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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Wolf study strains MSU ties with wildlife agency

ENDANGERED SPECIES -- An official with the state's wildlife agency has told Montana State University’s president that cooperation between the two entities could end due to one of the school’s scientists challenging the agency’s conclusions on how significantly a proposed wolf hunt would reduce wolf populations.

Read on to see what the Bozeman Daily Chronicle found through a public records request.

Dave Risley is the Helena-based administrator of the fish and wildlife division for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He wrote an Oct. 14 letter to MSU President Waded Cruzado saying six decades of cooperation was in jeopardy because of conflict over several years with MSU elk and wolf scientist Scott Creel.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle obtained a copy of the letter with a public records request, as well as Cruzado’s Nov. 22 letter in response.

"By writing this letter, we hope to make you aware of this situation before the only recourse is to permanently and completely dissolve the financial and intellectual relationship between FWP and MSU," Risley wrote.

Cruzado responded by offering to hold a one-day workshop involving a facilitator, MSU faculty and administrators, and Fish and Wildlife staff.

"Jointly, we could develop a stronger relationship based on better understanding of the objectives and constraints under which FWP operates," Cruzado wrote, "as well as a better understanding of the role of academic scientists at a land-grant university."

State and federal wildlife managers say 30 percent of a wolf population can be killed and it still will bounce back the following year.

But Creel and MSU colleague Jay Rotella wrote a study published online by the Public Library of Science on Sept. 29 saying only 22 percent of a wolf population can be killed if the state hopes to have a sustainable wolf population.

"If an administrator disagrees with scientific results," said Marvin Lansverk, MSU Faculty Senate chair, "I think it would be inappropriate and detrimental to good science and the public interest to try to intervene or suppress publication of research or to put pressure on an institution to stop doing what universities do. I hope that’s not what FWP is trying to do."

Risley said his letter was not intended to threaten the university. But he said he got no response to a previous letter of complaint to Creel’s department.

He said he was pleased with Cruzado’s letter and confident "we can put this behind us and move forward."

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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