Why are wolves accepted in the Great Lakes, but not the Rockies?
Brodie Farquhar looks at the striking difference in his article in New West–
Here it is:
Wolves in the Midwest vs. the West. What’s the Difference? Us. By Brodie Farquhar. New West. 9/13/2010
“In the Great Lakes, where there are more wolves, the animal’s not the lightning rod it is here. Blame the media and blame relocation. But should we also blame ourselves?”
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My view is the upper mid-West is naturally much more productive deer country. The average hunter does very well. Wolves are less visible because of the forest. The upper mid-West is not burdened by cowboy mythology, a problem in all kinds of wildlife management. The mid-West does not have the semi-feudal political system that the rural West has where livestock owners sit on top. The mid-West has a progressive political and cultural tradition. I think the interior Pacific Northwest also tends to attract those who like the fact that they are not many Black folks. These people are always on the far right of the political spectrum.
I’ve lived in both places, but most of my life has been in Utah and Idaho. Fortunately I was in a position not to really be taught cowboy mythology, and throw off local mythology because of the kind of career I choose. Ralph Maughan
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.
68 Responses to Why are wolves accepted in the Great Lakes, but not the Rockies?
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The wolves in the Midwest are accepted because they arrived naturally, not via introduction.
At the time of wolf reintroduction wolves had already reinhabited much much of Northwest Montana and they were moving into northern Idaho.
Wolves were obviously present in central Idaho, but pack formation was sporadic. These dispersing wolves in Idaho had failed to thrive because of unbalanced sex ratios and illegal killing.
There was speculation that the wolf reintroduction might only be needed in Yellowstone Park, but central Idaho was also approved, much to my pleasure.
At any rate, the “natural” population of wolves in NW Montana seems to have done nothing now or then to decrease rural opposition to wolves, and in fact most of these folks either did not know about it or think it was a good thing.
In fact, Ed Bangs told me recently that illegal killing has been responsible for a greater % of wolf deaths in NW Montana than in the reintroduced population.
I would suspect that Ed is telling the truth, people in NW Montana are not pro wolf, the majority, are stead fast against them and I suspect there is a lot of Killing going on..
And to add, I would suspect the same thing with Grizzly bears, much more than are being reported, I know the forest managers for both Stoltz and Plum creek and have been told by both of them, that they don’t want them…
Actually, he was citing a paper they recently published:
Smith, D.W., E. E. Bangs, J.K. Oakleaf, C. Mack, J. A. Fontaine, D. Boyd, M. Jimenez, D. H. Pletscher, C.C. Niemeyer, T.J. Meier, D.R. Stahler, J. Holyan, V.J. Asher, and D.L. Murray. 2010. Survival of Colonizing Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains of the United States, 1982–2004. Journal of Wildlife Management 74 (4):620-634.
60% of Montana’s wolf population came to Montana on their own naturally. I bet they are just as hated by hunters/ranchers as the ones that were reintroduced. A wolf hater’s mind is not going to suddenly change based on whether a wolf came here naturally or was reintroduced by some people.
Please cite the source that states 60% of Montana’s population came to the state on their own? Currently only the NW Montana wolves are considered to be a naturally occurring population of wolves, the rest are the result of the introductions in Yellowstone and Central Idaho..So I would be very interested in seeing the source or study that shows that 60% came here on their own?
FWP Commissioner Bob Ream responded that 60 percent of Montana’s wolves came here naturally from Canada and were not part of that Yellowstone reintroduction population.
I should have known it was Bob! Now take into account, in the state of Montana, FWP commissioners do not have to have any training in wildlife, biology or basically anything at all, they campagin and do the same thing politicians does, Shuck and Jive to get their selves appointed to the commission…
I know Bob. and his claims are not backed up by science..
Save Bears and jon,
The DNA of the wolves is all intermixed now, after 15 years of reproduction.
The only way you could determine percentages would complex DNA analysis, and to prove what point because the wolves’ recent ancestors all came from up north?
