Close Wolf Encounters; Brushes Between Kids and Lobos Leave Parents Fearful
This time it’s from the Southwest. Wolves circle some people and they decide the wolves were about to attack. As the recent postings on the Yellowstone photographers, the bow hunter who said he was trapped in his tent, and the several cases of wolves “following people” in the last year in Idaho, what is being reported is not wolf behavior so much as how people perceive wolf behavior. That perception depends on their level of knowledge and the culture they are from.
Story on the fearful parents, etc. Albuquerque Journal. Note that the link has expired. . . . webmaster
Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.
28 Responses to Close Wolf Encounters; Brushes Between Kids and Lobos Leave Parents Fearful
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Rather than scare people this story should have the opposite effect, re-enforcing the fact that humans have little to fear from wild wolves. There was nothing stopping these wolves from attacking this boy had they been so inclined. Kudos to this boy for not panicking and shooting any of these animals.
You would think over time these people would get a rational view of the threat level, and maybe they will. However, it may take a generation.
When perception is mediated by culture, it really takes enough time for cultural change or replacement, before perception can become accurate. So maybe it will be the boys and girls who finally educate the parents.
It is a great flaw of any civilized culture to fear wildness and wild things–period. When you consider how much less children of today spend time in the woods than children of my generation, the Baby Boomers–and I having grown up on a farm, spent a good deal more time in the woods than the folks in town 40 + years ago–it may be that one of the most important strategic entry points to developing ecological awareness among people is to turn our attention and resources to education instead of politics–particularly natural history. How we get past the video games and the internet to get children into the woods, I must confess I don’t know. Might tracking be of great interest to the children of today? I found it exciting when I was young as a matter of course, because I was learning to hunt.
I have to disagree with you Robert, let them stay at home and play video games. There are too many people in the woods now.
I have observed a lot of young people in the woods, camping, etc., that show no respect for the outdoors. Throwing junk in the rivers, carving on trees, leaving trash around, tearing up the land with ATV’s and dirt bikes. I hate to paint with a broad brush but I can’t help what I see.
There’s a wonderful book by Richard Louv that deals with unplugging kids from the net and getting them back out into the woods.
“Last Child in the Woods…Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder”
I’m a bit skeptical about what really happened in New Mexico, being that the family are ranchers and that area is very hostile towards the Mexican wolves.
lets see,,mother kills baby in alabama, fatther stuffs kids in a cage in ohio…14 yr old boy sentenced for rape of a 11 yr old girl in milwaukee,,,thats in a two day period,, when are these people ever gonna realize that mans biggest predator is man himself,,,and these people are worried about being shadowed by a few wolves,,,!!!!! pople should be more concerned about there human neightbors than there wild 4 legged ones,,,
I think Robert has hit upon an important issue. How will young people become conservationists — most especially in the John Muir mold — if they are ecologically illiterate? I’m tied to a computer for most of each working day, and then spend another half-hour to hour at another computer after work. But I’m happiest when out-of-doors, even if it’s just puttering around in the town park with my dog in tow. Most kids today, notably those in their teen years, are completely out of touch with even the most basic of things, such as pollination (and pollinators), bird song, tree identification, and more.
