Crying Wolf Too Much

http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-crying-wolf.html
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM

Dr. Michael W. Fox
November 2016

Regardless of the concerted public education and conservation efforts over the past several decades in which I participated, the wolf continues to be subjected to continued persecution and even betrayal by state and federal authorities who voice empty rhetoric of conservation but practice wolf management as a form of exploitation and when called for, extermination by any and all means. The morality of exploiting such a highly intelligent, sociable and empathic species as a valuable recreational hunter’s trophy and commercial trapper’s prized fur has no sound justification or ethical validity.

wolf family
The wolf pack is a family-based society: cubs at den greet mother (foreground) and yearlings. Fox archives.

“Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it”. —Henry David Thoreau

After coming from Washington DC in 2004 with my wife Deanna Krantz to care for her parents in Minnesota, I did not expect to come to live in a State where I would once again confront some of the same advocates of ‘managed” wolf hunting and trapping whom I, along with others had successfully convinced, (over their objections and “science”-based rationalizations) our Federal Government to protect the wolf under the Endangered Species Act back in the 1970s.. This and other acts to protect the wild heritage of North America, which indigenous and other peoples call sacred, as well as the right of all citizens to a healthy environment which is dependent upon and managed by wolves and other species, plant and animal, whose protected communities and enhanced biodiversity helps us secure purer water, cleaner air, reduce climate change and prevent the emergence of Lyme and other diseases. Having studied wolves and the pack-hunting Dhole or Asiatic wild dog in-field in India, and I have experienced the kind of love that can be shared with a socialized and trusting wild canid, be he/she a wolf or any other non-domesticated canid species (including those whom I have known, from Artic and Kit, Red, Grey and Swift foxes to Asiatic Jackals, Kansas coyotes, dingoes, wolf-dog and coyote-dog hybrids. It is the kind of love that I have been gifted by wolves that inspires, informs and creates a bond of mutual respect and trust. It also empowers millions of people who have had less intimacy with wolves than I, to decry their continued persecution, suffering and exploitation.

Love is indeed a four-letter word, used by those who love the great outdoors to go hunt and trap as well as those who care. But love does not make right or can claim any right until it speaks for another, and the rights of that Other. Philosopher Martin Buber identified such love as the I-Thou relationship which he say as our salvation from ourselves!

Regardless of the concerted public education and conservation efforts over the past several decades in which I participated, the wolf continues to be subjected to continued persecution and even betrayal by state and federal authorities who voice empty rhetoric of conservation but practice wolf management as a form of exploitation and when called for, extermination by any and all means. The morality of exploiting such a highly intelligent, sociable and empathic species as a valuable recreational hunter’s trophy and commercial trapper’s prized fur has no sound justification or ethical validity.

The harmful consequences of such killing include great suffering for wolves caught in traps and snares and for those shot and injured but not immediately killed, and harm to their family-packs from social disruption, reduced hunting success and yes, the grieving of surviving mates. Harmful ecological consequences are highly probable, notably deer herd health, which wolves help maintain, and coyote insurgence leading to loss of red fox and other smaller predators that help control rodent reservoirs of tick-born Lyme disease and Babesiosis which are becoming a serious public health concern. Commercial trappers add to the problem killing thousands of red fox, bobcat and other small “fur-bearer” predators.

Those many other people who are not incapable of putting themselves in the wolf’s place, along with those wolf biologists and other scientists who value the wolf primarily as a species playing a vital role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and restoring biodiversity, succeeded in putting an end to this extermination by having the federal government put the Gray wolf on the endangered species list in 1974. But eventually the federal government (Dept. of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) caved-in to pressure from various states, vested interest groups such as cattle ranchers and deer hunters, and was swayed by state and federal number-crunching Minnesota-based federal (Dept. of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey) wolf management biologist and trapper David Mech, PhD, who speaks the distancing and sentience- denying language of “harvesting sustainably managed wolf populations”.

