CRYING WOLF IN THE WASTELANDS OF MAMMON
By Dr. Michael W. Fox*
“Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it”. ---Henry David Thoreau
On May 3rd 2012, disregarding public appeals to veto a line item creating a new wolf hunting and trapping season, Governor Mark Dayton signed an omnibus bill increasing fees for anglers and hunters, and the slaughter of wolves in Minnesota as a ‘trophy’ animal. The following is a chronology of events leading up to this tragic end for wolves in this state.
THE ENDANGERED SPECIES STATUS OF MINNESOTA’S WOLVES IS ENDANGERED
This chronological account of the politics and fate of the Great Lakes Grey wolf in Minnesota serves to illustrate how a minority of vested interests at the state level can over-ride the democratic process and the will of the people. I am qualified and motivated to speak out on behalf of the North American wolf, having raised them as cubs and studied their behavior, development and communication, authoring the best selling book The Soul of the Wolf . Regardless of the concerted public education and conservation efforts over the past several decades in which I participated, the wolf continues to be subjected to continued persecution and even betrayal by state and federal authorities who voice empty rhetoric of conservation but practice wolf management as exploitation and extermination by any and all means cruel and foul.
I sent the following Letter to the Editor, the Star Tribune (in Minneapolis, MN) on Nov 19th, 2010 (which was not published).
“Re; Question of wolves is again at our door (Nov 17th). Thanks to Ms. Giese and the Center for Biological Diversity for this article pointing out that a handful of Minnesotans want to take away the legal protection of the Federal Endangered Species Act from the Great Lakes wolves.
This is surely outrageous to most reasonable, if not also caring people, since the protection of the wolf by our government was a democratically agreed upon decision. For the U.S. government (Fish and Wildlife Service) to support these vested interests by taking the indigenous wolves off the protected species list would be anti-democratic at best; and closer to the kind of ecological anarchy with a bio-warfare mentality that is already casting a long shadow across the beginning of this century”.
As Ms. Giese points out, there are many ways of dealing with wolf-human conflicts without having to resort to removing the wolves’ legal protections, which will mean escalated killing, and then wolf fur will back in fashionable vengeance to once again offend the public eye”.
I was not very surprised to subsequently read in the Nov. 20th Star Tribune a rebuttal to lawyer-conservationist Gies’ article, entitled “Setting the record straight on wolves” from Mary Oritz, Director of the International Wolf Center, (IWC) founded by Dr. David Mech (who debated me at a public meeting convened by the Wild Canid Research & Survival Center some years ago in St. Louis over his opposition to ever putting the North American Timber Wolf on the Endangered Species list). The current IWC executive director Mary Oritz endorses the de-listing of the Eastern Gray Timber wolf from the Endangered Species Act protections in favor of MDNR (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) management which she says “would continue to protect wolves for at least five years after federal delisting”. (These 5-years of ‘protection’, implying no hunting or commercial trapping was subsequently dropped, see below). According to Minnesotan Karlyn Atkinson Berg of HOWL (Help Our Wolves Live), there is nothing written to prevent the hunting of wolves during this time period, and that reporter Doug Smith was on the mark when he told me that “a limited season for hunting wolves will come after that time.”
I was shocked that in this Nov 20, 2010 Star Tribune article Ms. Oritz and the International Wolf Center dismissed the parvovirus threat to wolf populations and packs. This is one of several disease transmitted by infected free-roaming and feral dogs and possibly cats, which the MDNR needs to address, along with diseases transmitted by livestock to deer and other wild herbivores. As a veterinarian I am familiar with the diseases domestic animals transmit to wildlife for which wildlife are often exterminated for fear of them re-infecting livestock.
This is a vicious circle indeed, which Ms.Oritz would see as a management issue rather than as an ethical dilemma because it is almost always resolved by extermination. Putting out birth-control-drug- laced baits is an alternative population management tool, but fraught with some ecological, non-target animal, and target-animal health and behavioral consequences with possible secondary effects on pack dynamics and integrity.
The widespread broadcasting of bait containing genetically engineered live rabies virus to ostensibly stop the spread of rabies in various wild carnivore populations across the U.S. warrants some basic research safety determinations because of non-target species infection, and possible viral recombination and mutation. This could lead to this virus being spread without animals having to be bitten by a rabid animal.
