Miles Kuschel could have taken aim to protect his cattle from the pack of six gray wolves stalking his herd Easter morning.

Since pulling the trigger meant risking a prison term, he didn’t.

But when Kuschel returned to his farm after Easter services, he found a calf’s bloody carcass.

“They came, they killed and they left, but they’re still around. They just move on to the neighbors place,” said Kuschel, president of the Cass County Chapter of the Farm Bureau. Federal wildlife authorities confirmed wolves did indeed kill the 80-pound calf.

Many view the gray wolf’s recovery in the Great Lakes region as one of the Endangered Species Act’s success stories. But to those on the front lines of the wolf’s range, the so-called model program in December became a model of judicial overreach.“Try to put yourself in the farmer’s shoes. It’s literally a federal crime. You could be watching your pasture and you could see a wolf killing your cattle, which is like watching someone at the ATM taking money out of your bank account, and you can do nothing to stop it,” said Charlie Poster, assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

The state agency has a backlog of more than $50,000 compensation claims due state farmers who lost livestock to wolves.

After three years of state management, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December made what’s viewed by some as a lone-wolf decision. Gray wolves returned to federal protection in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, the third time since 2003 federal courts have rejected a U.S Fish and Wildlife Service plan to de-list the predator in the Great Lakes region.

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