According to the USFWS 1999 report there were approximately 70 wolves in NW Montana in 1996. That’s about how many were also reintroduced into central Idaho and Yellowstone over the two years that they were bringing wolves from Canada.
I was under the impression, that is part of the problem….
No Genetic connectivity?
I know for a fact, I have seen that cited more than once or twice in various lawsuits…
Bob attended the University of Wisconsin (BS and PhD) and University of Utah (MS), with degrees in agriculture and plant and animal ecology.
In his professional career Bob worked at the University of Denver for three years, worked in Forest Service Wilderness Research for three years, and then taught and conducted research at the University of Montana for 28 years. Bob has conducted and participated in research on natural wolf recolonization in the northern Rocky Mountains, was instrumental in starting the interagency elk-logging studies in the early 70’s in cooperation with the state, BLM, and US Forest Service, and taught courses in big game management, habitat management, population modeling, conservation of natural resources, recreation river management, wilderness management, and basic ecology. Bob helped start the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana. Ream has sponsored numerous student field trips on the Rocky Mountain Front, Missouri River Breaks, and many other roadless lands in Montana. He also served as Acting Dean of the School of Forestry for 15 months in 1993-94.
sb, Bob does seem to have to have some training if you ask me. I would like to see what Ralph thinks about Bob Ream being qualified.
One of the biggest problems is, really there is no way to tell, but yet, both sides keep making outlandish claims on where, what, when and why, the genetic connectivity argument is a moot argument in my opinion, based on the fact that all of the wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho either were re-introduced or migrated from Canada. I know for fact, it would be very difficult, even with the current DNA technology to prove anything, now we are talking about splitting hairs(no pun intended)
Ralph do you know Bob personally, are you familiar with his credentials? Not to dish Ralph at all, but why is his opinion so important on this particular issue? When it concerns Bob?
I wonder how Bob found that out myself. I think it’s well known and accepted that there were indeed some wolves that migrated to Montana naturally on their own, but where does Bob come up with 60%? I would like to know that myself.
I we are to accept that there are 500+ wolves in Montana, then we have to accept that 300 of them are naturally occurring wolves, that either they have came here on their own, or they were born here, now are we sure the other 200 are descendants of the original re-introductions? And are we ever sure there are 500+ in the state of Montana, to assign percentages at this time, is nothing but pure and unfounded speculation, we don’t have all the information required to make those kind of assertions!
I should have known it was Bob! Now take into account, in the state of Montana, FWP commissioners do not have to have any training in wildlife, biology or basically anything at all, they campagin and do the same thing politicians does, Shuck and Jive to get their selves appointed to the commission…
I know Bob. and his claims are not backed up by science..
It sounds to me like you are trying to discredit Bob ream because he is a commissioner. I’m just pointing that out. I myself don’t doubt that there are some wolves that came over naturally, but I would like to see where he got that 60% number.
to me, that is simply an irresponsible statement, not backed by any science..We don’t even know how many wolves are in the state of Montana, despite what the yearly reports say..
I have never met Bob Ream.
I have no bad or good motive here and I am not trying discredit Bob, I am saying, we don’t have the science to back up what he stated!
There is no way to prove, what percentage of the wolves are natural occurring wolves!
ok sb, fair enough. I wonder where and how Bob came up to that assumption that 60% of Montana’s wolf population migrated there naturally.
I’d like to weigh in here. I think that the genetic connectivity argument is pertinent to with regard to wolves once delisting is finalized and the states have reached their politically derived goal of maintaining the minimum number of wolves in their respective states. I seriously doubt that the GYE population will have much connectivity to the other two populations if the states actually follow through with their stated goals of reducing the populations to 300-450 wolves among all three states.
The current situation barely allows genetic connectivity between central Idaho wolves and GYE wolves but once the populations are reduced I don’t think that will be the case.
Delisting has to take this in to account and the USFWS, in its haste to delist, has not really considered the possibility that the states will manage for the minimum levels that the plans of each state’s legislature actually call for. We all know that the plans of the states’ game agencies can be changed at a whim by the legislatures once delisting is finalized.
