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By Patricia Randolph | state columnist
“Many consider CWD the biggest single threat to wildlife in North America.” ~“Officials Fighting CWD Ponder a Natural Partner: Wolves”
Wisconsin legislators Sen. Tom Tiffany and Reps. Adam Jarchow, Mary Felzkowski and Romaine Quinn, all Republicans, have proposed legislation (LRB 3737/1) to end the state’s protection of wolves and force police to ignore the killing of wolves — an attempt to force the federal government to remove Great Lakes and Wyoming wolves from Endangered Species Act protection.
This action, whether passed or not, signals to wolf haters across Wisconsin that they can poach wolves without penalty.
These legislators are abdicating their responsibility to enforce federal law and keep wildlife and us healthy.
Jarchow’s recent interview on Wisconsin Public Radio is full of distortions and exaggerations, if not outright lies.
“They are depredating our deer population, killing livestock and attacking family pets,” the bill’s authors said in a memo to their colleagues seeking co-sponsors for the bill.
This deliberate ignorance can be countered with facts.
Start with this fact: It took 38 years and protection of the state to reach 850 wolves in Wisconsin prior to allowing hunting to start in 2012. Madravenspeak documented in January 2015 that over 1,000 wolves were killed in 2012 to 2014 in the three years when hunting was allowed, when illegal kill, road kill and other causes are included. With mortality of wolf pups being 75 percent their first year of life, and studies showing that illegal kills escalated after the hunts were shut down in December 2014, it is absurd to believe that wolves recovered from almost nothing in three years to what it had taken 38 years to restore.
Claim: On Wisconsin Public Radio, Jarchow claimed that “only the extreme fringe” thinks 950 wolves (a bogus figure) are not enough.
Fact: A 2013 Wisconsin statewide Mason-Dixon poll showed eight out of nine Wisconsin citizens from every demographic and political affiliation support protection, opposing trapping and trophy hunting wolves.
Claim: “Wolves are killing our pets.”
Fact: One pet was killed this year. Seventeen hounding dogs were killed by wolves protecting themselves during the bear hunt, in which hunting with dogs is allowed.
Claim: Tiffany claims wolves are “depredating our deer population.”
Fact: According to the DNR website, “CWD is fast spreading in the deer herd in Wisconsin: During the past 15 years, the trend in prevalence in adult males has risen from 8-10 percent to over 30 percent and in adult females from about 3-4 percent to nearly 15 percent.”
Even back in 2003, the CWD Alliance considered wolves a partner in fighting the disease.
National parks biologist Douglas Smith helped lead the program returning wolves to Yellowstone in 1995. He said, “Wolves are probably the single best way to stop the spread of CWD…. Chronic wasting disease causes animals to act weird. Wolves kill animals like that.”
University of Calgary professor Valerius Geist, an expert on deer and elk, is also convinced. “Wolves will certainly bring the disease to a halt,” he said. “They will remove infected individuals and clean up carcasses that could transmit the disease.”
Norman Bishop, a retired naturalist from Yellowstone, gave a talk in 2013 in which he said: “We risk losing wolves’ essential ecosystem services by continually inventing new ways to reduce their numbers to a socially-acceptable minimum. The goal of wolf management might better be to establish ecologically effective populations of wolves (Lee et al. 2012) wherever the absence of conflicts with livestock make that feasible.”
“The Role of Predation and Disease Control” study agrees: “Wolves and other large carnivores are essential to the health of the ecosystems on which our game animals and we depend…. ‘We suggest that as CWD distribution and wolf range overlap in the future, wolf predation may suppress disease emergence or limit prevalence’.”
“Chronic wasting disease could wipe out our elk and deer.”
The paper references Wisconsin spending $27 million to eradicate deer with CWD and notes: “No CWD has been detected where wolves live.”
Claim: Tiffany and Jarchow claim that “wolves are killing livestock.”
• According to the Department of Agriculture, wolves “may” be responsible for 0.002 percent of livestock deaths pre-slaughterhouse for human consumption. Ninety percent die due to health issues and poor husbandry.
• In Wisconsin in 2017, the 26 confirmed wolf/livestock depredations were 0.000015 percent of the 1,549,000 beef and dairy cattle in the state.
• The Dec. 18, 2016 Madravenspeak column “Leaked emails show hunters want to wipe out Wisconsin wolves” covered studies by biologist Adrian Treves of UW-Madison, and his video “Predator Control Should Not Be a Shot in the Dark.”
In the video, Treves states: “Nonlethal methods were more effective than lethal methods in preventing carnivore predation on livestock generally” and that “at least two lethal methods (government culling or regulated public hunting) were followed by increases in predation on livestock,” while no studies showed that nonlethal methods increased wolf predation.
He concludes: “We recommend suspending lethal predator control methods that do not currently have rigorous evidence for functional effectiveness in preventing livestock loss until gold-standard tests are completed,”
Citizens of Wisconsin must act now if they do not want CWD in free fall, suffering deer, dead wolves and more loss in a mass extinction. Vote out the ignorant and cruel legislators so obsessed with killing wolves that they ignore the health of our state.