Founder's Blog

The Minnesota Moose and Wolves

February 9, 2016 - Joe Wolf

A Star Tribune article published Feb 7, 2016 raises the possibility that wolves are somehow responsible for the decline of moose populations in Minnesota and that this might justify a wolf hunt, thereby excusing trophy killing.  Before this article is taken at face value, we need to look more carefully at the myriad claims, most of which are unsubstantiated.  The article itself provides the proof that this simple minded assumption of cause and effect is wrong.  The charts provided by the Star tribune show higher moose (and deer) populations at the same time the most wolves were counted in Minnesota.  If wolf and moose populations are inextricably linked, we should want more wolves, not fewer.  Perhaps the argument is the non sequitur that because wolves have been observed to feed on sick and dead moose, the removal of wolves would not make these sick individuals get better.   Moose are declining in places like New Hampshire where wolves are non-existent.   Moose are not dying off in Isle Royale where there are wolves (but no deer).

 The statement that wolves have maximized their range has no scientific basis: it is an assertion by Dr. Mech because he has seen wolves that are “skinny”, like the moose.  Moose could very well be suffering more deaths from illness because of warmer winters and hotter summers due to climate change combined with pervasive habitat destruction.  The survival of the parasite afflicting moose may also be enhanced by these warmer conditions year-round.  I suspect Dr. Mech has not researched this possibility, in spite of his blather targeting wolves for slaughter.

Could it be that Dr. Mech’s study wolves are also suffering from issues tied to a generally declining ecosystem?  Many scientists believe we are witnessing a mass extinction of wild animal populations due to human carelessness and greedy behavior.  Under these global circumstances, it is irresponsible to insinuate that killing wolves will keep moose from dying or other wolves from starving.  It is a razor thin (and baseless) judgment to claim it is better to kill wolves to hang on the wall rather than let nature take the chance that some will starve.  Wolf hunters do not select individual animals to shoot for the “worst or best” genes for survival, let alone to compensate for specific environmental problems.  I suspect no trophy hunter has ever massaged a wolf “feeling their every bone” to decide if it was the right wolf to kill, even if he had the time. That being the case, DNA analysis to decide which wolves to spare for the benefit of the species before pulling the trigger is pretty much ruled out.  Seems to me that mankind has never gotten it right, even when armed with the latest in technology.  To suggest that a trophy hunt is a measured or controlled way to preserve a species is pure hokum.

Wolves have NOT been shown to be the cause of declining moose populations, but trophy hunters will jump on any excuse to kill them.  Wolves have it hard enough and they too, will disappear when their food source is gone.  After three years of reckless wolf hunting, Minnesota wolf populations have been pushed down to levels last seen since 1988, never mind the moose question.  Lobbying for another year of trophy killing is irresponsible, dangerous and without a shred of justification, scientific or otherwise.
 

 

We Owe the Wolf a Great Debt, One With Compounding Interest

December 1, 2015 - Barry W. Babcock

Two issues loom in my mind lately.

One is a troubling question of why not allow “fair chase” hunters who are not necessarily part of the wolf-hating crowd to kill a wolf in a managed hunt.

The second is the attempt by Congress including one of our current Minnesota Senators to permanently de-list the Great Lakes wolf from the Endangered Species list.

Some background and history concerning the wolf hysteria:
It is easy to disarm the arguments of deer hunters who call for zero tolerance for wolves or advocate for a kill as high as 750 annually or brazenly want them wiped out. These arguments are based on their bizarre claim that there is a scarcity of deer in Minnesota. Since 2000 to 2015, Minnesota has had the largest whitetail deer population in our history. This has been the “golden age” of deer hunting in Minnesota. According the MN DNR, the deer herd has varied between one million to one and quarter million during this same period. These same years of record deer numbers have also coincided with the largest wolf population in our state’s history - 3,200 wolves prior to the states three wolf hunts. I am not implying that three thousand wolves are responsible for over a million deer. The reason for these deer numbers are our land practices. For three to four decades, Minnesota’s public lands were tree farms for the orientated stand board plants and pulp wood industries. These extractive wood industries created ideal habitat for deer.

Wildlife managers have repeatedly made the claims that the wolf density in northern Minnesota is the highest in North America and I would not argue this but this has nothing to do with wolves being over populated. Wolves are living in balance with their prey base. What it does say is that our deer herd is enormous. If one wants to lower the wolf population, lower the deer population. Any predator population will be indicative to its prey base.

As for the outcry from the Ag sector concerning livestock losses, this is in some cases a legitimate issue that needs to be dealt with quickly and with measures that focus on the “problem” wolves and not non-offending wolves but this too can easily be disarmed.

The last year that depredation numbers were made available from the FWS was 2011. In this year, only slightly over 200 complaints or 1.7% of farms in MN had confirmed claims of depredation by wolves which included cows, calves, geese, llamas, and dogs.