Ken based on what you are saying, being all of the wolves inhabiting the region, originate in Canada, there will never be a way to prove or disprove genetic connectivity…not until the DNA studies get far more precise. If you were to compare a naturally migrating wolf to a re-introduced wolf, your going to find everything is so close to the same, that you can’t distinguish them..so how are we currently going to prove or dis-prove connectivity is happening or not?
They take blood samples of wolves they handle. There is an enormous genetic library of individual wolves now in existence and a number or articles have been published based on the DNA.
I am well aware of this, but there is simply no way to prove genetic connectivity or to even know if it was a re-introduced wolf or a naturally migrating wolf and anybody that thinks there is is fooling themselves.. I can tell you for a fact, that type of technology is still in the future.
I can tell you, after my stint in Hawaii, working at the unit that identifies missing service men, there are service members, that have been buried under certain names, that the only identification they were able to do is say what race they were. They looked at records, matched them up with who was in that AO at that time, what race they were, and called the family stating they had found their missing family member!
sb, I emailed a fellow by the name of Kent Laudon, he works for Montana fwp as a wolf specialist. You might infact know this person, but here is what he said about 60% of Montana’s wolf population migrating from Canada.
Jon, I haven’t actually sat down to do the math, but seems like 60% would be in the ball park. That is not just wolves coming directly from Canada, but also their offspring. Essentially the population in NW MT are either from Canada directly or offspring from wolves that came from Canada. SW MT wolf population is essentially offspring from wolves that were transplanted from Canada to Yellowstone and Central Idaho. Those offspring then dispersed to parts of Montana, found each other, pair bonded, carved out a territory and produced pups. By and large that’s where those packs came from. The packs in NW MT initiated by the same way (dispersal), but either coming from Canada, or descended from wolves that did. Now having said all that, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is mixing between the areas, and one would expect more mixing and time goes on.
Oh what the heck, I just did the math. If you look at our annual report and compare the NW MT (wolves that got here on their own and their descendents) population to the rest of the state’s population (wolves that descended from transplanted wolves in Yellowstone and Idaho) you would get
Hope that helps!
There is more to it than that Ryan.
I think Ralph put it well in his comments…
No, Its pretty much that simple, then all of the bullshit that has followed with the lawsuits, broken agreements, etc has pretty much turned what should have been a minor shit storm into a major one.
Name any agreement that was made and broken. If you can name one, tell us who broke it.
I ask because anti-wolf people have made up a lot of agreements that were then supposedly broken.
In reality the whole process was driven by the federal government, and pro-wolf groups were in no position to make any legal agreements. I mean legally, how can they?
It sure as hell is not true they promised not to sue.
I never said promise not to sue. Without looking at it deeper, look at the published triggers for delisting. Those have pretty much all been met. As for Wyomings plan, its been the same since prior to the reintroduction, and was fine until all of the lawsuits. Granted they messed up by killing off gimpy the wandering wolf so fast. Realistically wolves aren’t going to go extinct, even in the NRM.
Looking at how this has all gone down, I hope congress guts the ESA and allows for state by state delisiting or relisting of animals based on states management plans. When Sage Grouse get listed, Oregon is going to get screwed.
Ralph, the most common one I constantly hear about is that a deal was made between the 3 states and animal rights groups or whoever to have only 100 wolves each. I’m sure you hear this one constantly.
Were wolves allowed to have repopulate the northern Rockies sans reintroduction there would have been no 10(j), no killing wolves for livestock producers, and no wolf hunting season. Do you really believe they would have been any less controversial in that scenario?
– – – – –
The 1994 EIS is not an “agreement”. While it states the minimum criteria that need to be present to trigger a delisting, it is not a contract. Moreover, FWS attempted to delist when it felt the minimum criteria were met; however, the criteria for population recovery were not the only criteria relevant under the ESA. No agreement was broken. No contract was broken. I would summarize the wolf issue as follows: The people of the United States have a disagreement about what constitutes “recovery” under the ESA. All of the rest this silly rhetoric is simply designed to mislead and persuade people who have not made up their minds.
