Compassionate Conservation—Saving The Lives of Wild Carnavore and Livestock

Real world solutions to using non lethal wolf management for people and wild Carnavore.

I’ve been a volunteer for Wisconsin’s wolf recovery since 1998. There were only 66 wolf packs in the state at that time. Today there are roughly 232 wolf packs spread through the northern and central forests. Thankfully wolf and livestock conflicts are at a minimum, and there are many non lethal solutions available for livestock producers to employ. There are many factors involved, and employing them as soon ass possible is being proactive. There are several abatements available, such as; Foxlights a nighttime predator deterrent, flandry, and guard animals. These solutions need to be put in place before wolf depredation occurs to any livestock. And it’s important that livestock producers burry any livestock so the carcasses don’t attract wolves.

One very important step to coexistence for people & gray wolves is to educate and advocate by helping & educating those living in wolf country. The objective is to save the lives of Gray wolves and livestock. Whether we live in the city or urban areas, in or out of wolf range, it’s all about solving how we live alongside wolves! Wisconsin’s wild wolf is back on the landscape, and has been since the late 1970s. The Gray wolf is an essential part of the ecosystem. Let’s work together to save Gray wolves and livestock!

I’m a distributor of Foxlights a nighttime predator deterrent.

The following is a short video I filmed of Brad Khole WDNR Wildlife Damages Specialist.

Click here for more reading about ways to reduce conflicts between wolves and Livestock owners.

Wisconsin’s Elusive Gray Wolf Deserves Our Protection…

In the late 1970s wolf Recovery in Wisconsin began. The Gray wolf made a comeback after being eradicated through hunting and trapping in Wisconsin. It wasn’t long before hunting special interests groups began their bid to get Wisconsin’s Gray wolf delisted. Sadly after 40 years of recovery these special interests (Fringe hunters) hunting groups got their way. In the state of Wisconsin the Gray wolf is hunted (2012-2014) for a fireplace rug & mounted as a trophy when he’s not listed on the Endangered Species Act. He was delisted in 2012 and his domestic relative, the dog, was used to track and trail him until a federal judged ordered the Gray wolf back on the ESL in December 2014. Today Wisconsin’s Gray wolf is facing multiple delisting threats in congress backed by special interests; wanting the Gray Wolf’s habitat for oil & gas, lumbering, and the Gray wolf himself for trophy hunting.

U.S. House Passes Bill To De-List Wolves From Endangered Species.

We must make it right…get it right…before we lose everything…the wolf is a social animal just like we are…they depend on family for survival…so do we as human-beings…

The idea that only man is equipped for conserving our planet’s natural resources is a dying concept; dying right along with the untold numbers of wild sentient beings killed in the name of conservation. Such problems drive home a critical flaw in the paradigm of conserving wildlife.

It’s going to take a major shift in thinking that will require opening up lines of communication between the general public; specifically with interests in conserving our natural resources for future generations to come. It’s not about numbers. It’s about sentient beings sharing our planet, and how we can coexist for the benefit of all living upon Mother Earth.

Changing the paradigm from killing to compassionate conservation is a major shift in thinking…

Through my mind’s eye memories flow through the years spent within the Gray Wolf’s range in Wisconsin’s northern forests in Douglas county starting in the year 2000. There you’ll find vast wilderness of forests and barrens where the Gray wolf resides.

Do you think there’s room for the Gray wolf? The following video was shot 2 summers ago in 2015. This landscape is found on a 15 mile long remote gravel road in northern Wisconsin. Do you think there’s room for the wolf?

Last summer, 2018, I visited this same area (in the video) with friend Elke Duerr and who’s filming in the photograph.

When I began helping to monitor Wisconsin’s Gray wolf in the year 2000 there were only 66 Gray wolf packs in the state. Today’s over winter wolf population count is around 945 individuals.

In northern Wisconsin beauty can be found where the Gray wolf resides. I’ve walked these trails for over two decades in search of Wisconsin’s wild & elusive gray wolf.

The Gray wolf in Wisconsin trots freely down the wild and remote gravel roads in Douglas county.

Rains of summer create a lush paradise in wolf range.

The Gray wolf in northern Wisconsin. Photograph screen shot from Red Cliff reservation trail cam.

In summer of July 2018 I met a Raven on a remote gravel road in Douglas county. Douglas county is home for Wisconsin’s wild Gray wolf.

The Gray wolf in Wisconsin deserves our protection…

Contact your members of Congress today.

