Founder's Blog

Chronic Wasting Disease: Anthropogenic? Containable?

March 3, 2019 - By Michael W. Fox BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS

From the perspective of One Health (1) dysfunctional ecosystems with wild animal and plant species imbalances and sub-optimal regulatory biodiversity (2) can put public health and the health of domestic animals at risk (3). Predator “control” and other wildlife management practices, coupled with human and livestock encroachment in ever-increasing numbers, have intensified dysbiosis and climate change from continent to continent.(4) Correcting such anthropogenic health problems with vaccines, pesticides, antibiotics and other drugs, even genetic engineering biotechnologies, while ignoring preventive measures, have limited medical and veterinary progress for decades.(5).Such limitations have failed to prevent the spread of zoonoses such as Lyme disease, and the emergence of Chronic Wasting Disease in N. America in particular where there is sub-optimal biodiversity and lack of predators ( 6) and insectivores in the dystrophic ecosystems.  

According to the U.S.  Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first identified in captive mule deer in the late 1960s in Colorado and in wild deer in 1981. By the 1990s, it had been reported in surrounding areas in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Since 2000, the area known to be affected by CWD in free-ranging animals has increased to at least 24 states, including states in the Midwest, Southwest, and limited areas on the East Coast. It is possible that CWD may also occur in other states without strong animal surveillance systems. Once CWD is established in an area, the risk can remain for a long time in the environment. The affected areas are likely to continue to expand. (7). Late symptoms of CWD in cervids (deer, elk, moose and big horn sheep) are horrific. Infected animals often tremble on splayed legs and have trouble standing. They drool and eat continuously but continually waste away. Many are hyper- excitable and nervous. Researchers call them “droopy droolers.” Deer farms may be a major source of this disease, once a rare disease of Colorado mule deer.

It is not unlike the Mad Cow disease which was spread by putting cattle remains including prion-loaded brain and spinal cord tissues into cattle feed that decimated the U.K’s cattle industry and infected people consuming contaminated meat who developed Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. “It is probable that human cases of CWD associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,” Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease and Research Prevention, warned lawmakers at the Minnesota Capitol Feb 7, 2019. Some primate species fed CWD infected deer meat were found to develop spongioform encepalopathy brain lesions, (8) raising the legitimate fear of cross-species infection from deer and other infected cervids to human consumers.   The possibility of spread to livestock from infective deer, soil and vegetation (that could have been the original source of cervid infection decades ago) is also considerable.

Prions are self-replicating protein molecules that are present in humans and other animals, their functions being not yet fully determined beyond playing some role in normalizing neuron function. Generally speaking, prion diseases may be infectious, hereditary or occur sporadically/spontaneously. Disease arises when the normal prion protein mutates to the diseased variant, which differs from the healthy prion proteins by its change in structure. The body's cells have difficulty in breaking down this prion protein due to its different structure, and it therefore accumulates. What causes them to become malformed like a mutation, has not yet been determined. They are passed out in bodily fluids and are in the soil and vegetation and are resistant to conventional methods of sterilization. Crows and ravens, being carrion-eaters, could spread CWD along with blood sucking mosquitoes, ticks and other insects feeding off infected cervids. Infective prions have been found in dust and may be spread also by wind currents.  

Practices that facilitate CWD prion contamination and accumulation include deer and elk farming, mineral licks and planting feed for deer by private land-owning deer hunters. Normal prions can be affected by metals (9), possibly being damaged by hunters’ lead shot when ingested by deer or in their bodies after surviving after being shot. Twenty million metric tons of lead bullets were fired in the United States in the 20th century (10).  Since EMFs can cause prion damage (11) the electromagnetic fields and non-ionizing radiation from cell phone towers and power lines may also cause prion malformations. Also, widely used herbicides, Monsanto’s “Roundup” (glyphosate) in particular, which is a chelating agent (12), may damage prions (13) and influence the bioavailability of manganese (14), an oxide of which destroys prions (15). This could facilitate prion survival and multiplication in contaminated soils. Notably, various prions are destroyed in soils with high humic acid content (16). Prions bind to montmorillonite and whole soils, remain orally infectious, and, in most cases, increased the oral transmission of disease compared to the unbound agent. Certain soils may therefore contribute to environmental spread of CWD by increasing the transmissibility of small amounts of infectious agent in the environment. (17). Livestock feed high in manganese and soils high in manganese and low in copper and zinc, along with other environmental have been proposed as potential factors in the genesis of bovine encephalopathy and related CJ disease in humans (18)

Wolves, Mountain lions, Grizzly bears and Coyote packs, probably immune after generations of co-evolution, could help control this disease by killing diseased cervids. These apex predators have been persecuted and exterminated for centuries. Their protection and reintroduction across states and provinces where CWD has been found would help reduce this epidemic (19, 20) and best serve the public interest, and also with Lyme disease mitigation (21). CWD is not going to go away and is most likely a product of centuries of land uses causing ecological damage, reducing natural disease-controls of optimal biodiversity (22). Practices that facilitate CWD prion contamination and accumulation include deer and elk farming, mineral licks and planting feed for deer on private land and hunting preserves all need to be curtailed. Restoration and maintenance of healthy biodiversity calls for protection of predators large and small (23) especially from being killed by hunters, trappers, State wildlife “game” management for deer and elk hunters and by the non-sustainable livestock industry.

