Dr. Michael W. Fox

Betrayal of Wolves and Public Trust

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                            BETRAYAL OF WOLVES AND PUBLIC TRUST:
                                 A DEBACLE OF DEMOCRATIC PROCESS

                                                 By Dr. Michael W. Fox*

 

 

State and federal lands, including all that abides therein, from moose and minerals to wolves and oil, are managed as natural resources. Most states can even claim eminent domain over private property for the oil and mining industries and other vested interests. The laudable ideology of sustainable resource use touted by the mining, timber, cattle and other industries has resulted in endless law suits to enforce various laws to minimize harms to the environment, biodiversity and to threatened and endangered species. This costly and often futile process will never end until there is greater state and federal government transparency and accountability so that the accusation that governments pander to vested interests and betray the public’s trust will have no foundation.

 

The legalization of shooting and trapping wolves in the state of Minnesota for recreation as ‘trophy’ animals and for the commercial fur trade is a case in point that puts in bold relief how states manage natural resources and wildlife species in total disregard of public sentiment and concern. The commercial value of the wolf, in terms of state licenses sold to hunters and trappers, and to the private sector outfitters and hunting guides, is considerable. The reasons for the hunt are clearly for pleasure and profit, certainly not to reduce predation on livestock for which cattle owners have been long compensated and thousands of wolves shot and trapped (over 260 in 2012) even while under federal endangered species protection.

 

Behind essentially closed doors, with no public hearings, the state of Minnesota broke its stipulated hunting moratorium agreement in its wolf management plan submitted to the federal government that would not permit the recreational hunting and trapping of wolves for five years once the state was given control over the Gray wolf once it was removed from protection under the federal endangered species act (ESA) on Dec 21, 2011. The drafting of hunting and trapping regulations, to be administered by the MN Department of Natural Resources,(DNR) was put on a fast track by state legislators.

 

 Nineteen days after Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed an omnibus bill on May 3, 2012 approving this legislation that sanctioned a kill quota of 400 wolves, the MN DNR announced that it would accept public comments directed to its website but that there would be no final public hearing. Some 5,809 people opposed and only 1,542 supported what the Governor had signed---too late for any repeal or referendum. With a reported 23,000 hunters and trappers paying $4.00 to apply to the DNR for wolf killing licenses, 98% being in-state residents who will pay $30.00 if they win a license on the lottery, and out-of state winners paying $250.00, wolves will help replenish state coffers. “Wildlife must pay its own way,” and “regulated hunting is the best conservation” are wildlife farming claims which amount to a death tax on the wolf whose killing by sport hunters is touted by outfitters in wolf hunting states such as Alaska, as well as Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, as “Helping us with predator control.”

No strangers to broken agreements, several Native American Indian tribes added their voices to the international public outcry over the state of Minnesota’s legally sanctioned wolf hunt. Killing wolves for pleasure is anathema to the spiritual traditions of these indigenous first peoples, and to the ethics and symbolic value of the wolf as a state totem of all that is wild and free. All of Minnesota's Chippewa bands have banned wolf hunting and trapping on tribal lands. The affected reservations include Red Lake, White Earth, Bois Forte, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Fond du Lac and Mille Lacs.

 

 The morality of exploiting such a highly intelligent, sociable and empathic species has no sound biological justification or ethical validity. The consequences include great suffering for wolves caught in traps and snares and for those shot and injured but not immediately killed, and harm to their family-packs from social disruption, reduced hunting success and yes, the grieving of surviving mates. With climate change bringing on an earlier breeding season, reproduction may be disrupted with the hunting and trapping season continuing until January 31.  Harmful ecological consequences are highly probable, notably deer herd health, which wolves can help maintain, and coyote insurgence leading to loss of red fox and other smaller predators that help control Lyme disease and Babesiosis harboring rodent numbers.

