Founder's Blog


January 3, 2023 - By Michael W. Fox, BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS

By Michael W. Fox, BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS

Wolves embody the same spark that ignites and sustains the human spirit, and the One Health of Earth.
I speak and write about wolves as a veterinarian, scientist and bioethicist who has raised wolf
cubs and studied their behavior, development and communication. Without wolves in my life, I
would not likely have earned the doctor of science degree in animal behaviour/ethology from
London University, England. I have authored and edited several academic books about wolves
and other wild canids, and the award-winning book of fiction for children, The Wolf.
One of the founding fathers of the science of animal behavior/ethology, Nobel prize laureate
Konrad Lorenz, MD, proclaimed “Before you can really study an animal you must first love it.”
Native American Indian Chief Dan George put it this way: “If you talk to the animals they will
talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them, you will not know them,
and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys.”
Those who know wolves would respect rather than seek to destroy them. I can attest to their high
degree of intelligence, insight, playful humor and empathy as detailed in my popular book The
Soul of the Wolf. Wolves are exemplary parents, instilling obedience in their cubs so essential for
their survival as well as self-control, gentleness and pack-cooperation/mutual aid. They will
bring food to a pack-mate who is injured, most often while hunting. Conflicts between packs are
rare but when food is scarce there can be injuries, deaths and dispersal.
The vital role of wolves in contributing to the health of deer and other wildlife and their
ecosystems, and to public health have been well documented. The ecological, environmental and
public health services that wolves provide help rectify the ecological, environmental and public
health costs of the livestock industry, too long denied. (
When subjected to human encroachment, shooting, trapping, snaring, denning and poisoning. the
integrated nuclear-family and stabilizing pack and clan associations of wolves are disrupted,
resulting in suffering, starvation and social conflicts. From a humane as well as from the
scientific and bioethical perspectives of One Health, it is enlightened self-interest to protect
wolves and engage in planetary “CPR” (-conservation, preservation and restoration). Supporting
cattle ranchers by exterminating wolves and other predators and subsidizing the beef industry
simply fuels global warming, climate change and loss of biodiversity. It also perpetuates the
unquestioned cultural norm and consumer health risks of meat-based diets.
The fundamental lesson from the ecology of wolf and other large predators is that they naturally
control their numbers (Arian D. Wallach et al. Oikos Feb. 16 th
2015. See also
limit-their-own-numbers-2/). There are too many of us who kill billions of animals annually from
land and sea to consume as a dietary staple to not harm the environment. The most significant
correctives are to transition to plant-based diets and the implementation of new food

biotechnologies such as animal cell bioreactors producing safe and nutritious, cruelty-free
analogs of meat and other animal products. This would eliminate the justification of predator
control/killing; cruel farm animal factories and feedlots; stressful transportation and mass
slaughter of terrified animals; put an end to hunting and fishing and to many food-borne
illnesses; and reduce climate change and loss of biodiversity.
The giving and taking of lives, predators and prey, as the dynamics of forest, deer and wolf
demonstrate, evidence how the ecological whole of biodiversity is maintained and sustained.
Add the human takings of timber, mining, agriculture, hunting deer, incursion of livestock and
land developers, and taking of wolves as trophies and for their fur is a crime against Nature and
to the spirit and sensibilities of our own humanity.
Environmental/ecological eugenics is a relatively new and imprecise science involving the
selective extermination of invasive species and re-introduction, like wolves into Yellowstone
National Park and beavers into their original wetland habitats where they were trapped to
extinction, with documented benefits in terms of enhanced natural biodiversity. Such eugenics of
wildlife management and habitat restoration and conservation contrasts the harmful
consequences of agribusiness food-industry eugenics with the selective killing of insects, for
example, with insecticides that now threaten bees and other vital crop pollinators and have
decimated naturally pest- controlling insectivorous amphibian, reptile, avian and bat populations:
And the killing of predators to protect livestock that infect other wildlife with diseases, the
absence of predators accelerating the loss of biodiversity and incursion of invasive species. The
only justification to ever cull or relocate a wolf pack would be if they were to put endangered
species at risk, which has never occurred. We humans put the most species at risk.
It is, perhaps, poetic irony, if not Nature’s retribution, that we are suffering the catastrophic and
escalating consequences of climate change and of potentially pandemic diseases transmitted
from animals to humans that natural biodiversity once helped contain, as the science and
bioethics of One Health affirms. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution incorporating the
essence of a Universal Bill of Rights for Animals and Nature codified in 2011 in my book
Animals and Nature First could establish the U.S. as the leader for the formation of a United
Environmental Nations to collaboratively achieve the One Health imperatives of planetary CPR-
(conservation, protection and restoration). We are surely not powerless to stop the wanton
destruction, the needless killing and endless suffering. In a restored democracy there would be
justice for all. From the Christian perspective of the Rev. James Parks Morton, “Ecology is the
science of the body of Christ through which we of the Earth community learn our sacred
In respecting and protecting the wolf we do no less for our humanity. Chief Black Elk, an Oglala
Lakota Sioux holy man, warrior, and survivor of Wounded Knee, proclaimed: “Nothing will be
well unless we learn to live in harmony with the Power of the World as it lives and moves and
does its work.” This Power of the World, from Nature’s life-sustaining biodiversity, is in every
creature and breath we take. In harming this Power of the World, we fall from grace toward
extinction as a rational, responsible and compassionate species. What kinds of human
phenotypes/subspecies emerge from the Anthropocene apocalypse of what scientists are now
calling Earth’s sixth mass extinction, remains to be seen.