USDA statistics at the end of 2014 show Minnesota with a cattle herd of 2,300,000. The article indicates 66 calves and 17 cows (total 83) were killed by wolves. That is 83 killed by wolves out of 2,300,000 head. That means, in 2014 the wolf depredation was .0038% of the total cattle herd.

Also, the USDA at the end of 2014, the USDA states; Minnesota had a sheep herd of about 130,000. 12 sheep were killed by wolves. That is .0092% of the herd were killed by wolves.

Now with the reality check done on wolf haters and livestock issue dealt with, the troubling question of why not allow “fair chase” hunters who are not necessarily part of the wolf-hating crowd to take a wolf on a managed hunt. This has been for some time a difficult problem for me to address. Often I question myself and ask myself, “why not, these people do not want to wipe out wolves.” They want to keep a sustainable population out there so there will continue to be wolves to hunt.

As I was mulling this question in my head, as I have often done, I often recall something that had a great impact on me about twenty years ago. At that time my wife and I owned and operated a small motel in northern Minnesota and one winter day we were cleaning rooms together and had the TV’s on, as we normally do while we made beds and cleaned rooms. A Discovery channel or some similar channel was on and airing a program about wolves. A segment of the film had what appeared to be an old 8 MM movie camera clip filming a tractor and wagon pulling up to a poisoned laced deer or elk carcass. Around the carcass were many dead wolves with a few foxes and bobcats. Several men were lifting the lifeless bodies of wolves on their shoulders and throwing them on the wagon as though they were cordwood. As one large wolf appearing to me to be a large male was hoisted up around the neck of this human, I could see he was still conscious, though dying, and lifted his head with open eyes. This gruesome scene shook me to the core. An epiphany took place at that time in my life. What we have done to wolves on earth for thousands of years was not just a wrong against particular specie – it is a cosmic sin. If there is a God, Creator, Mother Earth, a transcendental and innate wrong, an intelligent power greater than ourselves, we will forever be judged as having committed a cosmic sin.

I have always admired and sought out wolves but from that day in the motel cleaning rooms, seeing that dying wolf open his eyes in his desire and lust for life, I realized then that we owe the wolf a deep debt. This is a debt that will not be compensated overnight. It is a debt with compounding interest.

To rush into a hunting season on wolves as rashly as our elected officials, our governor, and DNR managers have done and look the other way as the demented wolf haters have been unleashed again, even though a few or some hunters just want to kill a wolf in a sustainable fashion is compounding this debt.

I remember somewhere reading an account in Barry Lopez’s book “Of Wolves and Men” about an old wolf trapper in northern Minnesota. The old trapper, who apparently lost his reason for living with the wolves out of his life, told of a time when checking his trap line and found a large, beautiful, black male wolf with his leg in a foothold trap. The wolf looked at him and lifted his foot as if to ask the trapper, “help me” and the trapper thought of how he wanted to let him go and live but then thought, “I need the bounty money” and shot him.

We will never be able to achieve peace in our time unless we live life in that “good” way towards all the life forms we share this earth with. I am a hunter and will to continue to hunt deer and partridge but the wolf, for me and others, should never be hunted. Wolves, along with other predators, have an important job to do, and that is being in balance with the world.

 

MN Wolves, DNR and the Wolf Center

November 30, 2015 - Barry W. Babcock

For many years it has been obvious to those of us advocating for measures to protect our diminishing natural resources that the very people assigned to perform these functions seem more inclined to be working against us. I can't recall how many times someone of our ilk has made the comment to me, "I thought the MNDNR was supposed to be protecting the environment, not working against it." This accusation can be also applied to the USFS and more so to county land managers. Of course, this is a general compliant - there are well intentioned people working within these resource agencies - wanting to do the right thing for the natural world. But overwhelmingly, the culture of forestry, wildlife, waters, and so forth are principally managed within market based logic - not what's right for the environment. Look at who three of our last four MNDNR Commissioners were; two politicians (Merriam & Holsten) with no natural resource background/training and one retired FBI agent (Allen Garber). Having been part of a number of committees and 'task forces,' I repeatedly hear DNR staff refer to snowmobiliers, ATVers, dirt bikers, mudder trucker, hunters, fishermen, trappers, etc., as their clientele and stake-holders. Rarely do I hear them refer to animal and plant communities as stake-holders. The plant and animal communities do not provide the legislative muscle and lobbying power that the special interest and consumptive stake-holders mentioned above have.

There was a time, perhaps 40 to 50 years ago when there was a balance in the DNR of politics and science.....maybe 50/50, but today, the sad reality is that politics and economics carry’s the day. A retired wildlife manager once asked me how you tell the difference between a forester and a farmer during a hotly contested question of inappropriately placed ATV trails involving 'forestry.' His answer was that a farmer wears striped overalls, a forester wears green overalls. The upshot was that both were more concerned about yield - bushels and board feet. I would add a third comparison: the wildlife manager - he wears camouflaged overalls - increasing game populations for harvesting, similar to harvesting corn and trees.

