Wolf management must be based on facts, Stahl says

Colleen Kottke
Now Media Group

As a lifelong outdoorsman, retired UW professor Earl Stahl has kept his finger on the pulse of the environment.

Stahl became troubled over the reintroduction and protection of wolves in the United States, and even more so when states like Minnesota and Wisconsin had its state management plans overturned by a federal judge.

The result of that legal maneuver has resulted in unabated wolf population increases and its ensuing impact on big game, livestock and the folks living in their midst.

'After reading many accounts of the devastation caused by wolves and interviewing people who live in proximity to wolves, I became convinced that the majority of people do not possess factual information about wolves,' said Stahl who penned the book Wolves at Your Door. 'The book provides factual and documented wolf information for persons who do not have firsthand experience with wolf behavior.'

Stahl says the introduction of wolves in western states and the protection of wolves throughout the U.S., including the Midwest, has allowed the wolf populations to far exceed the maximum numbers agreed by the states and the federal government.

Presently, Wisconsin wolf management is in limbo due to the federal judge's decision to return wolves to protected status.

'This is very unfortunate. Wildlife biologists throughout the Midwest recognize that the wolf populations in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota are well above population goals and do not need federal protection. Senator Ron Johnson has stated that he is committed to passing legislation in Congress this summer that will return management to the states and preclude further judicial oversight. It is vitally important for that to take place,' Stahl said. 'USDA/Wildlife Services and the Wisconsin DNR currently have their hands tied regarding wolf depredation of livestock, hunting dogs, farm dogs, and domestic pets. If and when Wisconsin regains control of its wolf population, it will be very important for hunting and trapping quotas to be set at levels that will reduce the population. Further, culling of problem wolves will have to be a priority.'

Currently, depredating wolves cannot be killed unless they present a direct threat to a person.

'Electrified fences and fladry have been used on some farms with limited success,' Stahl said. 'The USDA/Wildlife Services reports that the long term effects of using fladry to deter wolves is not known. Ranchers in western states report very limited effects of fladry.'

Feedback from farmers in Wisconsin shows serious concerns about diseases carried by wolves that affect cattle and the stress effect on cattle that have been chased or attacked by wolves.

'In some instances, disease and stress have resulted in cows aborting fetus. Lower weight gains are an additional result of wolf harassment,' Stahl said. 'All of these effects result in lost income to cattle producers. A recent study of wolf effects on livestock was conducted in Oregon. The study found that livestock producers experience thirteen times greater cost for each verified wolf depredation.'

Affected farmers find little sympathy from wolf protectionists who view wolf hunting and trapping as 'inhumae'. Stahl says the management of wolf populations must be based on scientific facts and not on emotional positions.

'The historical evidence of the impact of wolves is clear. Wolves and people do not mix. Romantic notions that wolves can coexist with people are misguided,' Stahl said. 'There are currently over 100,000 wolves throughout the world; 40,000 inhabit North America. They are not now or never were extinct. They can and do thrive in areas with few or no people. To recognize the importance of fact based wolf management policies is a vital part of sound wildlife management.'

Stahl said DNR officials attempt to walk a fine line between wolf recovery and wolf management.

'There is significant pressure brought to bear on the DNR by groups that want greater protection of wolves and a larger wolf population,' Stahl said. 'Groups and individuals who recognize the importance of containing the wolf population have to speak out to DNR leaders and to state representatives.'

In the longrun, Stahl believes that state management is the best system.

'This would not only serve the state and its residents, it would also be good for the wolves. As wolf populations expand, they increasingly come in contact with coyotes and domestic dogs. The wolves cross breed with other canines resulting in the loss of a distinct wolf species,' Stahl said. 'This has already occurred in the eastern U.S. and, according to some experts, is happening in the Midwest. By limiting wolf numbers and controlling the spread of their territories, there is a greater chance that wolves will have less opportunity to cross breed.'

Stahl's book is now available on Amazon.com.