 

The Minnesota Court of Appeals, Oct.10, 2012 dismissal of an appeal to stop the wolf hunt was based on the belief that it would not cause “irreparable harm” to the population, an oft cited quote from federal government wolf scientist and trapper Dr. David Mech. The radical disconnect for anyone not to feel the abject, absolute, incomprehensible terror and helplessness of a wolf or accidental dog or any creature caught in a steel jaw trap or snare is in the same currency as the ‘splitting’ forensic psychiatrists have associated with violent acts of psychopaths. It should not be regarded as small change when it comes to animal cruelty when wild creatures are exploited en masse for commercial and recreational uses, rather than minimally for traditional subsistence purposes by indigenous peoples, or when they must be either selectively and humanely culled or translocated for valid ecological health reasons. 

 

According to the MN DNR close to 7,000 licensed trappers in the 2011 season “harvested” 331,259 furbearers of 17 different mammalian species including 1012 Bobcats, 1,814 Otters and 46,166 Beavers, stating on their website “Hunters and trappers harvest up to 10,000 red foxes annually”. In 2011 some 9,100 winners of the sate Black bear lottery killed 2, 131 bears, while nearly 500,000 licensed deer hunters killed 192,300 White tailed deer. Significantly, with milder winters now in MN associated with global warming, the US Fish & Wildlife Service notes “an approximate five-fold increase in hunter deer harvest since wolves were listed under the ESA in 1978.” Wolves benefit deer, weather conditions not withstanding.

 

Ninety wolves were shot and killed over the first week in Minnesota’s inaugural wolf hunting season, which Sen. Amy Klobushar, (D-MN) who fought for the wolf’s removal from the ESA, told a group of hunters that she wanted named after her,--- since the opening of  the state’s duck hunting season is named after the Governor.

 

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe in Wisconsin opposed their state’s hunt, declaring their land a wolf sanctuary. For some Ojibwe, “Killing a wolf is like killing a brother.” Wisconsin’s wolf hunt is in some ways worse than Minnesota’s with over 10,000 applicants for a lottery quota of 201 kills out of an estimated population of 850. Some 2,010 permits were sold allowing one wolf kill per person through an extended hunting and trapping season from Oct 15, 2012 to the end of February 2013 (into the wolf’s breeding season), and allowing baiting, night hunting and tracking with dogs. Eighty-five of the 201 wolf ‘harvest’ were reserved for Chippewa tribes under agreement with the Wisconsin DNR and will not be taken by them, leaving the target kill quota for non-Indians at 116 wolves.

 

The tally of wolf kills on Jan 4th, 2013 registered by the MN DNR as 405 wolves brought an early end to the hunt a few days after a computer glitch made it impossible for hunters and trappers to log in to register their kills. This number, when added to the 272 killed by state and federal trappers in response to livestock depredations and 16 killed by citizens protecting their livestock and pets, represents 23 per cent of the estimated population of 3,000. What number were shot and died but were never recovered is anyone’s guess. Tom Landwehr, the DNR commissioner says “This is a sustainable harvest. We will have wolves in the state for ever”. (Star Tribune, Jan 5th, 2013).But the argument that wolf conservation is best accomplished through regulated recreational hunting and commercial trapping is as ethically bankrupt as it is biologically absurd.

 

All public citizen protests and legal efforts failed to stop this first wolf hunting and trapping season in Minnesota, the belated intervention of the Humane Society of the United States and Fund for Animals suit against the U.S. government not withstanding, But may it be the last, unless we choose, as a nation, to sacrifice the wolf and all that we embrace in the name of civil society and in the spirit of democracy. Shall we choose to surrender to the prevailing anarchism of vested interests that enact laws to protect and justify a way of living in the absence of the sacred, devoid of bioethics yet infused by the morality and convictions of human superiority and the illusions of a progressive civilization? Revolution is evolution!

