Well I am a college student and had to do a research paper and I chose to do it on Gray Wolves and thought I would share with the class. LOL
The Gray Wolf
In 1974, the Gray Wolf was added to the Endangered Species Act. The wolves had become near extinct in the United States excluding Alaska which still had a healthy wolf population. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, in 1973, when the wolf was added to the list, Wisconsin and Michigan had a population of zero wolves and Minnesota was estimated to have between 500 and 1,000 free roaming wolves (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website, Wolf Population Chart). Why did this happen?
Wolves used to roam most of the United States. According to the Wisconsin DNR website Gray Wolves had packs distributed Coast to Coast and from the frozen tundra to the southern swamps (WI DNR website, Gray Wolf, Distribution, para. 1). But we are only going to look at the wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes Region.
As early pioneers moved into the region they started to hunt the deer, elk, and other main sources of food for the wolves. The Pioneers brought cattle and other livestock with them and well it is pretty obvious how this worked out. First you kill the wolf’s food sources, and then you bring in an animal that has no defense against the now hungry wolves. Wolves being opportunistic hunters will gladly take the easy prey. So between wolves preying on livestock and Wisconsin becoming very popular with sport hunting deer it was decided to place a bounty on the wolves (WI DNR Website, Gray Wolf, History in Wisconsin, para. 1, 2). The first Wisconsin wolf bounty was passed in 1839 and offered $3.00 per wolf (Thiel, 63). In 1868, the Waukesha County Board along, with the Town of Summit were offering $175 per wolf (Thiel, 69). The State Bounty on wolves continued until 1957 (WI DNR Website, Gray Wolf, History in Wisconsin, para. 2). This story was similar around the United States.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, wolves were not reintroduced into Wisconsin (WI DNR Website, The History of Gray Wolves in Wisconsin, 1). Instead they came on their own from Minnesota around 1975, again according to the Wisconsin DNR (WI DNR Website, History of Gray Wolves in Wisconsin, 1). This is where things get interesting.
It was determined in 1980, that 25 wolves, made up the 5 wolf packs in the State (WI DNR Website, History of Gray Wolves in Wisconsin, 1). This number dropped in 1985 to 14 wolves due to a disease called parvovirus (WI DNR Website, History of Gray Wolves in Wisconsin, 1). In 1995, the State wolf population was estimated at 83 wolves (US Fish & Wildlife Services Website, Wolf Population Chart). This is a 70% increase within 10 years. Believe it or not, but that is less of an increase than in Minnesota and Michigan (US Fish & Wildlife Services Website, Wolf Population Chart). Within the next five years the population of wolves in Wisconsin and Michigan exploded. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services estimated the wolf populations for the year of 2000 to be 248 wolves in Wisconsin and 216 wolves in Michigan (US Fish & Wildlife Services Website, Wolf Population Chart). Those populations basically doubled since then. Again according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, populations for 2008 were 549 wolves in Wisconsin, 520 wolves in Michigan, and 2,922 wolves in Minnesota (US Fish & Wildlife Services Website, Wolf Population Chart).
With numbers like these do you really think the Gray Wolf is still endangered? If you asked a majority of the men in orange of a few weeks ago they would tell you the deer herd is more endangered than the wolves. I hear constantly from hunters that the wolves are destroying the deer populations.
So the debate begins again. What are we to do about the wolves? First we need to look at wolves from the two major groups who are having issues with the wolves; hunters and farmers.
