Hearing students of all ages from elementary, middle school, high school and university express their respect and admiration for wolves is hopeful. As an educator, when I hear a fifth grader say, “wolves are my favorite animal” I immediately respond in agreement with them. Yes wolves are my favorite animal too!
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~Nelson Mandela
I have been bringing wolf education and awareness in my local school community since 1998. I’ve taken local high school biology classes out wolf tracking and on howl surveys for two decades now. Even helped a friend and local biology teacher screen the film “Medicine of the Wolf” for his class. This is what makes a difference, wolf advocates, by opening the conversations in your local school community about wolf awareness and education. Share your respect and admiration for wolves with students of all ages. It begins with planting the seeds, and watching them grow into young adults who become wolf advocates. Several organizations have developed wolf education curriculums, Gray Wolf Educators Guide Living With Wolves and Timber Wolf Alliance. I teach a science summer camp and invited Timber Wolf Alliance to share their wolf education curriculum with my classes. It was a big hit! If you want to know more email me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to connect you with these two organizations for wolf education curriculum.
Photo credit a grey wolf in Amalik Bay. NPS Photo/D. Kopshever.
Our politicians are once again using wolves as political pawns and resuming their seemingly relentless assault against them. On Wednesday a House Panel approved a bill funding the Department of Interior and the EPA. This bill contains 2 highly toxic riders which would undermine 40 years of recovery and jeopardize the future of wolves.
The first rider would strip all federal protections of wolves in the Great Lakes region (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan) and allow trapping and hunting to resume after it was put on hold in 2014 by a federal judge. The rider would also preclude any further judicial review of this overturned court order.
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” -Albert Einstein
The second rider would prevent any money from being spent on federal recovery efforts of wolves in other parts of the country – the Mexican gray wolf in the southwest, the red wolf in North Carolina, and the 2 wolf packs that just resettled in California, to name a few.
We need to make our voices heard and let our politicians know that this bill, along with these anti-wolf riders, is not acceptable. Coexistence, not killing, should be the goal of wolf recovery. Our wolves deserve a better fate than the death sentences our legislators are proposing.
“Animals should not require our permission to live on earth. Animals were given the right to be here long before we arrived.” -Anthony Douglas Williams
Please take a few minutes to call or email your Congressional Representative and US Senators. Links to contact your legislators are here:
Hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear in the norths woods of Wisconsin run their hounds right through wolf rendezvous sites (where wolf pups are kept). Wolf pups are only about three months old when hunters begin running their dogs on bear. They run hounds through known wolf caution areas; even though WDNR sends out alerts to avoid those areas. In 1982 Wisconsin started a wolf depredation program. Wolf depredation program pays $2,500.00 per hunting dog. In 2016 thirty-seven bear hunting dogs were killed in the pursuit of bear. Several bear hunters received multiple wolf depredation program payments, and even ones with criminal charges; such as poaching a black bear.
That’s not even the worst of it.
In 2015 Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBA) worked at loosening regulations for bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear. It’s a mystery as to just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods during training & hunting. Why is this a mystery? Because a change in regulations took place that removed the Class B bear training & hunting license. Because of that change it’s impossible to know; just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods. It’s all carefully crafted propaganda to make the wolf look bad.
During the 2016 Wisconsin bear hunting season 37 hunting dogs were lost in the pursuit of bear. A few Wisconsin legislators claim these deaths were due to the high wolf population of 866 in 2016, but there’s a whole lot more to this story than meets the eye. Adrian Wydeven, former Wisconsin DNR Head Wolf biologist, wrote in a opinion editorial: Numbers don’t add up in wolf-hound debate, written on November 12, 2016 and suggested that: “Do wolf numbers correlate with wolves killing hounds? The evidence suggests this might not necessarily be the case. In 2012, only seven dogs were killed and yet there were nearly as many wolves in 2012 as there were in 2016 (815 wolves in late winter 2012).”
There’s a decades-old conflict between bear hunters and wolves taking place every year in Wisconsin’s north woods.
I started working on the Wisconsin wolf recovery program as a volunteer Winter Wolf Tracker in the year 2000. I lost track of how many “no-wolf” bumper stickers were encountered in a day of tracking in the the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. This conflict between bear Hunters and wolves is decades-old.