Once the wolf was de-listed and put under state management, there was no guarantee of sustainable harvesting. On the contrary, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) reported that in the 2012-2013 season 413 wolves were killed by 6,000 permit holders, with a further 298 being killed by state and federal trappers, and a reported additional 16 killed by farmers and property owners—a total of 712 individuals. This is close to one quarter of the state’s estimated population of 3,000 wolves. Wolf biologists estimate that a 35% or more population reduction could seriously impair wolf population sustainability and that 75% of the population would have to be exterminated through sport hunting and trapping to reduce the incidence of wolves killing livestock. Trophy hunting and commercial trapping will not reduce livestock depredations unless kill quotas are so high as to jeopardize wolf pack recovery. It is a form of wildlife farming, rather than seeking to maximize species diversity for optimal ecosystem integrity and health. Wildlife agencies contend that the best way to protect the wolf is to manage it as a trophy species and valuable fur-bearer with strictly enforced annual kill quotas. But there is no scientifically valid reason for not continuing to prohibit all such killing for the good of the ecosystems where wolves once flourished across much of the country and are now in dire need of CPR—conservation, protection and restoration with wolves fulfilling their biological purpose. From this latter perspective, the Western and Eastern Gray wolf populations in North America have certainly not recovered, a far greater number being needed to help maximize species diversity and the restoration and recovery of ecosystem integrity and health.

With the MN DNR having identified 590 plant and animal species that may be endangered and on the way to extinction (Star Tribune, Aug 20th 2013) it is significant that DNR’s endangered species coordinator Richard Baker is quoted: “We’ve got to learn how to manage at a larger scale”.

Reporter Dennis Anderson’s Outdoors article “The Time Was Right” ( Star Tribune Dec 2, 2012)— to start the Minnesota wolf hunting and trapping season, lambastes those who buy into the “fatuous fact dalliance” of opponents. Ethical questions aside, the facts that he and others offer, such as increased wolf numbers and high livestock losses from wolf predation, fail to support any biological justification for wolf “control” through DNR-managed “harvesting” by lottery-winning recreational hunters and commercial trappers. There are those who say that since wolf numbers are up we can start killing them again without harming the population are surely guilty of the kind of “fatuous fact dalliance” by which they seek to discredit their opponents. One basic fact is that deer numbers as well as wolf numbers have both increased over the past decade in Minnesota when the wolves were under federal protection. Science supports the in-field evidence that thanks to the wolves, the ecosystem is healthier with more rather than fewer wolves. Their role in helping control the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose, and possibly Lyme disease, cannot be dismissed. Trophy hunting and commercial trapping will not reduce livestock depredations unless kill quotas are so high as to jeopardize wolf pack recovery.

Outdoors reporter Doug Smith (“It’s open season on rules for wolf hunt” Star Tribune May 22,2012), quotes David Mech that the MN DNR’s wolf hunting and trapping plan is “well-designed, won’t hurt the wolf population and should benefit both wolves and residents.” Thinking of animals as individuals rather than as populations is evidently beyond the scope of the kind of wildlife management science Dr. Mech, with whom I have flown and hiked in the northern woods to spot these elusive animals, is advocating. Otherwise who could conclude that killing a wolf ‘quota’ of an agreed-upon 400 wolves from a possibly over-estimated population of 3,000 in the state of Minnesota should “ultimately benefit wolves and residents”? Livestock owners were already being compensated for losses due to wolf predation, also being allowed to shoot wolves on their property or the wolves were trapped and killed by Mech and other licensed federal predator control agents.

Minnesota’s “Big Picture Environmentalist” Greg Breining points to the revenues from legal wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana, writing that the “sale of tags for first ever sporting seasons on wolves in 2009 generated $326,000 for Montana’s game agency and $423,000 in Idaho. —Unfortunately the exercise was short-lived, as yet another lawsuit put the western wolf back on the endangered species list.” (Star Tribune, “The wolf survives (IN NUMBERS STRONG ENOUGH TO BE HUNTED)” Jan 2, 2011, Opinion Exchange.)

