Gray wolf ruling draws fear from farmers, praise from advocates

Published: Aug. 2, 2017 at 6:17 PM CDT
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After nearly disappearing back in the 1970s, the gray wolf population has been growing ever since. That hasn't stopped a federal appeals court from keeping the animals on the endangered species list in the western Great Lakes region, including Wisconsin.

Some farmers that raise livestock are worried about their livelihood after Tuesday's ruling.

Birnamwood farmer Cindy Lex says it was on her farm more than a year ago that she and her husband found 5 cows dead after they were attacked. The USDA concluded coyotes were behind it, but to this day, she isn't convinced.

"We still don't believe it was Coyotes obviously, I mean the wolves are big animals," Lex said.

And after Tuesday's court ruling, she's worried what happened last year could happen again.

"What do we have to protect our animals? And we've got this tall fencing, around here for in the winter time. but I don't know, if they wanted to they could jump this," Lex explained.

Advocates say the ruling is the right step to continue protecting a species that people can benefit from.

"There is no scientific basis that shows that wolf hunting would do anything to address farmers' concerns," Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife Executive Director Melissa Smith explained.

Smith said protecting wolves and maintaining a healthy population has its benefits -- like keeping Chronic Wasting Disease in deer at bay.

"It's not something I want any Wisconsinite to get, and we think that wolves are slowing down the transmission of that disease," Smith said. "They hunt year round, so they'll be the first to notice when a deer starts stumbling. And therefore reducing transmission."

Smith said she sympathizes with farmers who have lost livestock to wolves, but hopes they can come to respect the animal more. For now, Lex just hopes her fence will do its part to keep her cattle safe.

The DNR says farmers can contact the USDA with any advice on how to keep their livestock safe from wolves, and may also contact the agency if they experience any conflict with the animals.