According to a statewide phone survey, Wisconsin voters of all political stripes from around the state overwhelmingly oppose the state's newly inaugurated wolf hunt.
Conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, an independent polling firm based in Washington, D.C. and Jackonsville, Fl., for the polled 625 voters, via land lines and cell phones, from June 13 to June 15. The full results (PDF) detail gender and partisan breakdowns for six questions, along with regional and general demographics for respondents.
The Humane Society is releasing the results of the survey in advance of the June 26 meeting (PDF) of the Natural Resources Board, which is scheduled to vote on a recommendation to increase the number of wolves hunted from 201 in 2012 to 275 in 2013.
After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey removed gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in 2012, the Wisconsin Legislature approved a wolf hunting and trapping season that lasted from October 2012 to January 2013.
According to the survey, 79% of those polled agreed that wolves are an asset and should be protected, while 14% disagreed and 7% were not sure. Eighty one percent opposed the "trophy hunting and trapping of wolves for sport," while 10% were in support and 9% were undecided. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.
But both questions were preceded by statements that could be read as supportive of wolves. On the issue of protecting wolves, the question began: "Wolves are an important part of the ecosystem and are just starting to recover in Wisconsin after being on the brink of extinction."
And the question on trophy hunting led with: "Even after decades of protection, there are only about 800 wolves in the entire state... Despite the population's fragile status, the legislature in 2012 approved a bill to allow the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves. Hunted wolves are not eaten and they are often killed for trophies."
Kaitlin Sanderson, public information officer for the Humane Society of the United States, said that the information preceding the questions "was all accurate information surrounding the wolf issue. We published the exact wording of the questions so there is transparency and people can see exactly what was asked."
In other survey questions, 87% said they opposed the use of "traps, bait, and packs of dogs to kill wolves for sport," with 9% in support and 4% undecided.
The survey also sought to gauge support for legislation that would ban the possession of exotic and dangerous wild animals by private citizens. Seventy nine percent supported such a bill, with 14% opposed and 7% undecided.
The political affiliation of the voters was pretty neatly divided among Democrats (38%), Republicans (32%) and Independents (30%). Fifty one percent of those polled were women and 49% men.
A call to Bill Vander Zouwen, wildlife ecology section chief for the Department of Natural Resources, was not immediately returned.