Friday, July 13, 2018

Killing Wolves with Randy Newberg (for Fun, Entertainment and Profit)

Randy Newberg (left) and Matt Clyde
Randy Newberg -- a hunter who kills animals for entertainment and profit for his Outdoor Channel show, "On Your Own Adventures" -- is a staunch advocate for protecting our public lands. As a spokesperson for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, he has spoken out against proposals to transfer ownership of our federal lands to state and private entities and he has supported noble efforts to "keep our public lands in public hands." However, Newberg seems to think that our federal lands were created by the people of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, and that only they and hunters should have a say in how wildlife on our public lands are managed. In a two-part series for his show, called "Montana Wolf Hunting with Randy Newberg," he refers to those who oppose wolf hunting as "wingnuts" and "screwballs," "from wherever," and says they have no right "to tell us how to manage wildlife." 

"All wolves mean to them is money," says Newberg (who makes this statement while filming a wolf-hunting show for profit.) He claims that wolf advocates are "disconnected" from the land and disrupting the "lifestyle" and "culture" of locals, who are, so he claims, "connected to the land." 

It's a common "us vs them" mentality I often here — “out-of-staters” vs “locals,” “anti-hunters” vs “hunters,” but it's not true. There are many local folks, like me, who live here in Montana, who hunt elk and deer, who fish, who spend a lot of time roaming the wilds, who are deeply-connected to the land, and who oppose the killing of wolves for no legitimate reason (in Newberg's case, just for amusement, entertainment and profit).

"The people of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho protected these huge landscapes," Newberg says. "And then you people come here and tell us how to do it? You screwed up your backyard so bad you can't even get a rabbit to live there. And then you people come here and tell us what we're going to do?" (Newberg moved to Montana in 1991 from Minnesota.) 

Actually, our federal public lands -- which include National Forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service; lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management; National Parks managed by the U.S. Park Service, and National Wildlife Refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- belong to all Americans, from all over the United States. They were originally acquired through purchases, such as the Louisiana Purchase, or through conquest, such as the Mexican Cession. At first, the United States practiced a policy of disposing of these lands, through programs such as the Homestead Act. Eventually, through the leadership of numerous individuals and organizations such as Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, George Bird Grinnell, Gifford Pinchot, John Jay Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, the Boone and Crockett Club, the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and many others -- hunters and nonhunters, hunting groups and nonhunting groups -- the public lands we enjoy today were set aside for various reasons, to be protected and managed for various purposes, much of it, in Pinchot's words, for "the greatest good to the greatest number of people for the longest time." 

For the greatest good to the greatest number of people. Not for the greatest number of hunted species for hunters. 

Our federal public lands were created and are maintained by all American taxpayers. We hunters love to claim that we pay for conservation. However, on a national-scale, when you look at the costs of protecting and maintaining the federal lands where many of us hike, camp, backpack, watch wildlife, take photos, and yes, hunt and fish, we hunters pay for about six-percent of the costs.

Six percent.

It's true that many state wildlife agencies, such as the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, are funded largely (up to 55 percent) through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, and they receive federal funds raised through excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. But much of the state agency funding is also money allocated from state budgets, and raised by all of us who pay taxes in our states. Hunters and nonhunters. A lot of that money -- with help from hunter-based conservation organizations -- has been used to purchase and protect critical winter range, migratory corridors and other habitat for elk, deer and other hunted species. Much of that has also benefit nonhunted and threatened and endangered species, including wolves. 

The downfall to such a system: Hunters have a huge influence over state wildlife management decisions and management which mostly benefit hunted species, sometimes to the detriment of other wildlife, particularly predators. 

No doubt about it, we hunters have played and continue to play a huge role in restoring, enhancing, expanding and protecting many wildlife species, particularly hunted species such as elk, deer, pronghorn and bighorn sheep. Hence, a lot of hunters like Newberg get pretty emotional and say things such as, "We protected these huge landscapes. And then you people come here and tell us how to do it? You screwed up your backyard so bad you can't even get a rabbit to live there. And then you people come here and tell us what we're going to do?" 

Aside from there being plenty of rabbits and other wildlife throughout the United States, even in urban back yards, and the fact that most land was “screwed up” and developed long before anyone alive today was born, all Americans, and all state residents, help fund wildlife conservation and management programs, and the protection of wildlife and wild places. We should all have a say in how its managed. And some hunters, like me, don't do it just so we have a place to hunt and animals to kill. Some of us do it because we want to help protect, enhance and maintain healthy, functioning ecosystems and landscapes for all wildlife, including wolves, even if that may sometimes result in less hunting opportunity. This is why it's so offensive to some of us hunters when Newberg says, "If you hunt, you hunt everything. You hunt prey. You hunt predators. We have a responsibility to hunt wolves. We need to manage them the way we manage every species." 