We are the mothers and fathers of tomorrow, and how well we care for and protect wolves and
all of our relations in Nature’s biodiversity today, will be our legacy. The Call of the Wild-the
spirit of creative freedom and genius loci- will be no more if we do not effectively address the
Nature Deficit Disorder in children and the escalating Empathy Deficit Disorder in most
societies today. All school districts should have access to Natural History and Wildlife Education
and Rehabilitation centers and on-line educational materials incorporating environmental
education. The animal circus and road-side zoo “animal experience” is detrimental to a child’s
cognitive and emotional development. We must recover the kind of sensibility expressed by
Australian aboriginal elder Bill Neidjie: “If you feel sore…headache, sore body, that mean
somebody killing tree or grass. You feel because your body in that tree or earth. Nobody can tell
you, you got to feel it yourself.”
None of us could function well with half a lung; broken bones and blood poisoning; impaired
nervous, endocrine and immune systems. Neither can planet Earth. These and other medical
conditions are evident in analogous form in the environmental dysbiosis we have caused: felling
forests, lungs of the Earth; breaking mountains apart and poisoning streams and waterways;
polluting our air, food and water; decimating and disrupting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
and the lives therein, plant, animal and microbial. These ecosystems are now disintegrating on
the path toward extinction. Only in the advancement of One Health is there reason for hope,
forever nascent in the spirituality of reverence for life and embedded in the principles of justice
and frugality.
Wolves revered by indigenous peoples East and West. (
mythology): In the Shinto religion of Japan the wolf is a guardian when it is properly attended to
and cared for. Farmers used to worship wolves at shrines and left food offerings near
their dens, beseeching them to protect their crops from wild boars and deer. Hindus traditionally
considered that the hunting of wolves was a taboo since they feared that it may cause a bad
harvest. According to Minnesota Ojibwe elder Jim Merhar “When the world started, the wolf
was put here to help people. You can think of it almost like dogs today. The wolf is a partner to
man.” ( In 2010, the
Red Lake Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, was the first to adopt a wolf management plan. They
designated the band's 843,000 acres of land as a wolf sanctuary in an effort to help save wolves.
To live and let live is a democratic ecological principle; a consummation devoutly to be wished
in accord with the Golden Rule. Saving the wolf today will help save our humanity tomorrow.

Dr. Fox lives in Golden Valley Minnesota. Email Website
Addendum: Minnesota’s updated wolf plan “strengthens wolf conservation.”
The DNR has finalized an updated wolf management plan that incorporates the diverse views of
Minnesotans and will guide the state’s approach to wolf conservation for the next 10 years. The
plan includes summary information about Minnesota’s wolf population and the history of wolves
in the state. It details the diverse and changing public attitudes about wolves, the legal status of
wolves, tribal perspectives on wolves, and ways to support a healthy and resilient wolf

population while minimizing conflicts between humans and wolves. The plan also includes a
framework for how the state will approach decisions about wolf hunting or trapping if the wolf is
delisted federally.
A full version of the updated plan and information about the planning process is on the  DNR
wolf plan page.
For an excellent recording of wolf howls, visit

New Year's Message for 2023

December 14, 2022 - Dr. Michael W. Fox

By Dr. Michael W. Fox

NOTE: From Dr. Fox's Animal Doctor syndicated newspaper column

I want to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2023 after the challenges of this past year beyond political discord, corruption, violence and war. The pathologies of dystopia, such as addiction, suicidal and homicidal nihilism and child and animal abuse are societal challenges affecting all who care.

