I am a hunter. I've shot deer, I have shot at ducks. And I've sat at the edge of fields listening to turkeys in the distance well out of shouting, much less shooting, range. I would shoot one if they would ever give me the chance.
But like the vast majority of Wisconsin hunters, I don't go looking to kill something I won't eat. And, at base, that's what is ethically dicey about the new wolf hunt set to begin this month.
Nobody is going to eat a wolf. This hunt is borne out of some misplaced macho idea about protecting livestock and domestic animals. It's not so much a hunt as it is a paramilitary police action.
There are only about 850 wolves in this state and a hunt was proposed only moments after the wolf was removed from the endangered species list. By contrast, there are usually somewhere around 1.5 million white tail deer in Wisconsin just before the gun deer season in November. Those numbers are, in fact, a problem because these deer damage crops, browse regenerating forests, and tangle with cars.
How much damage can a few hundred wolves do?
As Ron Seeley reported in his excellent State Journal story on Sunday, scientists who study this stuff for a living don't believe the hunt can be justified on scientific grounds. Their research indicates that the hunt could push the numbers of wolves back to the tipping point toward relisting as an endangered species. Or it could actually result in more livestock damage, as packs struggle for survival without alphas who can lead a pack to take harder-to-find wild prey.
The wolf hunt is what happens when we allow politics to trump science in the stewardship of our state's rich natural resources. It's a mistake, it's wrong, and it shouldn't be repeated until we have the science to back it up.