A Humane Nation – Wayne Pacelle’s blog: Wolf-killing plans stir in lame-duck session of Congress

November 22, 2016

Nobody eats wolves.
If you’re a meat eater, it’s one thing to hunt deer or some other wild animals and consume them. It’s another matter to go on a head-hunting exercise, or just kill for the thrill of it.
In the lame-duck session of Congress, there is a big move afoot to eliminate federal protections for wolves in four states that, for the most part, have a terrible record of caring for their small populations of that species. If Congress subverts the federal courts, and selectively removes wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, it will only serve to enable people to kill wolves for no good reason.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., recently came out with a statement urging Congress to strip federal protections for wolves, even though a series of federal judges have said that there’s no legitimate legal or scientific basis for delisting. Advocates of wolf killing have appealed the latest ruling affirming the need for federal protection, so an end-around the courts amounts to a subversion of judicial review.
If federal lawmakers go down this road, where does it end? To score political points with a favored constituency, or to try to neutralize or win over a problematic constituency, lawmakers will start removing species from the ark willy-nilly. It sets an awful precedent, and Sen. Baldwin should know better.
She would do well to recall the words – in fact, all of us would do well to recall them — of another Wisconsinite about our relationship with wolves. In his essay, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” part of A Sand County Almanac, naturalist and hunter Aldo Leopold recalled a hunting experience in which his party killed a she-wolf at a time when almost all conservationists believed that the killing of predators was necessary. “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes,” Leopold wrote. “I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain.”
Hateful attitudes toward wolves should be overcome by clear-headed thinking about the role they play in ecology and also their value in rural communities. People trek to wolf-inhabited forests precisely because these animals are there, boosting tourism-related commerce. Wolves also limit deer and moose populations, depressing crop depredation, and shrinking the number of collisions between these animals and cars. Wolves kill weak, sick, and older deer and moose, beavers, and other animals, making the herds healthier, which has a broad, balancing, and beneficial impact on ecosystems. Wolves are a bulwark against the spread of chronic wasting disease, because they kill deer and other hooved animals that show the symptoms of the brain-wasting prion.
A maneuver to delist wolves is a bit of a cover-up and a bait-and-switch for poor oversight over domesticated dogs and farm animals. I’ve run across countless examples, from Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states, where wolves take the blame when a farmer doesn’t provide proper use of non-lethal controls or shows off poor animal husbandry that puts cattle or sheep at risk. Wolves often get the blame for animals they didn’t kill too, because no agency bothers to verify livestock losses that farmers and ranchers claim.
An overwhelming majority of Americans – 90 percent according to a June 2015 poll – support the Endangered Species Act, and it is the most important law our nation has ever passed to protect species at risk of extinction. Michigan voters took up two wolf hunting referendums in 2014 – the only state to have popular votes on the issue – and voters rejected wolf hunting and trapping in landslide votes.
Last year, more than 50 world-renowned wildlife biologists and scientists, many of whom have devoted their entire professional careers toward understanding the social and biological issues surrounding wolves in North America, sent a letter to Congress urging members to oppose any efforts to strip federal protections for wolves in the contiguous 48 states. If Congress were to take this adverse action, according to these scientists, it would upend two recent federal court rulings, which criticized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for distorting the “plain meaning” of the standards of the ESA and admonished several state wildlife agencies for conducting overreaching and dangerous trophy-hunting and trapping programs upon federal delisting.
Sen. Baldwin, please reconsider your ill-advised recommendation to Congress to delist wolves and subject them not only to trophy hunting, but to being ensnared by steel-jawed leghold traps and being chased and savaged by packs of dogs. This is trophy hunting and trapping masquerading as wildlife management. It’s most definitely not proper stewardship of God’s creatures. And it’s not decent or humane.
Let Sen. Baldwin know you’re unhappy with her stance by calling her at 202-224-5653, and please contact your members of Congress at 202-224-3121 and ask them to oppose this plan.

Photo Credit: Hateful attitudes toward wolves should be overcome by clear-headed thinking about the role they play in ecology and also their value in rural communities. Photo by Alamy

Jill Fritz: Captive hunts increase CWD concerns

 Sounding the alarm against captive breeding farms used for canned hunts can spread fatal diseases.

Jill Fritz: Captive hunts increase CWD concerns Lansing state Journal  August 14, 2015

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been sounding the alarm over new cases of chronic wasting disease that were found in three free-ranging deer in the state — and rightly so. CWD is a devastating, fatal disease that has no cure, vaccine or treatment. CWD infects deer, elk and other cervids and is spread through abnormal proteins called prions that can be transmitted through saliva, urine and other bodily fluids.

Jill Fritz is the Michigan state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

Jill Fritz is the Michigan state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

Although the DNR has responded to try and prevent the disease from spreading where the three cases were found, much more remains to be done to stop the disease from arriving in entirely new areas.

CWD was first found in Michigan in 2008 on a captive breeding farm, where deer, elk and other animals are raised to sell to captive or “canned” hunts. Animals at these facilities are stocked and shot behind fenced enclosures for guaranteed trophies. These pay-to-slay operations bear no resemblance to traditional hunting, as they lack the core element of “fair chase.” In fact, it’s not uncommon for captive hunts to offer “no kill, no pay” policies or boast about their “100 percent success rates.”

Outspoken musician Ted Nugent even owns a canned hunt in our state. Nugent has publicly defended the illegal killing of Cecil the lion — which, although deplorable – is unsurprising, since he’s pleaded guilty to poaching crimes of his own. Cecil’s death has brought a sinister spotlight to the entire trophy hunting industry — especially canned hunting.

These ranches pose significant risks to our native deer herd, in part because they stock their animals at such unnaturally high densities. This greatly increases the risk of transmitting CWD. Captive hunts also have an ongoing need for fresh animals to shoot, so live animals are often shipped and trucked throughout the state. Because there is no live test for CWD, it’s impossible to know whether the animals entering Michigan are infected.

Unlike other wildlife diseases, the prions that cause CWD can survive in the soil for years — so even if a herd with CWD is completely decimated, any new animals brought onto the land can contract the disease years later. In Wisconsin, where CWD continues to spread, the DNR spent nearly half a million dollars to protect wild herds from coming into contact with contaminated soil.

It’s nearly impossible to control the spread of CWD in wild deer — especially considering our lawmakers’ senseless war against wolves, who improve the health of wild herds by eliminating CWD-infected deer. A healthy wolf population is an economic boon to the state, because wolves prey on the sick deer and act as a firewall against the spread of CWD from other states.

Without a vibrant population of nature’s best defense against this disease, we must commit to an even stronger offense. The first step is making sure that CWD doesn’t enter our state on the back of someone’s truck en route to stocking a canned hunt.

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