The Climate, COVID-19 pandemic and Biodiversity Extinction crises have put us all on notice: Evolve or suffer and perish. An estimated 820 million people are seriously malnourished. The rising tide of disenfranchised, political, economic and adverse-environment afflicted refugees is a humanitarian crisis no civilized society can ignore or wall or war against. We have the promise of emerging technologies and other initiatives to produce, sustainably and safely, fossil-fuel-energy alternatives; affordable food and health care for all. These hopes will founder if denial, a business-as-usual attitude, and lack of effective family planning prevail. I find hope in investment initiatives sharing the vision of people like David Friedberg, (whom I saw on the BBC TV interviewed by Stephen Sackur) who is an animal rights advocate and CEO of The Production Board ( And in the nascent One Health movement which I have long advocated. (For details visit

Food technologies ancient and new could soon end the exploitation and killing of animals for food and new technologies replace fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions and global warming. Public health, animal health, a healthy environment and economy are all connected and dependent upon our ability to implement planetary CPR: Conservation, protection and restoration of Nature’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, extending the rule of law in unequivocal support of such initiatives internationally. The 15 the United Nations Biodiversity Conference COP15 held this past December in Montreal may help prevent what many scientists are calling the Earth’s sixth mass extinction---for the common good and the good of the Commons. So, I see glimmers of hope for this coming New Year and for years to come as we all commit to reducing our collective and personal carbon footprints, living simply so that others may simply live. Also, putting compassion into action helping organizations dedicated to assisting the homeless, feeding the poor, rescuing animals in our communities, and saving and rehabilitating wildlife and their habitats. Empathy and respect can have no boundaries and should embrace all persons, races, and species.

Wildlife Research Needs Veterinary Supervision and Ethical Boundaries

July 11, 2022 - Michael W. Fox, DVM and Maureen Hackett, MD


There are several documented, and many word-of mouth accounts of chemically immobilized and otherwise restrained endangered species like the Asian elephant and African wild dog being severely injured, killed or dying soon after capture and/or release. In some instances there was an association with the animals being injected with un-tested and un-approved modified live virus vaccines. In other instances the injured or killed animal was a pregnant or nursing mother.

 Experienced veterinary supervision is called for especially when research biologists are loose in the field using drugs and vaccines on their animal subjects and applying various methods of capture and restraint which may cause serious injury, capture myopathy and even death. (Dr. Hackett's note: Stress Cardiomyopathy is due to the emotional stress of the capture and causes cardiac muscle to be unable to contract properly and pump blood because it becomes like an octopus' motion under the massive surge in stress hormones. The federal trapper whom I discussed this with did not believe me until I informed him this is a common clinical event seen in captive animals and people too--he had no clue. Thus the need for veterinarian supervision).

Wildlife continue to be harassed, stressed, and subjected to these in-field risks so that tissue and blood samples can be taken (though DNA evidence can be obtained from feces and rubbing/marking areas), radio collars and even cameras fitted,  and microchips implanted. The generation of more scientific data from such field research may help advance careers and engender more funding, and give some substance to wildlife management schemes. But when the animals in question are put at risk, and there are no in-place regulations and effective law enforcement to protect and restore their existing habitats, and to extend same in order to help minimize accelerating loss of genetic biodiversity, then these wildlife researchers should cease and desist.

 Such activities alone have nothing to do with wildlife conservation and at best give the false impression that something is being done, the foreign presence alone being a deterrent to poaching etc etc. Yet in reality from a bioethical perspective, the risks to the animals far exceed the immediate and foreseeable benefits. So I appeal to all appropriate institutions, governmental and non-governmental, for-profit and not-for profit, to encourage alternative, non-invasive wildlife research, and to cease funding and permitting any form of wildlife capture except for urgent veterinary and conservation-translocation reasons.

---Dr. Michael W. Fox

Ten Years After

April 22, 2022 - Maureen Hackett

What a difference ten years has made at the Minnesota State Capitol for the wolf.

Yesterday, the Minnesota state senate made a decisive vote against a mandatory wolf hunt. Most would agree that to oppose a mandatory wolf hunt should be a no brainer. But politics of the wolf is so bad, that getting this decisive vote, with both parties on board against a mandatory wolf hunt is a leap forward for the wolf and for the legislature in Minnesota. The vote was 37 nays to 28 yeas. The current senate is Republican majority, but nearly equally divided. Compared to many other votes taken yesterday, this vote was decisive and not close, with Republicans also saying no to a Mandatory Wolf hunt.

