HFW Op-Ed: Farmers, wolves benefit from nonlethal-first approach

Pro-Wolf View: Farmers, wolves benefit from nonlethal-first approach
By Maureen Hackett, President and Founder of Howling For Wolves
Just like an average family, wolves travel in units and rely on one another. When lethal methods are used by farmers in response to wolf-livestock conflicts and wolves are killed, wolf packs become destabilized, farmers are impacted, and our state's important ecosystem is put at risk.
There is a better way: nonlethal, preventative methods to protect Minnesota's valued and endangered wolf population while also helping farmers protect livestock from conflicts.
Minnesota farmers who are willing to use nonlethal preventative methods now have funding. A new program from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture called the Wolf-Livestock Conflict Prevention Grant is providing reimbursement for the use of nonlethal methods. This innovative program has funding for two years and potentially longer.
It's important to note that according to Gary Nohrenberg, the state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, wolf complaints in Minnesota actually decreased from 2016 to 2017. At the same time, the number of wolves killed by the USDA increased to roughly three wolves per complaint. The USDA sets baits and traps whatever wolves it can within a half mile of complaints, sometimes killing entire packs.
Several of Minnesota's most prominent federal officials disregard these facts and continue to advocate for more money to kill wolves. They also shortsightedly advocate for the removal of the wolf from the federal Endangered Species List without judicial review. All this in an apparent attempt to facilitate the return of state-supported reckless wolf trophy hunts.
Research has shown that reacting to wolf-livestock conflicts by killing a wolf actually destabilizes packs and can increase livestock deaths the following year. This happens because wolf packs are broken, and surviving wolves reproduce at younger ages and without leadership.
Nonlethal prevention strategies are less expensive and more effective in the long run and avoid unnecessary wolf killing. Nonlethal methods are meant to keep wolves away by setting up boundaries, using various deterrence methods and guard animals.
In general, employing nonlethal methods is easier if the farmer is able to establish boundaries with the same sets of wolves. Those wolves then teach their young those same boundaries. Wolves mentor one another, and, like families, the old teach and protect the young. Establishing a boundary with guard animals keeps stability within the wolf population and helps farmers.
A nonlethal-first policy doesn't wait for a conflict to occur before taking action. It's the right method for Minnesota's farmers, our ecosystem, and the wolf for future generations.
My Howling For Wolves organization continues to advocate leaving wild wolf packs intact by using nonlethal-first prevention to avoid conflicts in order to continue stabilizing our wolf population. If the wolf loses federal protections, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has stated it will "pick up where they left off" with wolf hunting and trapping.
On behalf of Howling For Wolves and our supporters across Minnesota and throughout the nation, we urge a change in policy and practice by farmers. We support practices that truly support the long-term survival of the wild wolf and ethical, science-based, and nonlethal-first plans that promote coexistence and support the habitat and wildlife that depend on the wolf.
March 30, 2018