By Jacob Crim
Jacob Crim is a student and Navy ROTC midshipman at Duke University, majoring in environmental science and policy. He grew up in Idaho.
As the hunting season for deer and elk is drawing down across the country, the hunt for wolves in three states continues. While the population of wolves in Idaho has been effectively managed over the first two and a half hunting seasons, arguments remain as to whether hunting seasons should continue.
This argument may seem like old news to those in the Northwest, but the same controversy remains fresh in another part of the country. Minnesota and Wisconsin, in the midst of their first sanctioned wolf hunt in decades, face the same outrage from environmentalists and animal-rights activists. Contradicting the message of such protests, Idaho's successful management of its wolf hunts is a perfect illustration as to why they should continue.
The reintroduction of wolves to the lower 48 states, while opposed by many, was the ethical choice. Human activity had eradicated the species from nearly every state but Minnesota by the mid-1900s, making it our responsibility to bring them back.
While it may seem counterproductive to spend millions of dollars reintroducing a species only to end up hunting it, in this situation it is actually the ethical decision. From a utilitarian standpoint (the greatest good for the greatest number), having sanctioned wolf hunts is ethically acceptable. By keeping wolf numbers at a manageable level, the state will protect ranchers, wildlife and the wolves themselves.
Wolf activists argue that wolves have the right to exist in their native territories. This is a reasonable position, but not a reason to disallow wolf hunting. The mindless slaughter activists would have you imagine simply isn't happening.
From the three states that currently allow wolf hunting, more than 30,000 tags were sold in their first year. Out of those tags issued, fewer than 1,000 wolves have been killed, proof that hunting and killing a wild wolf isn't as simple as it sounds. Idaho failed to meet its quota in its first year.
As you can see, wolf hunts are not nearly as bad as opponents would have you believe. To put a healthy population of wolves under the protection of the Endangered Species Act is unethical, unreasonable, and frankly unlawful. A policy such as this would force us to reconsider hunting entirely, an engrained human behavior that is beneficial to people and the ecosystem alike. The much-debated decision to reintroduce wolves was the correct choice, just as having a hunting season is the correct and ethical policy.
Wolves will never return to numbers seen before human settlement; habitat destruction and human population have seen to that. This does not mean we should strive to do the impossible, but instead makes it ethically necessary for states to maintain a hunting season that benefits humans, wolves and the rest of the ecosystem.