Will the Government Ever Get it Right on Delisting the Gray Wolf in the Great Lakes Region?

These and other questions come to mind as the Federal Government Working On Removing Gray Wolf From Endangered Species List . Will Wisconsin be transparent in its management of the Gray wolf population, and once again allow for greater pubic input as it did prior to the 2012 USF&WS delisting decision.

In 2011 WISCONSIN ACT 169 legislation mandated a trophy hunt on the newly delisted Gray wolf. Wisconsin Act 169 allowed reckless management policies such as; Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.” Wolf Hounding Fact Sheet

In 2013 & 2014 Wisconsin sanctioned the use of dogs to hunt wolves.

This reckless management of the Gray wolf was overturned as part of Humane Society of the United States lawsuit of USF&WS’s 2012 delisting. In December 2014 a federal judge put Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region back on the Endangered Species List. USF&WS appealed the 2014 ruling, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled Gray wolves in the Great Lakes region should remain on the endangered species list, July 2017.

Besides the horrific wolf management policies by the state of Wisconsin, problems exist within the way USF&WS determines criteria for wolf delisting in the Great Lakes Region in 2011. It’s seems USF&WS got its “hand slapped” by a judges ruling for trying to delist using the following:

“The proposal identifies the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of wolves, which includes a core area of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as parts of adjacent states that are within the range of wolves dispersing from the core recovery area.” USF&WS Press Release 2011

But then, on July 2017, the three-judge panel unanimously said the wolves should stay under federal protection. The judges wrote, “The Endangered Species Act’s text requires the Service, when reviewing and redetermining the status of a species, to look at the whole picture of the listed species, not just a segment of it.”

As the Associated Press reports the judges ruled that,

“The service had not adequately considered a number of factors in making its decision, including loss of the wolf’s historical range and how its removal from the endangered list would affect the predator’s recovery in other areas, such as New England, North Dakota and South Dakota.”

Just how reckless is Wisconsin in its management policies of the Gray wolf?

If the Gray wolf in Wisconsin gets delisted tomorrow; it’s a law that a wolf hunt must take place:

“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 and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. In regulating wolf hunting and trapping, the department may limit the number of wolf hunters and trappers and the number of wolves that may be taken by issuing wolf harvesting licenses.” 2012 Wisconsin Act 169

A brief history on Wisconsin’s reckless management of it’s wolf population, 2012 through 2014.

Wisconsin’s Wolf Advisory Committee is not far and balanced. In other words, there is no transparency in WI DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp’s Wolf management process (WDNR secretary at the time).

WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee met once a month during the legislatively mandated trophy hunt on Wisconsin’s Gray wolf. The WAC recommend how wolf management in Wisconsin should be done. Here is a list of Cathy Stepp’s (WDNR secretary at the time) hand Picked WAC, that she thinks better suited to, “…people who were willing to work with us in partnership…”:United States Fish & Wildlife Service(USFWS), United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services(USDA WS), Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission(GLIFWC), Wisconsin County Forest Association(WCFA), Wisconsin Conservation Congress(WCC), Safari Club International(SCI), Timber Wolf Alliance(TWA), Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association(WBHA), Wisconsin Bowhunters Association(WBA), Wisconsin Cattlemans Association(WCA), Wisconsin Trappers Association(WTA), Wisconsin Wildlife Federation(WWF) and 10 WDNR biologists. WODCW blog

Several DNR staff are on the recently created Wolf Advisory Committee, as are representatives of several pro-hunting groups. A smaller number of wolf hunting skeptics also remain on the committee, including a representative of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  WPR reporter Chuck Quirmbach June 2014 

At a WI DNR meeting secretary Cathy Stepp admitted, “When we’re charged to manage and to implement a hunt, coming in and telling us, ‘Don’t hunt wolves,’ is not a productive way to run a committee, frankly,” said Stepp. “That’s just the candid way to lay it out. We had to have people who were willing to work with us in partnership, and be willing to help us and advise us along the way in implementing state law.” Source WPR June 2014

I was was interviewed on June 2014 regarding DNR secretary kicking off wolf hunt opponents Rachel Tilseth of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was a volunteer DNR tracker of wolves for about a dozen winters, and attended a few meetings of what used to be called the Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholders Group. Tilseth testified about the wolf hunt proposal during Wednesday’s meeting. She later said she didn’t care for Stepp’s remarks.

“I was just appalled that somebody like Cathy Stepp, who’s in charge of this important issue, is saying something like that,” said Tilseth. “It sounds to me like it’s a committee that they want made up of wolf-killers.”

