Coexistence Must Replace Killing Wolves

The Wolf Conservation Center hosted Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila, PhD on March 31, 2022 for an informative discussion about the need for ethically-based scientific oversight of wolf populations.

Dr. Santiago-Ávila described how the removal of Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections and state policies liberalizing wolf-killing dismisses scientific and ethical evidence promoting wolves’ moral consideration. State policies in the wake of gray wolf delisting also reject more robust, compassionate, just, and democratic worldviews, which are highly valued by a majority of Americans.

The discussion centered around the increase of anthropogenic (human-caused) mortality in wolves, the devastation wreaked by said mortality, and the impact of lethal policies and actions on human-wolf conflicts. Not only are state wolf-killing policies largely ineffective, they are more often counterproductive; reducing protections for wolves leads to an increase in unsanctioned killing and rarely helps to mitigate wolf-human conflicts.

Furthermore, we considered the role of ethics in wolf policy and how not engaging in ethical deliberation results in agency capture and failure to address institutionalized, ill-founded and oppressive worldviews. In short, policies that legitimize wolf killing are at once unethical, anti-scientific, and undemocratic. As an alternative to the failing approach represented by the gray wolf delisting and killing policies, we described how current scientific and ethical understanding of wolves aligns with Ojibwe claims regarding the human-wolf relationship, along with values of compassion, justice, democracy, and mutual flourishing. We concluded by outlining the purpose and process of ethically-grounded scientific deliberation in the policy process, which in turn leads to better policy decisions and actions.


Fran researches and practices the application of nature ethics to our mixed-community of people, animals and nature, with a focus on the promotion of worldviews rooted in non-anthropocentrism, an ethic of care, and justice.

His quantitative research has focused on the evaluation of the impact of policies and interventions to both conserve and prevent conflicts with large carnivores, specifically with endangered wolves in the US (gray, Mexican, red). His qualitative research interest and advocacy work focus on the promotion of ethical deliberation to equitably consider animal claims within the policy process, and the exploration of worldviews that promote the flourishing of our entire community of life.

Fran is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras (BA, Political Science and Economics), Duke University (MPP/MEM) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD, Environment & Resources). He is the Big River Connectivity Science and Conservation Manager for Project Coyote and The Rewilding Institute, where he promotes the claims and protection of wild carnivores against killing and harm, and a founding member of PAN Works. Prior to that, he was an Associate Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Carnivore Coexistence Lab.