Founder's Blog


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




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.


Listen to the interview with a DNR researcher:


UPDATE: Tough Day for Minnesota Wolves

May 8, 2014 - Howling for Wolves

It was a disappointing day for the wolf at the Capitol. For two years, we've had good bills for wolf protection and management blocked in committee. This year we proposed a compromise bill calling for a temporary suspension of the wolf hunt and comprehensive data collection. We've learned today that many lawmakers are seemingly entrenched in their extreme negative feelings toward the wolf.

Endorsed  by a panel of 10 top independent research scientists, SF2256 was recognized as a reasonable bill, a compromise bill. Over 400 wolf advocates packed the rotunda for Wolf Day in February. Thousands of people from Minnesota and around the world have written to our lawmakers pleading for wolf protections and an end to the recreational wolf killing. Phones have been ringing at the Capitol for months. Advocates have been at the Capitol for the past eight days as a visible presence for the wolf. In short, wolf advocates have conducted a sustained, sometimes noisy effort to reverse an unpopular wolf hunt that was passed quietly and rushed into law.

With our bills stalled in committee, several amendments were introduced in an attempt to get some protections for wolves this session. Even if amendments pass, they can still be removed in Conference Committee by Representative Dill or Senator Schmit. A modest amendment calling for wolf deaths to be posted quarterly to the the DNR website passed with a slim margin. Senator Eaton's amendment calling to reinstate the 5 year wait before a wolf hunt was defeated 36 to 27. Another amendment that would ban snaring all wildlife and baiting with meat piles and electronic distress calls for wolf hunting was defeated 34 to 29. The good news is that we had a lot of votes for the wolf and some strong, steadfast champions. We also have more lawmakers committed to advancing wolf protections, including authentic offers for leadership on the issue.

We’ll keep you posted on developments in Conference as we learn them. Watch today’s hearing.


Do Wolves Need an EagleCam?

April 26, 2014 - Howling for Wolves

With the DNR’s live-streaming eaglecam enjoying international attention, we started reflecting on these iconic Minnesota species. Consider:

5 Ways Wolves & Eagles Are Alike
* MN has more of each species than any other state in the lower 48.
* Each are among very few species that pair raise their young.
* Both usually mate for life.
* Both are top predators brought back from near extinction in the 1970’s under the protection of Endangered Species Act (ESA).
* Both are caught, injured and die indiscriminately in traps and snares.

5 Ways Wolves & Eagles Are Different
* Coming off ESA protections and under state management, wolves were immediately subjected to recreational hunting and trapping. Wolves are the only species ever to be hunted immediately after ESA delisting.
* Wolves may be shot on sight by citizens who feel a wolf is threatening their person, pet, or livestock.
* The MN wolf population dropped 25% within 1 year of delisting, while MN’s eagle population continues to flourish.
* MN wolves are classified as “small game"; eagles are still protected under the federal Bald Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Act.
* Eagle chicks get a DNR “eagle cam” and PR campaign. At 6-7 months old, wolf pups will be shot and trapped in the recreational trapping and hunting season. 60% of wolves killed in the MN wolf hunt were under 2 years old. Packs will be disrupted and pups will be orphaned.

Those in favor of the Minnesota wolf hunt claim that the wolf should "be managed like any other species.” That’s fine - we pick the eagle. Alike in so many ways, wolves should be treated with the same respect and protections. Will the DNR put up a wolf pup cam? Not likely. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr testified this winter that bear “den cams are creating internet celebrities” out of bears that lead to “outcry” when one is legally killed by a hunter. No, the DNR wouldn’t want wild wolf pups to become internet sensations if we’re just going to kill them in November.

With only weeks left in the legislative session, we call on lawmakers to protect Minnesota’s other iconic species -the wolf. And we ask them to protect all creatures from cruel and indiscriminate snares and traps.


Against the Wolf Hunt in Wolf Country

April 17, 2014 - Howling for Wolves



With lawmakers once again turning an eye to the recreational wolf hunt, opposition to the hunt continues to grow. Each week we're seeing new voices come out against the hunt with well-reasoned arguments and requests to state lawmakers to suspend the hunt. Editorial boards of newspapers around the state are weighing in against the wolf hunt. Two papers in the heart of wolf country recently came out in favor of suspending the hunt, representing a significant shift in media momentum.

