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Q&A with Howling for Wolves Founder Dr. Maureen Hackett

Dr. Maureen Hackett

A Twin Cities wolf advocacy group said there are other ways to co-exist with wolves without using lethal methods to control populations, and wants to end the practice of snaring in Minnesota.

"Most people don't know that hidden all over our woods are snares that trap dogs and wild animals alike, holding them in misery until their death," Howling for Wolves said in a statement earlier this year. "Our woods are just not safe. These barbaric and unselective wire nooses catch and maim whoever walks by. Banning snaring would be a step to reduce assaults on wildlife and pets."

The group, formed in 2012 by Dr. Maureen Hackett, aims to educate the public about wolves and "ensure the wolf's long-term survival." Howling for Wolves has since advocated for federal protections for gray wolves and has opposed wolf trapping and hunting.

This month, Hackett answered several questions about the group, why it feels so strongly about protecting wolves, what non-lethal methods work in setting up boundaries and what it hopes readers will understand about the animal.

Question: Why was Howling for Wolves started?

Hackett: Howling for Wolves was started to essentially try to stop what we consider a reckless and rushed wolf hunt as soon as they were delisted (from the Endangered Species Act).

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in bringing awareness to protecting wolves in Minnesota and the U.S.?

Hackett: We want people to understand the wolf as a species—a social, magnificent animal—and also to understand the whole reason the wolf was wiped out was very much part of our DNA as a country.

Q: What has worked and what hasn't worked for controlling wolf populations in a responsible manner in Minnesota?

Hackett: So when you say controlling wolf populations, I'm trying to figure out: Do you mean that you feel like mankind needs to decide we need a certain number of wolves and after that we have too many?

Q: Maybe the better question is, should we be controlling those populations?

Hackett: First off, mankind has never known how to manage any wild animals or plants ... with good success. If you've noticed, we have pretty much messed up almost everything. In terms of controlling, we have no idea which wolf out there ... has the genes to help the population survive from illnesses. ... What is the problem with just letting wolves live and just taking prevention methods and dealing with conflicts both by prevention and as they arise?

Q: What are some examples of prevention methods that have worked in Minnesota or elsewhere?

Hackett: There are several methods that have shown that non-lethal methods ... are cheaper in the long run and are more effective. ... What has worked is human presence, animal husbandry techniques—such as bunching the animals at night or for feeding or especially when they are giving birth—removing attractions such as carcasses and guard animals, such as donkeys and guard dogs.

Q: This subject elicits strong emotions on both side. Why do you think that is?

Hackett: I think the issue of wolves goes back to fairy tales. ... There are many, many forces that want to annihilate the wolf, and I think it is competition for land. There is a false understanding, thinking that somehow they are dispensable or disposable. ... I think it is not understood how important their role is. As a species, they are very successful, and I think mankind doesn't like it when there is a species that is wild and appears not to be under mankind's control.

Q: How has the culture and understanding of wolves changed over the years, and where is it heading as far as the culture of protecting wolves versus controlling wolf populations?

Hackett: Controlling populations is just another euphemism for killing. ... I think most of the public has been confused by this word "control" and thinking we have to control the population. I really think that has been an effort to get people to accept wolf killing as necessary when it has not been.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Hackett: I think what people need to understand is we owe the wolf a great debt. We tortured the wolf. We annihilated the wolf. We totally wiped out the wolf. As soon as they came back, we killed them again, instead of just understanding that we, as human species, have acquired so much from the wolf. ... We have a lot in common with the wolf.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

(701) 780-1248
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