According to the Coloradoan newspaper (24) veterinarian Dr.Mike Miller, Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Wildlife Health Program Leader said “the best hope now is managing the disease so it doesn’t kill deer and elk in such large numbers that herds are reduced to sizes too low to allow hunting.”  But in my opinion as a veterinarian, extensive degradation of wildlands coupled with ecological mismanagement have contributed to the spread of insect-borne diseases such as Lyme and West Nile, and to Chronic Wasting Disease in deer, moose and elk now all spreading across much of the U.S. and in Canada along with other zoonotic and “emergent” diseases ( 25). Drastic culling of CWD infected and exposed animals in contaminated areas and investing in vaccine development go in the wrong direction. The open season and no-license needed in Minnesota and other states to kill coyotes, weasels, skunks, other small mammals, carrion-eaters like crows, and seasonal killing of insectivorous “game” birds and hunting and trapping of “small game and furbearers”--- mink, pine marten, fisher, beaver, otter, bobcat, raccoon, red and grey fox, bear and badger---should all be closed to allow the recovery of disease-containing and suppressing biodiversity. It is recognized that pathogens generally become less virulent or are destroyed after passage through resistant hosts, ---adapted, immunocompetent species and individuals---and this may hold true as well for prions.


The newspaper published the following timeline of the spread from what some believe to be the epicenter at Colorado State University's Foothills Campus outside Fort Collins because research was also going on with sheep infected with a similar prion disease called Scrapie, and had been in the same pen as the research-held mule deer who developed CWD. The infective prions might or might not have crossed the species barrier. The mule deer could have already been infected before they were brought to the facility from various parts of Colorado.

Chronic wasting disease timeline

1967: Wasting syndrome is observed in captive mule deer at the Colorado State University wildlife research facility in west Fort Collins.

1975−81: Wasting syndrome is observed in Toronto Zoo mule deer transferred from the Denver Zoo.

1979: Recognized in captive mule deer at Wyoming wildlife research facility.

1981: Detected in wild elk in Colorado.

1985: Detected in wild mule deer in Colorado and Wyoming.

1996: Detected in a captive elk farm in Saskatchewan; 38 other linked farms eventually found positive.

1997: Detected in captive elk facilities in South Dakota.

1998: Detected in captive elk facilities in Montana and Oklahoma.

1999: World Health Organization indicates no evidence CWD is transmissible to humans, but advises that exposure should be avoided.

2000: Detected in wild mule deer in Nebraska and Saskatchewan.

2002: Colorado establishes guidelines to minimize transport of high-risk carcass materials. First International CWD Symposium is held in Denver.

2002: Detected in captive elk in Minnesota, wild and captive white-tailed deer in Wisconsin and Illinois, mule deer in New Mexico and elk in South Dakota.

2003: Detected in wild mule deer in Utah.

2004: Detected in wild elk in New Mexico.

2005: Detected in moose in Colorado.

2008: Research indicates CWD may be a plausible explanation for local deer population declines in Colorado.

2010: Detected in captive white-tailed deer in Missouri and wild white-tailed deer in North Dakota and Virginia.

2016: Detected in wild elk and white-tailed deer in Arkansas and wild reindeer in Norway.


Postscript 2/25/19

Minn. lawmakers propose bills to better contain CWD

In Minnesota, the state animal health board quarantines captive cervid farms where chronic wasting disease is found, then the USDA usually buys and depopulates the herd, but farms are not required to sell to the USDA, says Minnesota Board of Animal Health veterinarian Mackenzie Reberg. An infected wild deer was found near a farm that had refused to depopulate, prompting state lawmakers to propose several bills aimed at strengthening CWD containment.

Minnesota Public Radio (2/22) 


1. See and )

2.Keesing F, Holt R D, Ostfeld R S. Effects of species diversity on disease risk. Ecol. Lett 2006; 9:485–498

3. Patz J, Daszak P, Tabor G, et al. Unhealthy landscapes: Policy recommendations on land use change and infectious disease emergence. Environ Health Perspect 2004; 112: 1092–1098.

4. Khasnis AA, Nettleman MD. Global warming and infectious disease. Arch. Med. Res.2005; 36: 689–96

5. Fox, M.W., The One Health: Human Disease, Veterinary Responsibilities and Our Animal and Environmental Relationships. AHVMA Journal, 2018, 53: 26-31.

6. Levi, Taal, et al.  Deer, predators, and the emergence of Lyme disease  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jul 3; 109(27): 10942–10947.

7. For more details visit See also USGS. 2018. Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disease in North America. February 2018.

 8. Race, Brent et al Chronic Wasting Disease Agents in Nonhuman Primates .    Emerg Infect Dis. 2014 May; 20(5): 833–837. doi: 10.3201/eid2005.130778

9. Singh N, Das D, Singh A, Mohan ML. Prion Protein and Metal Interaction: Physiological and Pathological Implications. In Tatzelt J.2010 The Prion Protein. Savanna Press. ISBN 978-0954333522.