In his wolf-hunting show, Newberg features David Allen, who was then the Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Allen has called wolves "the worst ecological disaster since the decimation of bison herds," and had repeatedly claimed that wolves are "decimating" elk herds. "To keep wolf populations controlled, states will have to hold hunts, shoot wolves from the air and gas their dens,” Allen has said. Under his leadership, the Elk Foundation offered the state of Montana $50,000 to contract with the federal Wildlife Services agency to “aggressively” kill more wolves. “And the next step is the grizzly bear,” he said. “We’ve got bear issues with elk calves in the spring -- both grizzly and black bear. We can’t have all these predators with little aggressive management and expect to have ample game herds, and sell hunting tags and generate revenue.” 

Allen agreed with Newberg. "We need to manage wolves like we manage all species," he said. "We need to hunt them like we hunt all wildlife." Of course, we don't hunt all wildlife. We don't, for example, hunt bald eagles, ravens or western tanagers. Animals that are managed and hunted are generally, at least ideally, managed and hunted in accordance with what we know about the biology, ecology, habits and behavior of those species. This is why management actions and hunting seasons for elk and deer are not the same as they are for, say, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Not all wildlife is, or should be, managed the same. 

One of the cornerstones of our North American Model of Conservation -- which hunters and hunting-based organizations love to tout and claim to support -- is that wildlife be managed based on good, sound science. That good, sound science shows that the return of wolves to much of the western United States has resulted in significant overall, long-term benefits to wildlife and the habitat that sustains them -- including the species we love to hunt. That good, sound science shows that wolves, being a predator species, have altogether different, and self-regulating, reproductive and survival behaviors and strategies than prey species. That good, sound science shows that wolves have highly-complex social structures and breeding behaviors. That good, sound science shows that if you inadvertently kill certain wolves -- such as the dominant breeding female, for example -- it can throw the pack into disarray, lead to the expansion and creation of more packs, lead to other wolves breeding, and lead to more wolves. That good, sound science shows that if you inadvertently kill certain wolves -- such as the dominant male or female -- then younger wolves will fail to learn lessons from them, such as best ways and places to hunt, and this can change a pack's hunting behaviors and lead to incidences such as, say, killing more domestic cattle rather than wild deer and elk.

That's what the science tells us. But a lot of hunters don't like good, sound science when it contradicts what they want to believe. And a lot of state wildlife agencies don't follow good, sound science when it goes against what hunters want to believe. That's why, in Idaho, the fish and game department conducts aerial shooting of wolves and sends bounty hunters into wilderness areas to eliminate wolf packs despite the good, sound science and what know about wolf behavior, ecology and biology.  (See Killing Wolves: A Hunter-Led War Against Science and Wildlife.)

That good, sound science doesn't play well to the membership of hunting organization's like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, or the viewers of programs like "On Your Own Adventures." It's more effective to boost membership, viewers, funding and profit by perpetuating lies, myths and misconceptions about wolves and simplify the issue as if it's "residents vs nonresidents," "hunters vs anti-hunters," "rational vs emotional," "informed vs uninformed," "connected vs disconnected." Ratings and profit are better when you tell hunters what they want to hear. Newberg knows his audience. 

Despite the emotional, uninformed claims of apparently disconnected people like Newberg and Allen, elk populations are increasing in most of the West. In Idaho, the fish and game department is expanding elk hunting to reduce elk populations while simultaneously killing wolves under the guise of protecting and boosting elk numbers. Where elk populations do appear on the decline there are plenty of factors to consider in addition to wolves: Changes in habitat; the previous existence of artificially high elk populations at levels beyond the viable carrying capacity of the land; lack of mature bulls and low bull-to-cow ratios in herds (often resulting from early season hunting and too much hunting pressure on bull elk) which influences the timing of the rut and breeding behavior, the timing of spring calving, and often results in increased vulnerability of elk calves to predation; influence of other predators including mountain lions, black bears and grizzlies; unanticipated impacts of various hunting regulations and hunting pressure, and changes in behavior and habitat use by elk in the presence of wolves. And so on. Good, sound science can be complex. 

Where I hunt, the growing presence of wolves has changed the behavior and habits of elk. Elk bunch up more for safety, and move around more to evade and avoid wolves. They are a lot more wary. I have adapted and adjusted to these changes and have no problem finding elk. This is part of the beauty and value of hunting within wilderness -- to adjust, adapt and be part of the landscape; to be, as my friend David Petersen puts it, part of the "bedrock workings of nature."  We render the wilds a diminished abstract when we alter it to suit our own needs and desires and, in the process, make it less healthy and whole. There are those who espouse the virtues of backcountry hunting and yet seem apathetic or supportive towards the destruction of backcountry integrity. Those who understand the wilds -- those of who are connected to the land -- know how critically important predators are to the health of the land.

