Letter to Gov. Walz: Stop MN's wolf hunts forever

March 19, 2019

Governor Tim Walz

130 State Capitol 
75 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 
St. Paul, MN 55155

Dear Governor Walz:

Greetings! Thank you for taking time to learn more from Howling For Wolves about the wolf in Minnesota. Howling For Wolves is a Minnesota-based wolf advocacy group that formed in 2012 to oppose Minnesota wolf hunting and trapping. Our mission is to educate the public about the wild wolf and to foster tolerance and understanding while we advocate for policies that ensure the wolf's survival for future generations. We advocate for nonlethal prevention methods to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts, and we believe more work is needed for the wolf to survive and thrive before removing federal protections. Minnesota is the only state with its original gray wolf population that never went extinct. Our wolf population is vital for the recovery of the gray wolf species throughout the United States.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Interior is proposing to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves throughout the entire U.S. If successful, states will be pressured into having wolf hunting seasons where wolves are even baited and trapped using wire neck snares in addition to rifle seasons. In Wisconsin, wolf hunting will occur year-round, at night, and using packs of dogs. Last time gray wolves in the Great Lakes area lost federal protections in 2012, the Minnesota legislature hastily authorized wolf hunting and trapping to occur that same year, without even determining whether the wolf population could tolerate losing those federal protections.

Howling For Wolves supports protecting the gray wolf for future generations and OPPOSES any effort to reinstate a wolf trophy hunting and trapping season in Minnesota.

Most Minnesotans think wolf hunting is cruel and inhumane: this is particularly offensive for the Ojibwe people. Many Ojibwe tribes describe wolf killing as deeply hurtful. Clearly, the vast majority of Minnesotans oppose wolf trophy hunting. Instead, we value having wolves and want them protected for future generations. This was demonstrated in a 2013 Lake Research poll, where 79 percent of Minnesotans agreed that the wolf is an asset to protect for future generations. Even a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) online survey showed 79 percent responded “no” to wolf hunting.

Human killing of wolves disrupts wolf packs, creating unstable and unpredictable effects such as increased wolf-livestock conflicts. Wolf killing causes more pack member deaths beyond the actual wolf killed because affected packs fracture and cannot sustain themselves. The massive loss of social and genetic diversity by a recreational wolf hunting season cannot be overstated. The wolf depends on her pack to survive. They hunt animals that are much larger and they require an entire pack to succeed. A wolf pack has one litter of pups per year and the entire pack raises the pups. Still, nearly half of all wolf pups die. In fact, the wolf population estimates in Minnesota decreased by 25% after the first wolf hunt in 2012, and have not yet returned to 1998 levels. It must be emphasized that per USDA reports, wolf-livestock conflict complaints increased after the first wolf hunting season.

For many Minnesota Native American tribes, the wolf holds a sacred cultural role. All Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota have forbidden wolf hunting and they designated their lands as wolf sanctuaries. For the Ojibwe people, killing wolves is beyond disrespectful.

Wolves are vital for a healthy forest as their presence ensures vegetation growth. Wolves are crucial to healthy habitat for all species from insects and pollinators to birds and even the moose. Without the wolf, forest habitat degrades for all species. This is why the wolf is currently being restored to Isle Royale National Park. The forest is alive when the wolf is ecologically present. Still, many benefits from the wolf’s presence have yet to be studied.

Having a habitat with the wolf creates significant economic value in Minnesota. A 1996 study showed the economic boost from wolves was $33 million per year just for Ely, Minnesota. Further, a 2011 United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) report highlights Minnesotans spent $621 million on wildlife viewing. The wolf offers Minnesota an opportunity to distinguish our state as a home to true wilderness. In fact, Howling For Wolves garnered international attention with people from as far away as New Zealand signing our letters asking to stop the first wolf hunts. Minnesota can be known as a wolf tolerant state and attract international tourists. The wolf is unique to our state and having the original population that never went extinct is a testament to our wild lands.

We support SF 927/ HF 1327, a bill that repeals the wolf hunting seasons in Minnesota. The bill states “No open season on wolves.”

Myths regarding wolf-livestock conflicts: Recreational wolf hunting and trapping was touted as a tool to decrease wolf-livestock conflicts. Yet, killing wolves, either in a recreational hunt or for livestock conflict, causes unstable packs of dysfunctional younger wolves. A Dec. 2014 scientific study by Weilgus of Washington State University, found killing up to 25% of a wolf population resulted in increased predations on livestock the following year. When this happens, more wolves are killed in response and the cycle does not stop until so many wolves die that they are not reproducing. Yet, nonlethal prevention methods can effectively reduce wolf-livestock conflicts.

In Minnesota, wolf-livestock conflicts are low. In 2017, there were 89 verified complaints of wolves at 76 sites in the state. Out of this, 76 calves/cattle were verified to be killed by wolves. Our farmers are reimbursed for losses verified as from a wolf. For the past two years and hopefully going forward, funding has been available through a pilot program from the MN Dept. of Agriculture for farmers to purchase prevention methods including livestock guard animals and their veterinary care and other techniques such as fladry and limited fencing and other deterrents. This pilot project has earned the support of the agricultural community and now makes Minnesota eligible for federal matching dollars.

We support SF 1582/ HF 1630, a bill to fund nonlethal preventive strategies to avoid wolf conflicts.

SF 1582 : Ruud, Johnson, Eken, Weber, Tomassoni --- HF 1630: Tabke, Poston, Poppe, Ecklund
The people of Minnesota have made clear that they value the wolf as an asset to protect for future generations. Please pass laws to protect the wolf by repealing the wolf hunt and funding nonlethal prevention methods for farmers.

Thank you for your leadership and service to the people of Minnesota. Sincerely,

Maureen Hackett, MD
Founder and President of Howling For Wolves

March 19, 2019