It's a mistake to start down the path of killing wolves again

Howard Goldman
Howard Goldman: There's only one reason for a Minnesota wolf hunt -- recreational killing for trophies.
Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States

By Howard Goldman

Howard Goldman is Minnesota state director of the Humane Society of the United States.

The Minnesota wolf hunt begins this coming Saturday. Four hundred wolves will be killed.

This is the same wolf that just came off the endangered species list. The same wolf that was shot, poisoned and trapped almost out of existence.

My organization, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), will be challenging the delisting in federal court. On Oct. 15 HSUS gave formal notice of our intent to sue to restore federal protections to the wolf populations here, in Wisconsin and in Michigan.

I represented HSUS at earlier delisting hearings in Grand Rapids, Minn., and Ashland, Wis. Wolves occupy only 5 percent of their historic range; they have not recovered.

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Why was a wolf season even considered in Minnesota? Not for food; we don't eat wolves. Not to control the population; it has been stable since 1998. There was only one reason: recreational killing for trophies.

Let me say again, there is no biological reason to kill wolves.

Wolves are a public trust. They don't belong to hunters and trappers. They belong to all the citizens of the state, and over 75 percent of them oppose the season. That was the result of the only public survey conducted in Minnesota. It wasn't even our survey; it was the state Department of Natural Resources survey.

There are adequate protections for ranchers. If wolves prey on farm animals, they are killed by USDA- and DNR-certified trappers. So far this year, 266 wolves have thus been killed. And farmers receive market rate compensation for animals lost to wolves.

The hunting community and the Department of Natural Resources like to talk about a wolf "harvest." Wrong word. Wolves are not stalks of corn. They are living symbols of wilderness, and highly intelligent and complex social animals. And we are told the harvest will be "only" 400 wolves. It is really closer to 1,000 that will perish, when you consider all the sources of human-caused mortality — including poaching and those killed because of livestock depredations. This totals more than one-third of the state's estimated wolf population. Many scientists believe that a kill of more than 30 percent is the tipping point, where wolf numbers might decline significantly.

Let's not go down that path again.

We wouldn't shoot eagles, even if we could. We have a special relationship with wolves as well. I recently returned from Duluth, where a native organization, the Northwoods Alliance, sponsored a wolf walk. Members of the alliance believe that during the time of creation, the wolf and the Anishinaabe (original man) walked the earth together. Their Creator said, "You are to have separate paths. You must go different ways. What shall happen to one of you will also happen to the other." We have much to learn from the Anishinaabe. Wolves deserve to be protected.

Coming tomorrow: a contrary view.