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Wolves in Wisconsin: a Blessing or Curse?

Written By: Jennifer Buhler  |  Posted: Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Looking at the media and government research, they all claim that wolves are not a threat to humans and are greatly misunderstood. But for hunters and farmers of northern Wisconsin, the ones who actually live with wolves, there is another story. One farmer put it this way "It took us a hundred years to get rid of them, now you want to know how I feel about bringing them back?" From livestock losses to game depopulation, northerners are not too pleased with these pesky new intruders.

My, What Big Teeth You Have!
Wolves have been hated and feared throughout history. Even the Bible compares false teachers to "grievous wolves" that will "not spare the flock". Yet, researchers tell us that this is all folklore and myth based on superstition and fear. How safe are wolves really? Doctor Robert Schmidt, professor at Utah State University, studies animal attacks on humans and says "wild animal attacks on humans are rare but as our residential and commercial developments merge with wildlife habitat, more incidents are likely to occur." The DNR assures us that wolves are afraid of people and do all they can to avoid humans, but the problem is that wolves are getting used to being around people. "As wild animals become increasingly acclimated to human environments they discover that cities and suburban neighborhoods have an abundance of food and shelter, " affirms Schmidt. As the wolves are more exposed to humans, they gradually lose that natural fear. Commenting on the coyote problem in Utah, Dr. Schmidt states "coyote activity during the day and increased boldness on the part of the animals in approaching humans and attacking pets is a conflict waiting to happen. From this point the animals are more likely to attack children."
But has a wolf ever attacked a human? In November, 2005 Kenton Caranagie, a 22-year old college student was working in Saskatchewan surveying minerals when he was killed and partially eaten by a pack of wolves. The incident shocked the conservation community, which asserts that wolves don't and won't attack people. What was the explanation for this? Wildlife biologist Tim Trotier claims that the wolves' unnatural behavior is due to the their familiarity with the local dump. Trotter says he is surprised that the wolves would stalk and kill a person but realizes that they had become accustomed to living around humans and feeding on their refuse. "These wolves lived in a very unnatural state, so it's not that surprising that they might behave unnaturally."
A hundred miles from the dumpsite, a lone wolf attacked a jogger. The jogger was rescued by a group of coworkers and the wolf was later shot. The wolf did not have rabies. Even as recently as March 18, 2010, elementary teacher Candice Berner was killed by wolves in Anchorage Alaska while out jogging.
So how do we keep wolves from being acclimated to people? The Montana USFWS grey wolf recovery coordinator says "hunting [wolves] is the perfect way to keep the wolf from becoming a domestic dog. The Service strongly supports the hunting of wolves as a management tool."

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