HFW Op-Ed in the Grand Forks Herald: A smarter way for farmers, wolves

The Grand Forks Herald Dec. 19 editorial ("Time for another wolf hunt in Minnesota") paints a misleading, apocalyptic picture of predator-livestock predation that is simply wrong. Had the editorial board looked beyond the Kittson County Sheriff's Facebook video, they would have seen that according to the USDA-Wildlife Services 2016 Wolf Damage Management Report, that Kittson County — the second highest for wolf-livestock complaints in Minnesota — only had 11 verified complaints in 2016. In response, 30 wolves were killed, which is a high price for trying to survive.
This disproportionate response is not surprising since the wolf has been attacked and targeted for extermination for thousands of years because of old hatreds and superstitions. This is the very reason wolves were listed as an Endangered Species in the 1970s.
Also contrary to the editorial, wolf-livestock conflict complaints by farmers are actually down 27 percent and the last two years have been well below the 10-year average, also according to the USDA. We believe complaints are down, even as the population is recovering, precisely because it has been three years since the last reckless and counterproductive wolf trophy hunt in Minnesota.
Scientific research has shown that reacting to conflicts by indiscriminately killing wolves actually increases livestock deaths the following year by creating instability in the packs. Lethal methods cause surviving wolves to reproduce at younger ages and without leadership, and territorial boundaries may become eliminated as younger packs roam outside their normal geographical area. Science also tells us we don't need reckless wolf hunts or revenge killing at all, as these predators control their numbers in their territory. Human lethal "management" is often misdirected, uninformed and counterproductive.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture outlines what farmers should do if they experience a suspected wolf-related livestock loss. Livestock producers or farmers have multiple options, including reimbursement, taking a nonlethal stance and implementing further prevention methods, and/or contacting USDA Wildlife Services to trap and kill the suspected wolves. Rushing to kill for problem "solving," or just for the fun of it, is going to put us right back where we were 50 years ago, trying to prevent extinction of the wolf for the sake of our forest ecosystems.
Much can be done to successfully prevent predator-livestock conflicts. Nonlethal prevention methods such as guard animals, flagging, noises, lights, and carcass removal, have all been shown to be effective at protecting both livestock and the future of Minnesota's wolves. A nonlethal-first policy is the only approach that doesn't wait for a conflict to occur before taking action and it's the right method for Minnesota's ecosystem and future.
And the cost of these methods should not be an issue. Minnesota's Legislature recently approved funding to provide reimbursement to farmers for using these nonlethal prevention methods through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Wolf-Livestock Conflict Prevention Grant.
It's important to dial down the hysteria and "war cries" of the wolf extermination lobby. Livestock losses from wolf predation are relatively low in Minnesota, and the majority of agricultural farmland in Minnesota has not contained a wolf in a hundred years. The average year of livestock predation due to wolves affects 0.0032% of the beef and dairy industry in Minnesota.
On behalf of Howling For Wolves and our supporters across Minnesota and throughout the nation, we hope farmers will utilize these important nonlethal conflict prevention methods. We do not want these conflicts to happen, let alone affect the wolf population or the financial viability of Minnesota's farmers and local communities. We also hope that Herald readers will appreciate the negative results of indiscriminate wolf killing and look beyond old, ineffective methods for better solutions.
Joe Wolf, of Shakopee, Minn., is a board member for the organization Howling For Wolves.
December 27, 2017