Howling For Wolves started 10 years ago this spring.  We let the public know about the wolf hunting bill before it passed into law through the Environment bill. We made sure people knew about the wolf hunt during the lead up to it all summer 2012, as we tried to stop it. Then we protested the horrific wolf hunts. We were the advocates as the press told a slanted story about the wolf hunts. It is tragic, but obviously vital that the courts finally stopped the slaughter. There had been a democratic process accomplished long before in 1998. THis was to have a 5 year moratorium before aa wolf hunt was considered and was to have "full" public comment and scientific research. This was ignored and overturned in the rush to have a wolf hunt. THe Minnesota DNR did not even accomplish a baseline survey of the wolves of Minnesota after 35 years of protections before a public wolf slaughter. And all of the MN media just ate it up with no questions about what should have been and what could happen to our beloved wild wolves.

So much has happened since then. With all of the ups and downs for wolves and their packs, Wolf supporters can smile and feel proud about yesterday’s vote in the Minnesota State Senate. This was a glimmer of hope that a political body can help protect the wolf. This was a glimmer of hope that the legislature is hearing their constituents and voting accordingly. It demonstrated that it actually has an effect when we take actions and reach out to our representatives and senators whether it be in person or electronically. It takes an accumulation of actions to be heard and for all the actions taken over the years, it appears they hear us and are listening. It all started 10 years ago with so many in person actions and lots and lots of communications with our legislators, in person rallies and attempts to inform the public at major events.

Howling For Wolves is heard at the state capitol. Stay proud and stay engaged. They hear us.

(Watch the 40-minute debate on the Senate Environment Finance bill here.  It should start at the right time, 00:30:54. The vote concludes at 01:06:57.






COVID-19 Insights and Hindsight

April 5, 2022 - By Dr. Michael W. Fox

The current coronavirus pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus is responsible for over 6 million deaths world-wide and millions of others with chronic health consequences.

Some virologists contend that this virus was genetically engineered in one or more laboratories to have “gain in function”--becoming more contagious---a not uncommon procedure in the steps involving vaccine development and animal testing.

Conspiracy theories have been spun around the U.S. Government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s involvement in this kind of vaccine development. It is a very safe investment since people suffering from adverse reactions cannot sue the manufacturers but must prove their case, often difficult, directly to the Government to seek compensation.

My main concern is that these and other agencies have not taken any significant steps to prevent future pandemics from zoonotic ( animal-to-human) diseases by seeking international prohibitions on wildlife trade, live “wet” markets in China and other countries as well as the bush meat markets in Africa and a rapid phasing out of CAFOs-confined animal feed operations ( so-called factory farms) especially of pigs and poultry: also, COVID-19-susceptible fur farms, mink in particular, and deer and “trophy” game farms operations, especially of White-tail deer who are very susceptible to this virus transmitted from humans. New variants will evolve along with other zoonotic diseases which will not be prevented by evermore vaccines, none of which offer zero risk.

We must, as a population soon to crest at 8 billion and which many ecologists and others see as a global infestation, change our eating and breeding habits beginning with better family planning and the rapid adoption of nutritious, plant based diets around the world to reduce our depredation and dependence on animals wild and domesticated as a source of food.The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is now also urging adoption of plant-based diets as a significant step to help reduce climate change.

Remembering Sandy Skinaway

September 19, 2021 - Maureen Hackett

On Friday, September 17, I attended the Celebration of Life for Sandra Marie Skinaway, my friend and teacher. Sandy was a wolf advocate long before I started Howling For Wolves. She was the Chairwoman of the Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi of Ojibwe and she spent her energy and time working for her tribe to gain recognition from the federal government. Sandy taught me about Ma’iingan; Brother Wolf, and the sacred cultural role of the wolf for the Anishinaabe people. I learned so much from Sandy and wish I had learned even more. I am honored that Sandy trusted me to share her culture with me.

Sandy spoke on local television, wrote editorials, and testified at the state capital in MN as we worked to pass wolf protection laws. She was an enthusiastic activist organizing regular rallies and marches against wolf hunting. She taught lawmakers the cultural significance of the wolf. Sandy travelled to Washington, DC to assist environmental groups by representing the indigenous view as they advocated to protect the wolf with Senators and Representatives. She did this even when her health nearly prevented her from doing so.

Sandy was the most peaceful and humble person I have ever known. She never complained and she did not speak negatively about others. I learned the true meaning of humility from Sandy. Ma’iingan is described as symbolizing humility and I think that Sandy emulated the wolf in this part of her character. She had a soft-spoken, selfless manner. She showed me to never give up in our fight to protect the wolf. So many people and so much important work will miss Sandy Skinaway.

