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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.


Hunters are not good wildlife stewards.. period. They tend to hunt the strongest of the species resulting in bad genepools. They destroy any competition like wolves cougar bear etc resulting in overpopulation of bad gened grazers which they favor because of easier hunting.
Hunters have single handedly contributed to the extermination of many species. This they will vehemently denounce but it is true.
As urbanisation of the countryside crept over the hills the vanguard was always hunters that destyroyed any animal that were detrimental for the rancher and the townfolk. ie the bison, bear cougar wolf bald eagle lynx etc etc. The list is endless.
The fact that they now try to save some of the species that they still hunt, and that is all they do as they do not care for 'insignificant' animals and plantlife that is destroyed in the process, does not make them wildlife stewards.
They mostly see the trophy animals that they hunt as 'wildlife'. Ie elk, deer, moose and the like. The money they aleways brag about that they put into conservation is a pittance of what is needed to repair the damage they do every year to the Eco environment.
The problem is that every one with a rifle and a 4x4 truck can call himself a hunter, buy a hunting license for a dime and a half and go shoot animals.
Anyone who thinks that hunters(human) can take the place of the natural predator to balance eco systems is dreaming. It is widely known that the wildlife is now run from the governors office and not from the office of wildlife exponents. Politicians now decide what is endangered and what not and sadly, those animals that do not contribute to a good voting count are left out in the cold.

Thank you Vincent. Your comment is right on the button and a great addition to this article when it comes to the facts and studies about why hunters are not good stewards for our wildlife. Hunters can deny it all they want but the evidence becomes clearer more and more.

As wolves have expanded range and increased in number their impacts on prey species have been greater, reducing hunting opportunities. Why? Because a wolf will eat between 16-25 deer or elk from Nov. to April each and every year of its adult life. They actually eat even more large prey, but that is the standard research year because it is easier to detect wolf kills on the snow.
Wolves also change the behavior of their prey, making them much harder for hunters, reducing their success rate. They change herd structure, killing weakend but geneticly superior breeding bull elk and buck deer. It should be a surprise to no one that hunters are less tolerant of wolves for these reasons.  Add to that farmers, ranchers, and pet owners in rural areas inhabited by increasing numbers of wolves are less tolerant than urban dwellers who get their slanted information from the Humane Society, Defenders of Wildlife and Mr. Repanshek, the author of this article.  If you are going to summarize studies, Mr. Repanshek, do it with a little more objectivity. And you just have to love the dead wolf on the snow.  Is that supposed to be objective, too.  Why don't you put a photo of an elk calf - mutilated and still alive, or a meadow full of dead sheep, throats ripped out and uneaten.  Your article needs a little balance.
If you are an urban dweller you may love wolves more because you don't have to deal with them on a daily basis.  Studies have shown world-wide the further you are from where the wolves are the more you like them.  And Vincent, above, knows little of what he writes.
(Ed. note: this post has been edited slightly)

Wow!  That sure was "painting with a broad brush". Hunters, like members of all groups come in many sizes, shapes, and from many varied backgrounds.  Like all groups, hunters are a group of people having "good, ethical" members of the group, as well as the not so "good or ethical", with the vast majority falling somewhere in between. I have always been taught that sterotyping is dangerous and unfair. 
I am a wildlife biologist and a hunter.  I was brought up to respect all animals and to learn as much about all as I could.  My children hunt.  It is not all about the kill, much of it is about the places the hunting takes place in and the people you send time with.  It's about the experiences in the wild.  I don't just hunt "trophies" though each animal taken is a prize, a reward and a blessing.  I have no desire to hunt certain species even though there may be an open season.  I support programs to return extripated predators and mega fauna to their historic ranges.  I take part in habitat projects that benefit many different species of wildlife, many of which are not considered game species.  Yes, unregulated hunting in the 1800's and early 1900's wiped out some species, and brought many to the brink.  But in this day and age of regulated hunting and wildlife management, many game species populations are at historic high levels.  Levels that are creating problems such as browse lines, devegetation, disease. I agree that human hunting pressure alone will not adequately regulate these populations.  Numbers of hunters nationwide are also decreasing.  Without a combination of hunters, wolves and other predators, those species that are experiencing over population and their negative impacts will never be controled.  
Populations issues for many species today are not generally driven by over hunting but by human development and fragmentation/distruction of habitat.  If we as a species keep it up, we may survive, but our quaility of life will be greatly reduced and we will be very lonely.
I would just encourage you to back off a bit on your tone and get to know some hunters.  Sure you may find some you don't care for.  I've run into plenty of them myself.  If you look, however, you may just find that we are not all cast from the same mold.

