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People are successfully coexisting with wolves, says a Wisconsin conservationist, who opposes changes to the Endangered Species Act. (AFP/Getty Images)
MADISON, Wis. – With talk in Washington about changing or reforming the Endangered Species Act, a Wisconsin wolf expert says this is not the time for a change.
Melissa Smith of Madison, who is the Great Lakes wolf coordinator for the Endangered Species Coalition, points to a success story in the state. Smith says the wolf population is now 925, the highest it’s been since we started counting.
“The Wisconsin wolf population is stabilizing, and if we let them stabilize – on the DNR’s own website it says probably around a thousand wolves, we’re getting close – we’re not going to see the wolf population increasing exponentially,” she says. “They will stabilize and they’ll be able to fill their role on the landscape.”
To those who say the wolf population needs to be reduced, Smith points out that the latest figures show wolf attacks on livestock are down 30 percent in the state, and that the deer population is actually up in Northern Wisconsin. She opposes legalized wolf hunting in the state.
Smith agrees that attacks on farmers’ livestock is a concern, even though the number of attacks is down. She points to UW environmental studies professor Adrian Treves’ comments that farmers can best deter wolves by using more guard dogs and electric fences.
“People are successfully coexisting with wolves,” she adds. “I think that we’re showing that we can have high wolf numbers and we can have farmers and that these situations can coexist.”
Smith says the greatest threat of wolves attacking livestock occurs in about 7 percent of the state, all of it in Northern Wisconsin.
Late last week the Endangered Species Coalition and hundreds of other conservation groups sent a letter to House and Senate leadership demonstrating overwhelming support for the Endangered Species Act, saying efforts to rewrite the law would be disastrous.
Smith says the suggestions she’s seen for changing the Act regarding wolves just don’t make sense.
“It’s a horse-trading of species, and they’re doing it essentially claiming that there’s no deer left, and they’re just on the rampage attacking livestock,” she explains. “None of that is really true.”