Wolf is anything but a friend of man

Earl Stahl
Wolf advocates claim that wolf depredation of livestock in Wisconsin is a very low percentage when considering the total number of livestock in the state. Others say this is a misleading assertion, and that the depredation rate must be based on the number of livestock in areas of the state where wolves are present.

The July 11 edition of the Wisconsin State Farmer contained two very interesting letters.  One described the stress of trying to protect livestock from wolf attacks. The other letter decried the image of the wolf as an animal to be feared. A few salient facts show that the wolf is anything but a friend of man.

Wolf protectors like to point out that wolf depredation of livestock in Wisconsin is a very low percentage when considering the total number of livestock in the state. This is a misleading assertion. The depredation rate must be based on the number of livestock in areas of the state where wolves are present.

If one cited wolf depredations throughout the lower 48 states, the percentage would be very small. But there are many states that have few or no wolves. Florida, as an example, is a significant cattle producer yet there are no wolves to attack, kill, and eat the cattle so the depredation rate by wolves is zero. However, alligators thrive in Florida and attack, kill, and eat cattle. On private land in that state, there is an open season on alligators. The ranchers there know that they cannot eliminate alligators but the open season allows them to control the population of these predators. 

One could even extend the depredation rate to both North and South America. South America has no wolves, for which the Argentina cattle ranchers and their cowboys are very grateful. So, by including the livestock numbers in South America, the wolf depredation rate would be minuscule. 

WI DNR reports that in 2018 there were 33 cattle killed and six cattle injured by wolves.  One draft horse was wolf killed as well as 19 hunting dogs. Livestock, pets, and hunting dogs injured by wolves numbered 22 animals. These figures do not include livestock wolf harassment; 38 of these were confirmed in 2018.

Yet figures tell only part of the story. The impact of wolf attacks and harassment on livestock owners is a source of stress, financial loss, and deep disappointment in not being able to protect their property. One Minnesota cattle producer lost 25% of his calves to wolves in one year. He said that his losses declined only after wildlife agents trapped wolves on his property. This occurred in Kittson County where, in 2017, Sheriff Porter reported that 154 cattle deaths were confirmed wolf kills. This amounted to a loss of $154,000 to cattle producers in just one Minnesota county.

Sheriff Porter, expressing his frustration in not being able to help livestock owners (protected wolves can only be killed when attacking a human), said to me when I spoke with him by phone, “How many pedophiles are too many? Would it be five, ten, or even one?” 

Point well taken. We don’t tolerate pedophiles yet we have to look away when wolves do what wolves do. As David Mech recently pointed out, “The only thing wolves need to survive is a source of food.” The human side of being forced to live with wolves was dramatically shown by an incident earlier this year in Arizona (Arizona and New Mexico contain Mexican wolf populations that were introduced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). 

Last March, wolves entered a barn and killed and partially ate a horse as confirmed by USFWS. Not on the open range, mind you, but in a ranch building. This horse was the rancher’s daughter’s horse. The daughter is about six years old. Her mother said, “I’ve lost a lot of calves and cows to the wolves this year but it becomes really personal when the wolves kill my daughters horse! Taylor (her daughter) cried the entire day Saturday.”  So when we try to figure the cost of wolf killed and injured livestock, the human element must be added to the equation.

As I was growing up, I was often reminded that a man’s home is his castle. This belief now protects us from unlawful search and seizure. Yet we now live in an era where private property owners are assailed by over-reaching bureaucratic regulations as well as by the taking of their property without the benefit of due process. Wolves are but one example of this. 

In some states, wolves were released on federal land with the promise that they would not be allowed to invade private property. Of course, wolves recognize no natural or artificial boundaries. When they invade and take livestock, pets, and hunting dogs on private property, the owners have no recourse. Perhaps a few dollars trickles down to them after long waits but this is scant compensation. At what point do we recognize that human rights override predators? Should we wait for the predatory attack on a child or a camper or a jogger?

The belief in private property is not confined only to protection from animal predation.  This belief, or credo if you prefer, was eloquently defended in 1766 by Lord Camden in a speech to the British House of Lords.  He stated, “…whatever is a man’s own is absolutely his own; no man hath a right to take it from him without his consent.  Whoever attempts to do it attempts an injury; whoever does it, commits a robbery; he throws down and destroys the distinction between liberty and slavery.”

Earl Stahl of Village of Fox Crossing is the author of "Wolves at Your Door: the Impact of Wolves on Animals and People". He is a member of both Wolf Education International and Wisconsin Wolf Facts.