Howling For Wolves retorts inaccurate wolf claims via letter commencing from Congressman Peterson’s original letter to congressional leaders on wolf delisting

February 28, 2017

The Honorable Collin Peterson
2204 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC  20515

Dear Representative Collin Peterson:

I write today in response to your original letter dated February 23, 2017 in support of H.R. 424, the “Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017.” This legislation seeks to allow for the additional killing and trophy hunting of the wolf by turning over responsibility for recovery to the states and removing federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Killing wolves, especially through hunting, is NOT the way to deal with wolf-livestock conflicts and very well could lead to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts.  

Farmers in Minnesota can currently have wolves killed in response to wolf-livestock conflicts due to their status as threatened, not endangered, in Minnesota. If wolves lose all protection and more wolves are killed in hunting seasons, wolf packs will become smaller, younger, and hungrier.  This can and likely will lead to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts on Minnesota farms.

There are several claims in your letter that I wish to immediately address and provide background and factual information. We strongly believe that removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves and moving “management” over to individual states – will NOT help farmers and ranchers, and scientific studies and research also shows otherwise.

First, wolf predation on cows and calves is rare. In 2015, there were 67 calves and 17 cows that were verified predations by wolves in Minnesota, out of 2,320,000 cows in Minnesota. That is .0036 percent of the total cattle herd in Minnesota. This is not a “devastating” loss figure as noted in your letter. It’s understandable that each cow and calf is “worth several thousand dollars” but the “price” of a wolf’s life – and its value to Minnesotans, our ecology, and other wild animals – is not even considered. Federal funds are available to compensate farmers for such losses, providing the incident is verified by the state.

Secondly, there are currently both lethal and non-lethal methods available to farmers to deter wolves, although the letter asserts that “ranchers and farmers have no legal actions available to deal with gray wolf attacks because these predators are federally protected.” There are, indeed, SEVERAL legal – and lethal – options and actions available to “deal” with wolf predations:

  1. Lethal methods: Even while currently listed as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act, government agents can and do kill wolves for livestock predation. The number of wolves killed is higher than the number of cows killed by two or three times, and only one of these are an endangered species. In 2015, in response to the 84 cow predations, 220 wolves were baited and killed by USDA agents. That is 10% to 15% of the entire Minnesota wolf population was killed by government agents in one year, while the wolf was protected. Imagine the loss of genetic diversity for the wolf.
  2. Non-lethal methods: Smart animal husbandry practices combined with strategic non-lethal predator deterrents have been shown to considerably reduce wolf-livestock conflicts. These methods are available – and are used successfully – by many farmers. They include the use of guard animals, fences, lights, and carcass removal. Howling For Wolves supports additional federal funding for Minnesota farmers (which is already being awarded to other states) for effective and nonlethal methods. It is our sincere goal to work together on this issue for common ground and support for our Minnesota farmers.

Third, killing wolves for livestock predation can actually increase the likelihood of additional livestock predation the following year.  A study published in 2014 by Washington State University looked at 25 years of data, and found that killing wolves actually increases livestock death the following year, as their family/pack is broken up. Typically, the packs become broken into smaller and younger packs and there is no “wolf knowledge” passed through the generations. The surviving wolves reproduce at younger ages and without leadership. They do not learn the boundaries with man and how to avoid conflicts. Indiscriminately hunting and killing wolves means even more livestock deaths and subsequently more wolf deaths. In essence, it is a death spiral.

Fourth, it seems as if the only ones who benefit from killing wolves are trophy hunters – not farmers, not Minnesotans, and certainly not the wolf. A wolf pelt and the pleasure of killing wolves are not worth more than livestock deaths and the potential extinction of an entire species – which is currently under federal Endangered Species Act protections.

The wolf is important, and Minnesota is home to the largest and only original gray wolf population that never went extinct in the lower 48 states. The wolf is a critical part of our ecosystem for our water by improving plant growth. Other wildlife, including ground birds and even fish, depend on the wolf for their habitat. The wolf’s presence affects the feeding behavior of herbivores like rabbits and deer causing better vegetation growth and thus better habitat. Unlike deer and other prey species hunted in Minnesota, wolves live in packs and depend on each other for their survival. Human killing of wolves disrupts wolf packs, creating unstable and unpredictable effects.

Minnesotans value having the wolf and want the species protected for future generations. In a 2013 Lake Research Poll, 79 percent of Minnesotans agreed that the wolf is an asset to protect for future generations. A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources online survey resulted in 79 percent saying “no” to wolf hunting. Yet our DNR without even a baseline survey of the wolf population, held immediate trophy wolf hunting and trapping.

On behalf of the more than 80,000 Howling For Wolves supporters in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest, we urge recovery for the long-term survival of the wild wolf and support ethical, science-based, and nonlethal plans to support and promote human and gray wolf coexistence into the future.


Maureen Hackett, MD                
President and Founder
Howling For Wolves

February 28, 2017