WOLF NUMBERS QUESTIONABLE
Ms. Oritz’s contention that “The court rulings against federal wolf delisting were based on legal technicalities, not biological considerations” is based on her assumption that having an estimated 4,000 wolves in the entire states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan is way above the “officially approved biological recovery level in 1978.” Considering the numbers of managed deer herds that are harvested by hunters in these states, it is little wonder that hunter-displaced wolves might come to prey on cattle and other livestock.
In the opening weekend for firearms hunters of Minnesota’s deer season in 2010, the Star Tribune reported the killing of 90,000 Whitetail deer, (Nov 10th, 2010) with the final 2010 season total legal “harvest” of 207,000 deer by nearly half a million Minnesota hunters (Star Tribune, Oct 30th 2011). The Star Tribune Outdoors reporter of these figures, Doug Smith, told me that there would be an additional deer killing by bow hunters totaling an additional 20,000 deer, based on figures for 2009. Against a total population estimate of 1 million deer, killing almost a quarter of the population annually may be a non-sustainable harvest, if not a non-sustainable harvest, and is certainly a direct assault on the wolf’s primary food source.
With chronic wasting disease being identified in this population of some 1 million Whitetail deer in January 2011 by the Minnesota DNR, (contracted from infected, captive elk that also put moose at risk from this prion-caused brain disease, but not transmissible to cattle or humans), the numbers of deer killed annually by hunters could put the wolf population at risk from starvation.
The bald eagle and other raptors are endangered by hunters in this and other states where lead has not been outlawed in their ammunition. According to the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine Raptor Center, lead from ammunition in white tailed deer carcasses and gut piles is a major source of lead poisoning in the 100-plus poisoned bald eagles treated at this Center in 2011. ( Amber Burnette, Star Tribune, Nov5th 2011). The poisoning of other scavengers, foxes, crows and other wildlife must therefore be considerable. According to a 1999 report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 1,184,202 Kg of lead shot stays on the ground annually from hunting and shooting ranges. This gets into the soil and vegetation and may harm deer reproduction, immune system/disease resistance. How many deer that survive being shot suffer chronic lead poisoning is another question, some 22% of processed deer having lead bullet fragments in their bodies, (Doug Smith, Star Tribune June 4, 2008).
Trapping license buyers in Minnesota numbered some 5,000 in 2009, down from 25,000 in 1980, according to reporter Bill Klein (Star Tribune, Jan 19, 2011), foot traps being set for muskrats, beavers, badgers, mink and otter, and snare traps for fox and coyote. In this harvesting of the “soft gold” of the forest fur-bearers, wolves also fall victim to baited traps, another neglected mortality and suffering issue for this poorly managed species.
I would say let the wolves assume a greater role in deer-herd ‘management’, and let the wild forests return and heal. Cut back the hunters first before the old growth trees, and let the wolves remain on the Endangered Species list because they are under constant threat of human encroachment, conflict and retaliation. It is time for rapprochement, for more ‘biophilia’ to quote Harvard biologist-conservationist Prof. E. O. Wilson, and an end to biological warfare which is surely not justified when there are only 4,000 wolves in these three states, a number which some wolf biologists and conservationists believe to be highly questionable. The total number of wolves that have been shot, snared, trapped, poisoned and even raised in small cages for the fur and exotic pet markets over the years in Minnesota must be in the hundreds of thousands. Many more suffer and die from natural and indirect human causes such as disease, starvation and hunting injuries.
Ms. Berg with HOWL, lamenting the lack of public education about the wolf to raise awareness and appreciation of the environmental values of this species, a primary, natural and superior wildlife and ecosystem manager to any DNR writes to me that “If the public knew how poorly population counts were taken, that wolf mortality is under estimated and is even missing from the calculations here, they would know the number is questionable. In Minnesota (the worst offender) population counts are based upon "opinion surveys", peripheral information from studies of other species, and ancient extrapolations; hence little science is being used to come up with these numbers.”