10. Virginia Tech. "Do Lead Bullets Continue To Be A Hazard After They Land?". ScienceDaily, 5 November 2004. <>.

11. Lian HY, Lin KW, Yang C, Cai P. Generation and propagation of yeast prion [URE3] are elevated under electromagnetic field. Cell Stress Chaperones. 2018 Jul;23(4):581-594. doi: 10.1007/s12192-017-0867-9. Epub 2017 Dec 6

12. Mertens, M et al Glyphosate, a chelating agent—relevant for ecological risk assessment? Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018; 25(6): 5298–5317.

11. Samsel, S. and Seneff S., Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases III: Manganese, neurological diseases, and associated pathologies Surg Neurol Int. 2015; 6: 45.Published online 2015 Mar 24. doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.153876

14. Samsel, S. and Seneff S., Glyphosate pathways to modern diseases VI: Prions, amyloidoses and autoimmune neurological diseases Anthony Samsel1 and Stephanie Seneff 2, Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry · March 2017

15. Russo, F., et al Pathogenic Prion Protein Is Degraded by a Manganese Oxide Mineral Found in Soils Journal of General Virology 90(Pt 1):275-80 · January 2009

16. Kuznetsova,A. et al Soil humic acids degrade CWD prions and reduce infectivity PLoS Pathog. Nov. 29,2018

17.. Johnson, C.J.  et al Oral Transmissibility of Prion Disease Is Enhanced by Binding to Soil Particles PLoS Pathog. 2007 Jul; 3(7): e93.Published online 2007 Jul 6. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.0030093

18. Purdy ”Mad Cow” Disease by Mark Purdey, accessed March 1st 2019

19. Krumm CE, Conner MM, Hobbs NT, Hunter DO, Miller MW. Mountain lions prey selectively on prion-infected mule deer.  Biol Lett. 2010 Apr 23;6(2):209-11. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0742. Epub 2009 Oct 28.

20. Hobbs, N. T., A Model Analysis of Effects of Wolf Predation on Prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease in Elk Populations of Rocky Mountain National Park  4/12/2006

21.Hofmeester TR, Jansen PA, Wijnen HJ, Coipan EC, Fonville M, Prins HHT, Sprong H, van Wieren SE. 2017 Cascading effects of predator activity on tick-borne disease risk. Proc. R. Soc. B 284: 20170453.

22.Farnsworth, M.L., L.L. Wolfe, N.T. Hobbs, K.P. Burnham, E.S. Williams, D.M Theobald, M.M. Conner, and M.W. Miller. 2005. Human Land Use Influences Chronic Wasting Disease Prevalence in Mule Deer. Ecological Applications 15: 119–126.

23. Wild, Margaret A., N. Thompson Hobbs, Mark S. Graham, and Michael W. Miller. 2011. The Role of Predation in Disease Control: A Comparison of Selective and Nonselective Removal on Prion Disease Dynamics in Deer. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 47(1):78–93.


25. Fox, M.W., 2018. The One Health: Human Disease, Veterinary Responsibilities and Our Animal and Environmental Relationships. AHVMA Journal, 53: 26-31.

We Have Buggered Mother Earth

February 13, 2019 - Dr. Michael W. Fox

Responsible journalism is warning us of a pending global environmental apocalypse caused by our combined numbers of people and animals raised for human consumption and by a fossil-fuel based economy and petrochemical and drug-dependent agribusiness food industry. See now:

Insects are a foundation class of animals, far more ancient than we, that are the sustainers---from pollinators to recyclers and food for other creatures---of life on Earth.

 As a child growing up in England I became a naturalist exploring local ponds and streams, then a teen-age biologist and at nineteen, just before high school graduation I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. Aquatic caddis flies, the Trichoptera, were my passion, their life cycle and different larval forms captivating my curiosity and awe. They are an indicator species of water quality. Their decline and extinction from agrichemical herbicides, GMOs and insecticides, also applied to livestock that contaminate fresh water, is but one issue on the agenda of civil society awakening to planetary CPR---conservation, protection and restoration which is the foundation for our own health and future viability.

Finding Human Equivalence and Wisdom in Nature

February 13, 2019 - Dr. Michael W. Fox

Ecologically, love is inter-species symbiosis. Communion is commensalism. Economically, ecosystems are regeneratively self-sustaining.  Politically, natural ecosystems, as Russian Count Peter Kropotkin concluded from his studies of the Steppes of his homeland. an-archic.  There is no ruler or dictated order beyond the matrix of inter-species symbiosis which he called mutual aid: An organic democracy of diverse species that maintain the life and beauty of that wild community.  Predators like the wolf packs that remove the sick and infirm, keeping herds healthy and protecting the forests from over-grazing by controlling their numbers are vital contributors to biodiversity.  We now threaten such biodiversity, seventy percent of the animals on Earth being us and the animals we raise and kill for food.

Kropotkin's evidence was dismissed by the Darwinists, advocates of the survival of the fittest during the colonial times of Empire building and global exploitation.

French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) proposed that environmental  influences on one generation can be passed on to the next.  He was long dismissed by the scientific community of genetic determinists and the bioengineers of life and patent-holders.  But now epigenetics is being accepted and Lamarck given recognition long overdue.