I actually think that would have been the much better option. The bitching would have been significantly less, no bullshit about 200lb canadian wolves imported by the granola munchers to end hunting, etc. Sure there would be some bitching, but no where near the crap their is now.
JB, there might have been less bitching but it still would have been there. People in northwest Montana bitch about wolves all the time. I’ve heard people freak out when wolves were so much as sighted (I guess they are not meant to be seen). These are people who have no real reason to hate wolves. Also look at states like Iowa when mountain lions and black bears wander in. People get extremely trigger-happy. Although it would have been nice not to hear the Canadian wolf argument which I never heard in northwestern Montana or have ever heard in Wyoming except for one coworker who thought the wolves in the Boundary Waters area were Canadian wolves.
Sorry, I meant to say Ryan.
pRO wolf, I don’t think it matters all that much. Native wolf, non native wolf, imported wolf by the feds. wolf that migrated naturally, etc. They would still be hated by a good majority of hunters/ranchers. This fact will never change as wolves will always eat elk, deer, moose, and even livestock sometimes as they have to eat. This is not even a legit reason to hate wolves. Hating an animal for eating to survive. Sounds kind of ridiculous to me, but some people feel like that. When you tell a wolf hater the facts, they are going to ignore the facts and continue believing their lies. The canadian wolf argument is something that has been debunked by biologists and it still gets brought up to this day by wolf haters. A few months ago in Iowa, some hunter shot a mt. lion for doing absolutely nothing. Some people just love killing things with their guns.
I live in the midwest and spend many enjoyable “tent nights” out west every year. I can tell you the difference between the two places is that the Rocky Mountain human population is far more angry than the upper midwest. Sure, the rural areas of the upper midwest has its racists and populations of generally unhappy people, but that anger is not directed towards a single animal for the most part.
Also, the progressive influence of Minneapolis/Madison/Chicago plays a big part.
It really does come down to an antiquated cowboy mentality. I also feel there’s a genuine lack of respect for wildlife in much of the rocky mountain/interior area, and “prairie dog hunts” are a chief component of that. When you raise kids to do that, you’re devaluing wildlife to a new generation.
I would agree regarding the progressive influence of Minneapolis and Madison. Those urban areas dominate politics in the Midwest (as opposed to the “cowboy” politics of the West). However, what is really striking to me is how much less FEDERAL PUBLIC LAND is available in the Midwest. And yet, we constantly here from Westerns that the wolf issue is about private property rights. Huh? How can this be when the vast majority of wolf packs occur almost exclusively on federal public lands. Whose property rights are being violated? And how?
Seems to me what is really going on is that many Westerners resent the loss of local control over the governance of federal lands that occur in “their backyards”. Recovery of wolves necessitates more wolves in more places than many locals want and they aren’t happy that the policy goals with respect to wolves are being driven by “outsiders”.
That outsider mentality is very strong out west, almost to the point of paranoia and intolerance in some places.
But the question is….
Is there enough of this mentality to actually change policy, only time will tell.
As you see more “outsiders” moving in the mentality may change. It will take time.
sb, can I get your personal thoughts on these comments?
“Montanans only agreed to having a resident wolf population of around 100 to 150 wolves. Today, there are some 1,400 or more wolves in the state, mostly in the western 1/3 of Montana.”
No, there is not 1400 wolves in the state of Montana, I have seen no evidence of this amount of wolves, but I do think the population is higher than is being reported by FWP.
Also, I don’t remember any agreements, I do remember that at that time the number of 100 per state and 300 total was brought up as the trigger point to start the de-listing process and I don’t ever remember there being a maximum number in any of the talks..
sb, what is your personal guess as to how many wolves you believe are in MT? 600? 700?
Jon, I would say, somewhere between 650 to 800 wolves inhabit Montana, but that is just an educated guess, based on information I have gathered..
The population criteria was 30 breeding pairs and 300 wolves for delisting.