While the wolf hunt was rushed quietly into law, our lawmakers now insist they need to hear more "noise" from their constituents before they will protect wolves and follow our state's Wolf Management Plan. With only a few weeks left in this legislative session, now is the time to make sure lawmakers and the media hear from you. Your personal contacts with lawmakers including letters, emails and phone calls are making a difference. Make some noise.






Panel of 10 Scientists Endorse SF2256, Wolf Bill now in MN Legislature

March 16, 2014 - Howling for Wolves
10 scientists representing a broad range of expertise have written in support of Minnesota’s Senate File (SF) 2256. The independent, peer reviewed research scientists submitted a letter of support to the Senate Environment and Energy Committee on SF 2256, known as the wolf data collection bill. Collectively, these scientists represent over 10 decades of experience studying wolf-human interactions and participating in wolf management. Together they have published over 25 scientific articles on predators and their interactions with people. Additionally, they’ve served on over 22 advisory boards or management committees for state, tribal, federal, or private organizations. The bill proposes multiple provisions to address inadequacies in the current approach to wolf management in Minnesota.
The link to read the document from the scientists: 10 Scientists Endorse Bill SF2256.
The list of supporting scientists:
Adrian Treves (lead author), Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison 
Michael P. Nelson, Ph.D., Ruth H. Spaniol Chair of Renewable Resources and Professor, Oregon State University
Jonathan Way, Ph.D., Eastern Coyote Research and Clark University (Worcester, MA)
Guillaume Chapron, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, program in Wildlife Biology
Edward J. Heske, Ph.D., President, American Society for Mammalogists, and President, Illinois Natural History Survey
Timmothy Kaminski, M.S., Mountain Livestock Cooperative, Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Craighead Environmental Research Institute
Cristina Eisenberg, Ph.D., Smithsonian Research Associate, Oregon State UniversityCollege of Forestry
Rolf O. Peterson, Ph.D., Research Professor, Michigan Technological University
David Parsons, Ph.D., Carnivore Conservation Biologist, The Rewilding Institute 
Bill Ripple, Ph.D., Professor, Oregon State University

Wolf Day Feb 27, 2014: Video (2 min)

March 1, 2014 - Bill Sorem

Minnesota State Capitol,  St. Paul
Thursday, February 27, 2014

Over 400 people gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol for Wolf Day this week in the largest rally for wolves yet in the state and probably the country. Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Ph.D. and UN Ambassador for Peace, welcomed wolf advocates with an inspirational video message and memorable howl. Dr. Goodall was followed by a stellar lineup of Minnesota's own conservation champions. This quick highlight video opens with the recording of the mournful howl of a wolf without her pack shared by Dr. Michael Fox. Dr. Fox is followed by hunter and environmentalist Barry Babcock, Robert DesJarlait of Protecting Our Manoomin, and Clint Carroll, PhD., professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. Stay tuned for more on this important day and what is next in our collective efforts to protect our wolves.
Click to view the video (2 min)


MN Farmer Calls for Non-lethal Methods & Best Management Practices

February 5, 2014 - Kathleen Zweber

My name is Kathleen Zweber.  I live and work on a small farm just north of Duluth, MN on the shores of Lake Superior. My home is surrounded by acres of wild watershed land that is home to a variety of animal species, including wolves.

As a farmer and a hunter, I believe that everyone shares a responsibility to understand the importance of different animal species and to help maintain balance in the environment we share with them.  Keeping domestic livestock and pets comes with a reasonable and manageable risk of conflict with wild animals that may be attracted to them as easy prey.   While I acknowledge the risk, I do not consider predators like wolves to be a threat.

The real threat is human activity.  People who carelessly leave garbage outside or purposely bait hunting targets increase that risk of conflict by teaching wild animals that humans can be a source of easy food.  It is no coincidence that fishers, fox and wolves began exploring closer to homes, or that domestic animals disappeared from my neighborhood as soon as wild predators learned that neighbors were setting “bear bait” in the woods last summer.    Prior to that, the only wildlife conflict I experienced were isolated incidents with migrating raptors.

When I researched the laws and policies of baiting wild animals, I was disappointed to learn how little baiting activity is regulated.  Although I was able to find restrictions for baiting in proximity to landfills and campsites, I was unable to find protection for businesses like mine… or for the licensed daycare located a half mile down my road.