The science and application of love in all our relationships with other sentient beings has been too long ignored and suppressed by ignorance and exploitation.  Bear scientist Lynn Rogers became friends with the wild bears he studied and told the world about because they were not afraid of him and with that trust behaved naturally around him.  His love-approach to studying an animal, echoing the words of Konrad Lorenz, one of the founders of the science of ethology who said “ Before you can really study an animal you must first love it” was professionally ridiculed and the Minnesota state authorities stopped his research on the grounds that he was making these bears dangerous to the public which was untrue. The scientific method is impartial and objective but that does not mean treating animals as objects, often disposable.


November 25, 2018 - Dr Michael W Fox


By Dr. Michael W. Fox*

On November 16th,2018 House members of  Congress, including Minnesota’s soon-to-be Governor Tim Walz, passed the bill, HR 6784, the "Manage Our Wolves Act" which, if passed in the Senate, will allow states to return to wolf trophy hunting and trapping and removes any opportunity for judicial review, which is a dangerous precedent. Ceding Federal protection under the Endangered Species Protection Act to State wildlife management has been opposed by scientists and conservationists and a large public constituency of wildlife protection. The livestock sector that supports wolf eradication is now recognized as one of the world’s major contributors to climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Wolves need to be protected and their numbers increased so the whitetail deer over-population and related health-problems can be rectified. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) in whitetail deer and other ungulates is spreading across the U.S., now reported in 22 states. While deer ranches can be one source of infection, seeking to manage a large deer population for recreational hunting---essentially wildlife farming---and winter feeding, coupled with predator control, especially of wolves, creates the perfect storm for the spread of CWD. 

Outdoors reporter Dennis Anderson’s appeal (StarTribune March 9/18) to the legislature to limit the scourge of CWD in the state’s deer herd by ideally getting rid of deer and elk farms and at least making them secure with double fencing and regular inspections should not fall on deaf ears. A variant of the prions that cause chronic wasting disease in deer, moose and elk across many states caused mad cow disease in the U.K., decimating the beef industry and resulting in brain disease in humans and some companion animals. According to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), grass plants can bind, uptake and transport infectious prions which are single proteins that cannot be destroyed by typical “kill strategies” such as extreme heat or ultraviolet light. They discovered that even highly diluted amounts of the material can bind to the roots and leaves. From there, they fed the wheat grass to hamsters, which became infected with the disease. The team also found the infectious prion proteins in plants that had been exposed to urine and feces from prion-infected hamsters and deer.

The Bureau of Microbial Hazards (BMH), Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada posted on April 26, 2017 a Risk Advisory Opinion: Potential Human Health Risks from Chronic Wasting Disease because CWD has been transmitted to cynomolgus macaques (the non-human primate species most closely related to humans that may be used in research), through both the intracranial and oral routes of exposure. Both infected brain and muscle tissues were found to transmit disease. 

The probability of transmission to cattle, sheep and goats and to humans consuming infected meats and crops from corn to cabbages contaminated by infected deer feces and urine is considerable and concerted action is called for at this time to prevent such a potentially catastrophic eventuality.

Against these research findings, what are the best strategies to control CWD for Minnesota and other State departments of natural resources, wildlife management and animal and public health?  Clearly in Minnesota, high concentrations of deer encouraged by private land owners, deer farms and even the DNR for deer hunters in many zones across the state need to be ecologically managed. “Eco-health” is maximized by protecting optimal numbers of carnivore species, wolves in particular and cougars in other States that may have some immunity to prion infection, who cull weak and sickly deer and prevent high densities that can mean over-brazing and destruction of habitat.

Leading wildlife biologists cited by Tod Wilkinson in his December 11, 2017 Mountain Journal article “The Undeniable Value of Wolves, Bears, Lions and Coyotes In Battling Disease: Will The Fairy Tale Mentality Of Western States Against Predators Hamper Their Ability To Slow Chronic Wasting Disease”? are unanimous in recognizing the role of predators in controlling CWD. Their systematic extermination over the past two centuries especially by the livestock industry has facilitated the spread of this disease across the U.S. and Canada. In this article Kevin Van Tighem, a hunter and former superintendent of Banff National Park in Alberta’s Canadian Rockies opines, “I don’t know of a single credible biologist who would argue that wolves, along with other predators and scavengers, aren’t important tools in devising sound strategies for dealing with CWD.” Van Tighem says it can be rationally argued that wolves provide the best line of defense since they are confronting infected animals. So those States blessed with viable wolf populations need to recognize the role of these predators in ecosystem management and protect such large carnivores from human predation and maintain maximal wolf numbers to optimize deer and elk herd health rather than de-listing the wolf from Federal protection as an endangered species to allow trophy hunting, trapping and snaring.

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in deer, transmissible to cattle, follows a similar pattern of high deer numbers. As Michigan State university veterinary epidemiology professor Paul Bartlett opines, “My conclusion a long time ago was
that if you raise deer like feedlot cattle they’re going to get a feedlot cattle disease.” 