MANAGED SPORT HUNTING OF WOLVES
President Barrack Obama’s Interior secretary, Ken Salazar pushed for delisting the Western or Rocky Mountain Grey wolf, and in 2009, before a successful injunction to stop the slaughter by reinstating the wolf on the Endangered Species list, 10,000 hunting licenses were sold in Idaho, and in Montana hunters killed nearly all of the wolves in one of the most studied packs in Yellowstone National Wildlife Park
It was the Minnesota DNR that was the first to petition the U.S. government to de-list the Eastern Gray Timber wolf in March 2010 (See Federal Register Vol.75, No.177, Tuesday, Sept 14, 2010/Proposed Rules, p 55730-55735), this state being the core domain of this species. In April the Wisconsin DNR followed suit, and then in May the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, representing five other organizations, requested that the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes area be removed from the list of endangered and threatened species under the Act. In June the Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association joined forces in a similar petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Of the three states involved, the Minnesota DNR management plans are the worst since they do not mandate any effective, humane management practices; permit the killing of wolves in the act of “stalking” livestock on private property, and has a $150 bounty for killing wolves in depredation control areas. The superior Michigan DNR management plan includes public education and helping ranchers implement appropriate husbandry practices, while Wisconsin DNR states that it “will focus on prevention and mitigation rather than wolf removal. Public education and proactive measures to reduce wolf predation are non existent in the Minnesota DNR management plan, a point emphasized in the Nov 15th 2010 Comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife by Washington DC based Defenders of Wildlife. But this organization clearly contradicts its own name by supporting the de-listing of the Eastern Gray Timber wolf from the Endangered Species Act to permit killing as a management tool and inevitably wolf hunting and trapping.
The relentless persecution of the North American wolf and other wild carnivores---from the California cougar and the Florida panther to the Black footed ferret, wily Coyote and Grizzly and Brown bears by the livestock industry has been paid for by the public for decades. State and federal governments have waged biological warfare on these species in total disregard for the suffering and devastating ecological consequences of their anarchy. Currently, farmers and ranchers are compensated from the public coffers for livestock lost to wolves but not for losses from coyotes, weather or disease, so what’s the beef?
Cattle ranchers grazing their animals almost for free on our public lands even have the Bureau of Land Management eliminate competing wild mustangs from the range, while entire Prairie dog colonies are sucked out by giant vacuum cleaners.
The shooting, trapping, snaring, clubbing, poisoning, den-bombing, cyanide-gunning and hunting-dog assisted killing of wild carnivores are outmoded wildlife management practices devoid of either scientific credibility or bioethical validity. The adoption of appropriate, non-lethal predation-minimizing farmed animal husbandry practices by farmers and ranchers, whose free-range animals may be at risk, should be mandatory: And only when in place should there be any compensation for wildlife pathologist- certified livestock losses due to predation.
The vast majority of Americans who supported the Endangered Species Act for the protection of wolves and other dwindling species should not be betrayed by their government choosing to aid and abet continued ecological anarchy by a few who have no regard for all that is wild and part of the spirit of North America, except as a profitable resource in the service of Mammon. A sustainable economy and the rule of law, especially as they pertain to eco-justice and the inherent value of wolves and all living beings, demand the full support of an informed citizenry and responsible government.
Neither congress nor the Obama administration should permit the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service to pander to those state interests bent on having Canis lupus de-listed as an endangered species because it will mean redoubled persecution, killing for sport, and, inevitably, more wolves being trapped and poisoned. The ethical, caring majority of U.S. citizens who continue to support the protection of endangered species and the conservation, restoration and preservation (CPR) of their habitats should not be betrayed. Turning wolf management over to the states is to ultimately sell out to the Mammonites who seek to profit from regulated wolf killing by ‘recreational’ hunters.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
More than one hunter has said to me “We have to shoot them to save them.” I see this rationalization as a recently adopted justification derived from the quasi-science of wildlife management as practiced by most state Departments of Natural Resources. This essentially entails the manipulation of ecosystems to expedite the profitable farming and harvesting of lumber, deer, wolves and other wildlife and natural products. What indeed is wild when up to 650,000 deer hunters go onto state and federal lands during the annual November harvesting in Minnesota alone? This segment of society supports highly lucrative outdoors equipment and hunting supply industry that has a vested interest in seeing wolves hunted once more, and that there are plenty of deer for license paying consumers to go out and kill especially when wolf numbers are kept low. Safari trophy hunters tell me in one voice “Wildlife must pay its own way.”
