IF YOU think this newspaper is heavy-handed when it comes to declining letters that criticize our work and opinions, then you missed last week’s letter to the editor from a Marshfield reader.

The scribbler got lambasted for not paying attention to “science” in regard to ruffed grouse and wolf management in Wisconsin.

We ran it even though the letter included a major factual error, because quite frankly, we try to give people their say without having to clean up every little mistruth.

Edward Blau wrote on the subject of declining ruffed grouse numbers, “It was the opinion of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that the West Nile virus was causing this decrease.”

Wrong. 

I don’t mind getting ripped for being a conservative but if you’re going to criticize me for not paying attention to science, then you at least need to get the science right in your own opinion.

The truth of the matter is that the DNR never concluded that West Nile or any other new disease had a population-level impact on ruffed grouse populations in 2017, when the numbers plummeted.

They knew of the decline and started guessing at what might have caused it, deciding for the first time to engage in West Nile testing to determine what impacts it might have had. They also proposed to shorten the season to put less stress on the declining bird population.

But they never, ever said that West Nile was the cause.

That truth was restated last week by Kent Van Horn, who said the first-year results of West Nile sampling in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota “don’t answer that question.

“The only thing we can say for certain is that there were grouse exposed to this virus that developed antibodies and survived,” he said.

What our readers should know is that this letter had little to do with grouse and everything to do with wolves, for it was just a new spin on a previous stance in favor of protecting wolves from state management.

It is that opinion from Blau that has far fewer flaws, for he is correct in stating that wolf populations can be self-regulating and that they also play a roll in managing deer numbers. All true.

I think he’s right on the subject that fewer deer would translate to less damage to natural flora, including white cedar and other saplings. And he’s right that fewer deer would mean a decrease in car vs. deer collisions.

Where we don’t see eye to eye on wolves — and never will — is in regard to the socially acceptable number of wolves that a modern society of hunters, ranchers and property owners should be forced to tolerate.

Those who want wolf management taken from the federal courts and given back to the states see nothing positive about the fact that right now, it appears wolf numbers are stalled or self-regulating at about 1,000 animals in Wisconsin.

They believe, and I’m a part of that group, that 350 wolves is a suitable number that meets all recovery criteria and that having nearly three times that population is a big problem.

Some of the conflicts include depredation on livestock and hunting dogs, along with severe impacts on local deer numbers and deer distribution on both public and private lands.

So thanks to Mr. Blau, I have a new reason to restate my support for bipartisan federal legislation that would remove wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming from protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Everything in life and nature is a balancing act, and it seems everyone has a slightly different opinion on what the right number of wolves should be.

Hunters like myself want a big deer population and we’re willing to sacrifice some saplings and more car/deer collisions to have a deer herd that provides lots of opportunity for pursuing one of our favorite sports.

It’s not all about science. The needs of a modern society dictate that there be some limitations put on wolf numbers. This isn’t the pre-Columbian period any more, and it’s not coming back any time soon.

The DNR has proven its ability to manage a sustainable population of gray wolves, for they have been doing it since the first recovery plan and state management plan were put into place decades ago.

What state wolf management would mean for Wisconsin is a return to reasonable wolf numbers instead of today’s overpopulation. Federal courts have been interfering with the wishes of federal and state wildlife experts, who have proposed on four different occasions to delist our wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Wolf proponents and the liberal judges they’ve found to back their court challenges want to use and abuse Wisconsin by forcing us to maintain a wolf overpopulation so they will someday spill over into Iowa, Illinois and other states that don’t have them — just like Minnesota’s wolves first moved into northwest Wisconsin to start this entire process.

That’s why U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) have joined forces to propose legislation that would take federal courts out of the management picture.

Minnesota was seemingly fine with a population of more than 2,500 wolves but that doesn’t mean Wisconsin should have to do the same.

So that’s the real issue here, and it’s not about misreading science or facts. It’s about how many wolves we want to tolerate in this modern era.

And the longer this wolf mismanagement goes on, the more hunters who once supported wolf recovery are rethinking their priorities.