Even many environmental groups are suffering from this creeping fund raising malady along with their relationships with corrupt legislators - more concerned about money than doing what's right for the ecosystem. With this wolf issue heating up, few if any environmental groups are willing to stand up on the proposed wolf hunt.

The opinions of the International Wolf Center have been brought to my attention -  in the winter 2010 issue of the International Wolf Center Magazine - http://www.wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/winter2010.pdf:

"Considerations for Developing Wolf Harvesting Regulations in the Contiguous United States" - authored by co-founder L. D. Mech raises some disturbing issues about where the International Wolf Center is on the wolf hunt.

You can read the two page article via the link provided (2010 winter issue) plus I have copied and pasted below some verbiage from the Mech article that I find upsetting, like hunting wolves from airplanes or ATV's, controlling wolf populations by killing pregnant females, and even tracking them via wolf radio collars. He even talks about killing wolves to increase game populations! Furthermore, the IWC is funded by donations from private citizens and the public. This point needs to be questioned and made public. I thought we turned this ugly page in our history.

Let me make one thing clear about this message; I am a hunter and have been for nearly 50 years but I find the culture around hunting to have been extremely transformed in the last 20 years. Ethics, responsibility, and conservation motivated thinking are more a rarity than common place. Our forests are under an invasion of motorized hunters; deer hunters who can't even get to their starter-castle tree stands on foot, they ride ATV's. Grouse hunters who hunt from ATVs. The majority of hunters should have the appropriate bumper sticker on their trucks that states; "he who dies with the most toys wins." That's what it's about now - money & consumption.

What adds a note of irony is the commonly held belief among most hunters that what makes deer hunting so attractive is that the whitetail deer is so elusive and challenging a quarry. The irony of it is that this elusiveness and wariness of the whitetail is the result of millions of years of being chased and tested by the wolf. For some of us, to hear a wolf or even see a wolf is far more rewarding than shooting a deer.

"Harvesting many wolves is not always easy, which is why
in regions where they were not extirpated but have long
been harvested, extraordinary methods have been used,
although not all are necessarily used now. Such methods
include aerial shooting (also currently employed for livestock
depredation control by Wildlife Services in the NRM),
tracking by snowmobile (Canada), and spotting from
aircraft and then landing to shoot wolves (i.e., land and
shoot) in Alaska. These approaches appear unfair to much of
the public who are unaware of the difficulties of taking
wolves and are bitterly opposed. Hunting wolves with fairchase
standards had never been tried in the contiguous 48
states until 2009. Such standards succeeded better than
some expected in Montana and worse than some expected in
Idaho. However, there is reason to believe that in most
extensive forested areas with low road density fair-chase
hunting deliberately for wolves will not be very productive
given the low density of packs and the crepuscular and
extensive travels of wolves. Chances are high that most
wolves taken by fair chase will be shot incidental to biggame
hunting, primarily because of many hunters afield
during those seasons."

"Because wolves were recently on the ESL, many still carry
radiocollars, and at least some states will continue to use
such collars to monitor their wolf population. States
currently prohibit hunters and trappers from using tracking
receivers for taking wolves because this technique would not
be considered fair chase. Use of snowmobiles, all-terrain
vehicles, and horseback to track down and shoot wolves
might be useful in more open areas for short periods before
wind obscures tracks in snow. Effectiveness of these
techniques and the regulations governing their use probably
will vary by state."

"A similar consideration that can be made toward the end
of any annual hunting or trapping season would be to end
the season before fetuses in gravid females are obvious. In
most northern states that would be by 1 March, which also
coincides with when wolf fur has lost its prime. Allowing
harvest through February, however, would assist with wolf
control by increasing chances that gravid [pregnant] wolves would be
taken."

"Whereas the above considerations focus primarily on
public perception of the humaneness of hunting, some of
the public will judge the success of wolf hunting by its ability
to decrease conflicts between wolves and ranching. Wolftaking
regulations should, therefore, attempt to focus wolf
harvest on areas where wolves kill the most livestock.
Reducing wolf density there could reduce conflict with
humans and the need for costly deliberate wolf control while
also gaining more public support. Similarly, where states
perceive the need to reduce wolves to increase wild prey,
concentrating public taking there could reduce the need for
deliberate control by state agencies, which tends to be
opposed by certain segments of the public."

 

Living with Wolves

October 15, 2015 - Barry W. Babcock

Over the past several months wolf sign has been sparse as my local pack has moved to another part of their range, probably due to denning and rendezvous site but wolf pups are now old enough to travel with the pack and I now see their big tracks and scats again. The pack has completed another cycle of life and rearing.