There are alternatives and choices to be made, regardless of the atavistic imperatives and gratification of being a hunter. Seeing beyond the strength of the wolf being the strength of the pack, the strength of the pack is the strength of the gene pool and the ecosystem. Our collective will to avoid harming and injuring and practice CPR, locally as well as globally---Conservation, Preservation and Restoration---is what is now called for, particularly with the consequences of climate change. Specifically in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and the Western Great Lakes region, the ecological role of the wolf, properly utilized, would greatly benefit the deer population, forest vegetation and natural biodiversity, and make many current ‘management’ practices, including having to kill in order to save, redundant. Minnesota’s proposal for a $150.00 bounty on all wolves killed in designated ‘depredation control’ areas is a step back in time, inviting a virtual slaughter of wolves in other areas since kill-locations can be easily fudged.
It is noteworthy that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, while soliciting public comment on the proposed de-listing of the wolf in the Federal Register on Sept 14, 2010 with a submission deadline of Nov 15, 2010, had already struck a deal to hand over wolf management to the states and no longer provide federal protection. That is was already a done deal that was made public less than three weeks after this submission deadline makes a mockery of due process. An AP news story released on Dec 11 2010 (Mining Journal, Marquette) by environmental reporter John Flesher revealed that:
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will release a proposal by April for handing management of the region's wolves to state wildlife agencies in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and hopes to make a final decision by the end of 2011, regional spokeswoman Georgia Parham said.”--- 'Wolves shouldn't be stripped of protection before achieving natural recovery,' Adkins Giese said. But Thomas Strickland, the Interior Department's Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said this week the agency remains convinced that Great Lakes wolves are no longer endangered”.
'The recovery of the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes is a remarkable success story,' Strickland wrote in a letter to Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
“Klobuchar said this month she would introduce legislation 'to help speed up' the wolf's removal from the list, saying its spread was 'threatening the citizens of my state as well as our livestock and hunting industries.'
Politicians like Klobuchar may win votes for re-election on the backs of wolves and whatever and whomever may further their “public interest” agendas, ambitions and promises. Follow the money trail of Mammonite justification for the commercial, state-monopoly operated, licensed slaughter of wolves by registered, fee- paying hunters and trappers. Increasing state revenues in these hard economic times for such urgent and neglected societal issues as public health, education, child welfare, unemployment, rising elder-care, among other serious civil society concerns, by whatever legal means, must have some ethical boundaries and moral guidelines. Providing funds from the state-run wolf-harvesting revenues for state and university wolf biology and management research programs will be ‘feel good’ public relations, and keep another little vested interest group in business that did little to stop the federal government from de-listing the western and now the Eastern Gray Timber wolf.
It is doubtful that the Minnesota DNR will be able to effectively manage the wolf once the species is de-listed, because, as reporter Brad Schrade writes, “While Minnesota is buying land for conservation efforts around the state, officials don’t have enough money to properly maintain the forests, wildlife areas and other resources the state already controls, according to a report released---by the Department of Natural resources.” (Star Tribune, Jan 12, 2011). Talk of raising fishing and hunting license fees, and getting outdoor-recreation, including hunting-encouraging ‘educational’ programs into schools to stem the current decline in people applying for licenses, plus a $6.2 billion budget hole reflect a serious fiscal crisis. This is further compounded by administrative and political tangles, as in the prioritization of outdoor project funding from the $85 million annual Legacy Amendment; and with the DNR’s two separate water quality authorities, namely the Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Pollution Control Agency.
I was encouraged that the new DNR Commissioner for Minnesota, Tom Landwher had said that ‘People don’t have the right to affect people down stream.” (Star Tribune, Jan 9, 2011). But he subsequently demolished all hope I might have felt for the last of Minnesota’s wild when he declared, in reference to radio-collared and red-flagged bears used in humane biology conservation research “Even in the name of research, individuals or groups shouldn’t be allowed to preempt legal harvest.” One of these bears was killed in 2010 by a 12 year old girl out hunting with her father, some 11 bears being killed that year including as many as 9 DNR study bears. (Star Tribune, March 1, 2011)..
An ethical boundary was established when the wolf was recognized, after much public outcry backed by ethics and sound science, by the U.S. government as an endangered species. The fact that some wolf populations have ‘recovered’ should not mean a reversal in our ethics with a regression to ‘managed’ wolf hunting and trapping---including killing wolves without a permit if they happen on to private land---which caused the species much suffering and near-extinction only a generation ago.
