Wildlife Advocacy Organizations Condemn Wisconsin Wolf Policy
Today, Project Coyote, the Great Lakes Wildlife Alliance (GLWA), Animal Wellness Action (AWA), the Center for a Humane Economy (CHE), and Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife (FOWW) are stating that they will not participate in the Administrative Rules hearing which sets wolf hunting permanent rules and ask the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to reconsider the changes made to their Wolf Management Plan before submitting it to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) for approval. The organizations feel a responsibility to publicly state, in a letter released to the public and submitted to the WDNR, that the process has not been “transparent, deliberative, [or] inclusive”, as stated on the WDNR’s Wolf Management Plan website and by Secretary Payne. What appears to have transpired instead is an undemocratic, unscientific, and unethical process that has prioritized the desires of vocal special interests and not the majority of the public.
“Public science backed comments seem to mean very little as evidenced by the egregious changes to the draft wolf plan despite overwhelming public support for the original draft. It is clear that there is a two-tiered public comment system. One for the majority of the public and one via invite only “hearings” hosted by anti-wolf special interests. Animal Wellness Action supported, albeit tepidly, the original draft of the management plan. That support eroded once the WDNR instituted a population cap along with metrics that could lead to half of the wolf population killed in a given year. The WDNR had a chance to be a bold leader in the scientific management of wolves. Instead they chose to appease a very vocal and hostile anti-wolf minority,” said Paul Collins, the Wisconsin State Director for Animal Wellness Action.
The WDNR’s updated Wolf Management Plan (WMP), will guide all management and coexistence efforts related to wolves in the state. Wildlife advocates, scientists, and tribal members have been engaged in the process for years, scrutinizing both the misuse of scientific evidence in the plan and the WMP’s update process. As a result, if federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections are removed for wolves, they will once again be relentlessly killed for recreation, “control,” and a misguided desire for “revenge.” Then there are the Native American Tribes in Wisconsin who will be left without recourse against having their relatives killed for the entertainment of a few trophy hunters.
The coalition of wildlife advocacy organizations contend that the agency’s top objective is “maximizing hunter/trapper opportunity and satisfaction.” Despite being on the federal endangered species list, the wolf continues to face persecution, particularly from hunters. The last trophy wolf hunt in Wisconsin took place just two years ago, when hound hunters engaged in a 60-hour killing spree exceeding the quota set by the state by 83 percent.
“The NRB and DNR must prove to us that they should be allowed to be public trust asset trustees and not continue to fail in that responsibility. There was zero accountability or apology for the actions by the WNDR for the 2021 hunt that shocked the entire nation. Now, a combination of bad science and non-consideration of public comment in this adaptive plan will be used to reduce the wolf population to satiate those who can’t accept their neighbors like and understand wolves as proven by the WDNR’s own social science,” said Melissa Smith of GLWA.
Britt Ricci of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife was shocked by the permanent rules. “So, there need to be rules set to prohibit hound hunters from using attack dogs on wolf pups in their dens? The very dogs that have violent encounters with wolves defending their pups will continue to be used to pursue wolves for sport? Clearly these rules were determined without any consideration of animal cruelty,” Ricci said.
“In our comments on the draft plan, we noted grave concerns over the substantial amount of high-quality scientific literature that is omitted, likely because that science contradicts the agency’s preferred ‘management’ alternative of killing wolves. The plan and the process followed to approve it are both unscientific and unethical given the institutional biases promoting the arbitrary prioritization of killing wolves, in stark disregard for the public values that want wolves protected and the many scientific studies that point to coexistence as the best way to manage conflicts,” said Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila, Science & Conservation Manager for Project Coyote. “What’s more, the copious comments noting these scientific and ethical biases were ignored without any explanation. This exposes not only untrustworthy scientific knowledge at play within the DNR and NRB, but also their promotion of harmful ethical views that hold an immense amount of power over our relationship with wolves, to the detriment of our entire community of life,” Santiago-Ávila said.
Project Coyote, a fiscally-sponsored project of Earth Island Institute, is a North American coalition of scientists, educators, conservationists, and community leaders promoting compassionate conservation and coexistence between humans and wildlife through education, science, and advocacy.