I got up this morning in St. Paul, Minn., and the temperature reading on my iPhone was a brisk 34 degrees. It was a chilly fall day, and in the Midwest and throughout the country, that means hunting seasons are in progress or set to begin soon. At my several stops in Minnesota since I arrived yesterday, I have been talking about the lunacy of the wolf hunt set to start in the state on Nov. 3–the first hunt here targeting timber wolves in more than four decades. Neighboring Wisconsin will open its season, originally planned to include night hunting and the use of dogs, on Oct. 15.
The plan in Minnesota is to allow trappers and hunters to kill as many as 400 wolves, out of a population estimate of somewhere between 2,100 to 3,500 animals. In Wisconsin, there are only about 800 wolves, and the state is going to allow sport hunters and snare and leghold trappers to kill 201. They are taking a big chunk of these populations, and the result will be a lot of suffering and death for so many of these amazing creatures, who want to live as much as we do.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the Great Lakes wolf populations this year, in spite of vigorous opposition from The HSUS and local wolf advocates. In prior years, we blocked de-listing efforts by both the Bush and Obama administrations, but this time around the USFWS has done a better job of covering its tracks. Both the Minnesota and Wisconsin state legislatures rushed through measures to authorize wolf hunting under emergency rule-making procedures; in Minnesota, the original management plan called for a five-year moratorium on hunting and trapping after de-listing. So much for sticking with the plan.
It’s a dark time for wolves in the Great Lakes region, with only Michigan holding the line against hunting of the animals. But at least one lawmaker is pushing for a season there, too.
In the Northern Rockies region, the scene is just as grim. Wyoming has also opened a hunting season on wolves, to catch up to the killing plans in Idaho and Montana. Wyoming has designated wolves as “predators” across the vast majority of the state, a designation which subjects wolves to unrestricted hunting and trapping and allows wolves to be shot on sight. We’re doing our best to stay this expansion of wolf killing—last week, The HSUS sent the USFWS notice of our intent to sue the agency over the decision to delist wolves in Wyoming.
It’s so wrong. We know that wolves are intelligent, family-oriented animals, and when members of the pack are killed, it not only causes grief for the survivors, but it disrupts their entire social structure. What’s more, the animals are not abundant–in fact, they just got off of the list of federally protected animals under the Endangered Species Act! And all for what? For a trophy or a fur pelt. Nobody eats dogs in this country, and wolves aren’t on the dinner menu. This is recreational killing at its worst–as bad as opening up a season on bald eagles.
All of the states have programs to allow for the killing of individual wolves who threaten livestock or public safety. So there’s no management need here–that’s already taken care of.
I’ll be raising my voice against this hunt in Rochester, Minn., tonight, and our staff in the affected states will keep our voices loud and clear to reach the sensible center in America that should deplore the idea of the killing this apex predator for reasons related to thrill killing, irrational fear, and naked prejudice.