Hunters are upset that the wolves are killing off the deer herd. This is not just a concern in Wisconsin. Minnesota and Michigan have also addressed this issue on their DNR websites. According to the Wisconsin DNR, each adult wolf kills around 20 deer a year, multiply that by the number of wolves in Wisconsin and that accounts for around 13,000 deer per year (WI DNR Website, Gray Wolf, Misconceptions and Controversies, para. 3). So, by this you can say that wolves are a factor in the deer herd, but since 40,000 deer are hit and killed by cars each year, and 450,000 are killed by hunters (WI DNR Website, Gray Wolf, Misconceptions and Controversies, para. 3). It is safe to say wolves are a small factor in the deer population. According to the National Wildlife Federation statistics coyotes and bears each account for more deer deaths than wolves do in the home range of wolves (NWF Website, Wolves and Deer in Wisconsin, 1). A study done in Iron County concluded that wolves have no effect on deer herds (Mech, 276). According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, wolves prey on the weak, old, young, and sick (US Fish & Wildlife Service Website, Gray Wolf Biology Questions and Answers, 2).
Now, let’s look at the farmers. Most of us like beef, chicken, and pork, so why wouldn’t wolves? According to the Wisconsin DNR website 50 to 60 cases of wolves preying on livestock or pets occur each year (WI DNR Website, Gray Wolf, Misconceptions and Controversies, para. 2). The number is closer to 100 cases each year in Minnesota (WI DNR Website, Gray Wolf, Misconceptions and Controversies, para. 2). This makes sense since wolves are known to go for the easiest prey around (Mech, 174). Wolves are also likely to focus on calves and fawns in the summer (Mech, 176). Of the 6445 farms in Wolf territory, only 53 farms had wolf attacks on livestock (WI DNR Website, PUB-ER-658, 3). That is less than 1%. Doesn’t really seem like the farmers have much to complain about, especially when the tax payers are the ones who have forked out over a half million dollars to pay for wolf attacks on livestock and pets (WI DNR Website, PUB-ER-658, 1). But couldn’t it be argued that the loss of one calf is a financial strain on the farmers? What about sweet beloved Fido who just wanted to play in the yard?
On April 1st, 2003, the Gray Wolf was reclassified from Endangered to Threatened on the Federal Level. Then in January of 2005, the Gray Wolf was again put back on the endangered species list due to a lawsuit. On March 12, 2007, the wolf was once again removed from the endangered species list and again was put back on due to another lawsuit filed in September of 2008 (WI DNR Website, History of Wolves in Wisconsin, 1). This back and forth has continued until July 2009 when they were once again put on the endangered species list (WI DNR Website, Gray Wolf, Current Status, para. 1).
The Humane Society of the United States is the main player in these lawsuits along with Help our Wolves Live, Born Free USA, and Friends of Animals and their Environment (HSUS Website, Federal Court Restores Gray Wolves to Endangered Species List, para. 1). According to the Humane Society of the United States website, they claim, and I quote: “For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs.” (HSUS Website, Federal Court Restores Gray Wolves to Endangered Species List, para. 7). Well my question would have to be, how is the Humane Society protecting the cattle, pets, and wildlife the wolves are preying on? Who decides what animals are more important? I am sure Mr. Farmer thinks his cattle is more important than a wolf, I am sure little Timmy thinks his best friend Lassie is more important than that wolf, and I am sure Joe hunts a lot thinks that trophy buck is much more important than a wolf.
I would wonder if the members of the Humane Society would be so wolf happy if the wolves were preying on their beloved pets? But then again, we don’t have wolves running around Washington, D.C., well not the four legged kind at least. So, could this all be that it is easy to fight for a cause if you are removed from it? After researching, I have found that besides the Humane Society based in Washington D.C., most of the groups responsible for the lawsuits aren’t even from the Great Lakes Region. Born Free U.S.A. is based out of Sacramento, California. Why are they involved in wolf lawsuits instead of fighting to have grizzly bears reintroduced back into California? Friends of Animals are based out of New York, again why are they not fighting to have wolves brought back to New York? Help our Wolves Live is the only organization that is based out of Minnesota.
I am not going to pretend to know the answer to the wolf debate. But I hope you can take the facts I presented you with today and make your own educated decision on what the future of wolves should be. Do you agree with the Government on having a small sustainable population? Or, do you think we should continue to let the population grow and try to let them rebound throughout the United States?