In addition to bTB white tail deer can also transmit other diseases to cattle and humans including Q Fever, Brucellosis and may infect cattle with EHD, epizootic hemorrhagic fever. Also, Leptospirosis, which causes reproductive failure, anemia, liver and kidney disease in ruminants and is typically shed in the urine of infected animals. People acquire the infection by oral ingestion and contact with contaminated urine, placenta, and fetal tissues. The organism can infect hosts through abraded skin. Salmonellosis, campylobacterosis, listeriosis, yersiniosis, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are acquired from deer by contact and accidental oral ingestion of fecal material from infected animals.

Surely it is time for all State and Federal wildlife agencies to implement ecologically sound wildlife management practices that improve deer health and not continue to put livestock and humans at risk from several diseases by maximizing natural biodiversity. This must include protection of wolves and other predators and not rely on human predation for a few weeks of hunting every year during the breeding season to limit deer population densities. Allowing the hunting and trapping of wolves will only make matters worse. 

*The author lives in Golden Valley MN and is a veterinarian and author of The Soul of the Wolf. Website 

Vote for the Wolf

October 25, 2018 - HFW Action Fund

Use Your Voice. Vote for the Wolf.

In 11 days, it is time to head to the polls. If you live in one of the 34 states that allow early voting, you can vote as early as today.
This is the most important action you will take to protect wildlife this year.

The US mid-term elections on November 6th will be a watershed event for the survival of wildlife, the environment and the future of the Earth’s ecosystem. Control of Congress must change to slow the continuing destruction of wildlife and natural habitat, the selfish philosophy of “greed over all” and the current administration’s attacks on the Endangered Species Act and America’s wild wolves. Democrats are far from perfect, but changing control in Washington is crucial. The wolf and all of America’s wildlife need Congressional leaders - like Betty McCollum - who value the natural environment and the species that depend upon it.  Congresswoman McCollum is the current ranking minority member of the natural resources committee and was instrumental in saving the wolf from extinction in 2015 and 2016: she may again be in a position to protect them if leadership shifts in D.C. If the US House is majority Democrat, then the wolf, other wildlife and endangered species will have a friend in Congress with power to actually protect them. No matter who, please vote blue. We need someone like Congresswoman Betty McCollum to be in charge of that committee. Please vote to change control in your local Congressional election this November.

1: Make sure your voter registration is up-to-date and accurate. Some states allow voter registration and/or changes to registration up to Election Day or at the polls.
2: Find out if your state allows early voting. If it does, go vote!
3: If you are not voting early, find your polling place and make a plan. This is vital. Things come up and plans change. For this one day, Tuesday, November 6th, make voting a top priority. Leave yourself a sticky note, set up a calendar reminder, tell a loved one, do whatever it takes to get out the door and VOTE!
You can find your polling place, find early voting locations, and even look up candidates on the ballot at the Endangered Species Voter Action Center at the link below.
If you need a ride to vote, please visit to find a free ride to your polling place. In many places, Uber is offering free transportation to polling locations.
We have said it before, and we'll say it a few more times before Election Day: the stakes are very high, and deeply consequential.
The outcome of the 35 Senate and 435 House of Representative races could determine whether wolves, grizzly bears, sage grouse, and other plants, fish, and animals lose protections.
The future of the Endangered Species Act itself is in question.Whether you believe in the power of your individual vote or not, choosing not to vote is to be culpable for the consequences that are likely occur if things continue as is and those who would stand up for wildlife are not elected. 
On Tuesday, November 6th (or earlier if your state allows early voting), you can help to decide the future.
Please, wolf advocates, make your plan to vote and carry out a civic duty of the utmost importance in these trying times which have seen endless, relentless, attacks on wildlife and the environment.
Thank you for your commitment to wildlife and wild places.
This has been a message from the Howling For Wolves Action Fund, a registered C4 non-profit.
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Preparing for Wolf Day