On the morning of October 12th, with my little field Springer, Babsy, we took off into the woods grouse hunting. We were not a quarter mile beyond my property when I rounded a bend in the old timber access road we were hunting when I noticed something out of the norm in the road 20 to 25 yards ahead of me. I walk this old trail several times a week and feel I am well acquainted with every tree and object along this route. When I stopped and stared at this object, it moved and its shaped suddenly took form and I now realized I was gazing upon a large, adult gray wolf that was studying my presence as I was of it. Its gray color caused it to blend amazingly well into its surroundings in the post autumn colors. Our face-to-face encounter lasted only seconds as it then turned and casually loped off down the trail and around the next bend.

My little dog never saw the wolf but when proceeding down the trail, it caught its fresh scent and came back to my side and starred up at me with big eyes, which said in dog language with great concern, "Dad, that big wild relative of mine is close by." For the next 15 minutes of more, she forgot about the olfactory gold scent she was searching for and became wary of the presence of something that demanded more concern but soon enough her mind focused back to birds.

I hear and read about wolves attacking gun dogs or threatening humans and the present danger they pose. I live with wolves 24/7. I have had numerous encounters with wolves and none have been threatening. What they have been is a reassuring gesture by Mother Earth that the land is whole and complete. It is time for Americans to start "thinking like a mountain." The presence of wolves is a powerful statement saying, "I am back and the wild is again complete."

 

 

A Hunter Speaks

July 29, 2015 - Barry W. Babcock

In humility, I am a hunter:

I just finished reading the gruesome details of the Minnesota dentist who, through a guide service lured Cecil the lion, a favorite with tourists, out of a national park in Zimbabwe and shot him with a bow.

As disgusting and sickening as this is, I know what it will mean on the internet for the next week or so is a host of postings on what despicable beings hunters are and I for one, am sometimes at a loss as how to express my beliefs or justify them. As a hunter I cannot tell you that a majority or minority of hunters support or condemn this. I would like to think that the majority condemn it but I really can't say. What I can say is that I live as sustainable and environmentally correct life as I can. I have thought about vegetarianism but I am not ready for it. I do avoid corporate produced meat and restrict my diet of meat to that which I kill myself and local free ranged livestock.

I do think that sinful acts like the killing of Cecil polarizes us, hunters and non-hunters, in a way that plays into the enemies hands but who is the enemy? We do not always have a clear identification of who they are.

For years I have been talking about a “three legged stool” in regards to the culpability of recent wolf hunts among other conservation issues. I have been stating that the “legs” are state DNR's, legislators, and organized hunting groups (such as the Minnesota Deer Hunting Association/MDHA as in my state of Minnesota.) As this wolf issue has evolved since 2012 I have added Big Ag as a leg of the stool as cattleman’s associations have aggressively stepped forward in their demands of zero tolerance for wolves. All stools have a seat which is supported by the legs and seated and supported by these legs is the “Recreation/Industrial/Ag Complex.” I remind you of President Eisenhower's farewell “Military/Industrial Complex speech to Congress. The speech was originally titled the “Military/Industrial/Congressional Complex” but since Eisenhower was giving the speech to Congress, it was thought best to remove the word “Congressional.” In this speech he warned the public of a looming danger to America. I here warn American's of a different looming threat to our land , environment, and what's best about America and what's best about being an American; Rec/Ind/Ag Complex.

As management of our natural resources have become more market place driven and as hunting, fishing, motorized recreation and so forth have come to be seen by natural resource agencies as “clients” and “stakeholders” less attention or no attention is given to groups unless they are “clients.” And for the record, these state agency decisions, like wolf hunts, have nothing to do with majority opinion. This isn't just happening in Minnesota, it is happening nation wide. Large industries have sprung up where none existed before. Sporting goods catalogs now exist resembling old Sears and Roebuck catalogs where in some cases there are twenty or more pages of just camouflaged clothing. The majority of deer hunters ride ATV's every where they go and the woods on opening day of deer hunting sounds more like military maneuvers at Fort Ripley than the old days when one looked forward to the silence of a frosty morning is a tree stand. In a sense, much of this is the gentrification of hunting and fishing. You have to have a lot of money nowadays to hunt and fish....or keep up with the trends. This “complex” has transformed deer hunting more in the last 20 years than it has in the last 200 years.

I love to hunt, I am good at it, yet I respect and know what I am hunting which in my late years has been restricted to whitetail deer and ruffed grouse. The venison is important to our subsistence diet. I am not a trophy hunter but am not always sure where one draws the line that separates trophy hunting from subsistence hunting. I often shoot a mature buck and I save the antlers as they are a thing of admiration. Some would consider this trophy hunting, I would consider it highly disrespectful to throw deer horns away as I believe the spirit and essence of the animal is in those horns. Consider the caves of Lascaux in France. Those prehistoric hunters showed great affinity for those massive flowing antlers as aptly painted on the cave walls.