 

It is time to think of wolves and other animals not as abstract species, harvestable populations, but as individuals, and as nation states whose sovereignty we should honor rather than treat as state or federal property and as exploitable, renewable resources: Yet another form of Colonialism. Such a change in perception and relationship with the non-human animal and plant species and communities, terrestrial and aquatic, which help preserve and sustain the life and beauty of this world, may be in our best interests in the long term. There is now ample evidence that when we harm the environment, we harm ourselves, and as long as we demean and exploit other species, we continue to do no less to each other.

 

We should respect other animal species, especially the wolf that helps maintain the vitality and health of deer herds and other prey species, serving as essential population regulators, disease-controllers and biodiversity enhancers. We must protect the wolf for these contributions to the greater good of the ecology, helping preserve the natural wealth of our national heritage.

 

Potentially Devastating Consequences of the Wolf Hunt

Wolf hunt opponents, including ecologists and epidemiologists, point to the devastating impact of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild and farmed ungulates--- elk, deer and moose. CWD in deer has been documented in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. There is circumstantial evidence of occasional transmission of this disease to humans, (see Belay ED, et al Chronic wasting disease of deer and elk and the species barrier. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2004 June. Available from: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/10/6/03-1082.htm)

 

 There is no doubt that wolves help control the spread of this communicable disease by culling afflicted animals, preventing them from spreading the disease to other herd members. Ranchers opposed to wolf reintroductions and protection, and hunters who do not engage in ecological/health management of these ungulates but go after prime, healthy ‘trophy’ specimens, are inadvertently promoting CWD. They, along with state wildlife managers who manipulate habitat and species to maximize ungulate numbers, ‘canned hunt’ wildlife ranches, and farmers whose commodity crops provide feed for wild ungulates, need to address role in ecological disease/imbalance and appreciate the role of predators such as the wolf for their ecological value. It is likely that there will be a resurgence of CWD (as well as brucellosis, tuberculosis and other communicable herd diseases) now that the federal government has de-listed the wolf from endangered species protection for those states now engaged in or considering the recreational/sport hunting and commercial trapping of wolves, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Washington state.

 

Reporter Dennis Anderson’s Outdoors article “The Time Was Right” ( Star Tribune Dec 2, 2012)--- to start the Minnesota wolf hunting and trapping season, lambastes those who buy into the “fatuous fact dalliance” of opponents. Ethical questions aside, the facts that he and others offer, such as increased wolf numbers and livestock losses from wolf predation, fail to support any biological justification for wolf “control” through DNR-managed “harvesting” by lottery-winning recreational hunters and commercial trappers.

There are those who say that since wolf numbers are up we can start killing them again without harming the population are surely guilty of the kind of “fatuous fact dalliance” by which they seek to discredit their opponents. One basic fact is that deer numbers as well as wolf numbers have both increased over the past decade in Minnesota. Science supports the in-field evidence that thanks to the wolves, the ecosystem is healthier with more rather than fewer wolves. Their role in helping control the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose, and possibly Lyme disease, cannot be dismissed.

 
So the time is right for a moratorium on wolf hunting and trapping, with more funding for research surveillance and less reliance on traditional culling/harvesting of wolves which is a scientifically questionable if not outmoded wildlife management practice. It is also time for all involved to realize that a purported “scientific” approach to wildlife management will be challenged when it translates into a numbers game to further vested interests, scientific authority being the Emperor’s new clothes that fail to cover the truth of animal exploitation and suffering.

 

 LUPOPHOBIA: WOLF FEAR, HATRED & POLITICS

 

Fear and hatred of wolves goes back in European history for centuries. Such lupophobia is still evident today in purportedly advanced civilizations like the U.S.. This phobia is certainly not shared by indigenous Native American Indians or by a growing majority of non-native American citizens who oppose wolf hunting and trapping.

 

The thousands of applicants for state licenses to kill wolves is surely indicative of a significant degree of lupophobia coupled by many others seeing the wolf as a trophy animal, a mere object to be ‘sustainably harvested’ for personal gratification. Both of these attitudes are part of the ‘moral pluralism’ of America’s culture which makes a mockery of democratic process when the majority of the populace want full protection for the wolf and are now witness to their nation-wide slaughter. The wolf is a species symbolic of a nation divided by a bipolar society that has yet to find unity of vision and values, ethics and spirit.

