A war on wolves has been declared in Wisconsin.
From a population that stood at roughly 800 just three weeks ago, hunters and trappers have already killed over 196 wolves in Wisconsin. That’s about twice the pace at which wolves were killed last year, and almost one third of the state’s entire wolf population. The territory is divided into six harvest zones, each with its own limit. Each zone remains open until the limit is reached or until the end of February, whichever comes first. Three weeks into the season, zones 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 have already been closed.
In Wisconsin, provisions allow for hunting wolves with steel jaw traps andcable snares, creating dangerous situations for humans and other domestic animals. Some have even been known to bait their traps with the carcass of a deceased wolf to lure in its remaining family members.
Starting in December, despite public outcry, Wisconsin will become the first and only state to allow hunters as young as ten years old to usepacks of dogs in the hunt. When these killer packs meet up with wolves, there will be death and maiming on both sides. With canid on canid conflict, it becomes a blood sport — no more than an organized dog fight, which is illegal in the United States. Furthermore, Wisconsinites end up funding the destruction of hunting dogs with tax dollars. A hunting dog killed by a wolf can earn its owner up to $2,500 in depredation payments, even though hunters knowingly put these dogs in harm’s way. Since June of this year, 26 bear hunting dogs have been killed by wolves and an estimated $65,000 was paid to the owners as compensation.
Aside from all the other harvest zones, Zone 3, located in the heart of the northwoods, has so far reported very few kills yet this season. Conservationists suspect that hunting groups in this region have made a concerted effort to hold off until December, when they can legally, for the first time in history, unleash packs of killer dogs on Wisconsin wolves.
Unfortunately, politically entrenched, vocal and powerful hunting, trapping and livestock interest groups have had everything to do with influencing wolf management in Wisconsin. An aggressive, multifaceted misinformation campaign has been raging, and now wolves are facing persecution, supported by false claims and blatant lies of those who want to eradicate wolves as if they were vermin. Wolves have been framed as the enemy, and the scientific community is growing very concerned. Quotas are too high and the duration of the hunting season is too long (Oct-Feb), allowing it to extend into the breeding season, making it difficult for packs to maintain stable populations, potentially leading to the devastation of the Wisconsin wolf population altogether. Management policies have become narrowly directed towards treating wolves as a ‘resource’ to kill, preserving opportunities for recreational killing rather than conservation or preservation of ecological integrity.
Ignoring biology and the intrinsic value of this species, our wildlife agencies have resolutely judged wolves as animals in need of management, adopting policies that treat them as a problem, rather than as respected members of the biological community.
Dr. Paul Paquet, 2013 International Wolf Symposium
Biologists warn that the disappearance of wolves will have significant impacts all the way down the food chain. Over millions of years the wolf has evolved to play a crucial role in regulating its ecosystem, from the survival of trees and riverbank vegetation to the health of the populations of their prey.
Many Wisconsin deer hunters maintain that the presence of wolves is destroying the deer population. Contrary to this common misconception, wolves actually tend to eat older, injured or less healthy animals which makes the wolves’ species of prey healthier. Also, when prey like deer are hunted by wolves, it keeps pressure on the herds to keep moving which prevents overgrazing. This pressure on herds allows for plant roots to provide stability to riverbeds so they do not erode, and flora to provide roosting places for migrating birds. Vegetation supplies beavers with materials for dams, which then create the deep pools that young fish need to survive. It is a beautiful, complex tapestry that shows the level of interaction that must happen between apex predators and their environment for the full health of the system.
>> How Wolves Change Rivers <<
The threat of depredation by wolves on livestock has also been a concern for Wisconsin farmers. One of the likely reasons for this type of wolf conflict relates to the fact that agricultural areas are expanding into suitable, remote forested wolf habitat at the edge of the northern forest. Therefore, risk for wolf-human interactions and conflicts can be higher in these regions.
However the current approach to “wolf management” in Wisconsin has researchers concerned that these types of conflicts might only be enhanced. What happens to a wolf pack if the family leaders or breeding pairs are killed? Young wolves need these pack leaders to teach them how to hunt. Losing the strong, savvy wolves can be devastating to the entire family.
There is a strong possibility that if you take out the biggest and best hunting wolves out of a pack, you may turn the rest of that pack into depredators. For the less skilled, it is much easier to kill a sheep than it is to run down a deer.
Randy Jurewicz, Wisconsin wildlife biologist
Lethal control may relieve conflict temporarily. However, new wolves will often move into the vacated territory, and the cycle of loss will continue—unless the root cause is addressed.
Modern, non-lethal methods of prevention have shown to keep depredations down to almost nothing, if implemented properly. Efforts to prevent livestock depredation include reducing attractants (removing livestock carcasses rather than leaving them to rot in the field), improved fencing, fladry fencing, confining herds at night, scare tactics (such as alarms or non-lethal ammunition), and guard animals such as llamas, donkeys and dogs—all of which can offer low cost, non-lethal and effective methods of predator control. My favorite example of non-lethal predator control comes from two farmers in Bayfield, WI who have turned to a very special breed of dog called the Italian Maremma to protect their flocks of sheep. The dogs stand about two and a half feet tall and weigh in at 70-100 lbs. Maremmas are known for flock guarding and livestock protection skills, and have been used successfully to guard herds from wolves for more than 2000 years.
Wolves are a very misunderstood and misrepresented species. And although special interest groups and politicians have taken the reins on “wolf management”, nowhere does actual science support the need to kill wolves. Wisconsin wolf management plans have been compromised to appease the special interests who are buying their cravings for trophies. It appears our wildlife agencies will permit just enough numbers to survive so those who enjoy killing and inflicting pain and suffering will have enough to satisfy their lustrous hatred for wolves. What about the majority of non-consumptive Wisconsinites who believe that wolves are necessary, and want to see them remain in our forests?
The entire wolf restoration program was guided by directives contained in the Endangered Species Act, a law created to ground a cornerstone of science that says the healthiest, most stable natural systems tend to be those with high levels of biodiversity. It is time to revisit this very principle and make Wisconsin wolf management decisions based on hard science—not political science.
You have a voice. Sign & share the following petitions, contact your state representatives and join the conversation in the comments section below!
» Oppose Stripping Federal Protections for Wolves (USFWS)
» Stop the Anti-Wolf Agenda in Wisconsin (Defenders of Wildlife)
» No Dogs Allowed in Wisconsin Wolf Hunt (MoveOn.org)
» Suspend Wolf Hunting in Minnesota (Howling for Wolves.org)
» Don’t Let Fish & Wildlife Service Abandon Wolves (NRDC)
» 11th Hour for Wolves (Sierra Club)
Write your WI state representatives and governor Scott Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org) to voice your opposition to the wolf hunt.
If you are not sure who to contact >> Who are my Legislators?
BrittRic is a lifestyle blogger, landscape photographer and environmental conservationist. ::Feel free:: to follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Contact: email@example.com