Wolf Hysteria and Moral Panic

Wolf Paranoia: A typical wolf about to take your children and eat your job

I was doing research into the origins of wolf persecution and came across an excellent entry by Rational Wiki on the subject of wolf hysteria.  It outlines the major tenets of wolf persecution, describing how common sense and measured thinking are thrown out the window by those who seek to demonize wolves and blame them for all the world’s ills.

I’m presenting the Rational Wiki entry just as its written, it explains the roots of wolf  hysteria and how it’s used to persecute and scapegoat the wolf.


From RationalWiki.com

Wolf hysteria

(also known as wolf persecution, or rarely, lupophobia) is the widespread public hatred of wolves, incorporating both their enduring role as folk devils, and societal attitudes favouring policies of active persecution of wolves, and opposition and resistance to policies aiming to protect existing wild populations, or reintroduce the species into former ranges where it has become extinct relatively recently. The phenomenon shares much in common with moral panics, including the use of scaremongering, unverifiable anecdotes, demonisation, exaggeration, moral highroading etc., to the extent the phenomenon could be considered a moral panic in and of itself, though it is not commonly referred to as such.

Hot-button issues

Fierce, and often aggressively negative perceptions of wolves have a long history in western (and many other) cultures. However, the main issues triggering a renewed outpouring of hysteria often stems from any proposal (real or simply made up) from a few major “hot button” issues:

Predation of livestock

Attempts to introduce/extend protections for wolves

Attempts to re-introduce wolves to areas where they had become locally extinct


Manning Moral Barricades

The most shrill cries attesting to the apparently limitless evils of the wolf arise, unsurprisingly, from the livestock industry. It claims that predation of livestock by wolves is rampant, and that seeing the unending bloodbath caused by these “specialists in carnage” causes those who raise animals to slaughter en-masse for meat, to be emotionally distraught by, well, the killing of animals for meat.

In the USA an equally unsurprising alliance with hunting and game interest, numerous front organisations and astroturf operations has been established, including the Abundant Wildlife Society of North America (AWSNA) and the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA)[1]. They have been aided and abetted by the wider so-called “conservative conservationist” movement (itself usually astroturf or greenwashing for forestry, hunting and agriculture interests), such as Conservation Force, but perhaps best illustrated by Mike Dubrasich and his Western Institute for Study of the Environment (WISE) / SOSForests,who couches his arguments in terms of concern for the environment, though sometimes veers into extreme right-wing conspiracy theories about the federal government, in alliance with “eco-facists” deliberately introducing wolves (aka “blood-thirsty predators”)[2] to the mid-west (along with forest fires and various other things).

The arguments

Wolves cause significant losses to livestock producers

A common refrain is that attacks (predation) on livestock by wolves is a significant, or even one of the main, losses incurred by livestock producers.

In the USA emphasis is placed primarily on the financial side, and also often emphasises that the inclusion of the wolf within the Endangered Species Act violates “property rights” and “constitutional freedoms”. The “emotional trauma” suffered by livestock producers as a result of predation is also frequently mentioned.

“It may destroy our livelihood and our major lifestyle is in jeopardy.”

“Judging from their rapidly expanding populations across the West, it is obvious that wolf populations are healthy. Our concern is whether we’ll be able to say the same thing about the West’s ranchers in years to come.[4]”

Firstly, though these organisations are ready to give the numbers of livestock affected by predation, these are never given as percentages, or even stated in relation to total herd numbers. In most states the losses of livestock due to wolf predation was <1%. In the state of Wyoming, which lies entirely within the Yellowstone re-introduction area the number varied depending on year between 0.9% and 2% in the period 2000-2005, averaging under 1% over the period. This compares with 33.7% to 48.3% over the same period for losses due to coyotes, 4.1% to 10.9% due to eagles, and from 11.2% to 20.7% due to weather. Indeed, poison, often left by livestock producers to kill wolves and other predators, was often responsible for a greater proportion of losses than those due to wolf predation.[5]

Emotional trauma is of course impossible to either prove or disprove, but it is important to remember that livestock is ultimately reared for slaughter, either to directly obtain the primary products (meat and hides) or as means of profitably disposing of “spent” dairy or wool herds/flocks. Thus one would expect anyone working in the livestock industry to deal with the death and processing of animals into food and other end-products as part of the day to day running of their business. It is highly unlikely that any individual emotionally disturbed by the slaughter of animals for meat or other products would find livestock work tolerable as a long time career.

