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Sportsmen split on Western wolf issue

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. -- Reintroduced wolves have exceeded expectations about adapting to their western environs and many states are seeking authority to manage packs within their boundaries.

As a result, the wolf issue is one of the most controversial topics throughout the Rockies where gray wolves now roam. Among those stakeholder groups attempting to be heard on the matter -- state and federal legislators, animal rights activists, ranchers and sportsmen -- America's hunters have as much to gain or lose as anybody.

However, when asked by HunterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com what they thought about the issue, it is clear that even among our nation's sportsmen, there remains some uncertainty as to how best to proceed.

Asked if they believe western gray wolf populations are recovered and should be removed from the Endangered Species List, well over half of the respondents, 57.1 percent, said "yes," while only 6.7 percent said "no." As many as 36.1 percent of the respondents said they "do not know."

At a rate of more than 2 to 1, however, sportsmen are concerned that growing wolf populations are having a harmful impact on elk, moose and deer populations within their range. More than 68 percent believe wolves are negatively affecting ungulate species, while 33.7 percent think the affects of more wolves are actually beneficial.

Nearly the same amount of survey participants, 62.2 percent, as those who believe wolves are harming other wildlife populations say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate if they supported giving states primary management authority over wolf populations.

Thirty-four percent said they weren't sure if it would influence their vote or said the topic was too complicated to say how they would vote based on the issue. Only 3.7 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported state management authority.

"Future management of gray wolf populations is an extremely sensitive subject, particularly in the West where it most immediately affects the people and animals that live there," said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com. "The results of the survey suggest a need for more clear-cut information be made available to the public regarding the current status of the gray wolf in the region and how it is impacting other game species."

One thing respondents seem more united on is their distrust of the motivations behind animal welfare groups' opposition to delisting the gray wolf or turning over management authority to the states.

Only 16.1 percent believe these groups are acting out of genuine concern for conserving and restoring wolf populations, while many more (65 percent) believe they are acting out of an interest to limit hunting opportunities and (38.7 percent) as a means to boost membership and donations.

Comments submitted by survey respondents supported these beliefs with many suggesting animal rights groups will say or do anything they can to put a stop to hunting in any form.

Those who hunt, fish and target shoot are invited to participate in the surveys conducted on HunterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com. Each month, participants who complete the survey are entered into a drawing for one of five $100 gift certificates to the sporting goods retailer of their choice.

About AnglerSurvey.com and HunterSurvey.com: Launched in 2006, AnglerSurvey.com and HunterSurvey.com help the outdoor equipment industry, government fisheries and wildlife officials and conservation organizations track consumer activities and expenditure trends. The information above represents only a small sample of the vast amount of data collected from the complete survey results and available to government agencies, businesses, the media and other interested parties. Results are scientifically analyzed to reflect the attitudes and habits of anglers and hunters across the United States.