Hello! I’m from New Mexico and an avid outdoors person especially the wilderness. I’d like to comment on the Albq Journal aticle about the Mexican Wolves trying to attack kids and or people. first of all we all know that wolves as are all canines and canids, are territorial, point made. wolves as we all know are shy and curious to an extent, but not to the extent that they will attack. However in some cases one might cross the line, as we know. I personally have seen the wolves in Arizona and in New Mexico, the Luna Pack one. I had my dog and camera. I saw them first from a distance and manged to get with in a 100 yrds or so of them. They knew we were there and were very obsevant of us. However the kept eye contact on my dog more than me. But, they made no effort to attack, surround or even come near us. after there curiossity was satisfied they meandered int the forest. In Arizona I ran into the same situation with the Hawks Nest Pack, same scenario, they quenced they’re curiosity and left us, thrilled with the privalage to get to see them. Mind you, I’v been on ride alongs with the ADGF on several ocassion. These wolves are located in some of the most isollated place, where no humanes have the slightest idea that they the the wolves would even be there. Some of the times we didn’t even see them but knew they were there because of the collar telemetry. some of these stories I here sound to awful familiar. If you think about it. If these incidents infact happen why don’t these people take pictures of the wolves,and did they have collars on them, for all you know they maybe have been coyotes. Which are know to be more agressive than wolves and have infact attacked humans. Anyways, I knows it’s all cultural. Everbody in Catron county dislikes they idea of the wolves.I know through personal experiences with talking to the ranchers. One time while hiking out there, I happened to bumping onto a rancher on his property. we conversed for a while, he asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was a photographer and was interested in taking pictures ot the wolve and that I was looking for them and he said,”Me to!” He asked me if I had gun,I looked at him kind of strange, and said well I got to be going, have a nice day. And then I did talk to some people in Reserve and they did tell me that not everyone around here hates the wolves. Anyways, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. As of to day I go out and look for the wolves with my camera, and now that it snow the tracking should be even better. Oh by the way I have one of the neatest molded prints ft the AM from the Bluestem Pack that I got when I was on one ot the ride alongs in Arizona. Happy wolfing!
Great stories Robert, and you sound like one heck of an outdoors man.
Thanks for sharing them with us, AND when you get those photos do send them to Ralph so we might all enjoy them!
Hey, how come no one with a camera does get surrounded by wolves? Interesting…
Maybe wolves are frightened by cameras, maybe would should give them to anybody working or ranching in wolf country, problem solved, we could have sheep with cameras hung around there necks, then there would be no need to watch the sheep, could just put them on the mountain and forget about them, what a world that would be,
“Natural born killers” states the article – am I not mistaken in my belief that in all the years of record keeping no person in these United States has been killed by a wolf. My husband and I have been to Yellowstone 3 times and those beautiful creatures we were blessed to observe did not resemble “killers” to me!! How sad are people’s perceptions!
To Robert and Alan:
In regards to how to instill a love for nature in our youth who are increasingly staying indoors, The Sierra Club offers “Inner City Outings”, which take inner city youth into the wilderness for experiences they would otherwise not have i.e. day hikes, etc.
This is one way to expose youth to wilderness. The Sierra Club is always looking for experienced volunteers to lead such outings nationwide.
I think it is imperative not only to get children into the woods, but to begin thinking about how to restore in our children some sense of becoming and being indigenous to the places where we live.
As for boorish behavior of children in the woods, that’s a matter of discipline, which is a feedback loop to the failures of parents and society. I have noticed that no civilized society has any inborn respect for land and wildlife; it is something we must do consciously. Boorish behavior from adults begins in boorish behavior in children.
Ecological awareness has to begin somewhere, and the only place to begin is with our children. Our survival depends upon it–not technology, that’s for sure.
As a retired teacher and a kid brought up by parents with enormous curiosity and love for the natural world, I totally agree with Robert Hoskins. I used to teach in an inner city school in a midwestern city. Another teacher and I took our classes on joint field trips to a small nearby nature sanctuary, as well as to a large city park with “wild” areas.
It was amazing to see how kids who were indifferent students in the classroom would often become very excited about what they were learning and simply about having close contact with trees, birds, bugs, lizards, etc. It was particularly exciting for boys, who often seem out of sync with the rather sedentary classroom activities of the typical American school. The Sierra Club is to be commended for providing more extensive outdoor experiences for city children.
Re: Robert Molina’s comments–I, too, have a great track cast that was most likely made from a track of the late Bluestem AM507. It was made not far from Kettle Holes on the first of two all-women’s camping trips in Mexican wolf territory I made with friends in 2003. By the way, the youngest “woman” was eleven weeks old at the time–getting a good start as an outdoors woman.