Such a regression would be an anti-democratic action by those states seeking autonomy from federal law and oversight, the de-listing of the wolf and its profitable management and harvesting being symptomatic of the erosion of democracy and civil society initiative in the U.S..
Minnesota’s “Big Picture Environmentalist” Greg Breining points to the revenues from legal wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana, writing that the “sale of tags for first ever sporting seasons on wolves in 2009 generated $326,000 for Montana’s game agency and $423,000 in Idaho. ---Unfortunately the exercise was short-lived, as yet another lawsuit put the western wolf back on the endangered species list.” (Star Tribune, “The wolf survives (IN NUMBERS STRONG ENOUGH TO BE HUNTED)” Jan 2, 2011, Opinion Exchange.)
The Star Tribune’s decision to publish Greg Breining’s ‘Opinion Exchange’ article advocating the hunting of wolves in Minnesota (StarTrib Jan 2, 2011)--- as the “best protection” for the species, and as a future source of revenue for the state--- without a counter-point response of comparable length, is questionable journalism: and highly offensive to many readers.
Publishing his earlier article, “The Big Picture Environmentalist” (StarTrib Sept 14, 2010), ---in which he unconditionally endorses genetically engineered crops and dismisses organic farming as a “minitrend at best,” --- would seem to confirm editorial bias to influence public opinion in the absence of fair exchange of views in this newspaper. When local and regional newspapers and other media outlets pander to vested interests, ---notably agribusiness and processed food industries, mining, agri-forestry, agri-biotechnology, hunting and trapping in Minnesota,--- possibly seeing this as a way to stay in business, the erosion of civil society intensifies and the anarchism of vested interests prevails.
Reporter Doug Smith’s lead article “More wolves attacking pets” in the Star Tribune on Feb 24, 2011 was clearly a stepping up of anti-wolf sentiment as a prelude to state control and managed killing following the federal government’s decision to no longer give the wolf any legal protection. He cited federal officials’ records of 15 dogs being killed in Minnesota by wolves in 2010 and in that same year a verified 130 complaints by livestock and poultry farmers; 192 ‘problem wolves’ being trapped by U.S. Dept of Agriculture Wildlife Service contracted trappers, and MN state dept of Agriculture paying about $96,000 to people who lost livestock to wolves. A Wisconsin DNR official told reporter Smith that “human-wolf conflicts are due to a rise in the wolf population coupled with the lack of state authority to remove problem wolves.” With a sub-title to his article “Last wolf survey put Minnesota population as high as 3,500”, Smith notes that Dan Stark with the Minnesota DNR does not believe that the state’s wolf population is skyrocketing but that “You’ll see slight fluctuations from year to year.” The state’s proposed wolf management plan would allow livestock and pet owners to shoot wolves in certain situations to protect their animals which they cannot as long as the wolf remains under federal protection.
So it was no surprise to see Doug Smith’s note in this same newspaper on March 1st that a bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress by three Minnesota representatives---Reps. John Kline, R-MN, Collin Peterson, D-MN & Chip Cravaack, R-MN to remove wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act “because of all the killings by an ever expanding and increasingly dangerous wolf population.” The federal budget wrangling in Congress during the spring of 2011 included an amendment to support the resumption of wolf-killing in Montana, but upset the Minnesota DNR’s wolf management program by wiping out U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for the state’s 10 official trappers. Funding for this $727,000 program, which also pays for wolf-killing in Wisconsin and Michigan, was cut March 18th in a continuing resolution passed by Congress to fund the government through April 8th.
Actually after the severe winter of 2010- 2011 when more deer than usual died of starvation, the wolf cubs born in the spring of 2011 may suffer starvation later in the fall and next winter if the MN DNR does not prohibit the shooting of does. Slightly less than the targeted 900 White tailed deer were shot as an emergency measure that same winter in order to determine the incidence of chronic wasting disease, diagnosed in one deer shot earlier in-season by a licensed hunter. This disease has been confirmed on four deer and elk farms in Minnesota since 2002, all animals being destroyed by the DNR, and, according to reporter Dog Smith, there are some 583 deer and elk farms in the state with a total of about 15,000 animals. (Star Tribune, March 13, 2011 p.C16).Trophy bulls are sold to breeders and ‘canned hunt’ operators, and antlers to the Far East.