In the 1960s Wisconsin started allowing the use of dogs in the pursuit of bear. At that time there were maybe a handfull of wolves in Wisconsin if any. Wolves were not a threat to bear hunters because they were all but wiped out of Wisconsin by the 1960s. It all changed for bear hunters when Wisconsin Wolf recovery began in the late 1970s.
Watch the following video by Wisconsin Public Television 2010
Wisconsin’s wolf depredation program began in 1982, and soon afterwards bear hunters running dogs in pursuit of bear began receiving payouts. The payouts for wolf depredations were paid in the effort to help compensate hunters, livestock owners and residents living in wolf recovery areas.
In 2017 $99, 400.00 was paid for hounds killed in pursuit of bear, 2016 training & Hunting season, according to the Wisconsin annual wolf damage payment summary. Did the Wisconsin wolf depredation program reimburse bear hunters who knowingly ran their hunting dogs through WDNR wolf caution areas?
“When wolves attack dogs in hunting or training situations on public land, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will create wolf caution areas to warn hunters that a specific pack has attacked a dog or group of dogs. Bear hunters are urged to exercise greater caution if they plan to train hounds or hunt bear with hounds near any caution area, especially if near an actual kill site.”
The following is a spreadsheet of wolf depredation program payouts to bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear in 2016:
Harassment is the act or an instance of harassing, or disturbing, pestering, or troubling repeatedly; persecution according to Webster’ dictionary. Let’s add the topic of the harassment being an endangered species, such as; Wisconsin’s wild wolf.
Considering the decades of conflict between bear hunters and wolves; is this becoming harassment of an endangered species. Isn’t this illegal?
Rachel Tilseth is the author and founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin founded 2012 to get the dogs out of the wolf hunt. Tilseth has been involved in Wisconsin’s wolf recovery since the year 1998. Tilseth is an artist, art educator & grandmother living in the north woods of Wisconsin.
Changing the perceptions of people who have negative views of wolves begins with dialogue. If we want to change this negative to a positive perception we must open the dialogue, and engage, ask questions, and plant seeds – seeds of compassion that will grow into new perceptions of valuing the role wolves play in balancing the ecosystem.
“You only have one way to convince others – listen to them.” – George Washington
Trying to change negative perceptions by demeaning, insulting, and shouting down the other side won’t get us anywhere, and will most likely only harden their resolve. Think of how we feel when an anti-wolf voice makes derogatory comments about wolves or wolf advocates – it just makes us angrier and widens the divide.
“The most powerful way to win an argument is by asking questions. It can make people see the flaws in their logic.” -Unknown
It can be extremely difficult not to scream angrily back when we see injustices to those animals we fight so hard to protect. I travel to Yellowstone to watch wolves and follow their lives on a daily basis. I have come to know these wolves on a personal level – their different personalities, their families, their successes and hardships. When one of them is killed, especially by the hand of man, it breaks my heart.
When I learned of the poaching of the 12-year-old Canyon pack alpha female earlier this year, my gut reaction was to hurl insults at the anti-wolf crowd. I was angry and hurt, and I wanted to hurt back. In my heart, I knew this wouldn’t help the wolves at all; in fact, in the long run, it might be more detrimental. I also realized that this would be going against the basic philosophy of Compassionate Conservation – “first do no harm”. If I truly believe that, it also means showing compassion towards those with whom I wholeheartedly disagree by raising a voice in compassion for all beings.
“You cannot force someone to comprehend a message that they are not ready to receive. Still, you must never underestimate the power of planting a seed.” – Unknown
If we want to see the end of the persecution and hatred of wolves, we must sow the seeds of compassion and knowledge; nurturing the seeds of compassionate conservation will lead to valuing the wolf as part of the natural world.
I attended my first Winter Wolf Monitoring Meeting Thursday, June 8th in Wausau where the results were announced. Wisconsin’s wolf population is up 6.8 percent from last year, 866 to 953. Most of the available seats were filled, with both pro-wolf and pro-hunting interests in attendance. The DNR biologist, David MacFarland, answered people’s questions thoroughly, and explained the current status of wolves in Wisconsin; the laws regarding protected versus delisted statuses. The DNR biologist described the methods used to monitor the wolves to get population counts. It was obvious to me, that the DNR biologists were very knowledgeable, engaged, and passionate about their work.
