Gray wolves are killing cattle and family pets in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, and all residents can do is stand by and watch thanks to a federal judge’s ruling.
In December, US District Judge Beryl Howell overturned the Obama administration’s decision to take the gray wolf in the Great Lakes states off the endangered species list, The Detroit Free Press reported. Howell’s action effectively banned hunting and trapping of wolves in those states.
Farmer Miles Kuschel watched a pack of six wolves surround his cattle on Easter, but decided not to shoot because of the ruling. When he came back, a calf was dead.
“They came, they killed and they left, but they’re still around. They just move on to the neighbor’s place,” Kuschel told Watchdog.org.
Others have had similar experiences.
“There was a big gray timber wolf,” Laurie Anderson told Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). “The wolf grabbed Curly by the neck, and headed down toward what we call the West Branch of the Knife River. And I’ve never seen my little dog again.”
Anderson’s poodle, Curly Moe, was one of several dogs carried away by wolves in the region around Duluth in April, MPR reported. The wolf attacked when Anderson and Curly went outside to get the mail.
Howell’s ruling keeps wolves on the endangered species list, which means they only can be killed in defense of human life. That means Anderson and Kuschel could have been prosecuted for a federal crime if they shot the wolves to defend their animals.
Farmers Are Helpless
“You could be watching your pasture and you could see a wolf killing your cattle, which is like watching someone at the ATM taking money out of your bank account, and you can do nothing to stop it,” Charlie Poster, the assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, told Watchdog.org.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service took the gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan) off the Endangered Species List three years ago. Animal rights groups and environmentalists appealed, and Howell reversed that decision.
That means farmers and ranchers need to get federal permission to shoot wolves they see killing their cattle. It also effectively ended wolf hunting seasons in the three states and wolf trapping in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It also means that property owners have no way to protect their pets from wolves.
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Farmers can get compensation for livestock killed if they take pictures of slaughtered animals and send them to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Unfortunately, that process can take months — and it is getting longer. Poster said his agency is dealing with a back log of claims for compensation for wolf attacks.
Supporters of the judge’s ruling defended the decision.
“The wolves needed to go back under federal protection,” Jill Fitz, the director of the Michigan Humane Society, told The Free Press. “The courts recognized the basis of the delisting was flawed.”
Wildlife officials estimate that there are currently around 2,400 wolves living in 470 packs in Minnesota, and 636 wolves on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. More could be crossing the border from neighboring Ontario. The wolves are getting more aggressive, according to wildlife officials.
“Within the last half a year, we’ve had I would say probably a spike of wolves that are coming in and going after some domestic animals,” Kipp Duncan, a Minnesota conservation officer, told MPR. Duncan knows of at least five dogs that were attacked and eaten by wolves. He knows of at least one case in which a wolf killed a dog chained to a house.
On average, around 100 farm animals and five dogs a year are killed by wolves in Minnesota. Duncan thinks the wolves are getting more aggressive because the population of their favorite food – deer – has decreased.
“I think it’s a function of wolves being hungry and not finding as much food as they normally do in the areas they normally forage in,” John Hart of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service Program told MPR. “So they’re moving to where the deer are, which happens to be where the people are.”
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