Note publication date;so called hunter advocacy
organizations had ample warning of wolf
decimation of wildlife.
WOLVES AND HUNTING
By T. R. Mader, Research Director
Abundant Wildlife Society of North America
I'm convinced, based on several years of wolf
research, hunters will bear the brunt of wolf
recovery/protection regardless of location.
There is no language written in any wolf recovery
plan to protect the hunter's privilege to hunt.
Wolves are well known to cause wild game population
declines which are so drastic hunting is either
eliminated or severely curtailed. And there is no
provision for recovery of wild game populations for
the purposes of hunting. It simply will not be
Example: A few years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
(USFWS) and the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources (DNR) agreed the state should take over
the responsibility of wolf management. The DNR felt
wolves were impacting their deer populations and
wanted to open a short trapping season on the wolf.
The environmentalists sued and won. The USFWS could
not give wolf management back to Minnesota in spite
of a desire to do so.
The problem with wolf recovery is that most people,
especially hunters, have not looked "beyond press
releases and into the heart of the wolf issue."
It must be stated clearly that the wolf is the best
tool for shutting down hunting. The anti-hunters
know this. Most hunters don't. Thus, wolf recovery
is not opposed by the people who will be impacted
In order to understand the impacts wolves have on
hunting, let's look at some biological factors of
the wolf and compare some hunting facts.
The wolf is an efficient predator of wild game and
domestic livestock. Due to its ability as a
predator, the wolf was removed from areas of the
U.S. where man settled. There is no such thing as
peaceful coexistence between man and wolf - one has
to give to the other since both prey/hunt the same
Did the removal of the wolf cause it to become
endangered? No, there are 40,000 to 60,000 wolves on
the North American continent. The animal is doing
quite well. During the years of wolf control, the
wolf's territory was eliminated throughout most of
the lower 48 states. That factor is the reason the
wolf is on the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
A wolf requires five to ten pounds of meat per day
for survival, thus the wolf requires a considerable
amount of meat in one year - nearly a ton of meat
per year per wolf. A wolf is capable of consuming
great quantities of meat, up to one fifth of its
body weight, at one time. Thus, a wolf does not have
to kill each day to survive.
Wolves hunt year around - 365 days a year. Wolf
predation is not limited to two weeks, one month or
whatever a hunting season length may be, it is year
Wolves are opportunistic hunters, meaning they kill
what is available and convenient. For years, hunters
have been fed the line, "Wolves kill only the weak,
sick and old." Worse yet, hunters have believed it.
It is true, wolves do kill old animals, but so do
hunters. Those are the big bulls or bucks prized by
many who hunt. In fact, biological studies have
shown wolves kill older male animals more than any
other adult member of a wild game population.
Regarding sick animals, there are not many sick wild
animals today. Hunters and trappers are directly
responsible for healthy wild game herds today.
In the cyclic "balance of nature" of years past (no
hunting by man), ungulate populations would thrive
until they overgrazed their habitat and starved.
This malnutrition made ungulate populations
susceptible to disease. Consequently, disease was
more common. Lewis and Clark wrote of such herds.
(The other major factor contributing to the decline
in wildlife populations was predation.)
Hunting controls this cycle so that herds are kept
at proper levels for habitat, preventing
malnutrition and susceptibility to disease. Hunting
dollars went to habitat improvement and biological
studies which, in turn, help maintain healthier
herds of ungulates.
Even agriculture plays a part in the dispersal of
salt and other minerals to domestic livestock. Wild
animals access these nutrients as well. Thus,
disease is not as rampant as when nature regulates
it naturally. It is also interesting to note that
where disease is a problem today, such as
Yellowstone National Park, hunting is not allowed.
Trapping completes the cycle of game management by
controlling the predator. The predator is to
wildlife what weeds are to a garden. They must be
controlled or they will take over. Additionally,
predators are disease carriers. Some people are
aware predators carry rabies since reports of rabid
animals or some person being bitten by a rabid
animal are often in the news, but few realize
predators also carry other deadly diseases, i.e.
raccoons carry a deadly fowl cholera. And finally,
trapping benefits the predator by keeping their
numbers in check. This keeps the population healthy.
If predators do overpopulate, they become more
susceptible to rabies, mange and other diseases.
Wolves do not eat sick animals unless forced to do
so. We have found this true in many cases.
Example: A Conservation Officer for the Minnesota
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) found a moose
with brain worm. Brain worm completely destroys an
animal's instinctive and natural behavior. This
moose had wandered out on a frozen lake in winter
and was slowly starving to death. Wolves came by,
checked the moose out and went their way. Tracks in
the snow verified it. They did not kill it even
though it would have been extremely easy to do so.
Wolves do kill the weak. Weak animals are not sick
animals, they are simply the "less strong" of the
herd. Wolves target these animals - the young and
pregnant - due to their inability to escape. This is
an important factor in limiting wildlife population
numbers. Wolves prey directly on the recruitment and
reproductive segments of ungulate populations.