The inclusion of wolves in the ESA provides a mechanism for financial compensation to be paid for damages caused by wolves in partnership with the Wolf Compensation Trust,[6] and in the case of wolves found in the act of attacking livestock or other domesticated animals within private property, it is permissible for the owner to take measures necessary to protect them. Therefore it is hard to see how such an act can be a “violation” of rights.

Wolves decimate game herds

“All wolves must be eliminated to restore our big game herds.[7]”

The Canadian wolves have decimated our elk, mule deer and moose populations to lows not seen since the ’60s.[8]

There has been considerable hysteria over the impact of wolf populations on herds of elk. However the National Park Service studies indicate that wolf reintroduction to the park, a major reserve for elk herds, would have negligible affect on hunting activities, and that the effect of wolf predation on elk populations would not, in and of itself, have an impact sufficient to be the decisive factor in elk population management.[9]

Although the reasons behind fluctuating wild animal populations are complex, Drs. Doug Smith, Daniel Stahler and John Vucetich conducted a joint National Park Service-MTU study into elk population at Yellowstone. Their findings found that:[10]
Elk population remained stable from the re-introduction of wolves in 1995 through to 2000, at around 17,000

In the period 2000-2004 the population dropped 50% to 8,334. During this period the Yellowstone area experienced drought conditions, and increased hunting of Elk by humans.

Though hunting permits did not allow for a kill level equivalent to the total population drop, the researchers concluded that hunting, led to a “super-additive” effect, whereby a 1% direct loss rate due to hunting was magnified to significant degree due to knock-on effects, which were only exacerbated by drought conditions.[10] Although wolf predation was acknowledged to exist, it’s effect on the large population drops seen was regarded as a minor, largely insignificant factor:

“Our analysis indicates that there is greater justification for believing that the harvest rate and severe climate, together, account for at least much of the decline[10]”

Wolves attack humans all the time

Whilst it is known that wolf attacks on humans do occur, those engaged in wolf hysteria deliberately exaggerate the risk out of all proportion to implant the idea in their audience that all wolves routinely kill and eat humans.

“Wolves are blood-thirsty predators that attack and kill pets, livestock, children, and adults.[11]”

“Around here we shoot blood-thirsty predators before they kill our horses, cattle, sheep, or children.[11”

“258 Congressional Members Support Funding for Mexican Wolves Stalking Children and Wolves Terrorizing Rural Citizens[12]”

The facts in no way bear out such hysteria. Those involved in wolf hysteria often recount reports from the 18th and 19th centuries recanting real or imagined wolf attacks in Europe and Asia. Although European wolf subspecies are less wary of humans, and are able to live near higher-density human populations than their North American cousins there are no reports of attacks.

[13] As the map clearly shows, no wolf subspecies present on the Eurasian landmass is present on the North American landmass.

Statistics compiled by Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) on global wild (not captive) wolf attacks show that in the period 1950-2000, (50 years) there were only 13 confirmed cases of wolf attacks on humans in North America, none of which were fatal.[14].

In the United States alone (not the whole of North America), approximately 1 million reported instances of domestic dogs biting humans per year, with an average of 16 to 18 fatal attacks per annum.

(According to Wikimedia Commons,  It is estimated that two percent of the US population, 4.7 million people, are bitten (by dogs) each year.[3] In the 1980s and 1990s the US averaged 17 fatalities per year, while in the 2000s this has increased to 26.[4] 77% of dog bites are from the pet of family or friends, and 50% of attacks occur on the dog owner’s property.[4])


Wolves spread disease

Groups and politicians opposed to wolf conservation often use the claim that wolves spread diseases to livestock and game populations. [15] Whilst wolf populations, like that of any wild animal, carry disease, as apex predators they are more often than not a “dead end” for transmission of disease, and are of little concern when it comes to disease management in most livestock and game populations.[15]

The most serious diseases affecting wolf populations are those which also affect domestic canines, parvo, mange and intestinal worms.[16]In all cases, transmission of the disease is driven infinitely more by domestic dogs than wolves, and it is believed that in most cases these diseases have been introduced to the wolf population by domestic dogs.  A notable exception is the presence of mange in North American wolf populations in the Rocky mountains. This population was deliberately infected by government veterinarians in 1909 as an attempt to “exterminate” the wolf population, spread to coyotes and other mammals, and eventually re-infected wolves upon their reintroduction to the area.