Recap of the last two years in the never-ending political rhetoric designed to stir public sentiment against an endangered species.

Wisconsin’s annual nine-day gun deer hunt sees increase in statewide buck harvest 2016. The largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone (30 percent increase from 2015) after two consecutive mild winters and limited antlerless tags. From WI DNR Press Release 

The increase in buck harvest is hopeful news, because fringe hunters, along with some politicians are claiming that wolves are killing all the deer. This news puts a damper on republican Senator Tom Tiffany’s efforts to delist the wolf.

“A Great Lakes Summit in September 2016, was organized by two Republican lawmakers from northern Wisconsin, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Adam Jarchow, who hope control of the wolf population returns to state governments.” MPR News

The 30 percent buck increase in the Northern Forest Zone (where the wolf lives) is good news as DNR’s own scientific data is proving wolves aren’t eating all the white-tailed deer in northern Wisconsin.

Yet, certain politicians in Wisconsin refuse to believe scientific fact.

As with any cause, a biased or misleading view can be used to promote, to publicize a particular political cause or point of view.  Here we have several anti-wolf politicians making claims to distort the public’ veiw of wolves; wolves are decimating the White-tailed deer herds, attacking livestock and killing hunting dogs.  Let’s set the record straight; wolves do hunt White-tailed deer, have killed some some livestock and did kill 37 bear hunting dogs.  But in reality; is there a big-bad-wolf here? Let’s get the facts before we sanction the killing of an endangered species.

Are wolves killing more livestock?

Let’s take some statistics from The Wisconsin Gray Wolf Monitoring Report for the period of 15 APRIL 2015 THROUGH 14 APRIL 2016 and read the graphic for yourself. There were 52 wolf depredations on livestock.

There were 52 wolf depredations from April 15, 2015 through April 15, 2016. To put it in perspective, that was 52 livestock deaths by wolves out of 3.50 million head of livestock in Wisconsin. Read for yourself:

“The total inventory of cattle and calves on January 1 rose 3 percent from 2014 to 2015, to 3.50 million head. The number of milk cows rose by 5,000 head to 1,275,000 head and the number of beef cows rose 25,000 head to 275,000 head. On the U.S. level, slaughter prices rose to $153.00 per cwt. for cattle and $255.00 per cwt. for calves. As a result, Wisconsin’s value of production rose 33 percent to $1.92 billion.”  Source: USDA Wisconsin statistics

Wisconsin’s wild wolf is the most talked about animal of late.  Politicians in Wisconsin have villianized the wolf, and are pushing to delist him.  It’s no secret that one cannot trust politicians. Politicians are in competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership; they’ve created propaganda to make the wolf look bad.

Politicians have removed science from wolf management and replaced it with political rhetoric. They put together a Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee with stakeholders primarily from the hunting community.

The WAC is heavily slanted towards recreational trophy hunting of wolves with 9 citizen pro wolf hunting organizations to 1 pro wolf citizen organization. Further, according to Cathy Stepp this committee is more productive than opponents of the wolf hunt. There is evidence to the contrary that shows the WAC productiveness is comparable to reality TV’s Housewives of NYC.  From WODCW’s Blog

In conclusion, if USF&WS, the government, gets it right this time in delisting the Gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region Wisconsin citizens must push for greater transparency in wolf management. Because trophy hunts are about power not conservation. We owe the Gray wolf, that was exterminated from our forest, an ethical & compassionate conservation management plan, because we have done enough harm to this iconic predator.

Killing is Not Conservation…

…The idea that only man is equipped for conserving our planet’s natural resources is a dying concept; dying right along with the untold numbers of wild sentient beings killed in the name of conservation. Such problems drive home a critical flaw in the paradigm of conserving wildlife. In the state of Wisconsin alone coyotes are hunted year round because they’re considered vermin that need to be exterminated. It’s about time we work towards changing the paradigm of killing to conserve. It’s going to take a major shift in thinking that will require opening up lines of communication between the general public; specifically with interests in conserving our natural resources for future generations to come. It’s not about numbers. It’s about sentient beings sharing our planet, and how we can coexist for the benefit of all living upon Mother Earth.

Changing the paradigm from killing to compassionate conservation is a major shift in thinking…

“Let me first briefly note what compassionate conservation is not. The easiest way to summarize this topic is to say that compassionate conservation isn’t “welfarism gone wrong.”” Marc Bekoff from: Compassionate Conservation Matures and Comes of Age.

