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Many tested, nonlethal options can safeguard livestock from wolves

Wolves cause the deaths of less than one-tenth of 1% of Minnesota’s total livestock. They play a vital role in regulating deer and other prey species, keeping disease in check and driving essential evolutionary processes.

I was disappointed to read Greta Kaul’s Feb. 10 article, “Here’s how much Minnesota has paid out for wolf kills of livestock over the last two decades.” To listen to the livestock producers in the article, one would think that wolves are out there en masse decimating livestock, but this simply is not the case.

What the article didn’t mention is that wolves cause the deaths of less than one-tenth of 1% of Minnesota’s total livestock. Or that the average amount paid by the state to reimburse producers for livestock killed by wolves — $135,000 for the past decade — is 0.03% of the $394 million Minnesota estimates it will spend on agriculture in FY 2020-21.

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Gray wolves play a vital role in regulating deer and other prey species, keeping disease in check and driving essential evolutionary processes. But some ranchers think the best way to deal with wolves that interact with livestock is to kill them.

That’s plain wrong.

There are plenty of tested, nonlethal options to safeguard livestock from wolves, including guard dogs and predator-proof fencing. Wildlife managers have observed that when wolves from a pack are killed, the pack is weakened, making it even more likely for them to go after young, vulnerable cattle.

A better approach for Minnesota to take in managing interactions between wolves and livestock producers would be for the state to increase funding for its Wolf-Livestock Conflict Prevention Grants. These grants are a step in the right direction — but the state has only awarded $300,000 since July 2017.

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It’s not always easy living with wolves in our midst. They’re complicated, mobile and intelligent predators that require land, a prey base and careful management. Yet, over the decades, most of us have learned to live with wolves and appreciate the natural role they play.

Collette Adkins is the carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

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