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Are Hunters Good Wildlife Stewards When It Comes To Wolves? Not According To This Study


A new study likely to be controversial in some quarters suggests that hunters are not especially good wildlife stewards when the wildlife in question are wolves.

While hunters long have been seen as conservation advocates for a wide range of species, when it comes to wolves the study by two University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers would seem to indicate that the only good wolf is a dead wolf in the hunter's mind.

“Hunters were some of the least tolerant of wolves among our respondents, and the closer you got to wolf range the less tolerant they were,” said Adrian Treves, a professor in the UW-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Professor Treves and a colleague, Kerry Martin, took up a research project beginning in 2001 to survey hunters and non-hunters on attitudes toward wolves. Over the course of six years they interviewed 2,320 residents of Wisconsin, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming and were able to draw a picture of perceptions when it came to wolves. (Their findings appear in the August issue of the peer-reviewed journal Society and Natural Resources.)

That portrait is timely now as gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List in some Western states earlier this year, and are poised for delisting in parts of Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and other Midwest areas.

Questions the two professors asked the respondents touched a number of issues, ranging from acceptance of management policy and tolerance of the carnivores to willingness to kill a wolf illegally, adherence to hunt regulations, and expected financial support of conservation.

One issue the two noted in trying to explain the perceived intolerance of hunters was that hunters often view wolves as competition for deer and other game. And they added that opening a wolf hunt may not immediately shift that perception to viewing wolves as another game species to be conserved.

Another conclusion Professors Treves and Martin reached was that "the evidence simply isn’t there to indicate that hunting wolves would affect depredations of domestic animals."

"No depredation data were reported following a hunt in Idaho and Montana conducted during a window of time in 2009 when the animals were not federally protected. And though wolves have been hunted legally in Alaska for decades, the scarcity of domestic animals and difference in landscape make it nearly impossible to draw conclusions that would apply to the lower 48," said a press release that accompanied news of their study.

Another finding, which Professor Treves found surprising, was the "level of support expressed for a regulated wolf hunt among non-hunters and those living outside wolf range. In Wisconsin, for example, he said, “You find a surprising amount of support for a public regulated harvest of wolves even in places like Madison, Fond du Lac, or Sister Bay.”

But these endorsements tend to be conditional, he cautioned, and the conditions vary. For example, many people support the idea of a “sustainable” hunt – though “sustainable” was undefined in this context – or hunting as a way to reduce attacks on livestock and other conflicts between wolves and humans.

“To me that says that people see hunting as a tool for enabling coexistence,” Professor Treves said.

A "risk map" Professor Treves and others published in June shows that wolf attacks on livestock in Wisconsin are highly localized and attributable to a relatively small number of packs. The majority of packs do not cause problems despite living in close proximity to humans, which raises significant questions about the efficacy of a general hunt to alleviate perceived problems.

“The assumption that hunting and reducing the number of animals will reduce livestock losses would be proven false if hunters are targeting the wrong animals, such as animals in wilderness areas,” he said, adding that it will be important to understand hunter motivations. “Wolves in wilderness areas don’t kill livestock, it’s the wolves on the edge in agricultural areas. Do hunters want to hunt in farmland? I’m not sure.”

The uncertainty of how hunting would affect wolf populations could also become a legal issue, says UW-Madison law professor Stephanie Tai, citing a precedent of legal challenges of federal delisting decisions.

“People have challenged delistings for a number of reasons, and some of those have been successful,” she said. “Often, successful lawsuits bring up factors the (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service may not have considered, which could include the effect of allowing hunting.”

The challenge, according to Professor Treves, is to balance human needs with the need to conserve wolves as an essential component of ecosystems.

In a viewpoint piece published in the August issue of the journal BioScience, Professor Treves and Jeremy Bruskotter, an environment and natural resources professor at Ohio State University, presented some possible scenarios for the future of wolf management in the United States. Those scenarios include reclassifying the wolves as threatened, which would permit lethal control under certain circumstances, or enacting specific federal protections outside the Endangered Species Act, such as those currently in place for bald eagles, wild horses, and migratory birds.