On July 20th, 2011, I sent the following letter to the Star Tribune following an article in that paper entitled “Budget deal would open door to wolf hunting” (StarTrib July 20/11):
Image conscious Minnesotans must surely be embarrassed knowing that other states with a more accommodating if not civilized attitude toward wildlife will read that their Governor and Republican dominated state legislature included language in a bill as part of the new budget deal to enrich the state coffers by killing wolves. This bill eradicates the earlier 5 year moratorium on wolf killing once the Federal government de-lists the Eastern Gray timber wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act. The income generated from selling 100,000 hunter permits to shoot any of the estimated 3,000 wolves in Minnesota, with an expected killing of 700 during the season, overlooks the many who will suffer crippling injuries and not be killed instantly, and the many others who will suffer the loss of mates, parents and siblings. The social integrity of packs disrupted by random slaughter will reduce the survivability of their members. Image conscious or not, all Minnesotans should be outraged and oppose this legislative initiative made during a fiscal crisis that condones the return of wolf exploitation and suffering primarily as a way to generate more state income. Shame on all involved
As of January 27, 2012, following the lobbying of various individuals and organizations with a vested interest and backed by state Department of Natural Resources statistics, the Gray wolf will no longer be protected under federal law as an endangered species in Minnesota. The continued demonization, betrayal and cruel exploitation of a highly evolved, endangered species are a sad indicator of America’s cultural decline in ethics and compassion. On the Winter Sosltice, Dec 21, 2011, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, who had been urging the Dept of the Interior to de-list the gray wolf of her state, gave a smiling news media statement that Congress had taken action to take the Great Lakes Gray wolf off the endangered species list, parroting state wildlife statements that there are 4,000 wolves in Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin, and that’s too many and they are killing livestock and even pets. Minnesota State DNR wolf biologist Dan Stark attributes such predation as being due to the diseases and hard winters reducing the deer population, the wolves’ primary food source (Star Tribune, ‘Gray wolf protection ending’ Dec 22, 2011, no mention being made of how many are killed by humans). Reportedly, the state will compensate ‘certified’ trappers $150.00 per pelt for problem wolves, and “allows farmers and others to shoot or trap wolves that are a threat to property.” In this news article, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wolf ecologist David Mech, based in Ely MN, sates “It’s tough” to find, shoot or trap wolves, his crew catching 18 wolves during the past summer, no doubt some of the 200 wolves trapped annually for preying on domestic animals in Minnesota by federally contracted wildlife employees. Nick Wognum, writing in The Ely Echo, Dec 24, 2011, states: “Dave Mech, senior research scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey, ( who has testified that wolves do not take ‘trophy’ deer away from hunters but rather, based on the thousands of in-field autopsies he has conducted, most of the wolf-killed deer are diseased or injured), said the timing of the wolf hunting season, provisionally set for late November through early January, after the end of the firearms deer season, will not likely impact wolves and pups. "We conducted studies in the 1970s where we translocated wolf pups as young as four months old," said Mech. "Those animals did not have the benefit of being raised by parents and they all did well, they survived. "Mech said a wolf's ability to survive is innate and not taught by parents, similar to a domestic cat or dog killing a mouse or rabbit. Asked if he had concerns on the wolf population with a hunting season, Mech said, "No, none."
As a wolf ethologist who has studied their development and social organization I find Mech’s comments misleading and disturbing, as well as his apparent disregard for the social and emotional bonds and dynamics of the wolf pack as an extended nuclear family. Four-month old wolves still have their milk teeth, they are physically immature with extremely limited hunting speed and skill, and could easily fall prey to larger predators. Furthermore, they are not so innately programmed when it comes to killing large prey like deer and moose, which takes much learning through observation and pack collaboration and highly evolved inter-communication. I question the veracity of these alleged statements by David Mech, with whom I flew appreciatively in his government plane over the Grey wolf habitat he was studying, if not aspiring to manage, three decades ago.