Since our first trip in lobo country in late 1998, my husband and I have seen roughly 20 of the reintroduced wolves, making a total of 30-plus separate trips. Only once has a wolf moved in our direction, last January, when the Rim pair came walking up an open cienega at twilight. Apparently, the wolves couldn’t see us sitting behind our tent under the trees, and they continued in our general direction until they were about 125 yards away. (We paced off the distance to their tracks in soft gopher mounds the following morning.)
When we stood up and they saw us, one immediately bolted for the treeline. The second stopped long enough for us to see its black radio collar clearly with binoculars, and then it, too, headed for cover. It’s the closest “encounter” we’ve had in eight years. When one of the field team folks noted that we should have banged pots together to scare the animals, we pointed out that unfortunately, we had already washed the supper dishes and secured everything in our vehicle!
Compared to Yellowstone, Mexican wolf country allows for much less reliable views of wolves. Our greatest success in seeing the animals has come when we’ve been sitting around camp somewhere in a given pack’s territory. In fact, we’ve seen only one wolf from a vehicle and one (a very fleeting glimpse among trees) while on foot. The rest we’ve seen from our campsites.
One common factor in many of the reports of “encounters,” over the years, including one of the incidents in the Journal article, is the presence of domestic dogs. When we go camping in wolf country, we generally leave our dog in the kennel to avoid any unfortunate incidents.
We have only one tiny, fuzzy image of a wolf in the wild, an uncollared animal we photographed in Arizona in 2001. They always show up totally unexpectedly, and the camera is rarely close at hand–or the light is bad, since they have most often appeared at dusk or dawn. Unless you have a really good camera and telephoto lens, it’s unlikely you’ll get a good photo of a lobo in the wild. Even most of the photos of wolves in the wild that we’ve seen from the wolf project itself were made from the air, or were taken as wolves dashed away after being trapped and collared.
Hello again to all you wonderful wolf people. I’d like to comment on the the Education part. I duelly agree, I strongly feel that the adults of kids should be educated first. The Ranchers in New Mexico instill in the kids that the wolf is a bads thing and that it does bad things. There kids in turn grow up and tell there children the same thing and so on. I cyle if you may. I try as much as I can with what knowlegde I have of wolves to educate the kids at the school I work at. I show them pictures, scat, my wolf print, I have tapes of the wolves howling. I think hereing the wolf howl is more exciting than seeing them, especially when they respond back to you. It’s like your soul mate is talking to you, neat. If you’ve never experienced the wolf howl, you’re missing out. Try it when ever you’re out in the wilderness, it works best just before sunset. I also compare the differences of the coyote,fox and wild cat to them. These kids get really excited and ask many questions. Here in New Mexico we have a wolf sanctuary with a wolf embassador, Raven.I If you can, share your wolf knowledge with anyone. You’d be surprised at the interest you atract. I do it where ever I go, parties, friends, and just out on the streets. Yes, education is the most important way to get the word out. I also teach about wild horses. It the same situation. Ranchers don’t want them on there land either. If a lizard would have the ability to eat cows and over graze there land, they find a reason to eradicate them too. My thoughts. If you’re ever in New Mexico Arizona, look for are abundant wildlife. I have sent Ralph some picteures of thre BRWRA, and of the Gila and a photo of where some of the wolves run. I’m working on getting him some wolf pictures, jus hang in there, and you’re going to see on of the most beautiful sub species of the big gray. Ok, enjoy all the wolfing experiences you can, Robert
To Jean. Hi there. Just wanted to ask you, are you from New Mexico? Yes you are exactly right about how fleeing the wolves are. My encounters were breif, Seeing them crossing from one valley to another, being at the right place at the right time. And the two very rare encounters with my dog. Behind Sierra Blanca Lake, where the Hawks Nest pak hangs out and the other one around Snow lake where the Saddle pak hangs out. As a matter of fact, last spring while cruising with the ADGF up behind Snow lake we observed the Saddle pak with spotting scopes, while the Female was denning, no pups yet thought. She was in a small cave of boulders. We tracked her mate from the dry lake, at the time, all the way to the den. The Bioligist already new they were there, he had been watching them for several days already. I had a breif encounter with the Meridian Pak in Middle Mt when they first released them there, but I haven’t seen them since cause they’ve been wondering around alot. That was late July. I try to get up to Alpine as much as I can it’s also very pretty. There’s also Mt goats, have you seen those? And the wild horse, you’ll see a heard of about 25+ just east of Buaffalo Springs. There were a pair of Bald Eagles that I also saw flying over Sierra Blanca Lake and possibly the same two flying in the little springs that run out of the back side of the lake. There’s lots of wild life back there. If you get the chance hike back there. Anyways, write back when you can, my e-mail is, email@example.com, hope to hear from you, maybe we can meet at Alpine some time.