We totally agree with Vincent based on 55 years of observations and conversations
with friends and relatives who have no integrity or ethics respecting any wildlife;
they see wildlife as a moving target for killing; many western ranchers despite
their alleged "Love of the Land" stories have destroyed many predators with their
"Bison Hunter Mentality"  (Oh, let me be the one to Kill the Last Bison)
as in portions of E. central Nevada, near Great Basin NP, complaining about the rabbit over-populations after they, the  ranchers have effectively decimated coyotes and other predators.  Sadly, Hunters and trappers (supported by State & Federal public taxe dollars,
as in the Agricultural Wildlife Destruction Agency))
dominate many State Fish and Game Departments who repeatedly lie to the public press
about re-locating bears or cougars when in fact they have darted the animal with an overdose of lethal chemicals to make certain that the animal will never breathe again.  Most hunters are eager to kill the largest of all the charismatic big game (e.g. deer, elk, bighorn sheep) species effectively destroying the future genepool for any chance of mega-size gene recovery.
Most Hunters have little interest in learning the basics to effectively managed wildlife and fish
in a sustainable manner by understanding their basic life histories and biological facts
critical to managing a sustainable, healthy population.  Hunters generally think that they
are Experts in Wildlife Management and resist any constructive criticism from non-hunters.
And just as unethical and criminal, a surprising number of idiot great hunters are guilty of poaching in parks & refuges including some national forest and national park staff
who know where to locate the trophy animals that remain.

[color=#0000ff][/color] “We tried to track the fees paid to environmental groups in certain federal courts. These guys are charging between $350 and $450 an hour in legal fees.” Falen says the Federal government is picking up the tab and adds: “In Federal District Court in Boise, over the last ten years, WWP received a total of $999,190 in tax dollars for ‘reimbursement’ for attorney fees and costs.”
“Nonprofit, tax exempt groups are making billions of dollars in funding,” said Falen. She says the majority of this legal fee money is not going into programs to protect people, jobs, wildlife, or endangered species but to fund more lawsuits from ‘non-profit environmental groups.Everything else on the wolf issue is smoke and mirrors this is all about greedy people that hate America.

Hi Judith.  If you agree with Vincent then you are clearly as uninformed as he is.  I hunt a 380 acre area in Mississippi with five other guys.  All of us are dedicated conservationists.  We do not, in fact, kill the strongest fo the species, but instead harvest from a wide spectrum of the gene pool.  We have a 15 acre lake on the property as well and have solid rules about which sized fish we can and cannot take out of the lake.
We do tend to kill coyotes on the property, mainly because they predate on the fawns and small birds that inhabit our area.  All in all, in that nearly four hundred acre area, we probably harvest five to six deer annually, while our population is roughly four times that size and includes some large bucks who have lived there for quite some time without us having hunted them.
I have known some bad hunters in my life who do not set a good example, but the vast vast majority of hunters I know are conservationists and care a great deal about wildlife, the environment and leaving something worthwhile for their kids to hunt and fish on.
Of course, leave it to the same liberals who preach all the time about how horrible it is to use stereotypes, or how irresponsible it is to generalize - these are the one's who will paint you up in a heartbeat.  It's ignorance that drives this debate - ignorance from the wolf-loving left who haven't a care in the world for the rancher trying to make a living when his sheep or newly calved herd are being destroyed while he sleeps by a pack of viscous wolves.  The wolves that have been introduced (not RE-introduced, but INtroduced) into these areas are not native to that region.  The new wolves are Canadian Timber Wolves, and are larger, more powerful, faster, and in many studies have been shown to hunt for sport, and not for food.  They should never have been introduced, and it's now time to remove them.  My personal preference is that people such as Vincent and Judith take these wolves in to their homes and back yards.  You love 'em so much?  You take 'em. (Ed. note: this post has been edited slightly in keeping with our policy of respectful dialogue.)

my husband is a hunter and so is my son. My family hunts for subsitance purposes only. They only take what we can eat. We do share our food with older hunters who can no longer get out and it helps with their fo...od for the winter. We donate the hides to the VA for PT sessions for vets. We say prayers over every animal killed and thank it for giving it's life so we can live. Not ALL hunters are evil. They also know how passionate I am about wolves and agree that wolves have their place on the plant as natural predators who gleen the sick and old from the herd thereby helping,in the long run, the survival and strength of the herds. My husb/son know their are poachers and have turned in those in restricted areas. That's a dangerous thing to do when you have guns involved with people who do not care in the middle of nowhere. They have had stand offs with people out in the woods that they knew were up to no good, and have reported their license plates -- about all they an do without having a gun fight in the middle of nowhere. Our family believes that if you can't eat it, don't shoot it, and killing defenseless animals is not something they would stoop to doing. So there are a few. Very few I agree. With the NRA so rich and firmly behind the hunting 'experience' and their deep pockets, the few that do bellieve are up against a tide of others. They do speak up but as we, they are rarely heard and as we also know, things can get pretty ugly when you are up against some who feel it's their right to hunt whatever they want to whenever they want too. I personally believe that those who do believe in the value of wolves teach their children and so on what the right thing to do is, unfortunately they can't teach everyone. It comes from the sense of what is right and what is wrong that we teach them about....down to the 7th generation. But we are too few. I fear the story has started and that the end will be very hard to handle, espcially with the destruction of the ESA....again, thanks to the politicians, most who are republicans (no offence to anyone who disagrees...we all have our own opinions). Blessings to all. I, for one, will continue this fight with my last breath. At least I can say in the end that I tried and that my thoughts were pure for my brother/sister wolf.

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