Collaboration, compromise needed for wolves, producers
In her letter, published March 2, Laurie Groskopt quoted statistics from a NASS published report, aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/general/downloads/cattle_calves_deathloss_2015.pdf claiming, “In Wisconsin, cattle deaths by predator are heavily influenced by the presence of wolves.” Ms. Groskopt’s interpretation is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.
The NASS report is based on a random sample of surveyed U.S. producers. It is not based on livestock depredation events that were investigated and/or verified. For example, Alabama and Texas each show livestock deaths due to wolves even though no wolves exist in those states. The data for Wisconsin reflects 3.1 percent of calf deaths attributed to grizzly bears which is unlikely. Other states without populations of grizzly bears, mountain lions or wolves also show livestock losses by those species.
Wisconsin has 24,300 dairy and beef cattle farms with 1,544,000 head of cattle. While wolves typically hunt for wild animals, they will occasionally prey on livestock when the opportunity arises. Many incidents of predation are avoidable by removing attractants such as dead or dying livestock, and increasing security.
Even with nearly 1000 wolves on the Wisconsin landscape, the risk to livestock is extremely low, especially when compared to other losses such as weather and medical issues. In 2017, there were 30 cattle/calf deaths either verified or likely caused by wolves (additionally, four sheep were killed). But for producers, any loss, regardless of the cause, can be a financial and emotional burden which is why we support compensation for losses caused by wolves.
Although some argue that a wolf hunting season is needed to reduce conflicts, research suggests that hunting wolves to protect livestock is not effective in reducing conflicts. Targeted lethal removal, which will be allowed when wolves lose federal protection, should be used as a last resort in the infrequent instances when non-lethal measures fail and livestock depredations become chronic.
The key to a future for wolves is retaining public support by minimizing conflicts. But, that will take respect, listening and a willingness to collaborate and compromise. We need to work together to find ways for wolves and producers to coexist and make management decisions based on science, using factual data and not politics.
Nancy Warren, Executive Director, National Wolfwatcher Coalition