Guest Commentary: Minnesota’s Wolf Hunt has Common Misconceptions and Should be Suspended (Dr. Maureen Hackett)

Most people know that Minnesota’s gray wolf was on the endangered species list. And many people know that Minnesota has held two wolf hunting and trapping seasons. And many have read about the Isle Royale wolf that was recently found dead after being shot with a pellet gun.

But there are many things that Minnesotans may not know or correctly understand regarding Minnesota’s 2-year old wolf hunt that are worth getting straight.

First of all, Minnesota’s gray wolf was on the endangered species list for many years; before that it had been driven to near extinction all over the continental United States by human caused deaths, much like what happened to the Isle Royale wolf. Minnesota’s gray wolf was the only population that did not go extinct. We are glad it made a comeback, but disheartened that wolves are still being killed in ways and numbers that are not even known, so that our overall understanding of wolves in Minnesota is slim at best.

Instead of taking our time and doing even a baseline survey when the wolf lost federal protection, the DNR rushed through two wolf hunting and trapping seasons.

The wolf is different because it is misunderstood and killed just because it is a wolf. To have a recreational hunt without addressing this problem is adding to the original problem of why the wolf went extinct in the first place.

Can you think of another animal that went from an endangered species list to a recreational hunt? Could you imagine hunting a bald eagle? Not many animals make it off the endangered species list alive, but the wolf did and we have not made the changes that address the original source of its near demise.

One of the biggest misconceptions about Minnesota’s wolf hunt is that it was set up to control the wolf population. This is false. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has stated the wolf hunt is NOT for population control. In fact, the wolf hunt was not supposed to affect the overall wolf population at all. But it did. The last survey in early 2013 showed a drop by 25 percent to 2211 wolves plus or minus 500 with the average number of wolves per pack dropping to 4.3 wolves. But the wolf hunt went on again in the fall of 2013.

People understandably have a hard time tracking the DNR’s spin machine, and are astounded to learn the DNR did not even do a baseline population survey for five years before the first wolf hunt. And these surveys are based mostly on footprints in snow. Just what information and value does the DNR have for this nearly extinct species?

Another misconception is that the wolf hunt is part of the MN DNR’s Wolf Management Plan. It is not. In fact, the Wolf Management Plan, put together by a wide variety of stakeholders before the wolf came off the endangered species list requires gathering data and disseminating information. A wolf hunt for recreation was not even mentioned in the plan, but assessing the public knowledge and attitudes was required due to the unique dangers from humans that the wolf faces.   Howling For Wolves supports implementing the Wolf Management Plan.

Another misconception is about Howling For Wolves. We are not an anti-hunting group. Also, we do not oppose lethal methods utilized by livestock producers to protect their property. Under certain circumstances, Howling For Wolves understands that lethal means may be necessary and we do not challenge the ability of farmers and ranchers to protect their livestock, property or to preserve human life.

We do, however, oppose the random killing of non-problem wolves, as well as those taken for sport.

Lastly, another misconception is that the wolf hunt is popular. Quite the opposite is true. Special interests can often be the loudest, and this is true regarding the wolf hunt.   A few subsets of hunters and livestock producers speak loudly for the wolf hunt.

Here are the facts.

In the MN DNR’s own 2012 survey, almost 80 percent did not support the wolf hunting and trapping season. In a poll conducted by Lake Research Partners, 75 percent agreed that we should move slowly and carefully if we are to have a wolf hunt and 75 percent agreed that we should have a baseline population survey before any wolf hunt is considered. Sixty-six percent agree that a wolf hunt is not necessary if Minnesotans already have the legal right to kill wolves to protect people, livestock, and property.

I hope the politicians who represent us in St. Paul take the time to understand this issue and vote for better oversight and improved data collection by the DNR and full implementation of the Wolf Management Plan. They owe it to all of Minnesota to do the right thing.

Maureen Hackett, M.D. is the Founder and President of Howling for Wolves

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