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John Vucetich's Presentation "Hunting Wolves"

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Dr. John Vucetich on Hunting Wolves

John Vucetich, Michigan Tech associate professor of wildlife ecology and co-director of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study, conducted two rather compelling presentations at this year’s 2013 Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference held this year in Silver City, Michigan. Dr. Vucetich has authored more than 75 scholarly publications on a range of topics — including wolf-prey ecology, extinction risk, and the human dimensions of natural resource management.

Dr. Vucetich’s presentation can be seen in its entirety at – 

Some of his major points:

  1. The best-available scholarship provides a clear explanation that good wildlife management is a judicious balance between best-available science and democratic principles. State level legislation about wolves is written by politicians or politically appointed Commission members who are not especially well-versed in the science of wildlife management; thus, the resulting decisions are considerably more insulated from the will of citizens as well as from the tenets of good scientific principles.
  2. Wildlife and other natural resources are a public trust, which means that every citizen has an interest and voice in the management of natural resources. By contrast, state level wildlife agencies have a strong tendency to represent hunters’ interests at the expense of representing the interests of the majority of citizens, who are not hunters at the present time.a. Hunting is an honorable tradition, and the voice of hunters is valuable. However, expanding the authority of state level agencies with the ability to (1) name which species of animals can be hunted and (2) regulate the numbers of these animals in the wilderness is a betrayal of the public trust doctrine.
  3. The North American Model of Wildlife Management is essentially a set of seven principles held in high esteem by many hunting organizations as well as wildlife professionals including many members of state wildlife agencies and Commissions.
    1. North American Model of Wildlife management
      1. Wildlife is held in the public trust
      2. Elimination of markets for game
      3. Principles of democracy
      4. Hunting opportunity for all
      5. Non frivolous use
      6. International resources
      7. Best available science
    2. Many wolf management proposals work against three of seven principles: Principle 1, whereby wildlife is to be held in the public trust; Principle 3, whereby management is to be determined through basic democratic principles; and Principle 7, whereby management is to be faithful to the best-available science.
  4. Many advocates for wolf hunting believe that opposition is just one element of a much larger social force to abolish all forms of hunting. On the other side of the issue, some opponents of wolf hunting believe that wolf hunting represents a path to allowing many cruel and thoughtless forms of hunting that violate the intent of the North American Model.

5. As a society, we have lost the ability to understand the true value of hunting. Principle #5 of the North American Model states that wildlife should not be killed for “frivolous use.” Stated more straightforwardly, we should not kill a living creature without an adequate reason.

a. Judging what does and does not count as an adequate reason is a responsibility that ethical hunters take quite seriously. There is legitimate concern that advocates of wolf hunting have failed to offer adequate reasons for hunting wolves. Sociological research indicates that non-hunting citizens tend to support hunting when the purpose of a hunt is adequately justified, i.e. consumptive use.

1. Good wildlife management demands good answers to these three questions: What is the goal of any proposed wildlife management action? How will that goal be accomplished? Why is the goal appropriate? There is valid concern that advocates for wolf hunting have not provided adequate answers to those questions.

2. One reason given for the proposed wolf harvest is to protect human and/or livestock safety. These threats, when they occur, must be dealt with swiftly, precisely, thoroughly and immediately. Protecting human and/or livestock cannot wait until the upcoming hunting season, with a hope that some hunter has the good fortune to kill the offending wolf. If genuine concerns are dealt with appropriately then offending and potentially offending wolves would either be dead or living with plenty of fear of humans by the time the next hunting season rolls around. Thus, a wolf hunt is not an appropriate way to promote human and/or livestock safety in any appreciable manner.