PHOTOGRAPH BY SEAN CRANE, MINDEN PICTURES

More from Compassionate Conservation Matures and Comes of Age by Marc Bekoff Traditional conservation science is ethically challenged and conservation has had a very bloody past and continues to do so. Of course, this does not mean that conservation biologists are cold-blooded killers who don’t care about the well-being of animals, but rather that the problems that are faced throughout the world, most brought on by human intervention in the lives of other animals, are challenging to the point of being daunting. Often, it seems as if the only and easiest solution is to kill the “problem animals” and move on to the next situation, in a never-ending series of conflicts. However, killing simply does not work in the long run. And, of course, as numerous people have pointed out, it is ethically indefensible.

Compassionate conservation also doesn’t allow for people to play what I call the “numbers game.” Claims that go something like, “There are so many members of a given species it’s okay to kill other members of the same species” are not acceptable. With its focus on the value of the life of each and every individual, no single animal is disposable because there are many more like them.

“Killing to save: We really don’t want to kill others animals but…Compassionate conservation also is not concerned with finding and using the “most humane” ways of killing other animals, so killing animals “softly” is not an option, because it’s inarguable that killing individuals in the name of conservation remains incredibly inhumane on a global scale.” Marc Bekoff

What is Compassionate Conservation?

Populations of animals are not homogenous, abstract entities, but comprise unique individuals – in the case of sentient animals, each with its own desires and needs and a capacity to suffer.

Animal welfare as a science and a concern, with its focus on the individual animal, and conservation biology and practice, which has historically focussed on populations and species, have tended to be considered as distinct. However, it is becoming clear that knowledge and techniques from animal welfare science can inform and refine conservation practice, and that consideration of animal welfare in a conservation context can lead to better conservation outcomes, while engendering increased stakeholder support. From Compassionate Conservation website

Changing the paradigm from killing to compassionate conservation is a major shift in thinking. How can we begin to change from killing to compassionate conservation? It begins locally, in local communities, by opening the conversations at public meetings. More to come on this topic…

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Featured image from Flickr.com

The value of play for the curious wolf pup…

…The arrival of spring brings a new generation of wolves ready to explore the world. However, these youngsters will require training and socialization within their family unit before assuming their places in the pack hierarchy. Play is an important component for their training and growth.

By

Alex Krevitz, M.A.

Science Editor for Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin

Play is part of the normal behavior for wolf pups and other canids exploring the world outside their den with its myriad of new scents, sights and sounds. Their rambunctious acrobatics prepares them for life as savvy adults by developing and honing their innate physical and cognitive skills. Furry little bodies rolling and tumbling, snarling and squealing. These interactions enable young minds to become more alert and adept at reading other animals’ body language. Acrobatics prepare the body for control and balance required for stealthy stalking and learning to read which prospective prey are vulnerable. A wise physically strong wolf can act either cooperatively, or independently on behalf of the pack.

Watch pups at play from “Snow Wolf Family and Me” BBC

Ethologist Marc Bekoff describes play behavior as a factor in , “emotional regulation and the evolution of communication which prepares puppies for the unexpected, decreases aggression and is fun. It feels good. ” Who’s confused? From Marc Bekoff

Play is not only important for the young, but benefits all of us. Take time to enjoy nature and the outdoors and learn from a new generation of wolves.

Alex Krevitz, M.A.

Science Editor

Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin

Featured image by John E Marriott

Alex Krevitz received an M.A. in biology from Hofstra University.

She is a student of and advocate for wildlife, especially carnivores. Ms. Krevitz has studied wolves and other canids as a member of the Mammalogy Department at the American Museum of Natural History, at Yellowstone National Park, in Minnesota and overseas. She currently investigates the biology and ecology of mesocarnivores in the central Sierra Nevada foothills. Ms. Krevitz is an active member of the Conservation Committee of the American Society of Mammalogist. As a lifelong animal lover she believes strongly in compassionate conservatism.

Can we learn how to coexist with our fellow sentient-beings that share our planet before it’s too late? 

Man’s destructive track record on wildlife, over the last ten thousand years, makes me think humans are not essential for the survival of the planet. Humans have caused the extinction of thousands of essential sentient-beings. Simply put, wolves are free sentient-beings. I’m not going to measure their right to exist compared to “if they help humans or not.”  Why do humans put less value on the lives of animals living in the wild? Wolves are highly social & intelligent sentient-beings, and have the right to live wild & free. Mankind, as a species, must change their way of thinking-from human domination of the planet to- peacefully coexistence with sentient-beings that share our world. 