Yes it was Ryan, but no where was it an agreement or a maximum, just to be fair to both sides, that was the trigger number and nothing more based on the science at the time they were re-introduced…
Agreed, but that was the consensus that allowed some of the anti-wolf people be “okay” with the reintroduction. Fast Forward to know with at a minimum 5 to 10 times that population and repeated lawsuits to keep them on the ESA and its not hard to see where the backlash comes from.
“Clearly the ’87 goal … is not defensible,” Bangs said. “I recognized this the moment I got here.”
As the science around wolf populations evolved, Bangs said, the rhetoric over the wolf issue has fixated on 30 breeding pairs and 300 wolves. However, those numbers are a biological tool, not a hard and fast number.
For instance, some research shows that an average of 14 wolves exist for every breeding pair, a reality that would dictate more wolves in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho than the 300 outlined in the original recovery plan.
“It’s true, 300 wolves were not enough,” Bangs said. “I’m sorry that it’s reduced to these sound bites: ‘They promised only 100 wolves per state.’ That’s not true. Actually, the recovery goal is a pretty complex thing, and it’s based on the current science.”
My little berg of Cody Wy has a serious case of Wolfaphobia. I’m guessing that 80 percent of people in or near Cody who have any opinion at all on wolves are decidedly negative about them , as in hatred and fear and the rally cry of the Anti-Federal Gubbamint persuasion is heard as often as truck horns, it seems. Ryan would ft in right well here, among the hysterical and the uninformed-but-gullible. The amount of disinformation and downright lies about wolves going around here is staggering. The opinions are just that…conjecture.
I had to set up some context for what I want to say about anti-wolf hysteria. The local newspaper of record, The Cody Enterprise , a monopoly , is rabidly anti-wolf in its selective coverage and opinion pieces about wolves. You simply will not read a pro-wolf article or ever be quoted if you state a pro-wolf position. Only the noise and fury about Big Bad Wolf gets into the Enterprise. The newspaper Editor-Publisher ( and formerly part owner) has a really bad habit of preaching to his percieved choir on certain topics, and his underlings are given those marching orders as well. He will not allow a pro-wolf factoid to sully his broadsheets. But the rhetoric and lies go on forever. And regrettably , that kind of coverage epitomizes the notion that when you keep repeating lies and disinformation often enough and hard enough , they become defacto truths. The Cody public gets skewed.
Which is precisely what I see in many venues and journalistic outposts across the northern Rockies. Massive Misinformation and Dystrophic Disinformation being passed off as news about wolves.
Let me close with a humorous but illustrative example of this propaganda paradigm.
Early on in the Wolf Reintroduction saga, c. 1998 , a few wolves were starting to show up around Cody , fleetingly. One week , two lone wolves were spotted 60 miles apart on different days of the week, in different river basins. How did the Cody Enterprise report this ? A big frontpage headline above the fold , ” WOLVES GALORE !”
I clipped that and saved it. I treasure that headline.
According to the Cody Enterprise, two wolves constitutes a ” galore”. As in gaggle of geese, flock of turkeys, covey of quail , herd of turtles, swarm of bees. Two or more nonassociated wolves seen separately the same week in the same county is a “Galore”.
How many galores of wolves will suffice for recovery , me ponders…
I am based in Michigan (very southern part of the Mitt) where there are no wolves. But, we vacation in Wyoming every year. The wolves (and grizzlies) are one of the main attractions for the family.
Economically and intuitively, it seems like common sense that tourism in the northern Rockies ecosystem brings in far more money and supports far more jobs than ranching. The cowboy culture is also an attraction, but I’d guess most of the 2 to 3 million tourists who pass through Yellowstone each summer are more interested in seeing wildlife than cattle.
I’d certainly miss the ranching legacy of the West if it disappeared–but I’m still mystified about the economic model of western cattle ranching. The pure acreage requirements to raise cattle on high desert ground are enormous. Here, in the midwest, the cattle seem pretty happy on 40 acres of lush, green grass, alfalfa, and ample water. Less investment in land, farm hands, and equipment….and much easier to protect from predators.
