Hunters as Stewards of Wolves
May 2, 2013
As you may have heard in other forums, hunters have been credited with helping to “conserve” game animals and habitat in many countries. Therefore, hunting advocates also propose regulated hunting to support the conservation of large carnivores, such as wolves. Scientific scrutiny of hunting as a conservation strategy has raised many unanswered questions about carnivore hunting, specifically. The debate is riddled with disagreements over the value of an animal’s life, the human role in nature, and the effectiveness of lethal and nonlethal management of wildlife. Hunters claim they champion carnivore conservation, provide revenue for management, control growing carnivore populations and reduce attacks on domestic animals (livestock).
“Hunters as Stewards of Wolves in Wisconsin and the Northern Rocky Mountains” a 2011 study by Adrian Treves & Kerry A. Martin, concluded that the results of their study did not support the assumption that hunters would steward wolves. Actually, they found the majority of hunters “unsupportive of wolf conservation at the time of their surveys.” Depending on which survey one considers, the hunters they sampled reported attitudes to hunting rules, wolf population levels, and sustainability inconsistent with hunter stewardship. Future wolf hunters in the study’s Wisconsin surveys also reported inclinations (wolf poaching) and past behaviors that were NOT supportive of wolf conservation.
The authors stated that Holsman’s study (2000) concluded similarly, ‘‘[U.S.] hunters often hold attitudes and engage in behaviors that are not supportive of broad-based, ecological objectives. However, hunter attitudes might change following participation in planning or pursuing a wolf hunt. Prior research suggests individual attitudes take time to change—on the order of years, if not generations—but we have no longitudinal studies of change in individual attitudes in response to wolf policy changes.”
Thus, according to Dr. Treves and other prominent scientists, governments cannot assume hunters will support the conservation of wolves simply because they did so in the past for other game species.
Back in February, Dr. Treves submitted testimony to the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment arguing that more relaxed wolf-killing laws in Wisconsin may lead to the species being relisted as endangered. He said in his testimony the bill does not ensure sustainable wolf harvests nor target wolf depredations and, if it passes, would increase the risk of relisting the wolf as an endangered species. Treves also said in his testimony the bill proposes such methods as hunting wolves with dogs at night, which he said have not been tested in Wisconsin for effectiveness or success rate.