Transcript Highlights from ESPN 1500's 11/21/18 'The Great Outdoors Show' interview with President and Founder, Dr. Maureen Hackett

November 21, 2018

"The Great Outdoors" Radio Show

“The numbers on wolves and deer in Minnesota”

Hosts: Dennis Anderson and Jess Meyers

Listen to the full show here:


PART 1:  Interview with Rep. Collin Peterson, (D-MN-08)

CP: Some of the opposition to this thing, they claim that one of the reasons that they went after this was because of the hunting season. If we would have only had a management situation instead of a hunting season, they wouldn’t have gone after it.

DA: It’s a given that if management is returned to the state that there would be a wolf hunting and trapping season again.

CP: We’re double the target population in Minnesota. We followed the law.

DA: I assume you hear from your constituents who mostly want a hunting and trapping season for wolves?

CP: Yes

DA: Do you hear from constituents who would like to keep it in federal hands?  

CP: No, no in my district.

CP: If we can get this thing through the Senate, and it might be possible – they might put it in the end of the year bill type of thing.

CP: I’m not against wolves, but when it gets too much population, then we start having these problems.

DA: What about the Senate?

CP: They’re for doing this, but the problem is, these rules in the Senate, the filibuster rule, is that you potentially have a situation where you need 60 votes to agree to something. So one person can literally screw it up. Unless you put it into an omnibus bill that needs 50 plus one. But the enviros are going to go after this big time. I had this thing right up to the end four times…


PART 2: Interview with Maureen Hackett

DA: What prompted you to do this?

MH: I really think it was a form of insanity, that we would take an animal off the endangered species list…. For wolves, the reason was, that they’ve been pretty much annihilated for their entire existence of our country…

DA: I’ll let you get away with that one

JM: They’ve been demonized, like big bad wolf.

DA: Poisoned and strychnine…


MH: We were rushing to this wolf hunt…the wolf was delisted in December of 2011, and by January of 2012, the legislature in Minnesota was already having a bill heard in committee to hunt wolves. So, we really didn’t manage them very long before we were proposing a hunt, in fact, they weren’t even off the Endangered Species List. The problem is, we do have a wolf management plan that allows for wolf killing by farmers if they perceive a threat. They just have to perceive a threat – it doesn’t have to eminent even in Zone B. I have evidence of people calling conservation officers just because they saw paw tracks and they wanted to not have problems and they were able to bait, trap, and kill the wolf. They can’t do that now unless they have a problem proven, and I understand that’s very frustrating to people.

DA: The conservation officer does it…

MH: and he’s very efficient about baiting and trapping and killing wolves.


MH: Representative Peterson is correct – it was the hunt that go everybody’s attention. Because it is mass killing, going into the woods, and killing them randomly…


MH: We don’t know which wolves carry a genetic resistance… we don’t know which wolves have the best genes to carry on the species for future generations.


MH: We don’t have very many wolves. You think you do, but the average pack size is four, the average age was 65 % was two and under in the first hunt…


MH: What we can support in science, is that killing wolves out of a pack, affects the entire pack, and the pack usually breaks up - especially if you kill a lead wolf. Half the time they break up. And so then what happens is they go off on their own, and they might reproduce at a young age (because reproduction is controlled by the lead wolves)…


MH: Since the first wolf hunt, we went back to 1980s numbers, and we really haven’t come back. We have not even come back to the numbers we were at before the first wolf hunt in 2012.

DA: You raise an interesting point. And I think that is something that could be talked about to people in charge of this…. You make a responsible point. We did take the wolf population in Minnesota down with that hunt and trapping season by what they may or may not say the size that they thought it would be, but anybody would have to agree they were far more effective, especially the trappers I think, than the managers thought they would be. That’s usually tucked away as information and then used in the future to modify the next season, so they get a better result or closer to what they wanted.


MH: My interest in the wolf and the reason I’m trying to fight a wolf hunt so much is because I think it gives people the impression that we have so many wolves that we can randomly kill them…and that there are too many, so then you have more poaching too because people just think  well, they’re killing them in-season, we’ll just kill them out- of season.

