Its sad, but the only thing that is going to turnaround the decline in our ungulate herds is the proper management of the wolf. I hunted unit 10 from the early 80's up through late 90's, and it has been devastated. Went from almost a sure thing that you were going to harvest your elk, deer and bear to lets go listen to the howls of the wolf packs. The bulls quit bugling, as they attracted the wolves. Unfortunately the State of Washington is now just reaping the disaster of the Rocky Mountain Wolf re-integration plan, we have went from 1 pack to 13 confirmed packs (which means there are probably 4-5 more easily) in just over 2 years. There have always been a few wolves, but it has exploded exponentially over the last 2 years and will continue as they are still protected in this "blue" state. We have seen cattle, dogs, and sheep depredation occurring way too often already. I came face to face with 2 in a prime deer area and listened while a pack (lookout pack) took down a doe. That right there will make your hair stand up and blood boil. I sit on the North Cascades Elk Management group along with the State's Game Management Advisory Council, and its amazing to me how the politicians refuse to learn from other States lessons learned. (Did not want to say mistakes). You would think after the massacre of the ungulate herds in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, that they would have decided on a more conservative Wolf Management plan but they let the input from the Pro-Wolf lobby override common sense. The Fed's said we should have a minimum of 10 breeding pairs prior to invoking management (hunting), however the State decided on a 15 breeding pair threshold with the pairs being evenly dispersed around the State. We have 13 already, however the majority are in just one region (NE). Sorry for the rant but this is going to get very ugly here before eyes are opened in our State. Maybe the loss of income from hunting sales as the other states have seen might, but by then the great herds of elk we love will be decimated.
Mat you are absolutely correct my house sits on a bench above the valley where the deer have fawns and the bears hunt them like bird dogs on pheasants.
It's a combination of wolves killing the adult elk. As well as running them in the winter which leads to very low recruitment numbers. The bears and cats as you say.
A large factor is flat out mismanagement by our FWP. Our herds were at all time highs before they crashed and FWP was riding the wave.
The valley that I live in you could shoot 6 archery deer and rifle hunters could shoot two. This was over the counter no questions asked. About 5 years ago I started talking to the biologists saying "hey I live here I hunt /scout 200 days a year and this population is crashing". I was dismissed out of hand.
Well two years ago we went from unlimited over the counter doe tags (1 per hunter unless archery) too zero doe tags so I guess there might have been a problem - but what do I know.
Same thing with the bitterroot elk herd. All time lows right now. But 5 years ago they were holding special cow hunts to reduce agricultural impacts.
But the fact of the matter is the wolf is the only thing that changed in the equation.
Most of the folks that are most in favor of restoring the wolves don't even live in the affected areas. Many are city-dwelling preservationists (not conservationists) who do not understand the need to keep these predator populations in check. This is a problem across the country wherever wolves have been "restored".
We had a first ever wolf attack in MN last year (16 year old boy). The wolf was injured so no one really said anything but once they start attacking pets and people then many will realize they are not all cute and cuddly.
Funny how deer were all cute and harmless like on Bambi but now most people in the suburbs with gardens hate them. A gal on the radio yesterday was going off on goose poop and attacks in her neighborhood. She wants them all dead now!
Yeah, me too, I pretty much knew we would as we spent the extra $$ to draw a Gen tag. on a whim I put in for Arizona elk after hunting Unit 27 last year and drew another non res bull tag back to back years- sweet!
Last years bull- was planning on taking my recurve but had family problems all summer and ended up taking the compound (apologies for the crummy pic; pouring rain, solo and steep)