The International Wolf Symposium: A Model of Respect and Collaboration

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I recently attended the International Wolf Symposium in Duluth, Minnesota—a several day event featuring thoughtful debates, discussions, and presentations on wolf management, recovery, ecology, behavior, genetics, education, and interactions with people and livestock—in the U.S. and around the world.  The speakers were informed and impassioned, yet civil and open-minded; it was a true model of respect, constructive dialogue, and cooperative sharing and learning.

Highlights of the symposium included a debate about delisting wolves, a panel discussion about state management of wolves, and a debate and discussion about hunting and trapping wolves.  With very rare exception (one or two members of the audience of several hundred did shout and walk out during the state management panel), the debaters, presenters, audience and group members remained respectful, thoughtful, and objective – while expressing very different points of view. 

Ultimately, moderator and group discussion leader Dr. Alistair Bath showed us that more common ground exists than most with strong feelings towards wolves might believe.  For example, nearly all in attendance agreed that wolves should not be hunted or trapped during biologically sensitive times, such as when they are pregnant or lactating with young pups.  At the same time, nearly everyone agreed that a wolf which repeatedly preys upon livestock, despite the rancher’s use of nonlethal preventive measures, should be removed.

Wolves may always remain controversial.  Aldo Leopold may have been right when he said, “Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.”  But the symposium convinced me that by focusing on facts, listening carefully, and working cooperatively, there is no doubt that—like them or not—we can learn to live peacefully with wolves, and any other wildlife species. 

And I’m not alone.  Thank you to all the people I met and listened to—scientists and concerned citizens, organizers and advocates, paid and volunteer—who are working hard in every corner of the globe to ensure there will always be a place for our age-old neighbor, competitor and companion, the wolf.


Symposium participants in front of the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota.   Photo: Wolves of the Rockies


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An Exhibit Pack member snacking on a beaver tail at the International Wolf Center.


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Participants in the debate about FWS' proposal to delist most wolves in the lower 48 at the International Wolf Symposium in Duluth, Minnesota.  From left to right: Ed Bangs, retired FWS Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator; Larry Voyles, Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department; Mike Phillips, Montana senator and Executive Director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund; and moderator Nancy jo Tubbs, International Wolf Center Board Chair.


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Participants in the wolf hunting and trapping debate.  Panelists from left to right: Paul Paquet, Adjunct Professor of Geography at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; Howard Goldman, Minnesota State Director of the Humane Society of the United States; Gary Leistico, attorney with the firm Rinke Noonan in St. Cloud, Minnesota; Jim Hammill, retired wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  At the podium: moderator Dr. Alistair Bath, Associate Professor at Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada. Photo: Wolves of the Rockies.