The proposed hunting season for wolves coincides not with the birth of cubs but with the biologically and socially critical early courtship phase of the wolf’s breeding season, culminating in February according to the good biological and ecological research of Dr. Mech, (and possibly earlier with climate change). Hunting and trapping wolves during this time could seriously disrupt the natural reproductive controls of wolf packs where it is scientifically established that alpha females, usually selecting an alpha male, prevent subordinate females from breeding. The killing with guns, and either clubbing, stabbing, stomping or shooting after trapping, or injuring any of these alpha animals, could affect pack dynamics and disrupt these natural reproductive controls. Further complications could result from more vulnerable, mate-seeking males or females being killed, the DNR having no way to set gender-quotas to minimize harmful consequences to pack viability.
But MN DNR Chief Landwehr says “It’s resilient”, and Dan Stark sees a lottery system for giving out hunting licenses as helping create a “hunting conservation aesthetic” which would elevate the wolf to the status of a trophy animal, Josephine Marcotty reports (Star Tribune Jan 7 2012.) The title of her article is telling: “A Hunt to Save the Wolf”, implying that when the Gray wolf is officially de-listed and is no longer a species protected from human predation, the Minnesota DNR will save it from those who would like to exterminate it, stating euphemistically that “wildlife officials---want the wolf to have its own hunting season”, an Orwellianism of newspeak and doublethink. She cites the co-founder (with Mech) of the Ely MN international Wolf Center, Nancy Gibson, who says, with no regard for the above concerns or for the terrible suffering of wolves caught in steel-jaw traps---which, in bad weather, when trappers cannot get out to check their trap-lines, will chew off their limbs to get free, or die of shock stress and hypothermia---“I’m proud of Minnesota.” While the DNR is suggesting an initial killing of 400 wolves, deer hunters are calling for 750, a number they will seek to justify now that the DNR has too drastically reduced the deer population. MN DNR Wolf biologist Dan Stark notes that “in Canada and Alaska wolves can survive a 20-30% annual mortality rate” (Star Tribune Jan 7, 2012). Survive as a species, but at what cost to them, to the integrity of family-pack and inter-pack harmony?
When ecosystems are not managed biologically but economically to generate revenues by favoring preferred species not categorized as “vermin”, and by selling permits to hunters for harvesting selected species rather than placing the wolf as the apex-predator and prime manager of deer herds, we have the equivalent of a wildlife farm: and a potentially unhealthy ecosystem. With no core wolf-conservation zones in the state that are effectively policed by the DNR to prevent all deer and wolf killings, Minnesota and other wolf-inhabited states will remain in the dark ages of ‘regulated’ wildlife farming and harvesting practices and feel-good exploitation policies that are lacking in sound science and bioethics because they are controlled by vested financial, professional, and morally questionable recreational and related commercial interests.
Wildlife managers may seek to disparage the projected emotional bond people have with wolves as sentimentalism, but for many, this concern is based on their deep appreciation for their dogs, and by extension, for their dog’s primary ancestor, the wolf. It is relevant that science has established a genetic connection between the wolf and the domesticated dog, companion animal, guide, healer and soul-mate of millions of people around the world. The process of domestication has not changed the inherent nature of most dogs to make them in any way different in kind, emotionally and cognitively, except to some minor degree, from wolves. Many other people for different reasons are calling for an end to the continued exploitation and persecution of the wolf, and to the exploitative farming and harvesting of non-domesticated animals under the guise of wildlife management by state and federal authorities which harms ecosystems and species. They are also calling for an end to encroaching farming practices that reduce biodiversity and wildlife habitat.
Does this legalization of a hunting season for wolves in Minnesota reflect the democratic consensus of tax-paying Minnesotans, or is a restraining order and referendum called for? As Henry David Thoreau advised, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
I urge all concerned citizens to contact their state representatives in Congress to let their voice of opposition to the de-listing of the Eastern Gray Timber wolf be heard by all who are responsible for the integrity and continued enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, and do not undermine its intent as an enduring legacy for this nation to embrace as a significant advance in civilization.
Recognizing the sanctity of all species and their habitats before our own wants and desires is the antithesis of the culture of Mammon: It is enlightened self-interest; wisdom’s gift of altruism; the essence of true democracy of spirit that is now being recognized as the key to a sustainable and socially just economy.Representatives John Kline, MN (R), Rep. Collin Peterson, MN (D), Rep. Chip Cravaack, MN (R ), Michele Bachmann, MN (R) were instrumental in seeking Congressional the de-listing of the Great lakes Grey wolf, backed by Bills from the state legislature: Bill Number: SF 79/HF 154 Bill Authors in Senate: Ingebrigtsen ; Carlson ; Pederson ; Hoffman ; Gazelka Bill Authors in House: Cornish ; Rukavina ; Dill ; Anzelc ; Fabian ; Anderson, B.
