The Budweiser Puppy Killed It in the Super Bowl Ad—but Did He Kill Wolves Too?

Conservationists say the commercial demonizes endangered wolves that already face threats from hunters and pet owners.
Feb 2, 2015·
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

If advertising points are counted in tears, Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” commercial won the Super Bowl before halftime. How’d they do it? Put a puppy in distress, and have Clydesdales rescue it from a big bad wolf.

But endangered wolves need rescuing of their own, not more villainizing, argue conservationists.

“This ad is purposefully demonizing wolves; it depicts them as a threat to what we hold most dear—our pets, a part of our family,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Instead of wolves, Weiss said we should get angry about the animal shelters euthanizing 1.2 million dogs a year in the United States, or the cars that kill 1.2 million dogs annually on American roads.

Under proposed federal rules, pet owners would be permitted to kill the endangered Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico if they thought the animal threatened their dog.

“The death toll of puppies at the hands of wolves is virtually nonexistent,” Weiss said.

Still, she said, this type of fearmongering fuels anti-wolf campaigns in states where the species is trying to reestablish its natural range.

Gray wolves were once one of the world’s most widely distributed mammal, but the systematic extermination of the species through hunting, trapping, and poisoning in the 20th century nearly wiped out the animal from the Lower 48.

Wolves were placed on the endangered species list in 1974 and reintroduced in states such as Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Since then, they’ve naturally expanded their range into Washington, Oregon, and California. Today, the battle between wolves and ranchers rages on, as the animals try to reestablish packs in their natural habitat and farmers work to protect their livestock.

To conservation groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, the Budweiser commercial is just one more obstacle for wolves, which face fewer protections in wolf-unfriendly states that sponsor annual hunts of the predator.

In Oregon, for instance, wolves just started gaining a foothold in the state after migrating from Idaho. But with seven breeding pairs of wolves established, wildlife officials can now ease restrictions on when ranchers can harass or kill wolves in eastern Oregon.

Since delisting wolves from endangered species protections in 2012, hunters have killed more than a third of the gray wolf population in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

“It’s a precarious situation with wolves, and this commercial just added fuel to the fire for the anti-wolf camp,” Weiss said.