The upshot of this is that there is a sizable portion of hunters out there who find hunters like the dentist who killed Cecil the lion a disgrace to all hunters and many of these see killing apex predators as simply wrong. I personally know of deer hunters who would give anything to hunt deer in the northwoods and hear wolves howl. I have heard hunters tell of the experience of seeing a wolf while hunting deer and describe the experience as one of the greatest they've ever had while afield. I also know of other hunters who espouse the ideals of “fair chase” and believe that ethics is as essential to hunting as actual success in the field. As Leopold said, when alone afield, only you are the judge of yourself...no one else.  The nationally well known hunter/writer David Peterson stated that it's wrong to kill a grizzly or wolf. The widely read bow hunting author Texan Jim Hamm told of his experience bow hunting deer in the Leech Lake region of northern Minnesota and having the thrill of hearing wolves while in the woods, something he wrote that his fellow Texans would most likely never experience. And then there are men like Aldo Leopold who were equally as much hunters and they were conservationists who were some of the first American's to speak and write publicly for the preservation of wolves and bears.

It is time for more hunters to come forward and speak out against heinous acts such as happened recently in Africa and it's time that ethical hunters, non-hunters, and animal rights advocates to put aside our differences and work together for the common goal of honoring our relatives who we share in the travails of life on earth; the wolf and the bear. We must not let them keep us divided. As a hunter, I am as offended by this barbaric act of senselessness and am ashamed to be categorized with this behavior.

 

Why Wolves Need Federal Protections

July 7, 2015 - Howling For Wolves

Why Gray Wolves Need Continued Federal Protection
You may have heard that wolves were returned to protected status under the Endangered Species Act by a Federal court ruling in December 2014.  And while that was great news, it’s not the end of the story.

Sadly, legislation that would reverse that ruling was recently (June 2015) introduced into both Houses of Congress. The language in those bills would delist wolves in the Great Lakes region (which includes Minnesota) and Wyoming from federal protection entirely, leaving them open to state-sanctioned recreational hunts—including inhumane snaring and trapping—and other catastrophic policies. The bills’ language also eliminates any future judicial review, effectively leaving the gray wolf without the possibility of Federal protection, no matter how low their population numbers were to drop.  

In essence, it’s a formula for extinction.

Recent history has shown that when Federal protection is removed, it leaves individual states to make policy decisions regarding wolf management. Unfortunately, those decisions are often made hastily, without solid, scientifically-based input or understanding of their possible impacts.

What Happened in Minnesota as an Example
When the gray wolf was first delisted from the endangered species list in 2012, the Minnesota legislature quickly instituted a recreational wolf hunt. It did so in direct opposition to a Minnesota DNR wolf management plan, which has as its goal: "ensuring the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota while resolving conflicts between wolves and humans."

The plan mandated a 5-year hunt moratorium when and if delisting of the wolf occurred—a stipulation that was entirely ignored by the Minnesota legislature that authorized the 2012 wolf hunt and trapping seasons.  

Wolf Population Impacts
Prior to the 2012 delisting, the Minnesota wolf population had remained stable for over 10 years. The 2012 recreational hunt, however, reduced that self-regulating population by a shocking 25%. The Minnesota DNR reports that 1,650 Minnesota wolves were killed (or found dead) in 2012-2014—years in which “limited hunting seasons” were in effect.

Nationally, the statistics are no better. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, 2,814 wolves were killed between 2011 and 2014 as a result of hunting and trapping that followed delistings.

It’s clear from these statistics that delistings and recreational hunts are not effective ways to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf.

Addressing Wolf-Livestock Conflicts
Reducing predation on livestock and supporting farmers and ranchers are important goals and should be an integral part of responsible wolf management policies. But traditional methods—killing and hunting—have been shown not to work. Alternatively, there are nonlethal methods that do work.

  • Killing Wolves Increases Wolf-Livestock Conflicts: Hunting and indiscriminately killing wolves has been shown to be  ineffective in reducing wolf-livestock conflicts. A 2014 study at Washington State University showed that when wolves are killed to protect livestock, more livestock kills occur the following year, not fewer. This occurs because wolf kills cause packs to break up. Once split, smaller and younger packs become competitors for the same territory and limited food supply, forcing more wolves to hunt domestic livestock.

  • Non-Lethal Methods Work: There are a number of nonlethal methods that have proven successful in addressing wolf-livestock conflicts. They include guard animals, fences, lights, and carcass removal, all of which can effectively reduce these conflicts.  

  • Wolf-Livestock Conflicts in Perspective: A common myth is that Minnesota wolves kill large numbers of livestock and pets. In actual fact, the incidence of these conflicts is quite low. In 2011, for example, there were 91 verified calves/cattle kills by wolves on Minnesota farms. While regrettable, this represents less than 2 percent of all beef producers in Minnesota’s wolf territory. Over 200 wolves were killed in response.

There Are Better Ways
A petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), signed by 22 national and regional conservation and animal protection organizations, calls for the gray wolf to be listed nationally as “threatened.” Doing so would have the following benefits:

  • Allow for continued Federal oversight and funding of wolf recovery efforts and encourage development of a national recovery plan for the species.