Given the fact that baiting wild animals has so few restrictions, I feel like I have little control over the disruptions on my farm or in my neighborhood as a result of the actions of others.  As I researched more options and sought advice, I learned of funds available to compensate for animals lost to depredation and that there are circumstances under which I could legally kill predators that attack them.  These are clearly described in the 2001 Minnesota Wolf Management Plan.  Also included in the 2001 Plan are ”Best Management Practices” (BMPs) –non-lethal methods that reduce or prevent livestock depredation.

I believe that it is far more efficient to fund and study methods that PREVENT conflict with wildlife than it is to react to it once it occurs, and that information about BMPs should continue to be developed, tested and updated, and be readily available to anyone who lives in proximity to wolves. In addition to a need to continue to develop and study BMPs, there is strong evidence to suggest that disrupting packs and family units by killing predators may contribute to an increase in depredation.

As someone whose life and livelihood already involves risk of conflict with wolves, I do not feel that it is worth taking a chance that the recreational hunting, trapping and killing wolves could actually increase the incidents of depredation, especially when hunters use bait.

Science has already shown us that the environment becomes even more dangerous when people attempt to “sanitize” property of the animals they fear.  The list of consequences is long and the effects of those consequences are felt by many.  For example, the increase in tick-borne diseases is linked to the killing of predators that prey on the animals that carry such diseases.  This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg… a much bigger iceberg than can be discussed here.

As the 2001 Wolf Management Plan states, non-lethal methods are proven and available. But now in 2014, Minnesota has yet to adopt them.  BMPs offer acceptable and effective alternatives to minimize the risks of conflict between our domestic animals and the predators around us by keeping our wild neighbors wary and distant. Yes, there will be times when lethal force is needed, but increased funding and use of non-lethal methods can offer ways to reduce and prevent that need.  BMPs will be even more successful if people stop the dangerous activities that teach wild animals to do the opposite, such as baiting them.

As a Minnesota citizen and taxpayer, I feel that it is reasonable to expect the DNR and the rest of our State government to reflect the views and interests of the people it serves.  We are diverse, but we have also demonstrated the willingness and ability to work together to protect our natural and economic resources.   As a rural resident with a farm-based business, my life and career depend on the health of the ecosystem I am a part of.  I have a personal and professional responsibility to understand and protect that ecosystem, including wolves, and feel it is reasonable to expect the partnership of my fellow citizens and my government in doing so.

Whether we live in the city or the country, we are all Minnesotans.  Therefore, we all have a duty to understand the environment and coexist with wildlife in ways that are based in science and ethics rather than stereotypes or emotions.

* Kathleen Zweber testified at the House Environment & Natural Resources Committee hearing on wolf management held on 1/28/14*


The Real Purpose of the Hunt: Recreation

January 9, 2014 - Maureen Hackett

This week MN2020 published a well-written commentary on the wolf hunt that unfortunately is based on the erroneous assumption that the wolf hunt was for population management purposes.  The wolf hunt was for recreational purposes.  This was stated in writing by the MN DNR in their response to the petition for rulemaking change that they wrote before the first wolf hunt in the fall of 2012. 

The wolf population in MN was stable and not expanding in size or in territory without a hunt for 10 years from 1998-2008.  Unfortunately, a baseline survey was not conducted prior to hunting wolves for recreational purposes for the first time ever. So it is unclear if the unexpected 25% drop in wolf numbers and the continuing decline in pack size that is occurring since measurements were started (now 4.3 wolves per pack) after the first hunt is a consequence solely of the hunt or if it is due to the many other sources of deaths that wolves face. 

We have no experience with hunting a social animal like the wolf where individuals in the social group of the pack matter.  If we ever have a problem with too many wolves we know one thing for certain: we are very capable of killing wolves.  We do not need a recreational hunt to do this and a recreational hunt seems to fuel the wolf hate, which is the driving reason for the wolf's demise.

Howling For Wolves continues to advocate for a suspension of the wolf hunt to more carefully assess the state's wolf management which involves lightened state laws surrounding killing wolves that are perceived to be a threat and lightened poaching penalties along with all of the other challenges that wildlife face to survive in a changing climate.  Killing wolves by humans has consequences for several to many years to a wolf population that needs to be more carefully understood.  It is important that people understand the real purpose of the wolf hunt: recreation.