April 2, 2018 - Leslie Rosedahl
Organizing all the pieces for a large event like Wolf Day starts about six months ahead of time – because the team at Howling For Wolves values each wolf supporter’s time and advocacy efforts. We know the more planning and thoughtfulness we can do, the more effective Wolf Day at the Capitol will be, and that makes a difference for the wolf! 
This upcoming Wolf Day (on April 11) will be the fifth Wolf Day I’ve assisted Howling For Wolves President and Founder Maureen Hackett. My primary role, year round with HFW, is media and communications – making sure we’re heard in the media to influence the public and decision-makers. Dr. Hackett and I work closely together on press releases, opinion pieces, social media posts, and more. Garnering media attention is a big part of Wolf Day too. We gather in the Capitol Rotunda to rally and represent the wolf - and that’s a terrific and attractive visual for television reporters/cameras to use in their stories, and we set aside time for Dr. Hackett to personally visit with reporters at the event, as well as pitch a press release that day to statewide media outlets. (We are usually pretty successful – having 4-5 media outlets cover Wolf Day!)
Another part of my role for Wolf Day is finding the right words to help wolf supporters tell the Howling For Wolves story during Wolf Day. Every year Dr. Hackett and I update all materials we put in the folders: the HFW “backgrounder,” “legislative priorities,” “wolf facts,” “exit survey,” “daily agenda,” etc. All handouts need new formatting with the new logos, new updated information, etc. 
Also, a large amount of time (hours!) is spent thinking through the right words for the emails we send to likely attendees hoping to motivate and recruit to join us at the Capitol. I usually take the first draft of the emails– and Dr. Hackett always has edits. Lots of edits! And they are working – we already have over 125 advocates RSVP’d for the Wolf Day 2018!
I work with Sophie, who uses the addresses that people submit for registration and checks to see what senator and representative represent them. Then she makes an individual meeting request to that legislator’s legislative assistant (their staff person). On any given day, there are MANY Days at the Capitol in St. Paul (probably 10-15?) so sometimes we compete for meeting times with other organizations and have to make our case. More often than not we’re competing for the legislators’ time against existing committee meetings, House and Senate floor sessions that are called at the last minute, etc., where legislators are required to vote. We try our best to make sure that there is enough time between the House member meeting and the Senate member meeting, but it can get pretty tight if only one time is available. Many legislators don’t know their final schedule for the day until the last minute, or their scheduled changed because of last-minute committee meetings or floor session votes, so right up to the night before we’re changing and re-arranging schedules. The morning of Wolf Day, even after we need to print the schedule, there will always be 5-10 meetings changed. It works best to schedule meetings for people on their behalf – as opposed to having attendees do it – because first, we know it can be complicated to make the request. Secondly, there are normally several people in that House or Senate member’s district, and it’s confusing to have several requests into a legislator’s office for the same meeting. Lastly, it’s easiest for one person to be the point of contact for all scheduling issues.
Ila, the fantastic Howling For Wolves volunteer coordinator who also helps with various administrative items, also helps with Wolf Day by making all the folders – printing handouts, stuffing the folders, stickering the front. She also helps organize the nametags, and the HFW T-shirts as everyone has a specific size they’ve required. (That’s a big job!) Ila also works with several other volunteers to organize buses. (That’s also a big job!) This year, we have buses coming from Duluth and St. Cloud. Ila also takes your questions via phone and email, orders the food, and organizes the volunteer duties too!
Many of our wolf advocates live in the same legislative district and will be together for their meetings with representatives. For example, we are excited to send nine advocates to meet with Senator Pappas  This is our largest group in one district so far this year. 
Howling For Wolves works with professional lobbyists to make sure our legislative priorities and agenda are always top of mind for legislators in committee meetings, etc. They work with bill authors and legislators on bill hearings, draft amendments, and work with the Governor’s office and other political leaders in support of the priorities of Howling For Wolves. Priorities include:
  • Removing the automatic and reckless wolf trophy hunt in current Minnesota law
  • Eliminating snaring of all wildlife
  • Requiring permission to trap on private land
  • Continuing to support farmers with preventative nonlethal strategies to avoid wolf conflict
New to the Howling For Wolves Legislative Priorities this year is a bill to lift the ban on treating injured wolves. Right now, the Minnesota DNR prohibits Minnesota’s wildlife rehabilitation professionals from providing treatment to a wolf, regardless of the circumstances. It should not be a crime to rescue a threatened species from human-caused trauma! 
More work preparing for Wolf Day includes updating the PowerPoint presentations (at the briefing and rally), thank you cards to legislators, and most importantly for some of us, breakfast foods!
All of these pieces come together on Wolf Day to make sure that our advocates can have the best day at the Capitol possible – we know it’s not easy to take time off work and come to a sometimes intimidating and ceremonial place, and we want to be the strongest advocates for the wolf because she needs us. 
Almost 200 wolves were killed last year in 2017 by government agents alone, even while on the Endangered Species List. And those are just the ones we know about and are reported. There is more work to do!
For the wolf to be around for future generations, we need to do the best job we can advocating for her at the State Capitol – because that’s where momentous decisions are made. 
I hope you can join us this year.

HFW's Response to the news of the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services budget extension request

October 21, 2017 - Maureen Hackett, MD


On October 18, Minnesota Senators Klobuchar and Franken, and US Representatives Peterson, Walz, Nolan, and Emmer signed a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund an 11-week extension of the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services to bait and kill wolves in areas where livestock have been killed by predation. The killing is done by baiting and trapping in the area in response to a livestock loss by a wolf, as confirmed by the agency. Minnesota’s lawmakers cited an increased need for more wolf killing as due to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wolf estimate that alleges a 25% increase in the states’ wolf population.

The Wildlife Services branch of the USDA-APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Services) in Grand Rapids, MN has run out of operational funds 11 weeks before the end of the year, citing an increased number of wolves killed, up from 179 per year on average to 197 wolves this year. Note that it is the wolves that are being killed in increasing numbers. In fact, we now know that the actual complaints are down by 27% over last year. This agency has been known to spend its annual budget by the late fall because the peak season for problems with livestock and wolves is between May and September. The connection between a "surging" wolf population and Wildlife Services running out of money is completely misleading. Complaints are actually down, and wolf estimates are still lower than they were 10 years ago.

