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Does Hunting Wolves Increase Tolerance or Reduce Poaching?

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Dr. Adrian Treves is an associate professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He founded the Carnivore Coexistence Lab to understand and manage the balance between carnivore conservation and human needs.  He has published over 90 scientific articles about animal behavior and ecology, carnivores in human-dominated ecosystems, and the perceptions and behaviors of the people who live alongside wildlife. Dr. Treves presented his data at the recent International Wolf Symposium held in Duluth, MN. Please see his three studies concerning wolves and humans below.

Information  excerpted from:


Human Dimensions


2013 Wolf Policy Survey

Jamie Hogberg, Adrian Treves, Bret Shaw, Lisa Naughton-Treves

(Data available here.)

Here we report on a 2013 survey of 773 residents of Wisconsin who previously participated in three studies from 2001–2009 (see below)including those living inside and outside of wolf range in Wisconsin. We aimed to understand change in attitudes towards wolves, since 2009, a period which included the historic legislation to designate wolves as game and implement a public, regulated hunting and trapping season from 15 October to 22 December 2012. Although the goals of the wolf-hunt included population reduction and conflict reduction, policy-makers and managers also assumed it would improve public acceptance of wolves. We took a closer look at this assumption and the proposed goal of increasing tolerance for wolves. Our 2013 survey started in late April and ended in July.


The influence of official lethal control on illegal take, social tolerance, and subsequent depredations? The case of Wisconsin gray wolves (Canis lupus).

A report of findings from stakeholder focus groups by:

Christine Browne-Nuñez, Adrian Treves, David MacFarland, Zachary Voyles

This research resulted from a partnership between the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Click on the link for a full 7-page executive summary (58 kb)

The general purpose of this study was to provide insight into the beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral inclinations of members of three wolf-policy stakeholder groups: livestock producers, deer hunters, and bear hunters who use hounds. Our two primary objectives were to (1) assess participants’ beliefs, attitudes, and norms regarding the illegal killing of wolves and (2) determine the range of support for lethal control of problem wolves. Bearing in mind two of our three groups are known to be the least tolerant of wolves in the state and all respondents are drawn from wolf range, tolerance for wolves in this area is not representative of all of wolf range let alone the whole state. We selected three geographically distinct sites in Wisconsin’s wolf range: Central Forest (Black River Falls), Northeast (Rhinelander), and Northwest (Hayward). Focus groups were the primary method of inquiry but an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire administered prior to the focus group complemented them. In total, 66 invitees participated in the focus group discussions (26 farmers, 21 deer hunters, and 19 bear hunters).

Our first manuscript for this project has been submitted for peer-reviewed publication. Please check back soon.


Numerous surveys of the general public report a majority hold positive attitudes toward wolves, but in Wisconsin a panel study conducted in 2001-2009 found declining support for wolves among residents within the state’s wolf range. To gain a deeper understanding of beliefs and attitudes toward wolves and wolf management, we conducted nine focus groups and a self-administered, anonymous questionnaire survey of focus group participants to obtain both qualitative and quantitative information from farmers, deer hunters, and bear hunters in Wisconsin’s wolf range. We found important differences between groups and the results yielded by each research method. Whereas our two measures of attitude on the questionnaire showed a majority of respondents held negative attitudes toward wolves, the focus group discussions revealed more neutrality and even positivity toward wolves. We identified several themes, including fear, powerlessness, and wolf population size, in focus group discussions that provide a more nuanced understanding of attitudes toward wolves and support for various management actions. Our study underscores the strengths and limitations of two research methods and supports the proposal that combining qualitative and quantitative methods can provide a more comprehensive understanding of research problems than a single approach.


2009 Wolf Policy Survey

Longitudinal Analysis of Attitudes Toward Wolves

FULL PDF (237 kb) Click on the link for the peer-reviewed paper in the journal Conservation Biology. Supporting Information (93 kb) Click on the link for the Supporting Information also

Adrian Treves, Lisa Naughton-Treves, Victoria Shelley

  • Abstract: Understanding individual attitudes and how these predict overt opposition to predator conservation or direct, covert action against predators will help to recover and maintain them. Studies of attitudes toward wild animals rely primarily on samples of individuals at a single time point. We examined longitudinal change in individuals’ attitudes toward gray wolves (Canis lupus). In the contiguous United States, amidst persistent controversy and opposition, abundances of gray wolves are at their highest in 60 years. We used mailed surveys to sample 1892 residents of Wisconsin in 2001 or 2004 and then resampled 656 of these individuals who resided in wolf range in 2009. Our study spanned a period of policy shifts and increasing wolf abundance. Over time, the 656 respondents increased agreement with statements reflecting fear of wolves, the belief that wolves compete with hunters for deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and inclination to poach a wolf. Endorsement of lethal control of wolves by the state and public hunting of wolves also increased. Neither the time span over which respondents reported exposure to wolves locally nor self-reported losses of domestic animals to wolves correlated with changes in attitude. We predict future increases in legal and illegal killing of wolves that may reduce their abundance in Wisconsin unless interventions are implemented to improve attitudes and behavior toward wolves. To assess whether interventions change attitudes, longitudinal studies like ours are needed.

Attitudes to Wolves and Wolf Policy Among Ojibwe Tribal Members and Non-tribal Residents of Wisconsin’s Wolf Range

Victoria Shelley, Adrian Treves, Lisa Naughton-Treves

FULL PDF (152 kb) Click on the link for the peer-reviewed paper in the journal Human Dimensions of Wildlife

  • Abstract: Gray wolf (Canis lupus) policy is dynamic and involves multiple stakeholders. Attitudinal surveys have historically measured stakeholder attitudes, although Native American views have rarely been studied systematically. We sent a mail-back questionnaire to members of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians (Ojibwe) to assess attitudes toward wolves and Wisconsin wolf policy. We com- pared their responses to a sample of non-tribal residents of Wisconsin’s wolf range. Tribal respondents held significantly more positive attitudes toward wolves, were more supportive of protective policy, and were less supportive of a public wolf harvest than non-tribal respondents. Multivariate analyses revealed several demographic factors associated with observed differences in attitudes; the most frequent and strongest predictor was whether or not a respondent was a tribal member. Ojibwe perspectives deserve attention in future wolf policy and may influence a possible wolf harvest, especially given Ojibwe treaty rights in the Great Lakes region.

We sent our questionnaires to two populations:

  1. Residents of Wisconsin’s gray wolf population range. (Data available here)
  2. Members of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians. (Data available here.)

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