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Wolf hunting: ‘Every day I feel this weight, this heaviness’

REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
Collette Adkins Giese: "Wolves have a special place in my heart because as a species they tell a story about how humans interact with wildlife."

Part 6 of a series

Collette Adkins Giese, of Blaine, prepared the lawsuit that the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves brought to stop Minnesota’s new trapping and hunting seasons on wolves. Their request for an injunction was turned down by the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Oct. 10, and by the Minnesota Supreme Court on Oct. 26. Wolf hunting began Nov. 3. She describes how she got into her work and her reaction to this year’s defeats:

All my life I’ve known I wanted wildlife protection to be part of my work. I just wasn’t sure how.

Before I went to law school I got a master’s in wildlife conservation. My undergraduate was biology and environmental studies, and while I was going to law school I was also working on a PhD in conservation biology – I’m all-but-dissertation on that.

Most of my career focus has been on reptiles and amphibians. I’m sort of grandfathered in on wolves because of my long experience, but my actual job title at CBD is “herpetofauna staff attorney” and I spend most of my time working on habitat protection and recovery plans for amphibians and reptiles.

Nearly one in three of these species is threatened with extinction worldwide. But because they’re not furry they don’t attract as much attention.

Wolves have a special place in my heart because they were my very first case, but also because as a species they tell a story about how humans interact with wildlife, and it’s such a bad story, of persecution nearly to extinction.

We’re kind of on that path again – obviously not to the degree that we treated them wrong in the past, but there’s no good reason to be hunting them now. They just came off the endangered species list this very year.

My first wolf case was in 2004 and it was a national case, where the Fish and Wildlife Service wanted to downlist the species nationwide. I worked on it as a law student and ended up doing most of the briefing because the attorney who was working on it left the firm. And we won.

That was my first taste of how the law can be used to make the world a better place.


The ruling that let this hunt go forward came down on a Friday, late in the afternoon. No, nobody calls you. You get an email, with an attachment, and there it is: the order. Ugh.

I was very sad, and I’m still … it’s just very hard. Every day I feel this weight, this heaviness, thinking that hundreds of wolves are dying because we couldn’t stop this. The hunt is wrong on so many levels, and day after day come the media reports, with the death tolls.

Collette Adkins Giese
Collette Adkins Giese

No court has ruled on the merits of our case. These decisions were only whether the hunt should be stopped before the courts can rule on whether the hunt is actually legal or not. There’s a prolonged briefing schedule on those issues, but there won’t be hearings until after the new year, probably after the hunt is over.

The way the DNR has pushed this in the media is to talk about the problems that wolves cause with livestock and present this hunt as some kind of solution, but it just isn’t. Landowners already have the legal right to shoot wolves attacking their livestock. Even broader than that, in most parts of the state you can kill wolves that just come on your land. And we’ve got state agents out there killing problem wolves, too.

It really came down to the DNR being anxious to provide this recreational opportunity. And it’s something that’s widely opposed by the public. It’s so telling that in the DNR’s online survey, 80 percent of the people who responded said they oppose the hunt.

We learned in the litigation that DNR takes the position that they don’t have to offer comment periods on any species that’s hunted. It’s going to be an issue for moose – that the DNR is still allowing hunting of moose when that population is doing so poorly is inexcusable.

 To me, these are important public issues. And I still believe the law was on our side, biology was on our side, public policy was on our side.

We should have been able to stop this.


CBD in no way an anti-hunting organization. We believe that even wolves, fully recovered, could be properly hunted. But it’s just too early.

And I don’t want people to think I care about wolves because they look like my dog. It’s much deeper than that.

Still, there’s got to be something in how people have interacted with canids for so long – we welcome them into our homes, they sleep under our beds. And at the same time these decisions are being made that we know are causing such intense pain for the same type of animal we love so dearly.

Minnesota Moments 2012These are animals that have complex social lives. Normal, everyday people who read your paper know from having dogs that these are intelligent, social creatures that have relationships.

To just go and remove members of these animal families that survive together and hunt as a pack – you break these up and you create lone wolves, who can’t effectively take down a big deer by themselves, and that’s when you’re going to get your depredation problems.

And trapping is just so cruel. Even a lot of hunters are against hunting – someone that’s capable of looking an animal in the eye and shooting it dead can still feel that trapping is not OK.

It’s an ugly sport and there are no restrictions. You can put down as many traps as you want, or snares.

That plus poison is how we drove the wolves almost to extinction.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 12/27/2012 - 11:14 pm.

    Little Red riding herd…

    Little Red Riding Hood comes back to haunt us but it’s…

    Once upon a time Now time, 2013 and Little Red’s riding herd on a hungry Grandmother but grandma, a nervous soul, seeing a shadow pass the window, has leaped from her bed carrying an assault rifle so recently purchased which she keeps protectively tucked under her cozy quilt.

    Gram still in her night cap, chases; shoots wildly at her red-caped and hooded grand daughter… old Gram thinking ‘predator’, for it’s a strange time and temper of this nation, and assault weapons have been selling like hot candy canes lately.

    Meanwhile, under a spreading Birch tree Wolf sits reading; editing an original copy of Mother Goose on his I-Pad while feasting, eating a basket of treats he found scattered in the woods intended for guess who?

    Bang, bang. Gram shoots Riding Red.

    Predator homo sapiens kills kin and another story hits the news…”79 predators killed in a limited season…”

    The question is, who will be stalking whom next when we run out of wolfs?

    Sad sign of the times indeed…man and beast need to co-exist. Our biggest threat, man and/or beast? Or is it beast-to-beast; two legs or four?

    Tragic for wolf but tragic for man with the loss of creatures sans rhyme or reason?

  2. Submitted by Travis Buck on 12/29/2012 - 02:50 pm.

    Wolf Hunting

    Collette, thanks for all the hard work you do for wolves and all wildlife. This is a sad time for many of us. Killing wolves for no reason except “fun” apparently. As you mention, “troublesome” individuals can be addressed by farmers, etc. so there truly is no other acceptable reason that humans will not allow them to live out their lives as nature intended. All of these hunts will prove to have unintended consequences but those who participate, from governors and agencies who give their approval, right on down to the wolf hunters and trappers, are too resistant to even consider that liklihood.

    Beryl, “Little Red Riding Hood”, I am certain, was read to many a wolf hunter while still impressionable. Too bad.

    You ask:
    >>> The question is, who will be stalking whom next when we run out of wolfs?<<< Exactly. I fear the answer is "They take a bullet for us". Grimm, indeed.

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