The newest debate on the fate of America’s wolves comes in the form of a letter…”The 18 November (2015) letter, sent to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), is intended to support the federal government’s position that wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan are fully recovered and that states should now manage the species.” Science Insider
The letter from 26 scientists states that wolves have recovered enough in the Great Lakes region and do not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Recovery of wolves has made great strides over the last 4 decades in the region with a population of over 3,700 wolves.
That is until 2011 when wolves were officially delisted in the Great Lakes and states like Wisconsin rushed to enact emergncy leiglation that mandated a wolf hunt… “Department authority. If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. In regulating wolf hunting and trapping, the department may limit the number of wolf hunters and trappers and the number of wolves that may be taken by issuing wolf harvesting licenses.” 2011 WISCONSIN ACT 169
States caved in to the pressure from sportsman and agricultural special interest groups. Wolf recovery ended and trophy hunting of wolves began.
Wisconsin was the worst, even allowing the use of dogs to track and trail wolves proving it cannot be trusted to protect an endangered species… “Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.”” Fact Sheet: Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.”
Wisconsin went as far as to stack wolf management in favor of hunting interests.
The majority of the seats on Wisconsin’s Wolf Advisory Committee consisted of hunt clubs. (WI Bear Hunters Association and WI Bow Hunters Association to name a few).
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp admitted that wolf advocacy groups were booted… “Stepp confirmed what her critics have alleged: that wolf hunting opponents were by and large kicked off the committee…When we’re charged to manage and to implement a hunt, coming in and telling us, ‘Don’t hunt wolves,’ is not a productive way to run a committee, frankly,” said Stepp. “That’s just the candid way to lay it out. We had to have people who were willing to work with us in partnership, and be willing to help us and advise us along the way in implementing state law.” Wisconsin Public Radio
Is this an example of how Wisconsin protects an endangered species? Can states be trusted to manage wolves? I think not and many other scientists agree that individual states cannot be trusted to manage wolves “John Vucetich, a wildlife ecologist at Michigan Technological University in Houghton and a signer of the February letter, sees things differently. “The problem is that the recovery criteria don’t meet the standards of the ESA,” he says. And “if wolves are threatened by peoples’ hatred, then the ESA requires this threat to be mitigated.” He predicts that if the wolves are taken off the federal list, “every one of these states will have a wolf hunting season, ending any further expansion of the gray wolf.” Science Insider
Science not hatred must be the deciding factor in the fate of America’s wolves. That’s why (January 2015) the Humane Society of the United States, along with other wolf advocacy groups signed on to a letter sent to Secretary Jewell asking to downlist wolves from protected to threatened status. This is a compromise that would allow farmers and ranchers to address any concerns but not allow the hunting of wolves. “Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin signed onto this proposal. WODCW believes this threatened status will give non-lethal opportunities to address concerns regarding wolves with livestock producers and maintain the health of wolves. WODCW believes wolves should remain healthy, wild and not harassed from trophy hunts.” WODCW Blog January 27, 2015
Threatened status was rejected by Secretary Jewell proving states are not interested in a compromuse that would protect wolves.
Wolves must remain under federal protection until individual states, such as Wisconsin, can learn how to protect an iconic species. Scientists have just begun to understand how essential wolves are to maintaining healthy ecosystemes.
Hunting wolves as a management tool only serves special interest groups bent on eradication.
Will individual states be trusted to protect wolves?
Image: John E. Marriott