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Patricia Randolph's Madravenspeak: Wolf execution 'quota' a measure of DNR’s ignorance

Patricia Randolph's Madravenspeak: Wolf execution 'quota' a measure of DNR’s ignorance

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“Carnivore management is not just a numbers game.” ~ Virginia Tech wildlife scientists 

On Wednesday, June 25, the Natural Resources Board, comprised predominantly of appointed hunter activists, will “consider” the hunter-controlled wolf committee’s quota of 156 wolves to be killed in the 2014-15 hunting/trapping/hounding season — the third season in Wisconsin.

The deadline to register for citizen appearances is past, but citizens can submit written comments before the board rubber stamps this quota Wednesday. Disenfranchised citizen outrage is appropriate. The hunting of wolves here is quickly destroying our natural ally, sacred brother to the Indian tribes. 

Last year, a Mason-Dixon poll commissioned by the Humane Society showed that eight out of nine Wisconsin citizens want to protect our wolves. It is not surprising that this ratio is the same as the tally of eight non-hunting citizens to every one hunter.

Five wolf pups rescued from a wildfire are big stars at the Alaska Zoo. Wisconsin could have a tourism draw such as this. Instead, we are killing our wolves.

The DNR is playing an outdated numbers game that is proven inadequate for social pack animals. The DNR's arbitrary “350” number of wolves as “carrying capacity” is bogus non-science and only serves trophy wolf hunters and magical thinking. Arbitrarily contrived minimal populations of carnivores cannot fulfill their essential role of guarding the health of ecosystems (known as a trophic cascade).

Research–based science (which appears to be ignored by the DNR) has this response to treating the population of wolves as a numbers game:

"This type of approach may fail in social carnivore species," said Kathleen Alexander, an associate professor of fisheries and wildlife conservation in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. "Predator management is incredibly complex and we need to be extremely cautious in applying blanket approaches which rely on securing some target number or density of individuals in an ecosystem."

Research by Alexander and two other scientists reported in Science Daily and published in Population Ecology evaluated 45 carnivore species and population trends, and identified the presence of factors that increase the potential for extinction. Disturbingly, 73 percent of carnivore species were declining.

The research-based report concludes: "Social carnivores appeared to be particularly vulnerable with 45 percent threatened by infectious disease but only 3 percent of solitary carnivores similarly impacted. In this, increased contact between individuals, disease-related mortality, and loss of individuals below some critical threshold seems to be the issue, pushing social carnivores closer to the brink of extinction."

Wolves are the ultimate social pack animals. The report concludes that "highly cohesive social species, like African wild dog, require strict participation from all group members … in all areas of life, including predator avoidance, reproductive success, hunting, and survivorship. This life-history strategy can result in enhanced fitness benefits for the group, but also a higher critical threshold for extinction. … Even in a large population, transmission of an infectious disease from only a few infected individuals can result in sufficient mortality to push groups below a critical threshold, ultimately threatening population persistence.”

The report also documents that in certain ecosystems, when packs are reduced to less than four individuals, the trade-off between pup-rearing and hunting may prevent successful reproduction. From the DNR’s point of view, this would result in less of a wolf “crop” for the next season’s kill.

Extinction of species is occurring right before our eyes, with a 95 percent mortality rate of white-nosed bat fungus, rapidly spread throughout the East Coast, now entering Wisconsin. The threat of extinction is obvious in the massive worldwide bee colony collapse.

In a recent article, “Ten Species You Can Kiss Good-bye,” is the red wolf: “Smaller and more slender than its gray-wolf cousin, the red wolf (Canis lupus rufus) managed to survive the Late Pleistocene ice age but may not be able to slink by modern man. Once widespread throughout the southeastern United States, red wolf populations have been so devastated by predator-control programs and habitat loss that the dearth of breeding partners has led many of them to mate with coyotes instead, further reducing the number of genetically pure wolves. An estimated 100 wolves roam northeastern North Carolina today, while another 150 reside at captive breeding facilities across the United States.”

The gray wolf was the first and only species delisted from the endangered species list, not because they were recovered, but to strengthen Montana Democrat Jon Tester's political fortunes. There is no science in this political farce. Like the red wolf, the gray wolf cannot “slink by” modern man’s deadly agenda.

It is the human predator that needs to be controlled. Indian prophecies tie the fate of human beings to the fate of wolves. We are dependent on all that we are destroying.

Wolves in Greater Yellowstone need your help. Please comment on Montana's wolf hunting proposal for 2014-15.

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. madravenspeak@gmail.com or www.wiwildlifeethic.org

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