 

Putting the wolf on the protective federal Endangered Species list to outlaw sport hunting and trapping of these highly intelligent and social species is a limited deterrent against their illegal killing when there is virtually no effective local enforcement and informant network.

 

Internet pages posted by “Sportsmen Against Wolves” are especially revealing, combining graphic photographs of slaughtered wolves with supportive comments by hunters. They see wolf protectors and wildlife conservationists as representing the kind of society they abhor: One of tree-hugging Bambi-lovers that threatens their way of life and right to shoot wolves. Killing wolves affirms their kind of manhood and survivalist skills. Many express a perverse form of lupophilia, calling the wolf a ‘worthy adversary’ to be tracked and shot or trapped as a trophy to decorate their homes and cabins and as a ‘furbearer’ to wear and sell.

 

Wolf hunting advocates disclose a disturbing degree of ignorance about the balance of nature, wolf-deer and prey-predator relationships. They perpetuate the erroneous belief that exterminating competing hunters such as the wolf is an act of conservation, helping preserve the balance of nature. Some cast this as their divine right and responsibility, scientifically justified, so they can have an abundance of prey for themselves. The notion of co-existence, as practiced traditionally by Native American Indians and being promoted by organizations such as Project Coyote, is anathema to this community living in close association with the last of the wild which most American citizens are calling to be better protected.

 

 Wolf hunters, feeling threatened by wolf protectors and conservationists, are now enjoining across wolf-inhabiting states to justify and protect their rights. But if they were to connect their perceived fate with the fate of the wolf and every tree in the forest, hen in the prairie and frog in the swamp, they might realize, as Henry David Thoreau advised over a century ago, that in wildness is the preservation of the world.

 

That does not mean the preservation of their way of life but their evolution into an effective, non-governmental community of wildlife monitors and conservators. Many deer hunters, for instance, like traditional Native American Indian hunters, are already there having discovered the wisdom of biophilia, seeing themselves and wolves and other predators as essential components of healthy ecosystems. With such an ecological perspective they can begin to articulate a hunting ethic, acknowledge the vital importance of wolves, humans and other predators in helping prevent deer overpopulation and loss of biodiversity, and become a ‘boots on the ground’ force and unite with other voices for conservation, habitat preservation and restoration in concert with wolves. This is especially germane considering that across much of the U.S. the white tailed deer population has risen over the past century from some 300,000 to an estimated 25-30 million. Animal rightists must also evolve and not reflexively condemn all deer hunters as Bambi eaters.

 

But so long as lupophobia and the trophy mentality persist, wolves and other essential predators will continue to be killed by some hunters as well as by cattle and sheep ranchers whose subsidized grazing rights on public lands should come with a caveat prohibiting lethal methods of predator control. Without a unified sensibility, like those deer hunters who also abhor the killing of wolves as sporting trophies along with the majority of non-hunters, the disunited states will surely continue to fall short of becoming a truly civilized society.

 

Within every culture there are sub-cultures and cults defined by demographics, economics, religious beliefs, education and values shared and opposing. Good governance accommodates such diversity to maximize the good of the nation state, including proper management of natural resources and public lands. But the record of the U.S. federal and most state governments is lamentable, pandering to vested minority interests. These include sanctioning and funding ranchers’ war on wolves and other predators and permitting hunters and trappers to kill wolves respectively for sport and fur pelts. This all amounts to a violation of public trust and calls for full accountability and a return to good governance “of the people, by the people, for the people”.

 

The public conflict over the fate of the Gray wolf has made this species an icon of opposing values and cultural discord best resolved through legal protection and effective enforcement, and inducement and inspiration through education, of the sanctity and inherent rights of wolves and all indigenous species and communities, human and non-human. The fate of the wolf in North America will be a measure of the success or failure of civil society to put compassion and reason, justice and respect to bear on all our relations and relationships.