The two advocate geographically tailored approaches that will permit local-level control within a federal framework to strike a balance between wolves and humans. Sound long-term management can include a public regulated hunt, they say, but it will unquestionably require compromise.

“A public regulated harvest is a collaboration between hunters and the state, which requires give and take. I think the next few years in Wisconsin will reveal how well that collaboration works,” said Professor Treves.


[size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Wolves never should have been de-listed from protection by political maneuverings and now politically managed in western states that are hostile toward them and by agencies that have traditionally been hostile to them in particular and other predators. Western and mid-western states are going very far against hunting ethics or anything that resembles fair chase to cull wolf populations down to marginal numbers. Now, in [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Montana[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial] and other states we are even having a trapping season, extended seasons, and even legislators proposing more drastic measures in the coming year. Basically, this majestic, apex animal is being treated as a varmint by sportsmen, ranchers, state and federal wildlife agencies. Hostile western states cannot responsibly manage the wolves or even other predators. Wolves are a very healthy factor in wilderness ecological systems. Man is not. [/size]

[size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Managing wolves by hunting and trapping is asinine, cruel, barbaric and unnecessary, and poor management strategy, and terrible public relations. It does not work well. It is bad public relations for [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Montana[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial] and other western states. It is vendetta, anti-wolf hysteria, pushed by self-serving hunters, trappers, ranchers, and wolf hating yokels, a tradition of anti-wolf folklore over the centuries, supported by rancher politicians and rancher government officials and agencies. If [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Montana[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial] and other states have to hunt, why not stick with a fair chase season and then call it good no matter what the outcome. Spare us the perverse arguments of need for management by trapping, extended hunt seasons, bounties, more than one kill ticket, use of calling devices, need to hit a quota, or use of other barbaric measures of unneeded control. Hunting and trapping are barbaric “blood sports” and a war on wildlife, not a legitimate management tools. We do not do near enough about non-lethal means of control or management.[/size]

[size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Actually, hunting wolves is asinine. A hunt and trap season is indiscriminate in killing. Wolves causing no problems are killed. Alpha males and females are killed. Wolves are a very social family with special roles assigned. Families are disrupted. Juveniles are left to learn on their own. Pups are left to die or learn on their own when a female parent is killed. Wolves that are leaving humans alone are killed. Animals are wounded and not killed. Many hunters and trappers take a sadistic pleasure in how they kill. Hunting and trapping tends to drive down the average age of wolf populations. Some younger wolves are not given the opportunity to learn from adults to stay away from human domains and how to hunt their natural prey. Wolves do not need to be managed by hunting or trapping at all. They will fill up wilderness niches and limit their own populations relative to prey and territory as they have in [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Yellowstone[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Park[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]. With respect to [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Yellowstone[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial] wolves, [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Montana[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial] and [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Wyoming[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial] are giving themselves a black eye with the rest of the nation with an anti-tourism, anti-science, anti-wolf hysteria. [/size]

[size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Trapping is cruel even if done legally, even if it is a tradition, even if seen as a management tool. Traps are cruel. It should be banned for the public, allowed as necessary for wildlife officials who use it vastly too much with a pervasive kill attitude of their own. Why should animals suffer for private economic gain on fur sales or to artificially farm (boost) elk herds (elk farming)? In the [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]USA[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial] over 4 million animals are trapped each year for “sport” and millions more for “management” and millions more as collateral damage. Hunters worldwide kill over 100 million animals. USDA Wildlife Services sees killing animals, for control or management, as their mission.
The western states are locked into a mindset of quotas and marginalizing wolf populations by hunting and trapping and other lethal methods. Quotas for delisting were based on outdated figures for sustainable wolf populations. Wolves have not harmed game populations or significantly harmed stock populations (.0029%), contrary to repeated and repeated anecdotal opinion. Elk populations are up, from around 89,000 in 1989 to over 140,000 plus now. Hunters have great seasons on killing ungulates in [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Montana[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial], 25,000 elk in 2010 and 90,000 deer (per FWP). Elk harvest is generally up, 100 to 127% per MT FWP. Wolves regulate their own populations as they have in [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Yellowstone[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial] where their numbers and bear numbers go down naturally. Problem wolves and problem packs should be “managed” but usually not always by lethal means and not by hunters and trappers. Wildlife agencies seem only to have a kill mentality wanting to control predators by hunting and trapping and other lethal means. Wolves belong in the wilderness and are good for the ecological systems as has been proven in [/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]Yellowstone[/size][size= 10pt; font-family: Arial]. Wolves are more natural in the wild than man, who no longer needs it for subsistence; now only for sport killing—- take a camera instead and go to the grocery to get your meat, ride a hike or bike or horse, or go camping.[/size]

