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

Collette Adkins Giese prepared the lawsuit that sought to stop Minnesota’s new trapping and hunting seasons on wolves.

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."
REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wednesday:
“Duluth flooding at zoo: ‘The devastation was beyond comprehension’ “