It is very exciting to see the level of interest in Ralph’s blog, and in this topic in particular. I’d like to throw my two-cents in here as well, as it relates to the original topic (fear of wolves).
As conservationists, we must walk a delicate line in communicating the relative level of risks associated with encounters with any wild carnivores. Indeed, the risk of being killed by a wolf or wolves is small, but it is a risk; relative to the other risks we encounter on a daily basis, the risk is nearly non-existent. Nonetheless, we would do well to underscore the fact that wild animals should be respected for their strength, and that our fear of wild carnivores has deep roots, both rational and irrational.
Our human ancestors were, without a doubt, preyed upon by a variety of predators, probably even wolves. Contemporary anthropological evidence strongly suggests that predation was a major factor in the evolution of hominids, including the evolution of speech. For more on this topic, pick-up a copy of Man the Hunted, by Hart & Sussman.
All of this is simply to say that we should help society to better understand that being ‘prey’ is a completely natural state of affairs for humans, and that our fear of being preyed upon is understandable. Moreover, the next logical step is to say that we owe much to predation, and should celebrate our highly evolved ability to avoid being preyed upon, more often than not.
Finally, we should make clear that wild wolves have killed at-least two humans in North America in modern times, but that these two incidents appear to be directly related to the animals becoming habituated to human food. Thus, these incidents stem directly from humans ignoring common sense techniques to avoid being preyed upon.
~ Rob Edward, Director of Carnivore Restoration
Rob, I agree totally with your analysis. However, it’s pretty clear that some folks in New Mexico with a heavy anti-wolf agenda are pursuinging a concerted campaign of misapplying the term “habituated” to every lobo in the Blue Range, which is, from our considerable first-hand experience, sheer nonsense. Their real agenda has little to do with human safety, and lots to do with maintaining livestock industry dominance over management of our public lands.
Hey Jean. I agree with you. As a native born New Mexican and growing up in a small ranching and mining town as are most New Mexicans, unless your’re born in Albq, your’re going to find some kind of issues when it comes to conservation of the cattle industry. First off I’d like to say that I personally support the Wolf Project and any other endangered issues as a whole. And if I had the power to fix the cattle and wolf differences I would, but I don’t. But Here in New Mexico, no matter where the wolves are released, there’s going to be an issue . Because of it’s lagging cultural history, which I respect, there are many beautiful culture as we are diversified .I feel that the Ranching Industry is a slow dissapearing act and they don’t want to accept it. They don’t want change and will still to there guns till the end. that’s is why I feel we shouldn’t give into them. Leave the wolves where they’re at and let’s help them as much as possible, but let nature take it’s course too! Does that sound right? Anyways, this wolf issue is a very touchy situation at this time and point. I don’t know if you know yet, but the Head man at the Field Office in Alpine just recently resigned. That can tell you how controversal it is. Anyways, feel free to write me, either here or on my e-mail, any one can for that matter. Happy howling, Robert
Shawn Farry’s (AZGFD) departure, which was reported in the latest monthly update, is a blow to a program that had absorbed many previous ones. The folks in the field generally do their best to make it work, but unfortunately, the political pressure on those above them in the federal and state bureaucracies has been intense, with predictable results.