At the February 2012 banquet sponsored by the state’s leading hunting lobby groups, Sen. Amy Klobuchar stated that since the governor starts the pheasant opener, maybe she could have the wolf opener since “I worked so hard on the wolf delisting.” (Star Tribune, Outdoors, Feb 26, 2012).
A bill passed unanimously by the MN State Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on March 6, 2012 gave broad latitude to the DNR in setting the number of permits available to hunters, and the number of wolves killed in a proposed two seasons. One season would begin with the November firearms deer opener, while a second would be held in December, possibly concurrent with a trapping season.
I must add a note about the suffering of hundreds of thousands of captive, cage-crazed carnivores being raised for their fur in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the nation’s top producer of mink This aspect of wildlife farming has no place in a civilized society, nor do the commercial puppy mills in Minnesota, one of the top ten states producing pure- breed dogs under conditions similar to those of the farmed fox and mink.(For details visit www.drfoxvet.com/info/)
The following letter for concerned citizens to sign was posted in April 2012 at www.howlingforwolves.org, coupled with appeals on radio and television. This letter highlights additional wolf ecology details that clearly indicate there can be no scientific basis for justifying the passage of legislation to allow wolf hunting and trapping to be resumed in the state of Minnesota:
Dear Governor Dayton,
Please stop the Minnesota wolf hunting and trapping bills this legislative session, and reaffirm the Minnesota Wolf Management Plan of 2000. For the past 40 years, Minnesota has protected its wolf population from the fate of near extinction, and now we are on the precipice of wasting all of that work and care.
The original MN Wolf Management plan set forth a five-year waiting period after MN wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List (ESL) before any trapping and hunting be proposed. This plan called for an up-to-date and accurate population survey, scientific data collection and full public comment before any hunt be considered. Even though we do not know the current condition and numbers of our wolves, a hunting and trapping bill is on the verge of becoming law when they were just delisted in January 2012.
In spite of its delisting , the gray wolf population can be very volatile, as was recently discovered in Yellowstone. Wolves have very high rates of starvation and at least half of newborn wolf pups die before age six months and over one-third of adult wolves die of starvation each year. Wolves also control their own numbers naturally. In spite of what some of our state legislators believe, our state's wolves do not need to be culled. In Northern MN, where 165,000 cattle graze, there were 91 verified kills by wolves last year. Our state must focus its money and time to assist farmers with livestock predation by wolves and a hunt has never been to stop predation by wolves on livestock (unless you wipe them out).
Trapping will result in selling wild wolf fur and this will likely increase the illegal poaching already occurring. Thus, even more wolves will be killed outside of the defined hunt. The traps are leg-hold traps which cause excessive suffering to the trapped wolf (and other animals caught) and to members of its small pack.
Though the number of wolves in 2007-2008, was estimated nearly the same as in 2003, the average pack size decreased. This may be an early sign that wolves are on the same downward trend as moose. The last survey of MN wolves occurred when we had double the number of moose we have now.
You may wonder why all of the fuss to keep wolves. Wolves work to maintain healthy forests and decrease excessive grazing of young trees along rivers and streams. Since wolves improve vegetation; fish and birds benefit. Wolves control deer Chronic Wasting Disease and even coyotes. A healthy wilderness depends on a healthy wolf population.
I believe, as do most Minnesotans, that our state's natural resources are one of the key cornerstones of our state's identity. To suddenly endanger this valuable resource without proper due diligence would be to shrug off the responsibility that was given to us through the wolf's delisting. We and the DNR have never been here before. Never has a MN animal been removed from the ESL and immediately hunted. Minnesotans are proud of their wolves. Our original wolf population was not eradicated as in the other lower 48 states. Let's be a great example to the rest of the country and show that our wolves will never go back on the Endangered Species List and that we can have them as our natural resource and as our wilderness ally. I insist that you stop the MN wolf hunting and trapping seasons bill and keep the original Wolf Management Plan of 2000 intact with the five year wait for a public take proposal