Advocate's view: Wolf plan ignored in rush for the hunt

Duluth News Tribune published an editorial by Maureen Hackett:  Advocate's view: Wolf plan ignored in rush for the hunt.
The text of the original editorial follows:

Howling for Wolves was formed in 2012 after the Minnesota gray wolf lost its federal protection on the endangered species list and during the rush to begin a wolf hunting and trapping season. We are a Minnesota-based group that advocates and educates the public and policymakers about wolves to foster understanding and tolerance and to ensure the long-term survival of wolves in Minnesota. Minnesota’s gray wolves are the largest and last original wolf population remaining in the lower 48 states.

Minnesota’s wolf hunting and trapping season, created by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is unnecessary, unpopular and unnatural.

First, Minnesota’s wolf hunt is unnecessary and not for population control, a point not understood by many people. In fact, it was alleged by the DNR to not affect the population at all. Minnesota’s wolf hunt is wholly a recreational occasion.

The wolf hunt also is unpopular. Even though most people do not know the wolf hunt is not for population control, public opinion is against the wolf hunt. Nearly 80 percent of respondents to a DNR survey and 60,000 petition signers said they do not support it. Many hunters oppose the wolf hunt because they see through the rhetoric and know the value of the wolf to all of our ecology. Yet powerful special interests have managed to push our policymakers and our DNR into having a wolf hunting and trapping season simultaneous with the removal of the wolf from the endangered species list.

How did this happen? Essentially our state’s Wolf Management Plan was ignored in the rush for the hunt. The public was told for more than 10 years that this plan would be followed. In fact, the DNR in its petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have the wolf removed from the endangered species list stated the Minnesota Wolf Management Plan would be followed. That plan originally called for full public comment and sound biological data spanning five years before a wolf hunt could even be proposed for “population management.” A baseline survey of wolves had not even been done for five years before starting the hunt.

Last, the wolf hunt is unnatural. A Romanian proverb says, “Where wolves roam, forests grow.” Having wolves on our landscapes and ecologically active is vital to maintaining the natural balance of all wildlife. The hunt also randomly breaks up packs, causing hardship for surviving pack-mates and suffering for snared wolves. It also recklessly endangers the wolf, which has gone extinct in every other state within the lower 48.

While Howling for Wolves does not wish to change livestock-wolf conflict laws, we do know there is ample science and thinking that supports a management strategy that includes nonlethal methods to deal with wolf conflicts. Livestock producers who have wolf conflicts can and still do use lethal control and will be able to continue this under our proposal.

Just a few weeks ago, the 2014 legislative session began in St. Paul. One of our efforts includes supporting Senate File 2256, the “Wolf Data Bill,” which recently was approved and was passed out of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.

The bill would temporarily suspend Minnesota’s wolf hunt to implement the Minnesota DNR’s Wolf Management Plan, which would formally study outcomes of the wolf hunt on the wolf population. The duration of the temporary suspension would be based on the Minnesota DNR providing information originally outlined in the plan, including a dataset on all known wolf deaths and illnesses, mapping of wolf-livestock conflicts, and the establishment and dissemination of best-management practices that may be utilized by the livestock sector to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts to include non-lethal methods.

The bill also calls for additional steps to be taken, such as annual census counts to fully understand Minnesota’s wolf population dynamics that are now poorly understood. Even the Minnesota DNR has stated the full effects of the first wolf season will not be known for years — but yet it proceeded on to a second season. All told, there have been 1,086 wolves legally killed in 18 months.

I’m proud of the work Howling for Wolves has done. We’re empowered by the amount of support from across the state. Together, we can protect our wolves by following a rational wolf management plan that was created using our resources and the democratic process. Together we can suspend this unnecessary, unpopular and unnatural wolf hunt.

Maureen Hackett of Hopkins, Minn., is founder and president of the nonprofit Howling for Wolves (, a wolf-advocacy organization that educates about wolves to foster understanding, tolerance and the animal’s long-term survival in Minnesota.

March 16, 2014