USDA-APHIS kills wolves in response to confirmed livestock losses by baiting all the wolves in an area. There is no information obtained as to whether the baited wolves are “offending” wolves. Wildlife Services now kills 2-3 wolves per confirmed predation on livestock instead of 1-2 wolves killed per complaint 10 years ago. The fact that the Grand Rapids based Wildlife Services has used their budget because they are killing more wolves can be due to many factors including the fact that they are killing more wolves in response to each individual confirmed predation on livestock. In essence—they are a lethal first model instead of a lethal last model. Killing wolves leads can lead to more livestock killing. A program that seeks to reduce conflicts with livestock solely by killing wolves is counter-productive and risks repeating the mistakes of the 1800’s. Research has demonstrated that lethal responses to wolf predation on livestock is associated with more livestock lost the following year. This occurs up until so many wolves are killed (about 25% of the population) that ethey are no longer able to reproduce enough to show this effect. This is thought due to the destabilization of packs to such a point that they cannot hunt effectively or never have the opportunity to learn, resulting in a reliance on livestock as a food source. In essence, killing wolves kills livestock. Minnesota's own data back to 1988, as reported by the USDA's Wildlife Services supports this finding. Most years showing increased predation on livestock follows years where higher numbers of wolves were killed in Minnesota.

Ironically, this request for increased funds for lethal methods comes just days after the announcement from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture of a Wolf-Livestock Conflict Prevention Grant which provides reimbursement for farmers and livestock producers who implement nonlethal methods to reduce and prevent wolf-livestock encounters. In Minnesota, farmers who are willing to attempt to avoid problems with wolves and by extension stabilize the wolf population now have funding for nonlethal prevention methods. Ultimately this has been shown to be less expensive and to reduce conflicts and thus unnecessary wolf killing. Lethal methods must be the last resort because baiting wolves to the area where the conflicts occurred, is the exact opposite of what nonlethal deterrence does. Nonlethal methods are meant to keep the wolf away by setting up a boundary using various scare methods and even guard animals. It is the goal of nonlethal to stop or at least slow the wolf and livestock killing cycle by letting the packs stabilize and learn to avoid these areas.

The lawmakers’ request for more funding to bait and trap wolves refers to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) headline that the wolf population has increased by 25%. It is ludicrous to claim that an increased population of the gray wolf has led to an apocalypse scenario for Minnesota's livestock. The DNR’s estimate of wolf numbers is not a “count.”  It is a statistical method that has never been confirmed to actually reflect the real numbers of wolves in MN.

The “bipartisan” support for continued and increased funds for lethal methods was announced by citing the need to protect people and pets due to the "increased" wolf numbers. This appears to be these politicians' supporting our farmers. We agree that farmers in Minnesota should be supported in their tolerance for the wolf. We especially appreciate the nonlethal funding that was passed into law this past spring by our state lawmakers. Now we hope that the lethal methods will be reduced and used as a last resort while we attempt to engage more interest in using nonlethal prevention methods. This all comes at a time when the federal endangered species protection of the wolf is in jeopardy. The Minnesota federal lawmakers who are co-sponsoring bills to remove the federal protection of the wolf are those who are also advocating for the increased funding for lethal methods. We hope to engage these particular lawmakers into further understanding that wolf killing can make matters worse for farmers which is why we are supporting a "nonlethal first" policy.




Amazing new studies about wolves social behavior

October 17, 2017 - Peter Peterson Senior

Over the centuries people knew about wolves cooperation while hunting in packs. One of the best reflections of this knowledge is Rudyard Kipling's The Law of the Jungle (read the whole poem here):

"For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack."

While Kipling's poem shows his deep intuitive understanding of wolf behavior, many people and many zoo logists considered wolves not much more than vicious killing automatons running in packs. Recently there was a string of studies exploring and learning much more about cognitive and social abilities of wolves. And in the process, challenging some of our judgements, assumptions and prejudices. I list links to 4 representative studies accompanied by short quotations, and leave it to the reader to enjoy exploring the study reviews. Go to the links below:

Dog-human cooperation is based on social skills of wolves, January 2015
The author's "hypothesis states that since wolves already are tolerant, attentive and cooperative, the relationship of wolves to their pack mates could have provided the basis for today's human-dog relationship."

Sensitivity to inequity is in wolves' and dogs' blood, June 2017
"Not only dogs but also wolves react to inequity - similar to humans or primates. This has been confirmed in a new study by comparative psychologists of the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. Wolves and dogs refused to cooperate in an experiment when only the partner got a treat or they themselves received a lower quality reward."

Wolves understand cause and effect better than dogs, September 2017
"Domestic dogs may have lost some of their innate animal skill when they came in from the wild, according to new research conducted at the Wolf Science Center in Austria."

Wolves found to be more cooperative with their own kind than dogs with theirs, October 2017
"Wolves outperformed dogs, despite comparable levels of interest in the task."



