A response to Senator Baldwin's wolf comment

Wisconsin State Farmer
Decision on delisting the gray wolf is still being debated

The American people have seen their fair share of climate deniers, including politicians who refuse to acknowledge the role of carbon emissions and years of scientific scrutiny and research, which overwhelmingly points to our warming planet causing more frequent and oft-times disastrous weather phenomena.

Senator Tammy Baldwin has decided as well to “gut punch” science with her recent Op-Ed in a publication catering to Wisconsin farmers. In it, she begins by representing “facts” in her argument that wolves in Wisconsin should be removed from the Endangered Species List and returned to state management:

  • “Farmers have found livestock injured and killed by wolves…”.
  • “Families have lost pets.”
  • “Parents have decided it’s no longer safe to let their kids play where they normally do.”

Let me address each of her opening arguments.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s report “Cattle and Calves Predator Death Loss in the United States 2010 (prior to wolves being removed from the ESL in 2012), “The percentage of cattle losses due to predators ranged from 0.3 percent on dairy operations to 4.2 percent on beef operations”. Specifically, in the Northeast (of which Wisconsin is included), 94.8% of cattle losses (98.6 calf losses) are due to “animal rearing environment and associated management practices”.

You cannot argue statistics.

“Families have lost pets”.

Wisconsin DNR: 1 pet dog lost to wolves in 2016.Wisconsin is one of the few states that allows the practice of bear hounding; hounds are allowed to run on public lands to hunt for small game and for bear training and hunting from July 1 through August 31.

According to the Wisconsin DNR, this year has witnessed an astonishing 40 hound dogs killed by wolves who stumble onto wolf rendezvous sites where wolves are raising their pups.

The “Class B” license required for non-residents to bait and kill bears was eliminated for 2016; thus, more hounds running on public lands near “wolf caution areas”.

Wolf populations were nearly identical in 2012, yet only 7 hound dogs were taken by wolves that year. A correlation perhaps between more hounds running everywhere and more hound losses? 

Hound dogs: not pets, but “tools” for hunters just like the GPS collars hounds wear. A Bear hunters’ hound killed by a wolf during bear hunting can receive upwards of $2500 reimbursement from the State of Wisconsin.

Safety of children

“Parents have decided it’s no longer safe to let their kids play where they normally do.” According to the International Wolf Center’s article “Are wolves Dangerous to Humans?”, “the vast majority of wolves do not pose any threat to human safety. A person in wolf country has a greater chance of being killed by a dog, lightning, a bee sting or a car collision with a deer than being injured by a wolf (http://wolf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Are-Wolves-Dangerous-toHumans.pdf).

Baldwin goes on to falsely claim that “sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts report declines in the population of deer, elk, and other wildlife.”

\Wisconsin DNR says otherwise: “The statewide posthunt white-tailed deer population estimate for 2015 was approximately 1,181,400, 8% higher than in 2014.”  Where did deer numbers increase most? In areas where wolves are present (Northern and Central forest zones).

And the reintroduced elk herds? The DNR states: “The population has grown at an average rate of 7 percent per year with some years showing nearly a 30 percent increase while a few years have resulted in negative population growth due to severe winter conditions resulting in high mortality and low recruitment.”

When wolves were removed from the ESL in 2012, the state proceeded to allow an unprecedented slaughter of wolves by any-and-all legal means, including baited trapping, hounding (“legalized dog fighting”), shooting, bow and cross-bow. In a matter of 3 years, 17 wolf packs destroyed; 500 killed in trophy hunts. 170 wolves killed at the request of livestock operators, and anywhere from 180-360 poached wolves (see Stenglein, UW-Madison).

Documented decreases in pack size to 3.2, making it more difficult for packs to hunt larger game.

Act 169 will ensure that loosely regulated wolf killing will ensue if wolves are once again delisted; the Feds made that clear by protecting them. Senator Baldwin is catering to special interests using fairytales instead of facts to buttress her arguments for delisting. 

Elizabeth Huntley Roberts