 

While wolves, like us, care and protect their young and injured family/pack members, play, court, sing, mourn, share food, orchestrate intelligent hunting strategies, defend their territories, in other ways they are our superiors. We fail in our own population control; have become a global threat to biodiversity and the causal agent of climate change. Wolves do not engage in ecocide, biocide, genocide, infanticide, pedophilia and other psychological aberrations and pathologies of character and behavior. that are seen by many as being of the same currency as recreational trophy hunting and fishing, commercial trapping, dog fighting, bear baiting, whaling, vivisection and animal factory farming. Such activities reveal a disconnect of empathy evident as a pervasive issue in the epidemic of violence across the world, from school shootings in the U.S. and despotic regimes abroad massacring citizens, to the slaughter of the last of the elephants and tigers for China’s ivory and folk-medicine industries, and of captive wild animal ‘canned hunts’ on Texas game ranches for the trophy hunting industry..


An international consortium of behavioral and brain scientists attending a conference in July 2012 at Cambridge, England put together and signed “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness”. This document asserts that animals---all mammals, birds and even insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus)— possess states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making abilities, can experience emotional states much as humans do, and like us are conscious beings possessing awareness and exhibiting deliberated, intentional behaviors. From my own doctoral research on behavior, development and effects of domestication of dogs compared to wolves, coyotes and foxes I can assert that wolves are fundamentally no different from our domesticated canine companions in terms of their awareness and capacity to establish enduring emotional bonds associated with empathy. They show devoted care-giving behavior to their young and to injured companions, and mourn their death. Just like the family dog they will show fear, anxiety, depression, joyful anticipation, affectionate greeting and playful invitation.

 

Millions of people who love their dogs have a natural affinity and respect for the wolf. Others reject ‘big bad wolf’ folklore because they know something about wolf intelligence and highly evolved cooperative pack society and social dynamics. Wolves, like other creatures, in the words of Henry Beston, “are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.” Many people embracing such sentiment and ethics have voiced opposition to the various states that have legalized the trapping and trophy hunting of wolves, knowing how these animals would suffer from such human predation. Just because wolves are wild, why should they not enjoy the same protection under state Animal Welfare Statutes as our dogs since they are no less sentient and can suffer? The law is now recognizing that dogs can suffer both physically and psychologically and are not mere objects of personal property but subjects of considerable emotional value worthy of compensation in cases of neglect, cruelty and killing. Any person deliberately trapping or snaring dogs or shooting them for sport would be liable for prosecution Wolves who are shot and not killed instantly will suffer injuries leading to a slow death or become permanently crippled. Those caught in traps and snares will be in terror before they escape by chewing off a paw or are shot or clubbed by the trapper. The emotional loss and social strife to pack mates losing leaders and relatives would be detrimental to pack integrity, hunting success, reproduction and survival.

 

Wolves are treated as state property on public lands, but public trust is betrayed when the protection of wolf and wilderness is sacrificed for the pleasure and profit of an anarchistic minority whose ethically unexamined activities are sanctioned by the laws they enact to justify and protect what they deem culturally acceptable. Anarchism, the antithesis of democratic process, flourishes when policy makers dismiss public polls and calls for referendums because of the demographic bias of larger urban versus rural populations. Wolves have been long vilified, persecuted and feared, often for understandable reasons in times past. They are a highly evolved species, far more ancient than we humans, with their own social rituals, affiliations and intelligent survival strategies. Surely we can evolve ourselves as a society and culture to put an end to killing them for sport and for their fur, reasons legitimized not by science or ethics but by the principles of power, profit and pleasure.

 

Pandering to the negative attitude toward the wolf held by a rabid minority and to those who see the wolf as a ‘harvestable’ resource, both the federal and state governments have violated the public trust of a democratic and demographic majority that gave to them the authority and responsibility to protect and preserve wildlife and wild lands as part of the greater good or commonwealth of all that people hold dear for reasons spiritual and ethical. It is surely on these principles of reason and sentiment that a sane, just and sustainable society is founded and best governed.