Join the campaign to end “Wolf Hounding” in Wisconsin. 

The following is a wolf hounding fact sheet: 
 Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.”Hound hunters traditionally train their dogs to focus on specific prey by releasing their dogs to surround, attack and terrorize a prey animal (e.g. a bear cub or fox) for hours on end (up to 16 hours/day) enclosed in a small, open barrel or “roll cage.” At this point it remains disturbingly unclear as to how hound hunters will train their dogs to pursue wolves instead of other animals—will it be by capturing wolves and allowing their dogs to attack them in barrels and pens? How isn’t this worse than illegal dog fighting? WODCW’s Wolf Hounding Fact Sheet

 “There has never been a more important time for the people of Wisconsin to show they are not going to give in to a small group of people that want to torture animals for fun under the guise of “sport.” ~Rachel Tilseth

Photo of wolf by John E Marriott 

www.wolvesofdouglascountywisconsin.com

Changing Perceptions by Planting Seeds of Compassion

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. 

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Compassionate Conservation

When I think of compassionate conservation several well known conservationists, scientists, and psychologists come to mind. On a scale one to ten Dr. Jane Goodall, Joy Adamson, Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, and Marc Bekoff Ph.D all rate in the top ten for their compassionate ideals and work regarding wild Animals.  I  believe that it is wrong for humankind to kill off one species to save another because it is not acting in the best interests of wild animals and the ecosystems they support.

In a recent Facebook post on Todd Wilkinson’s timeline I was alerted to a column by Dr. Marc Bekoff on the subject of ‘compassionate conservation.’ and decided to post Beckoff’s thought provoking article on my blog.

Compassionate Conservation Meets Cecil the Slain Lion A recent meeting focused on whether we should kill in the name of conservation Post published by Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on Aug 09, 2015 in Animal Emotions

The broad and interdisciplinary field of conservation biology(link is external) has received a good deal of attention in the past two weeks that has stimulated researchers and others to weigh in on what sorts of human-animal interactions are permissible as we try to save nonhuman animals (animals) and their homes. For example, some of the challenging questions that arise are: Should we kill in the name of conservation? Is it okay to trade off the lives of animals of one species for the good of their own or other species? Is seeking the “most humane” way of killing animals the only way to move forward? Is it possible to stop the killing of other animals and factor compassion that centers on the lives of individuals into our decisions? Should we try a “hands off” policy to see if it works where it’s clear our interference, despite our best intentions, has not solved the problems at hand? How do we factor in the interests of other animals and humans as we deal with the numerous — and growing — challenging and frustrating conflicts at hand? The field of anthrozoology(link is external)focuses on these and other questions.

Clearly, there are going to be differences among the people who are trying to save other animals and their homes and also take into account the interests of humans. And, this is what makes the field of conservation biology so exciting, for we are the only animals who are able to do what needs to be done to reverse the rather dismal and depressing situations in which humans and other animals find themselves in conflict. It goes without saying that the major problem is that there are too many humans and if we don’t stop making more of us it’s going to be a long and hard battle to right the wrongs for which we are responsible. And, given all of the information that is currently available, I like to call attention to a quote from William Wilberforce sent to me by Sadie Parr of Wolf Awareness(link is external), “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.(link is external)

Compassionate conservation comes of age

A recent meeting that centered on the rapidly growing international field called compassionate conservation(link is external) brought people together from all over the world, all of whom are trying to reduce or eliminate human-animal conflict. The conference was sponsored and coordinated by the Born Free Foundation(link is external) and the Centre for Compassionate Conservation(link is external) at the University of Technology, Sydney and hosted by the Animal Welfare Program(link is external) at the University of British Columbia (for more on compassionate conservation please click herehere(link is external), and here(link is external)). A most exciting part of the meetings was the presence of numerous students and young researchers. And, also very stimulating, were the obvious differences of opinion — the expected shades of gray — in what is possible and what methods are permissible as we try to deal with rampant and growing global human-animal conflicts. Some people argued that in the “real world” the “most humane” ways of killing are the only ways forward, whereas others argued that compassionate conservation is not about the “most humane” way of killing, but rather centers on stopping the killing because it is unethical and in many instances it really hasn’t worked. For them, individual animals are the focus of concern and the guide for compassionate conservation and “First do no harm(link is external)” means not harming or killing other animals “in the name of conservation.”