This is, in large part, why I have no desire to kill my fellow predators (that, and I strongly believe in only killing what you plan to eat), despite Newberg’s ignorant insistence that it’s my “responsibility” to kill wolves.

"We as hunters, we need to be out there hunting these wolves," he says. "This is part of who we are . . . that's part of our job. If you’re going to manage wildlife, you can’t just manage the prey species. You have to manage the predator species, and anyone who thinks otherwise, they need a quick education.” 

At one point in his wolf-hunting show, Newberg worries that his rifle may no longer be accurately sighted in, because he “dinged” his scope. If the scope was knocked out of sync, it could result in missing or wounding a wolf. So to check it out he decides to test it, not on a target, but on a living coyote. “That coyote will be a good way to find out,” he says. Apparently, his rifle was still properly sighted; He killed the coyote in one shot. “I just saved a lot of deer and a lot of antelope,” he says, before ranting again about wolves. 

“I make zero apologies for hunting wolves,” he says. “I never will apologize for hunting wolves. You’re damn right I’m a wolf-hunter, and I don’t care what anyone thinks about it. We set the dinner table for these wolves, and we have every right to be hunting these wolves.” 

And hunt wolves they did, he and his hunting partner Matt Clyde, glassing the hills with high-powered spotting scopes, running and jumping in the truck to drive closer to where they spotted wolves, climbing the mountains and glassing some more, running and jumping in the truck and driving some more. They spotted some wolves back where they had been earlier and so ran and jumped in the truck and drove back there again. (Newberg was frustrated when cattle were in the road, slowing them down, increasing their driving time.) Then back up the mountain again. Finally, there was a black wolf coming towards them. Clyde steadied his rifle while Newberg measured the distance with a range-finder. 

“Seven-hundred and fifty yards,” Newberg says . . . “500 yards . . . 480 . . . “ Clyde shoots. The wolf appears hit and runs a short distance. Clyde shoots again. The wolf goes down and struggles. Clyde shoots a third time. The wolf is dead. “Congratulations. You made an amazing shot!” Newberg says. (I'm not sure which shot he's referring to.) “It was fun, it was exciting, and that’s why were out here,” he says, as Clyde pets what Newberg refers to as “the big black dog in white snow” where it lays in a large pool of blood. 

“I’m going to hunt wolves every day I can that’s legal,” Newberg says. “Every day that I have a tag. Every time I can protect these elk herds, I will be there. I will have my rifle, and I will have my tags, and the wolves will be in trouble.”


  1. So ironic reading Newberg’s sense of mission to kill wolves & other predators God created: When Lewis & Clark stood at Pompey’s Pillar (east of where Billings, MT, is today for those who haven’t been there to witness the signature & date in the rock), they recorded seeing entire herds of elk, bison, wolves, & many other species—all on the rolling plains before them. God gave these animals instincts which negate Newberg’s narrow-minded view regarding predators & their prey.

    We humans are the problem—we crowd wildlife habitats until the creatures who live there can no longer thrive. “Thrive” truly is the goal for every wild species, & we constantly interrupt it!

    Wolves and all other natural predators in the Greater Yellowstone Region (& beyond) deserve their place, as they are created by God, who has created everything. The “balance of Nature” is perpetually upset by “conservation hunters” who feel they have a God-given right to eradicate other species! Their way of thinking is the root of all conservation problems, & it literally goes back decades.

    When Lewis & Clark saw the lands west of the Mississippi, it was loaded with predators & prey. Today, they would most likely be appalled that our sheer numbers have reduced the range of the king of the North American wilderness, the grizzly, to a comparatively small region consisting partly of a vast caldera. The wolf, too, suffers constant blind prejudice & hatred at the hands of the ignorant.

    I lived in WY & MT for nearly 6 years, & have listened patiently during wolf meetings trying to comprehend how people who think like Newberg pass their judgement on God’s Creation: When people mention that we have been given “dominion over the Earth”, it’s quite a stretch to think that includes killing amazing wildlife for “fun, entertainment, & profit”. I believe God meant us to be good stewards over this incredible planet, not destroy predators He created, upsetting the true balance of every ecosystem.

    Trophy-hunting & exterminating the natural competition is exactly what hunters such as Newberg do, “for fun, profit, & entertainment”: it is so utterly grotesque & unethical, it’s hard to take. I am a life-long Republican, & these attitudes embarrass & frustrate me. I only shoot with a camera. Tourism is far more profitable for a state’s coffers than trophy & extermination hunting. Too bad Newberg & his ilk will never appreciate what amazing & intelligent creatures wolves are, & how crucial & appropriate their presence is in our world for the “thrive” of all species.

  2. Well said Teresa- I believe in the same things you mentioned here with three exceptions: 1.) I hunt, 2.) I think wolves that grow an appetite for livestock should be actively managed so that it is not taught and spread within, or between packs, and 3.) there is no way I will ever associate again with the GOP and their extremism.