I think that the wolves are not hated in the Great Lakes because they tend to stay out of trouble. People do not have ranches all over those regions where cattle and sheep graze with little contact with people unlike the open range out west. While there is a hunting culture in the Great Lakes region, the main animal is the white-tailed deer which can be hunted all over all three of those states, including regions that will probably never support a wolf population. I am not sure what the attitude is about hunting in those states, but it seems to me in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, it is almost a duty to hunt. A lot of people look down on you if you don’t hunt and it seems to me that there is this expectation that nothing should stop you from getting an elk and wolves are eating “our” elk. I think the most important reason though is passage of time. It has been less than 100 years since wolves were exterminated and there are plenty of “grizzled old ranchers” as the article said who remember their grandparents and parents killing wolves. Old habits die hard. The key is to continue to educate people about the benefits of wolves and it starts with children. You are not going to change the old timers’ minds.
Deer numbers in WI are down and some hunters do blame wolves, but it is nothing like what it is like out west.
I believe hunters kill many more deer than wolves in WI. It does not amaze me that wolves get the blame for when there may be low deer #s. predators are almost always the scapegoat when it comes to low game animal #s.
According to the Wisconsin DNR, “Each wolf kills about 20 deer per year. Multiply this by the number of wolves found in Wisconsin in recent years (630), and approximately 13,000 deer may be consumed by wolves annually. This compares to over 40,000 deer hit by cars each year, and about 450,000 deer shot annually by hunters statewide. Within the northern and central forests where most wolves live, wolves kill similar numbers of deer as are killed by vehicles (about 13,000), and about 1/10 of those killed by hunters (127,000 in 2008). Wolves are a factor in the deer herd, but only one of many factors that affects the total number of deer on the landscape”
This is what is happening in MI and MN. Hunters who take many more deer than wolves in each of those states are pinning the low deer #s on wolves when they take far less deer than the hunters themselves.
I have read that hunters in Minnesota and Wisconsin are both complaining about that, it just doesn’t seem to be as rabid as it is here in Wyoming or in Montana or Idaho.
Pro wolf, do you sometimes feel awkward living in a state filled with people who would like nothing more to see wolves extirpated again? I am sure you have come across some cowboys and fellow wyomingites that don’t like wolves. They must look at you like you have 3 heads when you tell them you like wolves and are a pro wolf supporter.
I do feel awkward at times living in a state where so many people do want to see wolves exterminated again. I am careful who I tell my pro wolf views to. I have several coworkers who are straight out of the 1800s when it comes to wolves and a few friends that way as well. Several of them do look at me like I have three heads, especially when they see my hunting photos and hear my hunting stories. The bigger surprise to them is that I am a wolf supporter and a hunter.
Pro wolf, I think in their minds, they believe that all hunters should hate wolves. Do you have any friends that are like you, pro hunting and pro wolves?
You must have some amazing pictures of wolves pro wolf. Post them sometime if you want. I think there are many on here who would love to see them.
I have very few friends who are pro hunting and pro wolf. Most of my friends who hunt get hunting magazines that piss and moan about wolves. I have one that will say that wolves have a place in the ecosystem but then will say they are competing with her for food (she makes about $50K a year and can afford meat). Unfortunately I have actually never happened to have a camera the few times I have seen wolves. I’m camping out in the Winds this weekend so maybe I can get a good picture.
I think that the article points out in a subtle way that wolves are hated more in the west simply because they stand in economic way of the progress of making the west a hot dusty dry wasteland full of manure, which when useless, can become a sub-division.
Linda, I think this painting sums what you said up. It looks like it even has a wolf in the lower left hand corner.
The symbolism seems to be much less of a factor in the upper Midwest. Nature lovers who live in the cities where wolves can’t go (or aren’t allowed) are often loathe to admit it but they actually can present a burden – – – although sometimes its difficult to separate reality of the burden from imagination of it.