There also was very valuable discussion of the words people use to refer to the killing of otherwise healthy animals “in the name of conservation,” with the recognition that it is not euthanasia, or mercy-killing, but rather “zoothanasia” when it’s done in zoos or slaughter when done in other situations (please see “Animal ‘Euthanasia’ Is Often Slaughter: Consider Kangaroos“). Also of interest was the use of the word “pests” to refer to animals who are causing problems. Many agreed that it’s humans who are the pests, but because we can dominate and control other animals, they pay the price for just doing what comes naturally for them but is bothersome for us.

Clearly, there were many valuable discussions, and the abstracts of the broad array of papers that were presented can be seen here(link is external). They are a goldmine of information on the broad topics that were covered, the numerous different species discussed, and anthrozoologists should them to be indispensable for future studies of human-animal relationships. We learned that many wild animals really aren’t free (Yolanda Pretorius of the Centre for Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria told us that elephants in South Africa are fenced and can’t migrate) and that “methods to assess the well-being of elephants are not included as a requirement for developing an elephant management plan.” Moles are ruthlessly killed in the UK because they destroy gardens and in many locations geese are killed because they poop on golf courses. We take away the geese’s habitats and then we kill them because they have nowhere else to go.

We also learned in a paper by MarÍa Fàbregas and G. M. Koehler of Save China’s Tigers(link is external) that in order to reintroduce critically endangered captive South China tigers back to restored protected areas within their historic range in China, they are allowed to practice killing ungulates. Many people were rather concerned with this practice, and it reminded me of breeding golden hamsters to allow endangered black-footed ferrets to practice killing them before being released into wild habitat. For many, these sorts of trade-offs are unacceptable.

In another project that was the focus of discussion, almost 900 wolves and other non-target animals were killed in Alberta, Canada (please also see and and), to try to save woodland caribou (it didn’t work) and not only were families broken up but there also are trans-generational effects. Simply put, far too many other animals are harmed or killed because we move into their homes and they have nowhere else to go and thus, they, innocent victims, become the “problems.” It’s a no-win situation for millions of other animals and we need to do much better so the killing stops.

Compassionate conservation meets Cecil the slain lion

It was also rather timely, and of course incredibly sad, that news about the thoroughly unnecessary killing of Cecil the lion(link is external) by Walter Palmer (please also see the numerous articles listed here(link is external) and Jennifer Jacquet’s “The Shaming of Walter Palmer(link is external)“) was making world-wide headlines as the meeting got under way. A few of us received requests for interviews the first morning of the meeting and Cecil was the topic of conversation at a number of talks and also at the coffee breaks, as was Marius, the young giraffe who was mercilessly killed at the Copenhagen Zoo in February 2014, because he didn’t fit into the zoo’s breeding program. Marius us a classic case of an animal who was zoothanized, not euthanized, as claimed by zoo administrators.

Many people are interested in the status and fate of African lions and as I was writing this essay I came across a review of a book called Lions in the Balance: Man-Eaters, Manes, and Men with Guns(link is external) by world renowned lion researcher Dr. Craig Packer(link is external) (the Kindle edition can be found here(link is external)). In the review by Iris Barber(link is external) called “Lions in the Balance: Can hunting save the kings of the jungle?” we learn that Dr. Packer argues, “‘Lions need trophy-hunting just as much as trophy-hunting needs lions.’ His plan: kill only male lions over the age of 6, so cubs aren’t killed by a lion mating with their mother who seeks to safeguard his own progeny. This is a fresh approach to conservation, where hunting is essential to survival.”

While numerous compassionate conservationists would argue against killing lions, when experts like Dr. Packer speaks, it’s highly worthwhile to listen carefully because it makes clear just how complex the issues are. As the book’s description notes, “Packer is sure to infuriate millionaires, politicians, aid agencies, and conservationists alike as he minces no words about the problems he encounters. But with a narrative stretching from far flung parts of Africa to the corridors of power in Washington, DC, and marked by Packer’s signature humor and incredible candor, Lions in the Balance is a tale of courage against impossible odds, a masterly blend of science, adventure, and storytelling, and an urgent call to action that will captivate a new generation of readers.”