  • Give the USFWS regulatory flexibility to permit state and local wildlife managers to address specific wolf conflicts. It would keep the issue out of the court system but still provide for a process by which state plans for wolf recovery are monitored.

The USFWS is Adamant: It Wants to Delist Wolves Entirely
Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected the petition on the grounds that it did not prove that all wolves in the lower 48 are “one distinct population group, nor that gray wolves "may be likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future."

To the first point, Dr. Maureen Hackett of Howling for Wolves responded:

“We think this reasoning is hypocritical in that USFWS has used ‘distinct populations’ definitions to delist wolves and remove protections. The USFWS’ decision all point toward one direction—to remove Federal protections for wolves and to rid themselves of their duties to protect them.”

To the second point, Brett Hartl, the Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species policy directory stated:

“This decision makes no sense because wolves in the lower 48 have been protected as an endangered species since 1978. Our petition simply asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider downlisting this already recognized population of wolves to threatened.”

There is Hope
Howling for Wolves continues to work to keep wolves protected with actions in Washington and locally. We’re supported by two Federal lawmakers who’ve committed to working on behalf of the wolf. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) understand that wolves need protection and that states need better wolf management policies. Thank you Congresswoman McCollum and Senator Peters!

Federal Protection for Wolves is Essential to Their Survival
History has shown that when Federal protection is removed, states take over the “management” of wolf populations, typically with little or no science-based policies in place. This has endangered the wolf species as a whole and done nothing to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts—in fact, likely increased them.

First and foremost, it should be good science that guides species protection policies and Federal protection is necessary to ensure that science-based strategies are in place and enforced. And because the wolf population ranges across many states, those policies should be consistent throughout wolf territory. This will be the only way to truly ensure “the long-term survival of the wolf” not just in Minnesota, but  nationally, as well.

You Can Help Save the Gray Wolf
Our advocates in Congress, Senator Peters and Congresswoman McCollum, have emphasized how essential it is that we call and write our lawmakers to let them know we support Federal protection of the gray wolf. The more lawmakers that hear from their constituents, the more Congresswoman McCollum and Senator Peters can gain their voting support.

Find your representative here.

You can also reach out to thank Congresswoman McCollum and Senator Peters for their support.

 

Hunting Wolves Reinforces Intolerance

June 19, 2015 - Howling For Wolves

A recent study authored by UW-Madison researchers Jamie Hogberg, Lisa Naughton, and Adrien Treves found that wolf hunting does not increase public tolerance. Legalized wolf hunting and trapping seasons actually "reinforced a negative relationship between people and wolves." Proponents of state-sponsored wolf hunts have argued that legally killing wolves acts as a social balm—a way for individuals to release negative associations with wolves and replace them with increased tolerance. This is the justification used to hunt the wolf, a species that has only recently come back from the brink of extinction.

The negative implications of legalized wolf hunting and trapping includes increased poaching. This is one more reason why Congress needs to keep wolves under federal protection. States are not ready for responsible wolf stewardship. We witnessed the reckless hunting seasons and over-zealous wolf killing that occurred as soon as wolves were delisted in 2012. Our state and federal officials need to support policies encouraging coexistence between humans and wolves, not reckless hunts that threaten the future of a vital species and foster hostile relationships between people and wolves.

 

A perspective on wolves and deer from a deer hunter

December 10, 2014 - Barry W. Babcock

     In northern Minnesota we have a 2 week firearms deer season. This 2014 season was from November 8th to sundown on the 23rd. Several events this year are note worthy enough to cite here.

     1. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) held a series of public meetings with the MN DNR last year in order to arm twist them into acknowledging that the deer herd is drastically down. The MDHA, which the DNR considers a "client," bowed to the MDHA wishes and greatly curtailed the number of doe permits which made the season (mostly) bucks only.

     My take on this: The Minnesota deer herd, if down, is still too high. Deer numbers are impacting the ecology of our forests. Nearly all forest ecologists agree that behind climate change, an over populated deer herd is number 2 in posing a threat to the health and longevity of MN's forests. As for the poor hunter success rates of tagging whitetails by the states deer hunters is more the cause & effect of too many hunters who have become dependent on a plethora of gadgets. From what I see and hear from others, the vast majority of hunters rely on ATV's to get anywhere in the woods during the hunt. One need look no further than the thick catalogs of hunting outfitters' equipment to see where many hunters focus their attention. Deer are nocturnal animals and with tens of thousands of ATV's rumbling throughout Minnesota's forest lands during the hunting season, it's no doubt that the numbers of deer harvested (I don't like that term "harvest") is down. Who but anyone in their right mind would doubt this. In the woods around me, opening morning sounds like military maneuvers at Camp Ripley. It's tail gates dropping, ATV ramps banging, two stroke engines warming and noisy engines heading off into the land of the elusive whitetail deer.

