People share the northern Wisconsin forests with wolves. These folksview the wolf from several perspectives: some fear him, others love him, and still there are those who outright hate him. Regardless of opinion, the wolf is the most talked about wild animal in Wisconsin. So how do we all live in these woods with such a well-known creature?
Dr. Jane Goodall believed in order to save Chimpanzees local people’s needs must be addressed; she said: ”People living in the forests surrounding critical chimpanzee habitat are among the poorest on the planet. Consequently, it is short-sighted to develop solutions for chimps without addressing the needs of local people. Effective programs must provide win-win solutions for both chimps and people. Thankfully, conserving forests benefits both local people as well as chimps and other fauna (Source: Lessons Learned from Dr. Jane Goodall, by Nancy Merrick).
We can apply these same words to our situation by meeting the needs of our own locals. Firstly, these needs can be economic. If local communities rely heavily on hunting to meet their financial needs, then we need to offer alternatives. Wolf-ecotourism could be that alternative. Such an endeavor would offer job opportunities to many. But how does that affect wild wolves? People traipsing all over wolf habitat in the hope of viewing the elusive wild wolf will likely only disturb them. Perhaps then, we should arrange for guided tours that are allowed to go only in certain areas.
Secondly, another way to meet the needs of the local people would be in providing wolf education and awareness. Living with Wolves and National Geographic developed a Grey wolf Educator’s Guide for schools. This guide is about: “The purpose of this guide is to provide educators of students from kindergarten to high school with activities that will enrich students’ understanding about the gray wolf of North America. The activities are intended to dispel common myths and prejudices that are held about these animals and to encourage youth to get involved in conservation efforts.” (Source: Grey Wolf Educator Guide, by Living with Wolves and National Geographic.) These guides would benefit local people and wolves. People would have a new perspective about how beneficial wolves are for ecosystems.
Lastly, helping local people live alongside a large carnivore such as the wolf requires a way to mitigate conflicts. Wisconsin Department of Natural resources has a Wildlife Damage Specialist, Brad Koele. Click here to watch WODCW’s video interview with Koele The WDNR Wildlife Damage program could be expanded to add citizen liaisons as volunteers. Volunteers would attend local county board meetings. The volunteers would take any wolf related concerns back to the WDNR Wildlife Damage specialist. A volunteer wolf liaison program would give local people a voice in wolf management.
Solving the needs of the local people is a necessary step to resolving conflicts that stand in the way of coexisting with wolves.