  3. Excellent comment Teresa! Can you imagine how many psychopaths will celebrate if the ESA is dismantled? It makes me sick to my stomach when I read all the toxic legislation to delist even more wolves so that they will be slaughtered by all these psychopaths. We won't forget who those politicians are nor their cosponsors. More people need to fight like hell for wolves and other endangered species.

  4. Thank you for this excellent article. We desperately need scientifically minded ethical hunters to speak up on this issue. I will be sharing this & utilizing it with my own work in preserving & restoring biotic communities.

  5. Excellent article. The problem isn't that there are wolves and other predators taking elk, deer, etc., the problem is that Newburg and other like-minded people don't have a systems view of the natural world and that ungulate species such as elk are part of a system that has included wolves and other predators for eons. Unfortunately stubbornly-held attitudes such as Newburg's are too pervasive in the hunting community and lessons like the systematic extermination of large predators on the Kaibab Plateau in the early 20th century to "protect" the deer population are largely forgotten.

  6. So sad that these people kill our precious wild animals. Save Wolves and the ESA.

  7. How does a guy like Randy get a T,V, show. He sounds like an uneducated, egotistical buffoon. Why can't the conservationist groups sue him for spreading lies and misinformation?

  8. Hopefully Karma will repay them tenfold , poor excuse for men ! ��

  9. Extremely impressive and very well worded. I myself am a serious hunter and I applaud you for this. Will definitely be reading more and look forward to future posts. Couldn’t agree more with everything you said. I rarely find someone who shares my opinions towards hunting, wilderness, and wildlife.

  10. Yeah not to mention younger hunters are not picking up guns because they don’t want to be seen as dumb ass red necks out shooting anything and denying basic ecology. We actually need hunting too for certain game and conservation. These idiots are giving all hunters a big black eye.

  11. The Legacy of America to destroy and to justify it ..sad always thought Americans had higher valyes

  12. Any true hunter or fisherman is a conservationist at heart, a person who is willing to take life to sustain life, but who, at the same time, recognizes the essential tragedy of the act, and who, despite the undeniable thrill of the chase, is left, ultimately a little saddened. Anyone who thinks it is 'fun' is not a hunter. That person is a souless thoughtless drooling imbecile.

  13. their hunting philosophy makes me wonder about their mental stability. These people give not only hunting a bad name but also the entire American system of conservation.

    1. Sick mofos.

  14. We are merely the temporary gardners of the planet in our time here. Whether you believe its God given, or random coincidence that is our human responsibility niw that we control our world. As gardners we make choices to benefit a rich and diverse offering to sustain ourselves. Like vegtables, you want to let them grow and pick them at the right time, and not over harvest so it is sustainable. Like flowers, beauty has value just by existing, and offers other unseen benefits to their environment. Both need to be protected from threats like invading weeds and insects. Animals are the in the garden too providing valuable sustenance for all of mankind, and fueled our mental evolution to who we are today. Whether you hunt or not, some animals with value in protein need to need to be able to grow to their optimal size, be picked, and not over harvested so they are self sustainable. When there are treats to the sustainability we gardners need to pluck some weeds (revegitate our nutrient lacking grounds taken over by nin native grasses and plants and have recessional forests) as well as control invaders (invasive species like pigs and keeping predator numbers in line). If you do noy tend to your gardner it does not serve the most good for the most people. Wolves help drive drastic cyclical predator/prey numbers by eating out of house and home then when they leave for other opportunities the cycle of prey regrowth occurs but very slowly. Controlling wolves is what Randy talks about, not eradicating them. There has never been, nor never will be, some eutopic period of time that the animal and plant kingdom are in balance. We are always in a state of change for reasons inside and out of human control. We as gardners strive to limit the risks of large cyclical changes and declines, have dependable and healthy environments, and to do that you need to do all the jobs of a gardner. Those that any one person like Dan do not want to do, are perfectly ok for him to not assist with. But, chastising the fellow gardner working on the mutual chores is not how I believe the most good is fostered. Long form conversations, removal of personal insults, and true listeningbwith the intent to understand coupled with a dose of empathy is a start. This cherry picking of quotes and attempt to villianize someone is disengenuous, and I would suggest to anyone agreeing with this article to stay confident in your beliefs, but listen to the full podcast with intent to listen and empathize and you may come away with a different opnion than this spin article.

  15. Hunters are nothing but knuckle dragging neanderthals making up for their lack of being men by getting some sick fascination from killing animals and calling it a sport while drinking behind a blind covered in scent hiding spray using high powered weapons and bating an animal to come into the area like the pathetic peons they are a mere 3.5% of the population hunt and soon enough we will marginalize you into oblivion where you belong -