Democracy and the Gray wolf Depend on the Courts

August 6, 2017 - Maureen Hackett, MD

We are elated with the decision of the US Court of Appeals  (for the District of Columbia Circuit) to keep the Western Great Lakes wolf listed as federally protected and on the endangered species list.  We remain humble, but elated nonetheless. The Court of Appeals' decision was narrow in their affirmation of the lower district courts opinion to keep the Western Great Lakes wolf federally protected. Their opinion addressed the core principle and tactic used to delist the Western Great Lakes wolf population by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service). According to the Court of Appeals, the Service did not even attempt to protect the remaining “remnant” wolf population outside the Great Lakes' area in the lower 48 states. The Court of Appeals agreed that while it is within the Service's purview to delist a distinct population segment, the Service was not doing so in a manner that protected the wolf species as a whole.  It was nearly inconsequential how well the Western Great Lakes wolves were faring, if they could not address the fate of the wolf population throughout the lower 48 states. The Service never addressed how the remnant population would fare once the Western Great Lakes wolves were not protected. The Service had delineated the Western Great Lakes wolf population as a Distinct Population Segment (DPS).  This segment status, which the courts found appropriate, was then delisted by the Service without determining how the rest of the gray wolf population would do if the DPS was not protected. That is, the Service did not consider the effects of delisting the DPS (Western Great Lakes) on the rest of the wolf population.  

The court of appeals cited the Services’ own notice to delist wolves throughout the lower 48 in June 2013, to demonstrate that the Service had not addressed the rest of the wolf population outside of the Western Great Lakes. The Service was not even attempting to consider the “remnant” populations throughout their historic range.  The Court of Appeals stated on page 30 of their opinion, “Worse still, the Service has announced that, with the Western Great Lakes segment carved out, the remnant is no longer a protectable “species” and has proposed its delisting for that reason alone. See Removing the Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus) From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Maintaining Protections for the Mexican Wolf (Canis Lupus Baileyi) by listing it as Endagered, 78 Fed Reg. 35,664, 35,668 (June 13, 2013) (‘We conclude that the current entity C. Lupus [gray wolf] entity is not a valid species from the List[.]’)

A significant question addressed was whether the delisting negatively affected the Western Great Lakes wolf in Minnesota. The data introduced at the original trial was from 2007-2008, prior to Minnesota’s three consecutive wolf hunts in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  This older data was interpreted to be from a time when the wolf population was delisted (briefly from 2007-2008). There was no recognition that this was a time with no wolf hunting and trapping seasons. The original court filings were done in early 2013 too soon for the wolf population estimates published in the summer of 2013. Minnesota’s more recent data does show a negative affect on the wolf population from the 2012 delisting. In that period ( 2012-2014) over 1700 wolves (known) were killed and the estimated wolf counts dropped 25% the first year of delisting in 2012 and they have stayed down since then.

The Court of Appeals did not agree with the trial court that the state of Minnesota had an “unregulated wolf hunting season” in two-thirds of the state.  Today, we have evidence (using the Court of Appeals’ own standards) that the most recent delisting did harm the wolf in Minnesota.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported in 2014 to the Service that the population dropped by 24% the first year following delisting.  While the Court of Appeals did not agree with the trial judge about the harm to the wolf population, we at HFW know if this were ever re-litigated, evidence for this harm now exists.

For now, we are elated that the wolf hunts in Minnesota were stopped by the District Court and now by the Court of Appeals.  Our work at HFW continues. We have much to do toward educating the public about the wild wolf and in particular about using nonlethal methods as a first response to potential conflicts. For political action, we will persuade our federal politicians to see that the current Senate bill (S.1514) is extremely reckless. It contains a provision that sets unbelievably dangerous precedents. First, that congress is engaging in the nitty-gritty of the science of a species listings and worse and more dangerous, cutting out the courts and allowing congress to cherry pick their favorite laws from which to block the courts.  Sounds unconstitutional? It does to many people. See our earlier blog for the specific wording of S.1514 and tell your US Senator that you do not want S.1514 to pass with this horrific precedent and wolf reissue rule.

We have a democracy that depends on the courts, and so does the wolf.

Court of Appeals:$file/15-5041.pdf

#LiveAndLet Howl




HELP for Wildlife Act and delisting the wolves. Again, and again, and again.

July 28, 2017 - Peter Peterson Senior

The enemies of environment are at it again. In the best Orwellian trend, reminiscent of GW Bush presidency, senators Barrasso, Cardin, Boozman, Klobuchar, Capito, and Baldwin hatched another amendment to a bill S.1514 named "Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act" or the "HELP for Wildlife Act".

Among many anti-environmental clauses, two are yet another attempt to delist the Great Lakes wolves, and the US wolves in general, quote:

"SEC. 7. Reissuance of final rule regarding gray wolves in Western Great Lakes.
Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on December 28, 2011 (76 Fed. Reg. 81666), without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such reissuance shall not be subject to judicial review."

"SEC. 8. Reissuance of final rule regarding gray wolves in Wyoming.
The final rule published on September 10, 2012 (77 Fed. Reg. 55530) that was reinstated on March 3, 2017, by the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (No. 14–5300) and further republished on May 1, 2017 (82 Fed. Reg. 20284–85) that reinstates the removal of Federal protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, shall not be subject to judicial review."

Note the often repeated refrain, very likely contrary to the US Constitution, at the end of each section: "shall not be subject to judicial review". They clearly indicate that the authors are duly afraid that their ammendment may be overturned by a court, and attempt to introduce a statement that they hope would prevent this.

You can see the amendment at this link:




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