 

 

POSTSCRIPTS:

 

            MINNESOTA WOLVES SUFFERING MANGE (SCABIES) DISEASE.

 

Wolf numbers and population recovery resilience can be especially undermined periodically by outbreaks of the contagious skin disease called mange or scabies. It can become endemic---literally embedded in a population. Factors such as poor nutrition and stress, (notably a quarter million deer hunters taking one third of their main food source every year, the White tailed deer, now exacerbated by 6,000 wolf hunters and trappers); also concurrent disease (such as hook worms) make animals susceptible to this contagious parasitic skin. It can spread rapidly within packs sharing the same resting-up and denning areas. Reported public sightings and photographing of emaciated wolves with little fur on their bodies and extensive bald patches near Duluth, relayed to the DNR, indicate that the wolves of this part of the state are sick and suffering. For them to be easily seen from the roadside indicates that these normally shy and elusive animals are in dire straits from this disease which is not entirely of their own making,  or some ‘natural’ occurrence. Sick animals indicate sick ecosystems.

 

The parasite responsible for this disease, which can affect many species including humans, Sarcoptes scabiei, causes intense and distressing itching, often leading to secondary bacterial and fungal skin infections and extensive alopecia due to hair follicle damage. Infested wolves with little or no insulating fur left on their bodies have been known to seek warmth and shelter in out-buildings in rural areas, and will die of cold exposure when severely infested and lacking adequate coats. Bill Paul with the USDA Wildlife Service program in Northern Minnesota “believes mange, a skin problem that causes animals to die from exposure, may be reducing overall wolf numbers in Minnesota” according to a 2004 report by John Myers, ( Mange keeps MN wolf complaints down, Feb. 12, 2004, TWIN Observer, News Tribune). Mange was introduced into the Northern Rockies in 1909 by state wildlife veterinarians in an attempt to help eradicate local wolf and coyote populations.

 

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Grey Wolf Western Great Lakes DPS  Post-Delisting Monitoring Program ( http://midwest.fws.gov/wolf/pdm),  the MN DNR is supposed to keep records of wolf diseases such as mange, which should be posted on their website as public information. How many of the over 400 wolves killed by hunters and trappers this past season showed signs of mange, and to what degree? What was the incidence of mange in wolves killed for preying on livestock by federal and state trappers and by private land owners ‘protecting’ their animals over the past decade? How many public sightings of mangy wolves have been received by the MN DNR?

 

Without adequate monitoring to estimate the severity of this and other periodically devastating wildlife diseases---which can be red flags indicating a species is in under stress/duress from multiple factors that need to be addressed by wildlife managers—how can Minnesota or any state set annual kill quotas for recreational and commercial killing of recently de-listed endangered species such as the wolf?  The above Monitoring Program  gives the option to states to set up disease-control and prevention initiatives for mange and other diseases ( such as hookworm, heartworm, rabies distemper and parvovirus), but such interventions, including selective culling, should be on an emergency basis and not be a substitute for healthy-ecosystem management policies and practices which include putting the interests of wolves and other predators before those of competing, non-indigenous and non-subsistence human predators.

 

One does not need to be a wildlife scientist or ‘expert’ to surmise that the impact of humans has enormous effect on the health and well-being of any wild species: Especially on a complex, intricate ‘social’ pack species like the wolf. When their environment is dramatically changed by thousands of insurgent hunters and trappers, the additional stress of being targets themselves is likely to exponentially exacerbate the stress- disease connection. No one can accurately quantify this, and ‘scientific evidence’ if any, comes after the fact, too late to prevent their suffering and demise.