A common refrain is that the only effective solution to any or all of the above is to drastically reduce the population of wolves,[18]. This inevitably entails lethal intervention on the part of humans. Such actions are proposed by many livestock producers as the panacea to all ills, and is, unsurprisingly, encouraged and guided by the hunting, trapping and fur lobby organisations, which naturally present themselves as the only viable way of going about any such lethal solution. Alas, many hunting methods are exceedingly inhumane, with methods such as leg traps being commonplace in North America, though are banned in the EU due to concerns over its inhumane nature.[19]

Other excessively cruel/inhumane methods used include hunting wolves using specially trained flocks of eagles, a method historically and currently used in Central Asia,[20] and recommended in proposals to open up the hunting of wolves in the lower 48 states of the US.[21]


See Footnotes



Meet The Wolf….Fact Not Fiction



Tracking science: Biologist’s findings show forest diversity, health influenced by wolves

Written and photographed by MICHAEL JAMISON of the Missoulian | Posted: Sunday, October 25, 2009 9:00 am

POLEBRIDGE – A clinging mist quieted the morning meadow, the icy hem of its robes brushing silent against autumn’s crackling knee-high grass.

In the darkest shadows, the cold crunch of snow remained, criss-crossed with wolf tracks, bear tracks, elk and deer tracks. Scat and bone and hair and hide. These were the morning news reports written in muddied prints, each with a thin film of ice.

Cristina Eisenberg scanned the headlines, then waded into the meadow to read the particulars.

“It’s all here,” the researcher said. “You just have to know the language.”

To the west, ranging grasslands rose gently to an aspen knoll, the trees all tall white ghosts trembling in the dull gloom of fog. A low row of leafy 10-footers skirted the meadow, backed by a towering canopy now a week or more past fall’s golden height.

There were small young trees, and tall old trees, but no middle-aged aspens and that, combined with the frozen tracks, told Eisenberg something very important about this place.

Until about 1920, wolves patrolled these meadows, which have long been an important wintering ground for elk. Then humans hunted the predators into extinction here, and for 60 years or more the elk grazed in peace. By the mid-1980s, however, wolves were recolonizing the landscape, straying south from Canada to reclaim this western fringe of Glacier National Park.

The 100-year-old aspens grew up with wolves. So did the 20-year-olds. There are no middle-agers, Eisenberg said, because without wolves to run the elk, all the young aspen sprouts were browsed to death.

“It is,” she said, “clear and profound. The wolves leave an indelible mark on the entire ecosystem.”

Read more: http://missoulian.com/lifestyles/territory/article_3ec9fc54-c01f-11de-bf16-001cc4c002e0.html

Photo: Courtesy Rational Wiki

Posted in: Wolf  Wars, Wolf Myths

Tags: Wolf hysteria, moral panics, scaremongering, demonization of wolves, livestock industry, hunting lobbies

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23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wonderful article-Thank you for posting it! The heart of the wolf issue is all of the fear-mongering and scapegoating. So sad we must fight lies, hate groups, and even fairy tales to protect what is simply an animal.


    • Thanks Ann, I was blown away at the breadth of it. It encompasses everything we are fighting against. Wolves are the scapegoats again for just being alive. They are the perfect victims, they can’t talk back, so they silently go to their deaths for doing absolutely nothing but breathing air. This is what we have to hammer home to people. Most of America has no idea.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  2. Probably one of the most informative reads. The wolf hunt is just like a witch hunt. Someone points a finger and the wolf dies. For heaven sakes this is 2011 and why aren’t the ones in control not reading these facts? Thank you so much for posting this information, now we just need to get the people to read!


    • Kathey…This is exactly what drives wolf persecution, it’s a form of hysteria or moral panic. Especially the blown out of all proportion unprovable anecdotes…..like a wolf charged me, or a wolf showed up in my driveway. Most of those “stories” are witnessed by one or two people in the wolf hating movement, no proof at all. It’s like calling someone a criminal that’s not but the stigma will follow that person around the rest of their lives. The same with wolves, they’ve been branded with lies that are repeated so often, uninformed people might believe them. We have to make sure we call them on these “stories’ wherever they pop up.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  3. All of this hysteria about the wolves is unfounded. It is because of the Little Red Riding Hood stories.


