Wolves incite passion. They are an apex predator and held in high esteem by some; almost idolized. These people couldn’t think of anything more distasteful, even enraging, as killing wolves. On the polar opposite end of the spectrum is an equally misguided group of people who would just as soon see them all dead.
Caught in the middle are the people who actually live with wolves. Hunters, trappers, livestock owners and pet owners all see the problems associated with a high wolf population. Deer numbers have plummeted in many parts of the state due in part to wolf depredation. Deer hunters and recreational deer views are alarmed. Minnesota put an end to the moose hunting season this year due to low moose numbers, and a survey of moose calf mortality showed wolves to be a significant factor.
Pets are increasingly being preyed upon by wolves. Dogs that venture a little too far from the porch are torn to shreds and hunting dogs just out of reach of the hunter are killed every year. Wolves do not tolerate other canines in their territory.
Livestock owners are hit the hardest and they are hit in the bank account. Despite the fact that government trappers kill about 250 problem wolves a year, attacks on livestock is on the rise. The state reimburses livestock owners for livestock lost to wolves but the funds are running dry due to the large number of wolf kills and the fact that the price of beef is high. A 500-pound calf is worth about $1,500. More than half of the 2015 funds have been paid by mid-April and the calving season is just starting. Governor Dayton has asked the legislature to double the funds for this year and that may not be enough.
In a twist of irony, as the state struggles to pay for the control of wolves through government trappers and depredation reimbursements, a federal court put the wolves back on the Endangered Species List, which effectively put an end to wolf hunting in Minnesota for this year. Thousands of hopeful wolf hunters and trappers have been applying for wolf tags the past three years and only a fraction of them have drawn a tag. This money would be going into the state’s funding base, but instead, the state continues to bleed off money to combat the growing problem with the state’s high wolf population.
Many are calling for the management of wolves to be returned to the states and taken out of the hands of the fickle federal courts. This would allow the decisions to be made by the people who have to deal with the results of the decisions.
Clearly the Endangered Species Act is not the villain here. The fact that wolves are abundant in Minnesota and many other states is proof, in part that the ESA is working. It’s easy to point to bald eagles and other animals that have been brought back from the brink of endangerment due to the ESA. But now the ESA is being used as a weapon by animal rights extremists to thwart sound wildlife management principles. No one is the winner when that happens — not even the wolves.
Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.
Photo from istockphoto.com