Putting an end to dancing bears: All stakeholders count

Another tenet of compassionate conservation is that all stakeholders count, human and nonhuman. Of course, this is very challenging because various animals kill or harm humans or kill or harm animals on whom the livelihoods of humans and their communities depend. In an earlier essay I wrote about two projects in India that stress peaceful coexistence between humans and nonhumans who harm and kill the humans and destroy their businesses. Another excellent example of a project that took into account the interests of humans and nonhumans centered on putting an end to the use of dancing bears, discussed by Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani of the organization Wildlife SOS, India(link is external). The abstract for their talk reads as follows:

“Wildlife SOS spearheaded a conservation success story in India by resolving the barbaric dancing bear practice in which sloth bear cubs were poached from the wild, brutally trained in inhumane ways and spent their short tragic lives at the end of a four foot rope dragged through towns and villages to earn for the indigent, nomadic community called the Kalandars. Wildlife SOS’s initiative was to both rehabilitate the sloth bears held in captivity and the Kalandars themselves in alternative livelihoods. This in turn made a huge difference to the sloth bear population in the wild helping in its conservation.

“Compassionate Conservation and sustainability of wildlife and forests was the focus of the program which is still ongoing. Wildlife SOS also works with human-animal conflict situations similarly aiming for compassionate conservation and rehabilitation measures which educate the stakeholders, such as the villagers or dwellers around a forested area, in avoidance behavior.

“The education awareness programs are run in Maharashtra where the conflict species is the leopard and in Kashmir where the conflict species is the black bear and in Delhi and Agra the program deals with the rhesus macaque which seems to be the species humans have declared war on. Attempts at resolution involve creating safe spaces for the animals (rehabilitation centres) teaching people behaviours which do not lead to confrontation with the animals in question (awareness and education) but most importantly to inculcate a feeling for the animals in question emphasizing adjustment and acceptance of the existence of wildlife close to our human habitations. Our work with captive elephants is yet another conservation attempt at bringing down an ancient Indian traditional bastion that emphasizes training elephants using pain, fear and physical abuse by replacing it with compassion.

“Our training school – the kindness school provide straining to elephant keepers on modern and humane elephant management systems, compassionate handling, replacing negative management with positive reinforcement. However conservation also demands use of the law so the Wildlife SOS Anti-Poaching enforcement unit works to gatherintelligence on wildlife traffickers and smugglers and enforces the law working in partnership with the Indian Government.

“Compassionate conservation is the key to the future ahead of us.”

Another wonderful project in which human and nonhuman interests were taken into account and satisfied was concerned with how to deal non-lethally with “problem” raccoons at a fast food restaurant in Vancouver. Dr. Sara Dubois, who works with theBritish Columbia SPCA(link is external), outlined various strategies for coming to terms with urban “pests.” She noted, “The overall goal of developing humane standards for nuisance wildlife control is to create an educational and enforcement tool, setting a higher bar for control measures, whether they are done for conservation or nuisance purposes.”

The coming of age of compassionate conservation: It’s a “sad bad” if killing is the only viable option for “peaceful” coexistence

The field of compassionate conservation is slowly coming of age and it’s essential that all opinions come to the table to be discussed. Ethicist Bill Lynn, who supported the experimental humane killing of a few thousand barred owls to try to save endangered snowy owls, called this practice a “sad good.” While it may be a “sad good” for the snowy owls, it’s surely not for the slaughtered barred owls. I would call it a “sad bad” for the barred owls and many other animals if killing remains the only option. A “sad good” is a very slippery slope that sets a lamentable precedent for opening the door for the more widespread “experimental killing” of barred owls and other species just to see if it works.

Compassionate conservation requires a large change in heart and practices, and like any other revolutionary paradigm shift it will take time. Many hope that this most needed paradigm shift in conservation biology that entails stopping the killing “in the name of conservation” will endure its growing pains as more and more researchers and others realize that killing is not the answer. I hope those who see the “real world” as mandating killing will change their minds and hearts. Future and young researchers are critical to the development and implementation of compassionate conservation, as are those careerconservation officers, zoo administrators, and researchers who come to realize that using “the most humane killing” is not what compassionate conservation is all about. I like to imagine a world where killing is no longer part of the conservationist’s toolkit. The welfarist calculus patronizes other animals and when push comes to shove, or often when it’s merely convenient, the nonhumans suffer and are killed when it’s determined that the benefits to humans outweigh the costs to the animals.