 Language in this Monitoring Program I interpret as a binding agreement that when the MN wolf population falls below 1,500 it will be re-listed and given endangered species protection. But even before that contestable point is reached, a moratorium on the 2013-2014 MN wolf hunt should be instigated until the health status and more reliable population distribution census reports have been completed and posted for public review.

 

 

   “SCIENCE” SUPPORTS MINNESOTA’S WOLF HUNT AND “TRAPPER FRIENDS”.

 

I find it disturbing that the biggest newspaper in the region, Minnesota’s Star Tribune, has published pro-wolf hunt articles and little to the contrary. Newspapers are supposed to give objective, unbiased news and provide balance in the airing of public opinion. One notable pro-wolf hunting article, insultingly entitled  “Opposition to wolf hunt seems purely emotional” (Star Tribune, Nov 17, 2012 Opinion Exchange) by Peggy Callahan, executive director of the Wildlife Science Center, Columbus, MN, is a point in question. Mirroring the evident bias of this newspaper, her brand of ‘science’, rather than serving the advancement of impartial knowledge and unbiased understanding, deflects ethical concerns by using ‘science’ in the service of vested interests to protect the status quo. I sent the following letter to the editor of this newspaper in response to her article, and as I anticipated, it was never published:

 

“The kind of science to which Ms. Peggy Callahan alludes, and upon which she draws her opinions, is not founded on the ethics needed to resolve the dissonance between pro and anti-wolf hunters. It is a moral responsibility of wildlife scientists, as well as other users of animals, to avoid causing “unnecessary” animal suffering. She states that her “trapper friends” use traps that look like those that she has used for research purposes, and insists that there is no cruelty involved. Cruelty is a deliberate act, and even while there may be no deliberate intent to harm wolves, what of the consequences of trapping to the wolf rather than to the sensibilities of the researcher or trapper? What rational person can say that a wolf in a leg-hold (which she calls ‘foot-hold’) trap experiences neither pain nor fear?

 

Considering the evidence that she presents of the natural causes of death in wolf packs, and the average of 200 killed annually for livestock predation, her conclusion that a cap of 400 wolves to be taken this first hunting season in Minnesota is not “conservative by any measure”. By the measure of probable suffering of those shot and not killed but injured and crippled, and of pack-mates who mourn the loss of companions, killing wolves for pleasure/recreation is ethically questionable. The most pertinent question is not how many wolves people can kill to maximize their economic and recreational value without jeopardizing population recovery but rather, how many wolves must be protected in order to maximize their ecological value as apex predators and indicator species reflecting and helping maintain optimal biodiversity.

 

There are surely no scientifically or ethically valid reasons for any state to have a public wolf hunt, but there may be valid grounds for selective, humane predator control by state and federal agencies. Yet Ms. Callahan contends that elevating the wolf, like the black bear, to the status of a game animal will help in its conservation because it will be held in “reverence” rather than “distain”. This is a curious use of language which gives a quasi-scientific sanctification of recreational sport hunting which leaves me speechless.”

 

* Author of The Soul of the Wolf.

 

 

Check the link below for a Dr. Fox C-Span feature concerning "Animal Testing"

Dr. Michael W. Fox on C-Span



--Video Link--

OUR ANIMAL RELATIONSHIPS: THE MOMENTS OF TRUTH PROJECT
Dr. Michael W. Fox

What right do we humans have to exploit other animals?  Where does that right come from and what are the limits if any?  What duties or obligations do we have in our relationships with our dogs, cats and other animals domesticated and wild?

          Follow and support Caroline Kraus and her Moments of Truth Project documentary film as she travels across the U.S. asking people, who variously live, work with and care for animals, these and other relevant questions.

Is there an overriding consensus and what are the reasons why people respond very differently to these questions, which in part examine our character, culture and future?

The viewing and discussion of this kind of documentary should be part of every school curriculum and will be of interest to all who work with, profit from and care for animals. Project Home Page: http://momentsoftruthproject.com/  To see the interview with Dr. Fox go to http://momentsoftruthproject.com/dr-michael-fox/