The question “How many wolves is enough for Minnesota” (Scott Rall column, July 20) is misleading, as it falsely suggests that killing wolves is necessary to keep their populations in check. In reality, the best available science demonstrates that populations of large carnivores (like wolves) are self-regulating and limited by the numbers of their prey, as well as by their social communities and territory sizes.
If federal protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are removed, Minnesota will open up trophy hunting and trapping seasons, despite a 2012 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources survey that found that 79 percent of the 7,351 state respondents answered “no” to the question, “Do you support hunting and trapping for wolves in Minnesota.”
In Minnesota’s first wolf hunting season in 2012, 75% of the more than 400 wolves that were killed died in cruel and indiscriminate steel-jaw leghold traps or strangling neck snares; the rest were killed by arrows and rifles. Combined with other mortalities such as poaching, livestock conflicts, and vehicle collisions, nearly a quarter of the state’s entire wolf population was wiped out in just one year.
Finally, conflicts between wolves and livestock in Minnesota are rare. In 2017, USDA-Wildlife Services agents confirmed just 89 of the 152 complaints they received from livestock operators. Despite such a low number of verified complaints, USDA-Wildlife Services agents killed 190 wolves in Minnesota that same year.
Numerous scientific studies show that indiscriminately killing wolves leads to greater livestock losses by disrupting stable family structures. If we leave the wolf packs intact, wolves will hunt more wild animals and less livestock. The most effective remedies for protecting livestock are non-lethal methods.
Minnesota is home to the only native gray wolf population in the continental U.S. They are a treasure, as well as a keystone species that has a huge positive impact in creating and maintaining healthy wild ecosystems.
Our wolves need and deserve our protection. Most critically, they need to remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.