However, one thing I find missing in our current science and politics, not just here in Wisconsin, but also in Yellowstone and elsewhere; is the inclusion of the emotions and intellect of the wildlife. In the case of wolves, in “management” decisions; I realize the importance of objectivity in science. Nonetheless, shouldn’t that objectivity take into consideration the emotional aspects of these animals? Emotions are just as crucial to anmals lives as they are to ours. The notion that animals have emotions and feelings is accepted science; from Charles Darwin, to Jane Goodall, to Marc Bekoff, great strides have been made showing that animals, just as we do, experience a wide range of emotions, empathy, cognitive reasoning, and self-awareness.
The wolf is neither man’s competitor nor his enemy. He is a fellow creature with whom the earth must be shared. – David Mech
When I look into my (Abbey) dog’s eyes there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that she is a thinking and feeling sentient being. The evidence is seen; in how Abbey greets me when I get home from work, and how she displays her fear during thunderstorms.
If we know other animals think and feel-and I certainly know my dog does-why would we not take that into consideration in dealing with wolves (our domestic dog’s closest cousin), considering we make decisions concerning their fate?
Our politicians and scientists talk about them, and treat them almost as if they are inanimate objects – by using vocabulary such as: harvesting, hunting, trapping. We certainly wouldn’t treat our fellow humans, or our pets by shooting or trapping them; so why do we do so with wolves? Why don’t we take into account their feelings and emotions, their social structure, and their intellect when we intrude on their territory while removing their source of food (deer and elk) for our own (cattle)?
Wildlife policy must move towards “do no harm” compassionate conservation ethics.
“Although other animals may be different from us, this does not make them LESS than us.” –Marc Bekoff
Our current management policy when wolves are delisted only dictates killing them. We need to understand this; that wolves are sentient beings with just as much right to be on this planet as us. Our science along with politics need to incorporate the concepts involving compassionate conservation. In the words of Pope Francis, “We must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”
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?
West Allis, WI
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.
Wildlife officials in Wisconsin are experimenting with a new tool called Foxlights to help farmers and producers keep wolves away from livestock.
They were invented by an Australian sheep farmer to keep away foxes. Rachel Tilseth is founder of the advocacy website Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin and a distributor of the lights. Tilseth sold 25 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture APHIS-Wildlife Services in northern Wisconsin and said they deter wolves from coming near livestock.
“It can be seen from a mile away,” she explained. “It operates with a six volt battery giving up to 12 months of nonstop protection. A light sensor automatically turns it on when it’s at dusk and turns it off during the day.”
Tilseth said the lights are relatively inexpensive at $85 on up. Wisconsin Wildlife Services installed the lights recently on a Douglas County farm experiencing wolf problems. David Ruid, supervisory wildlife biologist with Wildlife Services, said he’s optimistic about their effectiveness, but cautions that lights haven’t always kept wolves away from livestock.
“Some of these wolf packs that are living in human fragmented environments, they’re exposed to a tremendous amount of light pollution in their environment to begin with,” he said.
Ruid added that cost may also be a factor for producers interested in nonlethal methods to deter wolves.
“When you start talking about the spatial area of some of these farms that we’re trying to protect, which are hundreds of acres and miles of fence line – to have enough of these on hand is financially challenging,” he said.
Individual farmers experiencing wolf problems can receive the equipment from the department on a short-term loan.
Tilseth said the lights are just one of the nonlethal method farmers can use to coexist with wolves, adding that a wolf hunt is not the answer to conflicts between producers and wolves.
Wisconsin ended its wolf hunt after a federal judge ruled in December 2014 to place the gray wolf back on the Endangered Species List in the western Great Lakes region. Since then, wildlife managers have not been able to kill problem wolves except in extreme cases. The number of Wisconsin farms affected by wolf depredations has grown since then from 22 in 2014 to 32 last year, according to Ruid. Tilseth said the number of farms affected is small when compared to the number of operations within the state.
Some congressional lawmakers, and state and federal agencies would like the gray wolf removed from the endangered species list, saying their numbers have more than recovered since the wolf’s decline. People opposed to delisting wolves say they play a significant role in the balance of the ecosystem, tribal culture and haven’t recovered to their historic range.