Speakers at the recent Wolf Summit declared that the wolf population is high enough. They're tired of having their pets and livestock devoured and harassed.
The Great Lakes Wolf Summit recently held in Cumberland, Wisconsin, hosted a wide range of speakers who declared that enough is enough when it comes to wolves.
They stated that the wolf population has exceeded DNR population goals to the point where the predators have become a danger to pets and humans, and they want something done about it.
Farmers, hunters, politicians and rural dwellers assembled at the summit to voice their concerns over the Midwest states' inability to circumvent a federal ruling that places wolves on the endangered species list, and thus prevents individual states from managing the animals.
Organized by state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst and Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, the summit featured speakers from around the country, including Ted Lyon, a Democrat former Texas state senator and conservationist who wrote the book, "The Real Wolf," about the impact of wolves on large game and livestock. Other noted speakers included U.S. Department of Agriculture Supervisory Wildlife Biologist David Ruid, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Kurt Thiede, Michigan Police Chief Bruce Mahler, and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife founder Don Paey.
Wolves, said Lyon, are the planet's ultimate predator. They do attack humans from time to time, although infrequently, but their primary presence is felt where livestock and pets are concerned. Over 30 dogs have been attacked and killed by wolves in Wisconsin this year, and numerous livestock losses have been experienced by farmers over the last few years.
Mark Liebaert, Douglas County Board Chair and Wisconsin Farmers Union member, testified that he's lost calves to wolf predation, but is hamstrung to prevent it.
"The farmers up there have no options anymore," Liebaert said. "If my neighbor's dog comes over and starts chasing my cattle, state law allows me to shoot that dog, yet I could have a wolf attacking my calves and killing them and I can't even confront it in a manner that would even make a problem for it. I can't shoot it, I can't harass it, and that is unacceptable."
Ruid concurred. He stated that it's not just attacks that result in death that are of concern. Wolves harass livestock, causing them to damage property and disrupt their feeding patterns.
"Our industry is under a duress up there," said Liebaert. "Not only do I have death losses. I have weight-gain losses." Liebaert declared that an animal losing 60 pounds of meat because it's not eating regularly equates to a loss of $240.
"These things are occurring on the local family farm," Ruid said.
Sandra Gutt told the story of how her small dog was killed in her yard by a wolf, in plain sight, and how she is now afraid to walk her own land. It's not the first time she's seen wolves on her property, she said.
Mahler, Chief of Police in Marenisco, Michigan, indicated that wolves have killed pet dogs in people's back yards and have been seen stalking residents and children. He suggested that people will turn to shooting wolves illegally and in spite of the federal ban, if Congress doesn't act to protect their constituents.
The "negative impacts" of keeping wolves on the endangered species list was, in fact, the common theme of the summit.
"It's our position that wolves are no longer in danger," said Wisconsin DNR's Thiede. "We have met our obligation under the Endangered Species Act."
Humane Society of The United States State Director Melissa Tedrowe, who did not attend, disagreed.
"I'd say the goal of today's summit was to showcase a minority opinion that's totally out of step with the majority of Wisconsinites who appreciate wolves, who understand their ecological role and who want them protected and managed in a reasonable way, which wasn't happening under state management," said Tedrowe.
"The ecological and economic benefits brought by wolves - reducing deer-auto collisions, stemming the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease and fostering tourism - are documented and undeniable," she said, although she failed to support how wolves reduce deer-auto collisions or foster tourism. Several studies do, however, suggest that wolf predation can in fact discourage the spread of disease among prey animals.
Speakers concluded their presentations with requests that people get involved more directly in the political process. Congress will debate the issue of wolf status as an endangered species soon, and attendees were encouraged to write to their representatives, including Sen. Ron Johnson and House Speaker Paul Ryan, to voice their concerns.
Senator Tiffany concurred, "There's 'antis' (those opposed to delisting) out there that are writing letters as we speak. It's got to be driven from the grassroots."
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