MN DNR wolf monitors estimate that wolves take 10-13% of the 450,000 White -tailed deer, 45-57,000 annually, compared to the 180,000 or so killed by humans who do not take the very young, old, sick, injured, or nutritionally compromised deer, which the wolves do. Wolves contribute to the “extraordinary population performance of white-tailed deer in most of northern Minnesota,” according to the MN DNR wolf website. Clearly it would be detrimental to the health of the deer to have the wolf population seasonally decimated by hunters and trappers. But the MN Deer Hunters Association called for a doubling of the wolf hunting quota set by the DNR for the 2012-3 season. In 2012 the DNR depopulated whitetail deer excessively in some areas. This certainly meant some wolves starved to death, many reported being ravaged by mange, or turned to killing livestock.

Minnesota State DNR wolf biologist Dan Stark attributes wolf predation on livestock as being due to the diseases and hard winters reducing the deer population, the wolves’ primary food source (Star Tribune, ‘Gray wolf protection ending’ Dec 22, 2011), no mention being made of how many deer are killed by humans. In this same news article David Mech states “It’s tough” to find, shoot or trap wolves, his crew catching 18 wolves during the past summer of a total averaging 200 wolves trapped annually for preying on domestic animals in Minnesota by federally contracted wildlife employees. Nick Wognum, writing in The Ely Echo, Dec 24, 2011, states: “Dave Mech, senior research scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey said the timing of the wolf hunting season, provisionally set for late November through early January, after the end of the firearms deer season, will not likely impact wolves and pups. “We conducted studies in the 1970s where we translocated wolf pups as young as four months old,” said Mech. “Those animals did not have the benefit of being raised by parents and they all did well, they survived”. Mech said a wolf’s ability to survive is innate and not taught by parents, similar to a domestic cat or dog killing a mouse or rabbit. Asked if he had concerns on the wolf population with a hunting season, Mech said, “No, none.”

As a wolf ethologist who has studied their development and social organization I find Mech’s comments misleading and disturbing, as well as his apparent disregard for the social and emotional bonds and dynamics of the wolf pack as an extended nuclear family. Four-month old wolves still have their milk teeth, they are physically immature with extremely limited hunting speed and skill, and could easily fall prey to larger predators. Furthermore, they are not so innately programmed when it comes to killing large prey like deer and moose, which takes much learning through observation and pack collaboration and highly evolved inter-communication.

5 thoughts on “Crying Wolf Too Much

  1. Thanks Jim!

    I hope at least a few people will take the time to read this insightful piece!

    And I hope you got the BCC I sent to you of the email I sent to Dr. Fox…

    You are BOTH amazing activists!

    Veda

    > > Exposing the Big Game posted: > “http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-crying-wolf.html An Animal Rights > Article from All-Creatures.org FROM Dr. Michael W. Fox November 2016 > Regardless of the concerted public education and conservation efforts over the > past several decades in whi” >

  2. What an insightful article by Dr. Fox, whom I met years ago. I have always had high regard for him and his stand for wolves and other wildlife.. Mech is a traitor to wildlife. I’m glad to see Dr. Fox mention that Mech is a trapper. He is a glaring example of how despicable the often -lauded “wildlife management” mantra is and how embedded this wildlife killing concept is in government and in most so-called wildlife groups. Many of these sell-out wildlife groups continue to genuflect to the Livestock Special Interests, who have no intention of changing their prejudice against wolves, coyotes, mountain lions and other wild animals.
    Wolves don’t need management. They need protection.

    http://www.foranimals.org

  3. Much of what humanity does has no sound justification or ethical validity, particularly when it comes to our treatment of nonhuman animals.

    The hatred of wolves, the malice with which we view them, and the tortures to which we subject them seem to approach the level of psychosis. It is certainly stupid. But, then, there is no paucity of the psychotic and the stupid to be dealt with.

    However what is more difficult to understand is the people like David Mech. He has studied wolves for years, has written books about them (have them on my shelves!) is regarded as an authority, and yet talks about trapping and killing wolves as of benefit to them.

    Apparently he is not a person who can put himself in the wolves’ place. Sad that an often-quoted “expert” can know so much and understand so little.

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