     2. The weather during this entire period was below normal in temperatures and saw some winds that were persistently strong.

     My take: If you are a serious hunter, there are ways to effectively hunt in these conditions. One very effective way is to "still hunt", which is slowly taking a few steps, then stopping and looking and listening, then repeating this stop and go method - the movement helps keep the blood moving, something hard to do if you can't get your butt off your ATV seat. When bucks are in rut and does are in estrus, they will move, unless the woods is full of motorized traffic....then deer wait till sundown when the noisy machines and ignorant hunters leave.

     3. And the presence of wolves and the third MN wolf hunt with 250 permits issued is also another issue with hunters.

     My take: During the entire week preceding the rifle hunt, I was in the woods daily with my stick bow. During this period, I saw unbelievable numbers of deer and most especially some nice mature bucks. Once opening weekend of the rifle season started, the numbers of deer I saw dropped about 50%. Deer have always tended to become more nocturnal during the gun season but during the last 20 years this tendency has greatly increased. I attribute this to the modern gadget addicted hunter rather then having hunters who have the basic understanding of the habits of white tailed deer which I refer to as being the soul of caution.

     Last Thursday evening well after sundown, I and my son-in-law heard a pack of wolves howling quite persistently at a distance of not more than 200 yards from my backdoor. During the next 2 days, we saw between 12 and 15 deer. And they were heard again at sunrise on Friday but at a greater distance. Now, I am not suggesting that the deer we saw is wholly attributable to the wolves but I am saying that wolves move deer around and that's a good thing for hunters like me. A deer has senses more acutely attuned to his world than our meager understanding will ever grasp. They can, in a metaphysical sense, disappear into thin air from us dumb humans. Wolves root them out and move them around. As I have written before, as among most Indian people, including the Koyukon's of Alaska, see the wolf as “the master predator among the animals of the north, possessing intelligence and strength, keen senses, and above all the ability to hunt cooperatively. Like the humans that they watch from afar, wolves multiply their muscle and mind by cooperating in pursuit of prey, then share the spoils. Indeed, for the Koyukon, the similarity between wolves and humans is no coincidence – in the Distant Time, a wolf-person lived among people and hunted with them. When they parted ways, they agreed that wolves would sometimes make kills for people or drive game to them, as a repayment for favors given when wolves were still human.” [Make Prayers to the Raven,” Richard K. Nelson, p.159]

     In hook & bullet publications and letters to editors I read extreme embellishments of the number of wolves in N MN. Hunters report seeing more wolf tracks than deer tracks, that wolves are out of balance and need management, and wolves going on killing sprees. I live in the woods, I study the interactions of all wildlife and I do not see this. Yes, there are wolves distributed throughout the northwoods but as for claims of our forests being over taken by wolves is just ridiculous. Wolves do a good job of remaining in balance within their range. It is the whitetail whose numbers exceed the sustainability of the forest. I have been hunting deer for a half century. I have a perspective that most hunters do not. In the 1960's, with wolves absent from most of their current range, deer population was without question, the lowest it has been in my lifetime. The deer population from 2000 up to today has exceeded one million - the largest numbers of whitetails in history. This same period (2000 to 2014) coincides with a steady population of 3,000 wolves. How do these anti-wolf hunters explain this?

     Time after time, I see the wolf as an asset rather than a liability. Hunters need to get out of that group think mentality and observe more closely the plant and animal communities in which they hunt. Hunting was never meant to be a 21st century gadget driven pass-time till the recreational-industrial complex got into the equation, it was and is meant to be a link with our far distant past. It is to be a port-hole into that past. It is not the job of government resource departments to make game farms out of the northwoods. We are still lucky to have a semblance of wildness in our northern forests. Remove the wolf and the wildness is gone. As Wisconsin's great conservationist, Aldo Leopold said, "...the autumn landscape in the north woods is the land, plus a red maple, plus a ruffed grouse. In terms of conventional physics, the grouse represents only a millionth of either the mass or the energy of an acre. Yet subtract the grouse and the whole thing is dead. An enormous amount of some kind of motive power has been lost." I would argue that by removing the wolf, or reducing him to a remnant, we have removed or crippled that great "motive power," "we toppled the spire off an edifice abuilding since the morning stars first sang together." The wolf, the deer and the raven have been together since we were throwing spears. They are the front line of wildness, yet untamed by man and industry.
 

