolves ignored it.

“Some of the older folks told us that the wolves might be attracted by the shots,” said Jerry. “They get used to thinking it might mean someone has brought down some meat.”

But by then, the absence of game in Pleasant Valley was evident to everyone, and it could not just be the winter that was to blame. At least 70 head of cattle were killed or missing. Defenders of Wildlife, which supposedly compensates ranchers, has so far only agreed that there is evidence to pay for three.

“It was demeaning just trying to talk to them [the Defenders] about it,” said Ellen Hargrave.

Finally, in late April, the last three remaining wolves were killed by federal Animal Damage Control shooters. The Cundalls took time out in May to attend the graduation of their daughter from the University of Wyoming. They had much work ahead of them. The federal government had given them until June 1st to be completely out of Lost Trail. They planned to move to a nearby academy for troubled youth, where Sherma will teach, but for a few weeks the entire family will have to live in a motel at McGregor Lake. Josh, who so loved the tractors and his treks in the woods, plans to look for a job as a hand in Wyoming. Jeston and Sharee will look for work around Kalispell. Jade and Molly haven’t decided.

Was it all just coincidence, just another sign of our changing times? Did the wolves just find their way from Canada and, as the feds describe it, “recolonize” Pleasant Valley? Maybe, but Bob Monk shares the story of being approached repeatedly in 1983, five years before that first pack appeared, by representatives of The Nature Conservancy wanting to buy his “wetlands.” The report of Fish & Wildlife on Lost Trail Refuge reveals that, unknown to Dick Randall, federal authorities had identified Dahl Lake as a site for preservation in 1985, well before it was supposedly “found” by the power company.

In the map of their proposed new refuge, Fish & Wildlife marks Lost Trail like a large puzzle piece filling in a blank space of formerly private land between Kootenai National Forest on the north and west, Lolo National Forest on the south, and Flathead National Forest on the east. The “proposed action” to create the refuge, says the federal report, is to mitigate damage elsewhere and, “to restore floodplain acreage to its historic role; and to enhance the survival prospects of endangered and threatened species in the area.”

From the time The Nature Conservancy made its overtures to Monk in 1983, to the surveys of possible wetlands in 1985, and up until 1989 when most local ranchers believe a pack was “reintroduced” in the valley by federal authorities, no wolves had been seen. Was it merely coincidence that at the start of the second term of a Babbitt and environmentalist Interior Department, Canadian wolves decided to “recolonize” Pleasant Valley during its worst winter in recent memory?

In the week of May that the Cundalls were gone for their daughter’s graduation, Martin Anderson and at least two others in the region spotted that lone black wolf again in the open meadows. As usual, the animal seemed unafraid of humans.

Lost Trail was the last large ranch of its kind in western Montana. It cannot be replaced and is unlikely now to ever be restored by anyone with enough care for the land to see that the grass will not be overgrown and left to strangle or that the fine fences and carefully-tended buildings will not fade, or, as the government has already planned for some, be torn down.

Jerry Cundall will try to maintain 150 head he has left on his year-to-year grazing lease with Plum Creek, but it’s doubtful how long that can last. As a working ranch, Lost Trail is over and done, and with it, perhaps, the heritage of all Pleasant Valley. “I’m disappointed,” admitted Dick Randall, “but the truth is I don’t know anyone who could have made it work to produce an income in these times....”

For lots of reasons, some of them economic, some of them political, times have changed in western Montana. Old-timers, both here and elsewhere in the West, will assure you of one thing, however: There will always be wolves.

Tim Findley lives in rural Nevada and raises little more than a few vegetables and a large lawn, along with some occasional hell.


What’s wrong with this picture?

Scott Dieringer running from wolves by Linda Dieringer

Scott Dieringer is being chased by wolves.
by Linda Dieringer

Only 100 yards or so from his own house and corral outside Morenci, Ariz., Scott Dieringer jogs back toward his photo-shooting wife, Linda, with three wolves closing in on his heels.

Dieringer had already watched his four young dogs be cowered and chased back by the wolves. He had fired a round from his 30-30 over the heads of the unflinching wolves that continued to move closer to his calving pen. The only thing that seemed to work was for him to start yelling–“squalling” as he calls it–and run at them, picking up rocks to throw along the way. At this point, he was out of rocks.

All three wolves wore bright orange collars–Mexican grays released by the federal government as part of their “recovery” program in this part of the Southwest.

But that’s not really what’s wrong with this picture. The wrong is in how irresistible we all find this image–like something darkly medieval come back to life in the forest. Wolves. The very sound of the word conjures up images from the imagination. And that’s what’s wrong with this picture, because it epitomizes the image of wolves as a return to wildness that is at the heart of federal reintroduction programs in Arizona and the Northwest.

People in cities who especially fancy themselves lovers of wildlife have taken to wearing the image of wolves on their chests as T-shirts. On their coffee cups. On their computer mouse pads. Wolves to them somehow signal freedom from fear. They would imagine their own thrill at being in Scott Dieringer’s boots in this photo, even if they would never have such actual courage.

Never mind that there are other photos of mutilated calves and other livestock, such as the torn up carcass of Dieringer’s own calf that federal authorities tried to suggest later was attacked by an eagle. Never mind those gory scenes. Wolves, city folks and federal agents will tell you, do what wolves must.

Perhaps nowhere else is the conflict between the meaning of those two images more controversial and important than in Yellowstone National Park, the portrait preserve of the West as it supposedly once was. Wolves had not been seen there since 1926 until Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt proudly, and defiantly, led the reintroduction of 15 pen-raised Canadian wolves into Yellowstone in 1995.

Today, there are at least 115 adult and yearling wolves in at least 11 packs in and around the park. Total numbers, including cubs and packs released nearby in Idaho, amount to over 300 “well-fleshed-out, meaty, fat wolves,” said Recovery Coordinator Doug Smith, as he delighted in reporting the birth of some 50 new pups in the first weeks of May. The new best selling attraction in Yellowstone Park and its souvenir shops–the wolves–are reaching their “biological maximum” according to Smith, and must expand their territory.

Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wolf recovery team leader who seems these days to appear everywhere in the Northwest, openly worries about potential federal court orders to remove the wolves from Yellowstone. “I don’t know where we’d put that many wolves,” he said.

Wyoming Federal Judge William Downes ruled in 1997 that Babbitt’s reintroduction of the wolves in Yellowstone violated the intent of the Endangered Species Act, but Downes’ court order to remove the wolves has been challenged by Babbitt’s lawyers, and the issue, dragging through federal appeals on its inevitable way to a Supreme Court decision, is far from being resolved. In the meantime, the wolves grow “meaty” and “fat” from their success among Yellowstone’s mysteriously declining elk population and predation that federal authorities and environmentalists generally deny is taking any big toll on nearby domestic livestock.

Complaints have also begun to be heard from legitimate hunting outfitters in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, who have been told by Bangs that the decline in the elk population may just mean they will, he’s sorry, have to go out of business.

Smith, the federal recovery coordinator, suggests the wolves have already filled their habitat in Yellowstone, but he points out that there are 17 million acres of national forests near the park. Bangs, the real wolf expert on the team, admits that wolves could probably only use less than half that habitat. Sooner, rather than later, Bangs admits, the wolves will be living on or near private land.

And then, one wonders, will the photo of Scott Dieringer hot-footing it back up his ranch road seem so thrilling? Or will it send a chill to those who think about their own animals, or their own children?–Tim Findley

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