While doing research in British Colombia, a wolf
biologist from the British Colombia Ministry of
Environment took the time to show me how wolves
could impact hunting so severely. Here's his
In this particular example he used a number of 300
females in a herd of elk. In his region, wolf
predation is often 90% on the young (100% mortality
rates due to predation are common in the north). If
300 females gave birth in an area of wolves, the
approximate loss would be about 270 young calves
killed during the summer months, leaving 30
yearlings to serve as replacements. A regular
die-off rate on such a herd is about 10%. So the 30
yearlings would balance out the regular mortality
rate of the female segment of the herd.
But overall there is a decline in the elk herd due
to the fact that the 30 yearlings are usually
sexually split in half (15 females and 15 males),
thus the reproductive segment of the herd declines
although the numbers appear to balance out. Without
some form of wolf control, the rate of decline will
increase within a few years.
There were approximately 100 males in this herd of
elk. Figuring the regular mortality rate and
compensating with the surviving young leaves 5
animals (males only) that could be harvested by man.
Now if this herd of elk were in an area of no
wolves, there would be approximately 60 - 70%
successful reproduction (calves making it to
yearlings) or 200 young. Half of those surviving
young would be male (100 animals). After figuring a
10% mortality rate, 90 older animals could be
harvested without impact to the overall herd
numbers. In fact, the herd would increase due to
additional numbers of the reproductive segment
(females) of the herd.
Now you have some insight of the impacts wolves can
have on hunting.
In spite of the negative publicity generated by the
anti-hunting, anti-trapping movements, hunting and
trapping are some of the best wildlife management
Hunters' harvest can be limited through numbers of
licenses issued, bag limits, length of seasons, and
specification of sex of the animal harvested. Thus,
only the surplus of an ungulate population is
generally hunted. If the need arises that an
ungulate population needs reduction, it is easily
accomplished by allowing an "any sex" hunt and
increasing license numbers. Additionally, hunters
will pay for the opportunity to hunt which in turn
pays for wildlife management.
Wolves do none of the above. They simply kill to
survive and for the sake of killing. Studies have
shown that ungulate populations cannot withstand
hunting by man and uncontrolled predation by wolves
for any length of time. One has to give to the
other. In this day and age, the wolf will be the
winner, the hunter the loser.
A point which should be stressed is "wolves kill for
the sake of killing," not just to survive. Many are
convinced wolves kill only what they need to eat.
That simply isn't true.
Remember the moose with brain worm the wolves didn't
eat? In the same area, the same winter and only a
couple of months later, the same Conservation
Officer followed two wolves after a spring snow
storm and found the wolves had killed 21 deer. Only
two were partially eaten.
The snow gave the wolves the advantage. These deer
were autopsied and many were found to be pregnant.
The total number of deer killed in 2 days by these 2
wolves was 36.
Such incidents of surplus killing are common. For
example, Canadian biologists came upon an area where
a pack of wolves have killed 34 caribou calves in
one area. Another example came from Alaska. In the
Wrangell Mountains, a pack of five wolves came upon
20 Dall rams crossing a snow-covered plateau. All 20
rams were killed by the wolves. Only six were
partially eaten by the wolves.
Dr. Charles E. Kay, PH.D. has lectured on the
impacts of wolf recovery. To illustrate the impacts
of wolves on hunting, he did a comparison of moose
populations in British Colombia versus Sweden and
Finland. Both areas have a comparable amount of
Dr. Kay stated, "During the 1980s in Sweden and
Finland, the pre-calf or the wintering population of
moose was approximately 400,000 animals and was
increasing. While in British Colombia, it was
240,000 animals and decreasing.
"In British Colombia where they have a population of
240,000 animals and after a calving season they
killed only 12,000 animals which is a 5% off take.
In Sweden and Finland, on the other hand, they have
400,000 moose and guess how many they killed in the
fall? They killed 240,000 moose in the fall which is
a 57% off take rate.
"Now the two main differences, I don't want to imply
that there's not vegetation difference and other
things, but the two main differences is that British
Colombia has somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000
wolves, all sorts of bears, grizzly bears and black
bears which are also important predators, and
mountain lions. Sweden and Finland have none of the
Veteran wolf biologist, John Gunson, Alberta
Ministry of Environment, summed it up when he said,
"Really, there isn't any room for harvest by man if
you have a healthy wolf population."
Hunters, please understand the impacts of wolf
recovery on hunting and the role wolf recovery plays
in the anti-hunters' agenda. Natural predation,
especially wolf predation, can replace your
privilege to hunt.
Copyright 1991 - Permission granted copy this
article in its entirety with proper credit given to
T. R. Mader is Research Director for Abundant
Wildlife Society of North America (AWS), a private
wildlife research organization dedicated to the
preservation of the Great North American Traditions
of Hunting, Fishing and Trapping.