  4. Any excuse will serve a tyrant
    (Unfortunately the moral is from the fable “The Wolf and The Lamb” – the wolf is the ‘tyrant’ who kills a lamb after making several illogical excuses why he has the right to do so)


    • The sad thing is John we could shove all the proof in their faces that wolves are vital apex predators, important to the ecosystem and they would pay no attention. They’re not interested in facts, their business is inciting people to hate wolves.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


      • Because the ecosystem is not their concern, their primary concern is their twisted bloodthirsty hobby.


  5. People need to do research on wolves instead of steriotyping them and wanting to kill them over rediculous rumors and false stories.If they would find out for themselves how wonderful,inteligent,beautiful and harmless wolves really are maybe they wouldn’t be so anxious to kill them.Wolves will only attack if they are hungry or someone tries to harm them or their young.They do more good than harm.


    • The wolf hating crowd is not interest in facts, only hate. They want to demonize the wolf so people will find it easier to kill them. It’s very sick behavior.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  6. Thank you so much for all the hardwork you put into this! It is very much appreciated. Long live the wolves!


    • You are so welcome turner. I do it because I love wolves and am very passionate about speaking the truth for them. Thank you for reading and for caring .

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  7. Excellent article. It’s a shame the anit-wolf world is incapable of listening to sound reasoning and statistical evidence. If they did, the war between the two factions would be resolved immediately after reading this.


    • Beckie…they are too busy spreading wolf hysteria, scaremongering and moral panic, they don’t have time to deal with those pesky little irritants called “facts.”

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  8. Thankx for the article, and especially for this blog.


    • I use to work with a group who raised wolves cubs to sell. These cubs were Canadian,Mexican Gray, Tundra, ans Mekenise Vally Artic Wolf cubs. They make real good pets. The cubs and other wolves were desensized to noise and people.
      Wolf Haven Spirit Of The Past is in Sierra Blanca, Texas. They were sold to people who are allergic to dogs and cats. Katie and Sandra are highly allergic to dogs and cats.
      Wolves are not mean and dangerous. They are protective of their packs and will fight to protect each other. They hunt to feed themselves and the others in the pack left behind. The wolves only kill for food. They do not kill just to kill. Unless there is a threat to their packs.


    • You’re welcome Donna, this blog is a refuge for weary wolf supporters. A place we can gather to talk wolves without having to defend our beliefs. Your free to say what you will.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


  9. Nabeki, W0W – thanks for all of that info. I wish that it were on the positive side for our poor wolves. It still boggles my mind that there is so much hate for the wolf. I just don’t understand it. More so, I cannot understand it. I can’t comprehend it in my head. So much hate. It’s sad. It’s funny – because I have never owned a gun in my life, nor have I ever thought of owning one. But what is one to do when no one listens???? Or when you are just fed up & tired of the bull shit??? I know deep down that violence is not right ……… & I would never do what I said up above – but my god …….. really what are we to do for these poor wolves ………. nothing is working. Will it take folks going out to the forests & literally protecting the wolf from hunters? Going out & searching for traps & setting them off? It is sad that we live in a world where people are so stupid that they do NOT listen or read for themselves SOUND SCIENCE. Blood thirsty men!!




  11. How can any thinking person believe this nonsense about wolves, eating all the livestock, decimating herds, killing people.. Why are people so crazy about killing wolves…


    • Because of the Big Bad Wolf stories. People like the RANCHERS-FARMERS-POLITICIANS AND GOVERNORS tell these stories about the wolves.
      When we can stop these people from getting people to believe these tales which are not true.
      Now I will tell you iof a person or persons get too close to their dens, they will growl and let them know if they get too close.
      Then if they do not move, the wolves will snarl at them and growl again. If this does not work, they will do what needs to be done to protect their babies.
      Even some people will save their children and families if they can.


  12. I read every one of your articles with enthusiasm – well researched, timely, solid information. Thank you so much for your blog –


  13. Great article. If you were to look up hate group profiles, you’ll find that wolf haters fit the profile. i love this quote ” All haters are insecure people but not all insecure people are haters.” Wolf haters are insecure people, ranchers and hunters who can’t control every part of nature or their lives so they try to find a way to control at least one part of it: killing wolves. These people feel threatened when their one means of control may be taken away. Unfortunately, common sense and rational thought eludes haters and they are unable to accept any other viewpoint but their own.


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