Photograph by Beth Phillips taken of the Lamar Canyon Pack while visiting Yellowstone National Park, March 2016

Opinion Editorial: The hauntingly beautiful howl of a wolf stirs something in my inner soul and leaves me wanting these creatures to remain forever in our wild places. But I fear wolves may soon become nothing more than a distant memory; that is if our backward-thinking politicians have their way. Presently, there is legislation in congress to delist wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wyoming, that will hand over management of wolves back to the states.  Wisconsin held three trophy hunts on wolves, just off the endangered species list, and that proves it is hostile to wolves. 

Even worse, Wisconsin is the only state to use dogs to hunt wolves. How is pitting dogs and wolves against each other considered wolf management? Wisconsin’s policy makers must have science- and fact-based policies in place if they want to manage wolves. A wolf hunt is not based on science, or what’s best for the species or people living in wolf range. 

Why does wolf management immediately equate to one thing – hunting? Wisconsin has a law, Act 169, which specifically states, “If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves….” To immediately begin a hunt on an animal that the state has spent 40 years to protect appears to be backwards in its thinking. In essence, we’ve spent the last half century saving wolves from near extinction only to turn around and begin killing them all over again. 

 According to the WI DNR, the majority of Wisconsin residents have a favorable view of wolves and prefer maintaining or increasing the wolf population. Plus, scientists Adrian Treves of UW Madison and Guillaume Chaperon of Sweden conducted a study that showed that when hunting of wolves was legalized, people’s perceptions of wolves became more negative and instances of poaching increased.

“When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.” ~Anthony Douglas Williams 

 What’s even more outlandish is politicians using depredations on livestock in Wisconsin as an excuse to kill more wolves. Here are the real facts; between April 2015 and April 2016 there were 52 wolf depredations on livestock out of 3.5 million cattle – that’s .001% or one one-thousandth of 1 percent – quite a minuscule number.

 There’s evidence to suggest that wolf hunts don’t solve the wolf depredations problems. In fact, Adrian Treves and Washington State University ecologist, Rob Wielgus have also conducted separate studies showing that hunting wolves actually increases the likelihood of livestock depredations, and that non-lethal deterrents work better than lethal methods to prevent livestock losses to wolves. The role wolves play on the health of our ecosystems far outweighs the few negative effects of living with wolves. 

 The question we must address after forty years of recovery is this; will the fate of Wisconsin’s wild wolf be based on politicians’ choice to use scientific, multi-faceted, non-lethal, and humane approaches to living with wolves – or will it be to put the final nail in the coffin of wolf recovery by pandering to special interests that want a trophy hunt on wolves, thus killing them all over again?

 Beth Phillips

West Allis, WI

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About Beth Phillips:

I am a lifelong resident of the Milwaukee, WI area. I enjoy backpacking, visiting the remaining wild places in the US, and traveling to Yellowstone to watch wolves in the wild. I am alarmed at the relentless assault on our public lands and wildlife, and feel compelled to be a voice in preserving them.