Sandy may your spirit be free as you journey to the stars. I will howl for you at this Autumn equinox’s full moon on Sept 21, 2021.




Wolf All Down! Finding the Golden Mean in Conservation and Consumption

November 24, 2020 - Dr. Michael W. Fox

Efforts to protect the wolf in North America have now been thwarted yet again by the U.S. Department of the Interior decision to remove the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Yet there is only a fraction, possibly only less than 10% left of the original population, that once ranged across much of the continent because of human encroachment, trapping, poisoning, snaring, and shooting. Ranchers, recreational “sports” hunters and outfitters, and fur trappers are happy now.

These special interest groups are not representative of the democratic majority that has voted in favor of animal and environmental protective legislation, yet this immoral minority wins once again. I say immoral advisedly, sine there are many ranchers and hunters who respect and chose to protect the wolf, as well as the cougar and other predators. Some who protect their livestock with non-lethal methods of predator deterrence see it as the price they must pay for encroaching on wolf domain when some stock are taken by this increasingly displaced, persecuted, and starving indigenous species.

The immorality of conspicuous consumption and destruction is evident in the recent federal plan to strip protection from Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and open up all 16.7 million acres to logging and other forms of “development” in one of the world’s largest and last temperate rainforests. The legacy of America’s imperialistic invasion, genocide and violation of the rights of indigenous peoples and species lives on as we continue to wolf all down that contributes to the GNP: the gross national product. Efforts to protect the environment and threatened animal and plant species are seen as “Taking away our freedom and rights,” to quote some politicians.

No less is happening in other countries striving to live high off the hog and wolf all down as grasslands, wetlands, and forests are turned over to commodity crop monocultures and livestock and poultry-feed production, displacing and disenfranchising small family farm cooperatives and communities in the process and accelerating climate change and loss of biodiversity. When I was a boy, chicken and steaks were too expensive for my family to consume on a regular basis but are now affordable for most who regard poultry, pork, beef and dairy products as dietary staples rather than luxuries, unaware of the hidden costs, especially animal suffering in factory farms and feedlots, and the environmental and public health consequences.

The chemicals and animal drugs used in this global agribusiness industry are making us sick and harming the environment and what is left of our wildlife. Consumers are told to trust agri-science, the food they eat and the drugs they take, while science-deniers of the Climate and Extinction Crises strive to maintain business as usual especially for the fossil fuel and allied industries. In our unbridled, conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels we are indeed burning the Earth’s past as well as future.

As one who has raised and studied wolves as an ethological scientist, winning their trust and devotion and crossing the boundary of scientific objectivity to have communion with one who sang in harmony with my shakuhachi flute, I am crying now for our loss of humanity and sense of kinship with all life. This, I believe, as a veterinarian, is a sensibility without which we will never be well. No one who knows wolves, as I shared in my book The Soul of the Wolf, would ever seek to kill one as a trophy or wear their fur as some fashionable adornment.

I challenge the bioethics of wolf and all wildlife management “science” that calibrates sustainable “harvesting” quotas and acceptable “recovery” counts. (For more discussion see my review article Wildlife Management and Ecological Dysbiosis posted on From a bioethical perspective such management is purely anthropocentric. Like sustainable farming, wildlife management must be eco-centric; Natural systems work best when we step outside, and observe rather than intervene, control, exploit and kill, and see how much needs to be healed, healthful biodiversity restored, like encouraging wolf pack expansion in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin to help prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and other cervids as well as Lyme and other tick borne diseases to humans and other animals..

The efforts of conservation and wildlife and biodiversity protection need support. Restraining order law suits and appeals are costly and take talent. Such disingenuous journalism is archaic and atavistic, if not anarchistic. The eco-tourist value of healthy wolf populations is coupled with the health of ecosystems to which wolves and other predators contribute. Predator “services” have been long documented as contributing to deer and other herbivore herd health and protection of forest habitat from over-grazing/browsing so fewer sapling trees are consumed, enabling forest regeneration, now additionally compromised by climate change.

Beyond anthropocentric religious belief, there is no science-based evidence that Nature was created for man’s exclusive use, becoming dysfunctional when so abused; or that other animals are our inferiors and are natural resources for our own use, best harvested “sustainably” ( called wise stewardship) or to be exterminated as we chose. Indigenous peoples like the Ojibwe have a very different hunting ethic and regard for wolves, and decry this de-listing. For them, and others who share their worldview, the wolf is a totemic species, a sacred presence in the life-community worthy of equal and fair consideration.

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.

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.


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 


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