Coinciding with National Wolf Awareness Week, a coalition of citizen monitors from Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and other states will be patrolling Wisconsin’s recreational wolf hunt, which begins October 15th. Great Lakes Wolf Patrol (GLWP) will be documenting the use of steel-jaw leg hold traps on public lands to capture gray wolves, and investigating claims that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is under reporting wolf mortality, and failing to ensure the long-term survival of wolves in Wisconsin.
GLWP is made up of members of the same group that led a citizen monitoring effort outside Yellowstone National Park in Montana. YELLOWSTONE WOLF PATROL members hiked into the back country, without incident, on the opening weekend of Montana’s wolf hunt in September, to document the hunt. GLWP members in Wisconsin are hoping that their monitoring efforts will help empower citizens to act in defense of wolves, and lobby their elected representatives to stop the trapping and hound hunting of wolves in Wisconsin.
GLWP believes that wolf recovery in the great lakes is still a work in progress, and that wolf populations in Wisconsin and Michigan while healthy, are still a fraction of what they once were, and what they could be again. Members of GLWP believe that the near extinction of gray wolves in Wisconsin and Michigan in the last century, was the result of our past misunderstanding and ignorance of the role apex predators such as gray wolves play in a healthy ecosystem. Yet, after only 30 years, Wisconsin’s recovering wolf population has seen a return to lethal control policies that are drastically reducing the state’s wolf population between 20-50% annually.
GLWP maintains that state and federal agencies, as well as individuals are legally allowed to kill wolves involved in the depredation of livestock, and that a recreational hunt only increases the likelihood of new predations by younger less savvy wolves. GLWP also supports the development of wolf watching tourism such as that in Yellowstone National Park which brings much needed income to economically depressed areas. “Wolves are worth more alive than dead, to smart states that have decided to bank on their return.” says Matt Almonte, a patrol member new to the campaign.
Eleven members of GLWP are currently operating out of a base camp on public lands in northern Wisconsin, patrolling federal, state and county forest lands for recreational wolf hunters and trappers. Almonte continues, “We know the law, and although we are working to end the wolf hunt, we are not trying to interfere with legal wolf hunting. We simply are monitoring WDNR-endorsed wolf control activities on public lands with the intent of sharing that information with the public.”
While supporting and advocating for more research into the ecological role wolves play in a our northern ecosystems, GREAT LAKES WOLF PATROL also supports Native American tribal governments in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan who are opposed to the trapping and hunting of wolves. Wolves and humans share a sacred relationship in the great lakes area and by allowing this hunt, the WDNR continues to disrespect and ignore the concerns of indigenous people opposed to wolf hunting. “The least the DNR could do to regain public faith is, stop dog-on-wolf hunting, stop wolf trapping on public lands, and immediately enact a 4-mile no-wolf-hunt buffer zone around all tribal lands in Wisconsin.” says Almonte.
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