Founder's Blog

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.



Dr. Hackett Supports Isle Royale Wolf Genetic Additions/Rescue

November 21, 2013 - Maureen Hackett, MD

The following was sent today via email: 

Dear Isle Royale National Park Service Leadership and Personnel:

Thank you for coming to St. Paul, MN on November 19, 2013 and for discussing the situation of the ongoing study of the wolves on Isle Royale.  I learned a great deal from attending your presentation.

Thank you to Superintendent Phyllis Green, Paul Brown and Mark Romanski for speaking with me after the talk.  In our discussion, Superintendent Green and I spoke about the need for more understanding and study of the social nature and lives of wild wolves.  Since Isle Royale is free from human-caused wolf mortality, it does offer a unique opportunity to observe wolf interactions free from the perturbations caused by humans killing wolves. While Isle Royale is a geography with limitations of space, it does offer a study opportunity to observe wolves free from human caused mortality. Understanding the dynamics and stress on wolves under these space limitations, but free of human caused mortality is a unique but necessary study opportunity. The best way to continue this work uninterrupted, would be best done by adding new genetically unrelated wolves to the current population.  This addition of individual wolves will give information that will not be possible if the study were to allow the wolves to die off and then to simply re-introduce wolves at a later time.

If the current wolf population is allowed to die off (the time frame unclear) with the idea of introducing a new group at a later time, then the data that can be used on the wolves currently present will be less useful. Information about the current wolves will inform research that will be continued with the addition of more individuals now, rather than interrupt the social system that is already in place with the current wolves.  Given the pressures on wolves all over the world from human killing, it is my opinion that the wolf population in its current form on Isle Royale will provide more information about the social lives of wolves with the addition of new wolves rather than allow this population to die off and simply replace them.  It seems that wolf populations all over the world are being perturbed in ways that makes understanding their social lives nearly impossible. The current Isle Royale wolves can allow for more information about their social interactions free from human caused mortality and this will inform our wolf policies in other places.  I am in support of the addition of new genetics to the Isle Royale wolves as soon as possible.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to voice my opinion.  


Maureen Hackett, MD
Founder and President
Howling For Wolves


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