Published December 14, 2012, 12:00 AM

National view: Wolf reintroduction, hunt are both ethical policies

As the hunting seasons for deer and elk draw down across the country, hunting for wolves continues in three states.

By: Jake Crim, Duluth News Tribune

As the hunting seasons for deer and elk draw down across the country, hunting for wolves continues in three states.

While the population of wolves in Idaho has been effectively managed over that state’s first two and a half hunting seasons, arguments remain as to whether wolf-hunting seasons should continue.

This argument may seem like old news in the Northwest, but the controversy remains fresh in another part of the country: Minnesota and Wisconsin. In the midst of their first sanctioned wolf hunts in decades, these neighboring states face familiar outrage from environmentalists and animal-rights activists. Contradicting such protests, Idaho’s successful management of its wolf hunts is a perfect illustration as to why wolf hunts should continue.

The reintroduction of wolves to the lower 48 states, while opposed by many, was the ethical choice. Human activity eradicated the species from nearly every state but Minnesota by the mid-1900s, making it our responsibility to bring them back. While it may seem counterproductive to spend millions of dollars reintroducing a species only to end up hunting it, it actually is the ethical decision. From a utilitarian standpoint (the greatest good for the greatest number), having sanctioned wolf hunts is ethically acceptable. By keeping numbers at a manageable level, the state protects ranchers, wildlife and the wolves themselves.

Wolf activists argue wolves have the right to exist in their native territories. This is reasonable — but no reason to disallow wolf hunting.

What the mindless-slaughter activists would have you believe simply isn’t happening. In the three states that currently allow wolf hunting, more than 30,000 tags were sold in their first year. But fewer than 1,000 wolves were killed, proof that hunting and killing a wild wolf isn’t as simple as it sounds. Idaho failed to meet its quota in its first year, an outcome that seems ever more likely in Minnesota’s first hunt.

Wolf hunts aren’t nearly as bad as opponents would have you believe. To put a healthy population of wolves under the protection of the Endangered Species Act would be unethical, unreasonable and, frankly, unlawful. A policy such as this would force us to reconsider hunting entirely, an engrained human behavior that is beneficial to people and the ecosystem alike.

The much-debated decision to reintroduce wolves was the correct choice, just as having a wolf-hunting season is a correct and ethical policy. Wolves will never return to numbers seen before human settlement; habitat destruction and human population have seen to that. This does not mean we should strive to do the impossible but instead makes it ethically necessary for states to maintain a hunting season that benefits humans, wolves and the rest of the ecosystem.

Jake Crim is a sophomore at Duke University and the author of a large research paper on wolf hunting. A native of Idaho, he wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.