In 2003, federal protections for the gray wolf in many parts of the country were downgraded. But last January, a federal district court in Oregon struck down that decision. In this region, the court ruling meant that wildlife officials lost the legal authority to kill problem wolves. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Bob Butz thinks these courtroom battles are delaying the inevitable… and that hunters should have a hand in managing wolves:
In 2003, federal protections for the gray wolf in many parts
of the country were downgraded. But last January, a federal district
court in Oregon struck down that decision. In this region, the court
ruling meant that wildlife officials lost the legal authority to kill
problem wolves. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Bob Butz thinks these courtroom battles are delaying the inevitable… and that hunters should have a hand in managing wolves:
Today over half the entire wolf population of the continental United States can be found right here in the Upper Midwest. Around 3,000 in Minnesota. Roughly 800 more split evenly between Michigan and Wisconsin.
Some biologists think that Michigan’s wolf population might actually double within the next decade.
So why are so many people acting as if wolves in these parts are still teetering on the brink of extinction? Why this push for stronger federal protection when is seems what we really should start thinking about is how we plan to keep wolf populations responsibly in check?
With every new courtroom delay, I’m beginning to understand that for some people no amount of wolves will ever be enough. But very soon some judge is also going to figure that out, and finally wolves will be taken completely off the federal list of endangered animals. Then it will be up to the states to manage them.
Yet right now no one is talking about how we’re going to do that. Or where the money to sustain a healthy management program will come from – all because of a dirty little word – hunting.
Wolves… hunting. Remember in public to duck and cover when you say that.
But for the sake of the wolf, somebody needs to start talking about managing them as a big game species. Up until the latest court ruling, some government trappers had a fulltime job killing an increasingly number of nuisance wolves.
Minnesota officials are killing an average of a hundred and fifty wolves every year. In Wisconsin and Michigan each they kill a couple dozen more. Why are these wolves dying for nothing? If biologists used hunters to control the population, each wolf taken out of the system could result in money,lots of it, necessary for managing the species.
While most state biologists sit on the sidelines apparently without a plan, some people are taking matters into their own hands… killing the wolves illegally. In the Upper Midwest, poaching has reached levels unheard of a decade ago.
The reasons for this are simple: As one biologist told me, when an animal becomes too prolific it becomes devalued. As wolves make more and more trouble for farmers, ranchers, and locals, people are starting to wonder where all this is headed.
If brought into the management loop, hunters could easily outshine courtroom environmentalists as the wolf’s biggest hero and financial benefactor. Think of the giant Canada goose, believed to be extinct in North America until their rediscovery in 1965.
And how about all those shrub-eating, bumper bending whitetail deer? Call it tough love, but if anything when hunters get behind an animal recent history proves that the species will flourish.
But first biologists need to come up with a plan that gives the public a stake in helping with the long-term survival of the wolf. Wolves might be endangered elsewhere in the U.S., but not here. It’s time for leadership, time for a vision. Time for game managers to actually get out there and manage. It’s time for biologists to stop playing wait-and-see and, in the spirit of the wolf—for the sake of the wolf—get out in front of this issue and start leading the pack.
Host tag: Bob Butz is a hunter and author of the book “Beast of Never, Cat
of God: The Search for the Eastern Puma.” He lives in northern Michigan.