And here we brought this animal back. We really did on the brink of extinction. And yes, it took a long time.

What we’re trying to say is: Let’s be reasonable. If the state were to manage the wolves, let’s not have a wolf hunt. Let’s manage them for conflicts,


Let’s try to prevent conflicts and leave it at that. Let’s let the farmers have a little more control. I think less wolves would be killed – hopefully – if we didn’t have a random hunt.


DA: A principal of wildlife management that involves a hunt or a trapping season is that when you spread the number of people, broaden the number of people who have a vested interest in the species, usually it works to the advantage of the species. If you have a hunter or set of hunters, who, like you, want to see the perpetuation of a species, and in this case, wolves, generally, that has worked out to the benefit of the species.

MH: Until you kill the last passenger pigeon, I mean, you say that -

DA: Wait.

DA: Passenger pigeons are a compete different thing but very interesting extinction that occurred, unexpectedly. That reference deserves some credit, because at the point that the population collapsed, no one expected it.

MH; Because they relied on the entire population. They needed many more birds.

DA: Not the entire population, but a certain critical mass.

MH: And we don’t know what that critical mass is for the wolf.

DA: At 700 they were doing OK.

MH: But they’ve come back and we need to leave them alone and let them sort out their genetics.

DA: What number would you like?

MH: We need to leave them alone, I don’t even care about counting them, I want to look at their genetic diversity, their health, because any illness can drop them by 80-90% like that, and then they kind of come back.

MH: All I’m saying is that we can be more reasonable, use non-lethal methods, set up boundaries, the farmers won’t be training new wolves all the time if you’re not killing them. We do have science that when you kill wolves you do create more problems.

DA: I respect what you say and the way you say it.

DA: I think that your perspective is valuable, and it certainly keeps people on their toes.

DA: Wherever I hunt, there is no lack of wolves.

DA: I think wolves are fine on the landscape, I don’t see there are any problem. What I miss and can’t quite understand, is how we manage other species, but this species is special; that we can’t manage it scientifically like every other population.


MH: The wolf is a pack animal, and very different than a lot of the animals that are managed.


On the very first day of the first opening season they killed 41 wolves. How did they do that? And they bait them ahead of time and train wolves to come to certain areas. As they kill wolves, they kill them faster and faster, because the first wolves to die are usually the leader wolves. Lead wolves are out looking for stuff and usually die. If you watch the hunting season for the wolves, they would go over the limit.


MH: They ended up dropping the population. We know that through studies that there are additive effects to the death of one wolf. We know that it affects the packs the next year, we know it affects their ability to hunt, and their ability to even tolerate mange. They need other packmates to stay warm in the winter.

And we had wolves with mange starving. They lose their packs and just die.


MH: Wolves adopt pups, which is really interesting. They’re not like cats - they will adopt pups and value other wolves. But they’re picking about who can join their pack. There is a whole documented story: Wolves will actually starve themselves trying to feed pups.


DA: No one’s studies wolves more than Dr. David Mech… and he disagrees with you on a number of these issues.

MH: I think it depends on who Dr. Mech is talking to and what answers you’re going to get.

MH: He testified in federal court that 100 wolves in the state of Idaho, and 100 wolves in Montana, and 100 wolves in Montana, is considered a recovered population in an entire state.

And that is based on what? We know it’s not based on modern scientific evidence of genetic diversity and what will take an animal through to the future.


DA: I think wolves in this state are a great deal and I don’t blame them for killing my dear and I assume because If I hunt effectively, I have a reasonable chance to kill a deal. The management is a different issue.

JM: Isle Royale – the plan to repopulate wolves there. Do you like it? A few wolves have died there in transit?

MH: I think we should have used captive wolves and re-wilded them. Because I think we as a society need to learn how to do that with a wildlife species, to re-wild them. There are captive wolves that could have been re-wilded and then if they died, we wouldn’t feel quite so bad, but we’ve broken up wild packs, we’ve taken parent wolves away from packs and killed them. I think we could have come up with a more interesting and better way and have a little bit more of the public more behind the wildlife experiment.

December 13, 2018