It’s time to put away the guns, the traps, the snares, the poisons, and other “weapons of mass destruction” (as a few attendees called them) and figure out how to live in peaceful coexistence with the fascinating animals with whom we’re supposed to share our most magnificent planet. There does not have to be blood. I dedicated my talk to Cecil the lion and also to Bryce Casavant, a most courageous conservation officer who refused to kill two black bear cubs (link is external)near Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island and was suspended because he said “no.” More people simply have to say “no” to killing other animals. We need to stop the violence and recognize that “The world becomes what we teach(link is external).” Compassion begets compassion and violence begets violence. By rewilding our hearts(link is external)and by becoming re-enchanted and reconnecting with nature I like to think that the killing will come to an end, slow as it may be.

If some people argue the killing cannot stop, it will not stop. It saddens me to think that we’ve gotten to the point where for some, killing is the only viable option for peaceful coexistence. Shame on us. As Kartick Satyanarayan and Geeta Seshamani concluded, “Compassionate conservation is the key to the future ahead of us.” I couldn’t agree more. We need to leave our comfort zones and think and act “outside of the box.”

The next meeting that will focus on compassionate conservation is slated for 2017 in Sydney, Australia. I often say that compassionate conservation is a wonderful meeting place for people who would otherwise not, but should, meet. This was so in Vancouver and I anticipate this will be the case in Sydney. Please stay tuned for more information on this future gathering and the exciting, challenging, and forward-looking field of compassionate conservation in general.

Note: I just learned of an essay titled “Mutant Animals Bred to be Brutally Killed by Hunters(link is external)” in which the person offering up these freaks outlandishly claims, “Conservation is a by-product of what I do.”

Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservationWhy dogs hump and bees get depressed, and Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistenceThe Jane effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) has recently been published. (marcbekoff.com; @MarcBekoff)

Source Psychology Today

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WODCW Blogs on this topic Wild Animals Belong In Our Hearts and Minds: A concept that our government wildlife agencies need to learnCompassion is the Catalyst for Change ‘RIP Cecil 2002 – 2015′Trophy Hunting Under the Guise of “Conservation”

Wild Animals Belong In Our Hearts & Minds

Lack of ethical science in our government wildlife agencies is prevalent today more than ever. Or is it? Is there science in wildlife management?  Is this science lacking empathy for the creatures they manage? Let’s look at the leading expert of chimpanzee behavior, Dr. Jane Goodall, who refused to call her subjects by a number. Dr. Goodall gave every single chimpanzee she observed a name and refused to call them an it. Please take a minute and view the video on this topic called, “Being With Jane Goodall”

Our government agencies that are in charge of wildlife lack empathy. This is true, because how else can they justify the millions of wild animals they have removed or harvested in the name of management. Government wildlife technicians have some sort of wildlife degree that quality them to do the work. But are they expected to act with a lack of empathy in order to manage these wild animals? They view these wild animals as non-beings and refer to them as it’s for the purpose of management.

It’s a cold reality and never more apparent than in today’s conservation ethic. This is obvious with our WDNR allowing wolves to be chased down by large packs of free ranging dogs with out any rules, regulations and little or non existent enforcement. Wolf hounding is not only barbaric, it takes us back to a centuries old method of killing wolves; that has no place in a civilized society. In Wisconsin they quite literally throw dogs to wolves.

Wolves, a once endangered species is now relegated as an it, and harvested as a game animal without any thought of them as a sentient-being with a family. Where did this cruel attitude towards wild animals start? This has been considered the norm for far too many decades and even for centuries.

The following is one widely accepted definition of wildlife conservation.”Wildlife conservation is an activity in which people make conscious efforts to protect earth’s biological diversity. Does managing for biodiversity mean that human beings have the right to manage other beings as things to “harvest?”

“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Aldo Leopold, “A Sand County Almanac.”

The land ethic is a community, that we all care about and live in. Wild animals are sentient-beings, that live within communities just like human beings do. Using the word  harvest is a way to psychologically remove the emotional responsibility; for killing a living breathing being.

Ethical Hunting has been used as a method to feed our families for centuries, but that has changed in today’s society. Hunting in today’s world has become recreational, for fun and entertainment. Hunting is now just something to; do out of doors, and  in nature to recreate. This is all managed by our government agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Managements Division that; have become hardened & cold towards the lives of the creatures they are suppose to be conserving.

Our government agencies go through the motions of acquiring scienctic knowledge but they lack the emotional integrity to fully apply the science. And this becomes “the heartless” anti-wildlife management we see today.
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The photo is a postcard from Dr. Jane Goodall sent to me in 1998 in response to a letter I Sent to her regarding Wisconsin’s Wolf Recovery Program. 

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