 

WOLVES & MINNESOTA’S MOOSE

November 19, 2014 - Dr. Michael W. Fox

Federal U.S. Geological Survey wolf biologist and trapper Dave Mech, pointing his finger at rising wolf numbers as responsible in his field-study area for the decline in moose suggests that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) “could allow hunters to kill more wolves in the moose range until the population recovers”. (Star Tribune Nov 2, 2014, p.C18). Ironically, on this same page, reporter Dennis Anderson in his article “Gone From Sight” presents a debate on the dramatic decline in the state’s whitelail deer herd, with finger-pointing at DNR mismanagement and over-harvesting. Earlier data indicate that when the wolf was protected under the Endangered Species Act the whitetail deer population flourished. Wolves keep deer on the move, preventing overgrazing/browsing and tree damage. As though to bolster Mech’s questionable opinion, Anderson subsequently published a long interview with Mech  ( Star Tribune Nov 16, 2014, pC20) who plays cautious scientist when it comes to climate change and associated debilitating tick infestations being significant factors in the decline of moose especially in northeastern Minnesota. He repeatedly states that while these factors may be “true” or “possible”, “we don’t have evidence of it”, while insisting that wolves are the main cause, along with consecutive bad winters.

Bad winters and too many hunters diminish deer numbers which means more wolves prey on livestock, some 200 wolves being killed for doing so in 2014 by state and federal officials. Regardless, the MN DNR set a wolf quota of 250 animals for the 2014-5 season, some 15,000 people applying for 3,800 licenses to shoot, snare or trap them. DNR wolf manager Dan Stark states that “The hunt isn’t having a significant influence on wolf numbers”, insisting that the de-listing of the wolf as an endangered species was not intended to reduce wolf numbers (because there were too many, which many people argued), but to “have a sustainable hunting and trapping season”. ( Star Tribune Nov.16.2014 p C20)

There are many factors involved in the demise of Minnesota’s moose, especially wetland encroachment and drainage for agriculture; parasites, disease and massive winter tick infestations that lead to anemia, weakness, proneness to predation and failure to thrive and reproduce, climate change notwithstanding. While several moose have been killed accidentally by DNR researchers applying radio-collars and some Native American Indian tribes claim their right to kill their entitled annual quota of moose regardless of their threatened status, all involved parties, regardless of their best intentions, surely need to step back. Current wildlife management policies and practices need to be examined. Is the goal to maximize human interests in terms of “sustainable harvesting” of trophy and consumable species of commercial value, or to maximize species diversity for ecosystem health and sustainability?  Surely the demands and influence of the human species on other species and their habitats must be constrained for the greater good rather than directed by some economic or social, recreational good. We cannot control the weather but to some degree we can control ourselves. Reducing the wolf kill quota to zero for 2015-6 may be a good start for the DNR in recognizing that wolves are biologically the better wildlife managers than they.

The author is a veterinarian and wild canid ethologist who wrote the book The Soul of the Wolf. For more details visit www.drfoxvet.com

 

 

 

Moose Facts

July 17, 2014 - Howling for Wolves

Moose populations are in steep decline across the northern tier of North America.  In May 2014, Alaska canceled moose hunting on the North Slope because of a "surprising and drastic" population decline of 50-75% since 2011.  From Alaska to British Columbia, Minnesota to Manitoba, and Ontario to New England, moose populations have declined at an alarming rate.

Moose populations are declining even in places where there are no wolves. The New Hampshire moose population has declined 41% since the 1990’s; there are no wolves there.

Minnesota's moose population has dropped 52% since 2010.

Studies point to climate change, with warmer winters and summers, along with parasites such as ticks and b. tenuous, a brain parasite spread by white tail deer as likely causes of the decline in moose.

Minnesota: Moose, Wolves and Deer

Moose and wolves have co-existed in Minnesota for tens of thousands of years.  White tail deer now inhabit more areas in MN than they have ever historically.

When MN had our highest, stable number of wolves for 10+ yrs (1998-2008), we had a healthy moose population and a high white tail deer population.

B. Tenuous is a parasite that originates in slugs and snails and infects both white tail deer and moose. This parasite affects moose by infecting their brains causing severe illness and inability to feed and survive. Moose have been euthanized after they were observed walking and swimming in circles for days.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Moose Mortality Study

New technology deployed in the DNR includes hair samples and GPS collars that track moose movements and will allow more data to be collected including the diet of moose. Now the DNR has more information on the predator-prey interactions that previously went unobserved deep in the forests.

Moose are weaker with weight loss and illness which likely causes moose to give birth to less healthy moose calves.  The moose calves killed by wolves were often one moose in a set of twin moose calves.  Last year’s DNR studies showed very high moose calf mortality. In 2014, 58% of calves in the DNR moose study were abandoned before researchers changed their collaring protocol.  The MN moose mother’s behavior was different than in other state’s collaring events.

Minnesota DNR on the Moose Decline

The exact causes of moose mortality are not well understood. Previous research has demonstrated that hunting and predation by wolves are not the primary causes of adult deaths, and signs indicate the causes are likely multiple factors including poor nutrition.

LEARN MORE/RESOURCEShttp://bit.ly/1nbpK99

Listen to the interview with a DNR researcher:
http://www.accessminnesotaonline.com/2014/07/09/saving-minnesotas-vanishing-moose/

 

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