Friday, December 30, 2011

PostHeaderIcon Great Lakes Wolves Delisted... Now What?

The following is a commentary by's Chris Larsen. It does not necessarily reflect the views of

The big news for Midwest hunters last week was the delisting of the Great Lakes gray wolf population. The move puts management of gray wolves back in the hands of state wildlife managers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. This authority has been something state agencies have been asking years for. Currently, state agencies have no authority to use lethal means to deal with problem wolves. By the end of January, they most likely will.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been down this road. This is the third time since the millennium the Great Lakes gray wolf has been delisted from the Endangered Species list. Each of the previous two times it was relisted. This is, for lack of a better term, a bunch of hooey. There are more than 4,000 wolves residing in these three states. That is three times the wolf population of the Northern Rockies. In my home state of Wisconsin, the original management plan called for about 350-400 wolves in the state. Biologists believed the maximum carrying capacity of the state’s habitat and resources would be around 500 wolves. The current Wisconsin population is estimated at over 750 wolves.

There is no good science for continuing to protect the gray wolf as an endangered species. This doesn’t protect common sense from dolts with lawyers and judges who are duped by them. The Humane Society of the United States is one of the key opponents to wolf delisting and they have deep pockets and good lawyers. The big question is, assuming the gray wolf remains delisted, what is next?

The first step should be allowing state agencies to use deadly force on wolves depredating on livestock or nuisance wolves that roam near homes. Most wolves want nothing to do with people and there are plenty of deer for them to eat in the woods. Right now, state agencies can’t use lethal tactics. That leaves them with strategies meant to scare wolves away from farms and homes. Fladry is a common tactic. The instrument in the photo is a siren that goes off every 30 seconds or so. Would you like to live next to that? After a while wolves acclimate themselves to these things and eventually ignore them. If we start shooting problem wolves, fellow pack members will either move away from farms and homes or end up falling to the gun or trap as well.

While many people like the idea of being able to hunt wolves, if we’re going to be true stewards of the land and resources, I would like to see the results of nuisance hunts first. For example, lets say there are nearly 800 wolves in Wisconsin and the initial management goal is 600 wolves. If we sell 200 wolf tags and they are randomly killed throughout the state, did we really manage the population responsibly? Wouldn’t we rather kill problem wolves and leave those who are doing what wolves naturally do to continue doing it?

On the other hand there are those who say every wolf is a problem wolf. Many salivate at the prospect of being able to hunt a wolf. Perhaps we could create a system with 150 nuisance wolf kills and 50 hunter tags per season. If we did a drawing for these tags the difference between having 200 tags in the drawing and 50 in the drawing is pretty minimal. The odds would be thin either way. Charge $5 to be in the drawing. That would raise a lot of money to help pay for wolf damage. Perhaps take one of those tags and auction it off. The state of Iowa does this with one buck tag every year and makes between $5,000 and $10,000 on the tag. And that’s a tag that you can get every three or four years no matter what. The state could probably make $10K by auctioning one wolf tag per year. I think this would be a good compromise that would show good, responsible stewardship while keeping agriculture and hunting interests happy.

As long as the courts don’t stop it, state agencies will begin managing wolves by the end of January. We’ll get a good idea of what the future of wolf management will look like at that point.

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