3. What counts as a good reason?

  •   Wildlife management should be based on best available science and principles ofdemocracy – a judicious balance between science and people.
  •   Does science give us a reason to kill wolves? Science says we can hunt wolveswithout compromising population viability or ecosystem health? But, it is right?That is left up to the democratic principles.
  •   Wildlife is held in public trust – all citizens have a stake; democracy is aboutproviding reasons
  •   The burden to provide valid reasons for a wolf hunt rests with hunters becausethey have set the standard for hunting themselves via the North American Modelfor Wildlife Conservation
  •   Trapping for pelts? Not a good reason and violates Standard 5 of NAM; typicalhunting seasons are not good for wolf pelts and constitute a frivolous use. One of the basic principles of NAM is “prohibition on commerce of dead wildlife;” commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife is prohibited to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations.
  •   Behavior of elk, deer and other prey has been changed by the presence of wolves; however, the wolf’s effects on hunting opportunities are not yet known scientifically.
  •   Ethical hunters do not hunt for hatred; honorable hunters support wolves for the role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
  •   Argument – Non-hunting citizens respect ethical hunting; non-hunting citizens also acknowledge that the overall decline in hunting activity nationwide may be attributed to the fact that hunters dishonor and disrespect their own model (NAM) by advocating for hunting without a valid reason; they discredit their own ethical standards; hate is not a valid reason for hunting.
  •   Does science give us a reason to kill wolves? Science says we can hunt wolves without compromising population viability or ecosystem health. But, it is right? That is left up to the democratic principles. If we do not address these issues, democracy, hunting and humanity is at stake.




As early settlers made their way West, North America’s wildlife populations diminished due to market-hunting and habitat loss. Many species were on the brink of extinction. Elk, bison, bighorn sheep, black bears—even whitetail deer—had all but disappeared across the country. Hunters and anglers realized they needed to set limits in order to protect what they loved and assume responsibility for the stewardship of our natural resources.

Hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell rallied fellow sportsmen. They pushed for hunting regulations and established conservation groups to protect habitat.


Basic Principles

Their efforts are the backbone of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. The model has two basic principles – that our fish and wildlife belong to all Americans, and that they need to be managed in a way that their populations will be sustained forever.

The principles of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model are explained more fully through a set of guidelines known as the Seven Sisters for Conservation.

Sister #1 – Wildlife is Held in the Public Trust

In North American, natural resources and wildlife on public lands are managed by government agencies to ensure that current and future generations always have wildlife and wild places to enjoy.

Sister #2 – Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife

Commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife is prohibited to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations.

Sister #3 – Democratic Rule of Law

Hunting and fishing laws are created through the public process where everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to develop systems of wildlife conservation and use.

Sister #4 – Hunting Opportunity for All

Every citizen has an opportunity, under the law, to hunt and fish in the United States and Canada.

Sister #5 – Non-Frivolous Use

In North America, individuals may legally kill certain wild animals under strict guidelines for food and fur, self-defense and property protection. Laws restrict against the casual killing of wildlife


merely for antlers, horns or feathers.

Sister #6 – International Resources

Wildlife and fish migrate freely across boundaries between states, provinces and countries. Working together, the United States and Canada jointly coordinate wildlife and habitat management strategies. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 demonstrates this cooperation between countries to protect wildlife. The Act made it illegal to capture or kill migratory birds, except as allowed by specific hunting regulations.

Sister #7 – Scientific Management

Sound science is essential to managing and sustaining North America’s wildlife and habitats. For example, researchers put radio collars on elk to track the animals’ movements to determine where elk give birth and how they react to motor vehicles on forest roads.

Wildlife Funding

Hunters also recognized the need for a significant and sustainable source of funding for wildlife stewardship. In 1937, sportsmen successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, which put an excise tax on the sale of all sporting arms and ammunition. This was followed in 1950 by the Dingell-Johnson Act, which placed a similar tax on fishing equipment. Today, every time you buy hunting and fishing gear, you contribute to this fund. It generates upwards of 700 million dollars every year. This money has been used far and wide to conserve America’s key wildlife habitat. When you combine funding from the excise tax with the state license and tag sales sportsmen pay each year, it constitutes the majority of funding for wildlife in North America. It’s not just funding for huntable wildlife, but for ALL wildlife. And it’s paid for by sportsmen.

Conservation Groups

Hunters and anglers also launched nonprofit groups that have played a vital role in wildlife conservation. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was founded in 1984, and has protected or enhanced more than six million acres of vital habitat for elk and other wildlife, and opened more than 635,000 acres of land to the public to hunt, fish or otherwise enjoy.

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation was founded so that each generation has the opportunity to experience wildlife in wild country. The Model is second to none and is the most democratic and sustainable system the world has ever seen.



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