As wolf advocates, it is easy to become discouraged.  We often wonder if we are reaching anyone.  We must acknowledge that no amount of education will ever change the minds of those who believe one wolf in the state is too many.  Instead of arguing with the vocal minority we need to continue to concentrate our efforts on those “in the middle” instead of the vocal minority.

Over the last two years wolf attitude surveys were conducted in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan as part of the states’ process in updating their wolf plan. Throughout the Great Lakes Region, attitudes have improved. We must continue to inform through social media, dispel myths and tall tales with letters to newspapers, provide presentations at libraries and in schools and provide factual data through newsletters and word of mouth.  

How have attitudes changed?

The Minnesota survey responses are summarized in 149 page document and shows:

  • Residents, on average, felt that they would like to see wolf numbers remain the same, and for wolves to occupy about the same amount of habitat in the state.
  • Nearly 70% of residents moderately or strongly agreed with the importance of maintaining a wolf population.
  • Residents did not think it was important to reduce wolf population to protect deer or hunting dogs.
  • Residents agreed most strongly with the statement that wolves “are an important part of the ecosystem”
  • Risk to personal safety was perceived to be the lowest risk
  • Only 18% thought it moderately or very important to reduce wolf populations over concerns for deer and moose populations. 
  • 79% thought it moderately or very important to educate people about wolves. 

Wisconsin survey results:

  • 77% Wisconsinites somewhat or strongly agreed that predators like wolves keep nature in balance 
  • 71% said wolves are culturally important (71%)
  • 75% believe wolves are special animals that deserve our admiration 
  • Similarly, a majority of Wisconsinites agreed that people and wolves should be able to coexist (75%)
  • 80% felt it is important to maintain a wolf population
  • Statewide, 66% of respondents preferred the same, more or many more wolves 

The Michigan survey results are intertwined and contained in the 2022 Updated Plan which showed:

  • The estimated percentage of people who desire a reduced wolf population was 24.0% while 49.9% desire an increase.
  • Majority of respondents do not support killing wolves in the event of wolves killing a pet, hunting dog or livestock; only 35% support lethal control to address predation on livestock, even less for hunting dogs and pets. 
  • Statewide, less than half support a wolf hunting season (down from the 2015 survey).  
  • 70.2% of the general public strongly or moderately agreed that wolves are an important part of ecosystems. 
  • 80.2% strongly, moderately, or somewhat agree that wolves have an inherent right to exist. 49.9% desire an increase in the wolf population (24% prefer fewer).
  • Support for compensation for livestock producers declined, only 48.5% indicated it was somewhat, moderately, or highly acceptable to use tax dollars for compensation (2015 58%).

The evidence is clear.  For the wolf to survive and thrive, we must continue to out-shout and out-fund the wolf haters and continue the fight for management decisions based on science and ethics.  We are winning the battle…but the war rages on.