If Hunters believe themselves to be such valuable conservation tools, to be so defensive of themselves as "good, ethical ones" as opposed to the bad apples they obviously KNOW do exist today... Why aren't they taking a stand against those apples? To you I ask: Where is your responsibility today to clean up the mess that hunting has become? Your voice is SO loud to get what you want... but otherwise you just stay sitting down quietly while those "bad apples" tarnish what you claim as a heritage so important to you. Stop blaming the "anti's". Those rampant, unethical hunters today - and the state agencies that are afraid of upsetting their clientele base - these are the folks that are shooting your beloved heritage in the foot - your foot! Stand up and clean up hunting! Propose compromises that are long overdue on 18th century practices (and fees).

I'm sick of hearing about dwindling budgets of state wildlife agencies when they still charge 1940's tag prices and bend over backwards to appease a minority, with NO consideration or voice given to the majority, or even the 21st Century.

Tell that to the 14 wolves left in Oregon.  14?  That's sustainable when the hunt is targetting the alphas and allows hunting during the time whent he alpha female is pregnant.  And does anyone take into account the poachers who just have to have a wolf hide on their wall or a stuff wolf in the corner, or maybe a pup.  I'm from Wyoming.  My husband and son hunt.  I work for an environmental agency and if you can't eat it, leave it alone.  Period.  That's not management, that's murder, and before we realize what we have unleashed with this type of 'management' it may be too late for our wolves...and yes I do live in an urban area now, but like I said...I'm a Wyoming gal and this makes me sick.  Threatened, endangered.....the ESA is being gutted and molded to serve the purpose of those who graze on BLM land for a pittance.  Who's getting away with murder there?  This is bad.   Very bad.  When will we learn that each and every c reature has a place...except Man.

Wow.  I'm more than a little shocked & saddened at  some of the comments.  As stated above, the label "hunters", covers a large spectrum of people.  Some of the hunters are exceptional & wonderful people.  Some hunters would fall into the scourge of the earth category (in my book).  Then there is a huge population of hunters that are trying to be the best they can be, with varying levels of success.
My family hunts & fishes.  We love it & enjoy getting a 'trophy'. (Yes, we eat what we kill.) But we also love to watch the fawns playing & watching small bucks mature into the trophies, not to mention the million other animal encounters that we are blessed to witness (such as the mamma doe chasing the coyote away when it got too close).
We spend much money & time protecting the habitat, for the animals that we hunt as well as other animals that are not hunted at all.
I agree with the article that we need more education about the wolves, but I would be utterly shocked if Vincent or Judith have done 1/2 as much for wildlife, as any of the hunters that I associate with (and no - complaining about hunters does not count).

The elitist snob comments are really the most "unnatural" of postings that I see.  Hunter/gatherer stuff is a part of our DNA (not arguable).  Al be it replaced by many by a trip to Safeway or the like.  Like domesticated animals we're only one step removed from those realities that that seem so unseemly for some and completely at peace in the effort by others.  Of course, everyone has there learning curve from what I've seen but with parents parenting (not always the case) the young grow up with a healthy respect for their contributions to the table.  All the judgements on this and other topics seem to be made by many that seemingly elevate themselves to something more honorable than others (their opinion), their fallacy.  Man, that WAS good Scotch:)!

I know.  But my last one wasn't.

The comment from Crotalus about You Tube being peer-reviewed was tongue in check.  

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