“We know we are confronting the wildlife establishment but it is our duty to give the public our best scientific assessment of what happened to their wolves.” ~ Adrian Treves, UW-Madison, in an interview with Isthmus, May 10, 2016
In 2013, Wisconsin citizens polled 8 to 1 in favor of protecting wolves from a trophy hunt.
Despite public sentiment, state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, are planning a September wolf summit to attempt to circumvent the Endangered Species Act. Their agenda is to expand killing of wolves, essential creatures that are critically endangered.
Both of these hunting activists have Democratic challengers in the fall election. Jeff Peterson, Jarchow’s challenger, lays out Jarchow’s overall destructive record here. Peterson co-founded the Wisconsin Green Party in 1988 and says: “I believe that wolves have an important place in our ecosystem, including as a check on the spread of CWD in the deer herd. They have an inherent right to exist, and we have a responsibility to figure out how to co-exist with them.”
Dave Polashek, opposing Tiffany, emailed that he has purchased a hunting license every year since he moved back to Wisconsin in 1978. He has a utilitarian attitude toward wildlife. They are a commodity of food and serve a purpose to human ends. But he is more wolf-tolerant than Tiffany: “Wolves in the wild are a barometer of a healthy ecosystem. It would be sad if we did not have that measure.”
Wolf-killing advocates have postulated that legal wolf hunts would ease hunter frustration, acting as a safety valve to “protect” fragile populations from poaching.
Adrian Treves, who runs the Carnivore Coexistence Lab of the Nelson Institute at UW-Madison, collaborated with Guillaume Chapron of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences to test this rationale for killing, which is also used to justify trophy-hunting grizzly bears and other large carnivores. They recently published their findings.
Treves, after 16 years in wildlife management, by 2012 had begun to question the assumption that hunting is an effective management tool for predators. A May 10 Isthmus story, Is Hunting Really a Conservation Tool?, quotes Treves: “The more data collected, the less solid is that assumption.” He felt an obligation to speak out.
The Isthmus article quotes Treves: “On the contrary, killing increases poaching…. I realized I wasn’t really serving the public. I was serving special interests and the government.”
The scientists expect blowback since the study debunks a major fallacy used by state agencies to support hunting. The scientists say: “When the government kills a protected species, the perceived value of each individual of that species may decline; so liberalizing wolf culling may have sent a negative message about the value of wolves or acceptability of poaching. Our results suggest that granting management flexibility for endangered species to address illegal behavior may instead promote such behavior.”
Saving endangered species requires understanding the relationship between political policies and illegal killing. The governments of Scandinavian countries, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Western states have promoted this “safety valve” of killing as fact, under the guise of promoting tolerance, with absolutely no evidence. The same argument is being used to delist the 700 grizzly bears barely maintaining their population in Yellowstone National Park. This bogus argument has been used in courts and never substantiated.
The Treves/Chapron study continues: “For example, studies in Wisconsin that measured intention to poach wolves found those intentions rose in parallel with liberalized culling and those intentions did not decline after a period with liberalized culling. … Liberalizing wolf culling may have sent a negative message about the value of wolves or that poaching prohibitions would not be enforced.” When it allows hunting, the DNR signals that it does not value wolves and will not pursue or prosecute wolf poaching.
Chaperon created a short cartoon video explaining their research.
We need to do a lot more investigation into the suspect ways that state agencies can fudge numbers and manipulate data to support killing more and more wildlife as their populations continue to plummet. Grizzly Times has done excellent research on how state agencies manipulate population data and actively defy science, acting against the health of ecosystems, showing no respect for wildlife or nonhunting citizens.
On their page “The Problem of State Wildlife Management,” Grizzly Times echoes the main motivation of this column, so I quote it liberally as reaffirmation of what we citizens must change:
“The long-term protection of our wildlife — including large carnivores — depends on reforming the institutions of state wildlife management. … Hunting wildlife lies at the core of the ethos of state wildlife management. … Management of wildlife by state agencies is almost wholly for the benefit of hunters and fishers.
“Hunters are a shrinking minority, not the majority of those who care about wildlife and places like Yellowstone. As the Tribes in the Northern Rockies are fond of saying, state wildlife management agencies represent a last bastion of the ethos of Manifest Destiny, which led to genocide and the destruction of ecosystems during the 1800s and early 1900s.
“The primary and often stated goal of state management is to produce a ‘harvestable surplus’ of hooved animals such as deer and elk for hunters to kill. The primary ethos is one of domination, utilization, and objectification. Goals and problems are defined so that the solution is to kill something. There is little or no room for valuation of animals or consideration of welfare and rights. Predators such as grizzly bears (and wolves) are considered to be competitors for opportunities to kill elk, deer, and other herbivores. There is essentially little to no consideration given to other values, and virtually no credence is given to research showing the ecosystem benefits of healthy populations of large carnivores.
“By design and by function, state wildlife management excludes people who care primarily about the welfare of grizzly bears (and wolves) and value them because they like to see bears (and wolves) in the wild.…
“Key elements in state wildlife management reform include: 1. reforming finances 2. better representation of diverse values among commissioners 3. changing the culture within the academic institutions that train wildlife managers.
“This will only happen if a new constituency gets engaged.”
Tag — you’re it.