Those who are interested in keeping on the pressure in favor of serious improvements in the program will want to attend the next Mexican Wolf Adaptive Management Group (MWAMWG) public meeting, which is to be held in late January on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. I don’t believe they’ve yet firmed up the exact time and place–I think it is to be the last Saturday of the month this time, rather than the usual Friday.
The agenda will undoubtedly include the end-of-year population count and count of breeding pairs, as well as the Adaptive Management Oversight Committee’s report on their work to flesh out the 37 recommendations of the Five Year Review. From our point of view, some of the proposals are helpful, but others, such as a de facto 125 wolf cap in a much larger recovery area, would likely preclude the recovery of Leopold’s “desert wolf” in the heart of its former range.
Stay tuned. Hope to see you at the San Carlos meeting, Robert.
I want to thank Jean Ossorio and Robert Molina for keeping us abreast of events about the Mexican wolf. Ralph Maughan
Hey Ralph. Hope things are going good with you and yours. Just wanted to find out if you got those pictures that I forwarded to you. If not I’ll try again. thanks for all the imfo you give us and access to communicate with others that are interested in what’s happening with the Mexican Wolves. Keep in touch, Robert
I did, thank you, somehow my email must not have gotten to you. Ralph
I agree with the comments above about the anti-wilderness, “Nature Versus Man” mentality that fuels paranoia. Note that any wolf (or other large animal) that isn’t terrified at the mere sight of a human is considered “about to attack”.
When wolves were slated for reintroduction to the Northern Rockies in 1995, Montana’s soon-to-be-ex Senator Conrad Burns lamented there would be a dead child within a year.
Eleven years, around 1,000 wolves, and no dead children later, the anti-wolf people are getting antsy. Having no actual attacks (in the US) to cite, every non-injuries “incident” in which someone gets frightened is now front page news and grist for the “wolves are dangerous!” mill. The anti-wolf people seem to be of the opinion that the pro-wolfers unanimously guaranteed that no wolf ever would, ever could, harm a human being, and the second any attack should occur, we will all be proven liars and charlatains (certain groups may indeed have gone overboard in presenting the wolf as somehow incapable of overstepping its bounds and inflicting injury on man). In reality, most of us never guaranteed that a wolf attack was categorically impossible…it’s impossible to make that guarantee about any wild animal… we simply stated that authenticated wolf attacks were extraordinarily rare, that wolves quickly learn to fear and generally avoid humans, and that wolves are NOT single-mindedly lustful of blood such that they swarm to attack any being that enters the woods. After eleven years of no attacks, including Yellowstone Park that sees millions of visitors annually, I think it’s obvious that wolves cannot be regarded as a persistent threat to human life. Perhaps disappointed with the lack of carnage, incidents in which someone gets scared now qualifies as proof of man-eating wolves.
If someone ever slips on wolf droppings and hits their head on a tree root, it will probably be called a wolf attack…
I have sometimes wondered why the Mexican wolf does not seem to get the same attention as the famous Yellowstone wolves. I think the reason is, in part, that Yellowstone is a National Park. Not only is Yellowstone famous, but I think that people are more comfortable championing wildlife in national parks than on other public lands…most folks have some concept that national parks belong to the public, but seem to buy into the idea that other federal (PUBLIC) land is none of their business… or they are fully unaware that such lands even exist. I am not advocating creating a national park around every sensitive species; I AM advocating that the public be educated about their stake in national forests, rangelands, wilderness areas, etc. and that these areas are often every bit as beautiful, valuable, and ecologically significant as the National Parks. This will be beneficial to creatures like the Mexican wolf that do not have the luxury of living within National Park boundaries.