Sound Advice To Ely, MN Mayor Ross Peterson: Don't Bite the Paw That Feeds You

December 26, 2013 - Maureen Hackett, MD

Sound Advice to Ely Mayor Ross Peterson: Don’t Bite the Paw That Feeds You

In his response to the pro-wolf rally sponsored by Howling For Wolves on November 9, Mayor Ross Peterson rejected fair and balanced public debate about recreational wolf hunting and trapping. This diminished the prospect of reconciling Ely’s citizens with the wolves that propel its economy.

Visitors to Ely spend at least $3 million each year to visit the International Wolf Center, to learn about the life-history of the canid species and the myriad ways wolves enliven its heritage. Others spend millions more at Ely’s flagship resorts, restaurants and retailers. In the process, they meet up with the wilderness and learn more about the scientific and logistical ways we can achieve coexistence with a species that exhibits only slight genetic separation from domestic dogs.

In its recent petition, Howling For Wolves (HFW) captured over 55,000 signatures to encourage our DNR and legislature to end recreational hunting and trapping of wolves.

In fact, our DNR's 2012 online survey reported that 79% of respondents opposed the hunting and trapping of Minnesota’s wolves. So, if even a small percent chose to boycott Ely because Mayor Peterson rejects peaceful wildlife advocacy, what effect might this have on Ely’s hard-won family businesses?

On November 9, 2013 Mayor Peterson portrayed the HFW rally as a "negative" assembly. In The Echo, he decried our “ignorance" and expressed the wish that organizations such as ours gather “in some other town." Continually, Howling For Wolves has promoted Ely as a wilderness destination supporting its community and wolf-friendly commerce. We never expected to be shunned by the mayor.

It is unfortunate that a politician appointed by the people to protect Ely’s welfare dares bite the paw that feeds it. The paw of the wolf resembles that of the domestic dog; the wolf holds fast to its position in our ecosystem despite our abuse. The wolf helps preserve the vitality of regional plants and animals for those who follow us. The wolf helps us experience true wild and recognize our humanity.

The mayor argues that, "hunting…helps keep the wolf wild," ignoring the fact that last year's hunt reduced Minnesota’s gray wolf census to its lowest level since 1988. It also overrides the fact that our DNR failed to follow protocols outlined in its own Wolf Management Plan. And ultimately we can already kill wolves consider a "perceived" threat to people livestock and pets.  

HFW is concerned about Mayor Peterson's unfiltered public communications in which he describes peaceful wolf advocates with disparaging remarks. In one, he discourages a couple who planned to launch a wolf-friendly business in Ely, stating: “…don't try to start a business... We have a couple families a year that go back to where they came from broke because they tried to start a business …here.”

Still, Mayor Peterson attempts to advance Ely as an anti-wolf wilderness area. It is an oxymoron which levels a total knock out to all the tough-minded families who developed wolf-friendly businesses. Howling for Wolves, therefore, joins with the citizens of Ely, who have developed a pro-wolf culture and generated commerce which operates within natural limits.

Our supporters are rural and urban; Democrats, Republicans and Independents; hunters and non-hunters, farmers and non-farmers, men and women in occupations from students to professionals, who recognize the importance of growing  local economies in tandem with fair wolf-management statutes. Together, we can put an end to “wolf wars” and reduce the tensions to which they subject us.

Those who desire to drive wolf numbers down to levels that put the wolf at risk of a catastrophic decline are biting the paw that helped sustain Ely for over 150 years. That precedent is one Mayor Peterson can neither deny nor minimize. And while he admonishes Howling for Wolves, we place wolf-tolerant communities such as Ely front-and-center as we move forward.

In this light, Howling for Wolves extends its hand to Mayor Peterson and to Ely's people with hope of reconciliation and the continued coexistence of Ely’s people with the wolves “at their door,” who fortify their regional ecosystem and by extension their wilderness economy.

We won’t bite the paw that feeds Ely, and we ask that reconciliation occur between Howling for Wolves and the Peterson Administration -- on terms which allow both local entrepreneurs and gray wolves to survive.




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