Hey Howard. Nice to hear your comments on the Wolves in New Mexico. I agree with everything you say whole heartly, and yes there is a big difference between Yellowstone and the Gila and BRWRA in Arizona. And yes to see a Mexican Wolf is and will always be harder to observe only because they are elusive and the terrrain where they are is very dense. Yes you might see them on the side of the road, bur it will be a 1 in a million sighting. But maybe as their population grows will you see more of them. As far as the wolves beinging protected here you have to consider the fact that New Mexico more than Arizona consist of Ranchers that don’t want this to happen and they’ll go to they’re grave defending this issue. Remeber that at the beginning of the wolf release program NMDGF were totally against it, not just the ranchers. So whole heartedly they’re hearts aren’t into it like the ADGF are. I know some of the people of the ADGF and these people poor their hearts into this program and actually the Arizona people around the area are more supportive of the program than the people in New Mexico. Hopefully in do time this issue will change , hopefully. But the whole things boils down to education and acceptance from the people in Catron County. Like I said before, not all the people in Catron Cpounty are against haveing the wolves there in the Gila, cause that’s where they’re mostly at in New Mexico. The Apachie National Forest extends into New Mexico and adjoins with the Gila National Forest. I wish I could describe it to you better. Anyways, I really don’t know what to say about it with out going into depth. I really think you have to be around the people to really be able to grasp the concept. I’m not , by far defending them, the Ranchers, and I do understand they’re plite, but times change, and we as do they need to move along with the changes, or get left out. Which might happen. Cause the way I see it the Wolves are here to stay. Whether there are just 50 of them or 150. Happy Howling.
HOORAY FOR ROBERT MOLINA and his wonderful comments about the Mexican Gray Wolves!
These beautiful animals are victims of ranchers who try to control what lives and what dies if it gets in the rancher’s way.
Who is next on this list ………..you and I?
The people of Catron County are exposed!
Hey I’m back. Haven’t had a chance to do any wolf searching. We had one hellachous snow storm here, like everyone else and couldn’t get out. but it’s all gone now and I’m getting ready to head out to the Gila and Alpine and look for the wolves. Seems like they all headed south away from the snow, but this is good tracking weather so they’ll be able to be found, if not, find out if there around. Thanks for telling me thanks Kitlyn, hope to hear from you, and everyone else. Looks like they put another Alpha Male with the Bluestem to replace the dead Alpha, hope the pak accepts him. How are things with you Ralph?
Just a couple of quick updates:
First, the new alpha male of Bluestem was not put with the pack, but apparently found them on his own. He is AM806 (known affectionately as Laredo at the Wild Canid Center, where he was born), the alpha male of the small Meridian pack newly released in July 2006. His mate died (probably human-caused)in September. He is, by the way, a tri-lineage animal who brings needed genetic diversity to the wild population.
It is interesting that he was able to successfully join the Bluestem pack and become alpha male, as members of this large pack have not always welcomed newcomers. Pack members apparently killed a San Mateo yearling in San Mateo’s own territory about a month before 806 began traveling with them.
Second, the Catron County Commission passed an ordinance this week that allows county officials, rather than FWS personnel, to decide when to remove wolves from the wild for alleged nuisance behavior. So far FWS officials have withheld comment. County officials have a long history of support for the county supremacy movement.
By the way, folks should not assume that everybody in the county is opposed to wolves or shares the commission’s rather interesting views on our federal system of government. Polls have indicated roughly 50% support for reintroduction in rural counties in the recovery area. Social pressure and fear often prevent wolf supporters (and other conservationists) from speaking out in public.
Hey Jean. This is Robert. What happened to the young pups that were released with Loreado? I know the female died.
Hey Folks! Hope all is well with you. Yeah! The news from the ADGF say’s there are 60 plus wolves out in the wild. Thanks to a promising crop of liitle wolf pups being born this spring. I still like to iphasize that slow is better than fast. With time the wolves will be abundant and we will be able to observe them better. Let’s focus on the positive here. We all already know how the Catron County Ranchers feel as do other people from there. We don’t need to be reminded so much about there feelings. As for me I get tired of hearing about them. But that’s me. Feel free to comment as you like. And let’s not forget to thank the ADGF for all there hard work. I know How hard they work I’ve been around them, believe me. Well I
m headed out to
Alpine and to the Gila to see what I can, wish me luck. Happy Howling!