I’ve even wrestled a little with this question myself in the past week. There’s been a recent spate of dog killing by wolves in neighborhoods on the mainland (pretty quiet, hardly making news), including one family who let their nice lab out to pee and after a search found nothing much but a rib cage.
Then last week somebody e-mailed me photos of a drop-dead gorgeous pale gray wolf already in thick coat by the road on this island (where wolves are seldom known) – it appeared expectant, obviously for a treat to be tossed from a car window. Then Friday evening, a nearby cabin owner pulled up in his skiff and told me he was pretty sure the same wolf was trotting down the beach toward my house some 15 miles from the photo location. I found “big” tracks where he detoured up a nearby creek that’s still full of spawning pinks.
Now, in a tiny clearing with no fences and rainforest hemming in on 3 sides, I worry about letting my beloved family member out to pee — as occasionally he succumbs and trots off in search of disgusting intertidal salmon carcasses.
There are differences from the NRM recovery area. I have nobody to blame for planting a wolf here (just for feeding him) and if he does rip my beloved labrador limb from limb, there will be no caring, competent people from the government coming by to sympathize, validate my financial claim and render retribution. On the other hand, wolf season is wide open — courtesy of a government that enables but does not coddle.
But, there’s another consideration – – – a large avid group in this urban, nature-appreciating town who would figuratively tar and feather me if I present another wolf for sealing from this particular island of dashed joy and hope (Romeo’s killer knew the social consequences well enough to have a non-resident acquaintance present him for sealing).
But – – – – if a mate swims over and they happen to start a family (like a decade ago), we are looking at say 26 deer/wolf/year times perhaps 7, in addition to the 200-400 head hunters take off this most intensively hunted Island in the state. I wonder if that’s sustainable?
And they will no doubt be as much appreciated as the last pack of seven who played at their rendezvous site next to kayakers’ camps and in view of delighted visitors on tour boats —- but were all suddenly pinched in a couple of dark January days by a legal trapper who received more negative press than a drug dealer caught on an elementary school playground. As a memorial, a spontaneously organized group managed through the public process to turn the island into an effective wolf sanctuary, deer hunting be damned (although the designation did not survive intact a change in governor, Board of Game membership and the intensive management law).
Then miraculously that odd, one-in-a-million wolf, Romeo, appeared just in time to give solace and renewed joy for the wronged (minus a taste for pets or other negative aspects). He was with us for 6 or 7 short years but alas was illegally slain a year ago (the perpetrator was tracked down, exposed and is under prosecution).
Amazing, the thoughts and possibilities surrounding one wolf trotting down a beach and vanishing into 50,000 acres of foliage . . . .
I think the reason behind this, as many suggest, is that there is an anti-government reaction as much as an anti-wolf reaction.
While it was believed that nubilus (the great plains wolf) went extinct, it never truly did and it was in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin that the wolves were rediscovered – not reintroduced. The whole subspecies controversy revolves around nubilus and occidentalis – irremotus (northern Rocky Mountain wolf) was, in the 1990s, linked to nubilus as a broader subspecies definition. Occidentalis was the evil “Canadian wolf” which was used for reintroduction. Nubilus was the nice, American wolf which was already here. Nubilus is found throughout central Canada – ironically. And occidentalis was, equally ironically, migrating into the northern Rockies prior to reintroduction.
Laying out the facts simply pulls the teeth of the anti-wolf movement. So instead of focusing on that, they built their rhetoric around the illegality of the reintroduction – see Jim Beers, and extreme conspiracy theories of those such as Toby Bridges. They also focused on the controversial 10(j) and its interpretations. Ralph having lived through that whole experience much more closely than I did probably has some great insight in to all of that.
These arguments can’t be applied to the wolves of the midwest. The only argument is the risk to human life (…) and livestock. This reduces the argument down to a pure argument over numbers. What percentage of livestock deaths can be reasonably absorbed when caused by wolves? How many dogs die to wolves each year? How many people are attacked by wolves each year? Do the mathematics, and plan your wolf management accordingly. The threat to human life part of the equation is truly the most frustrating for anti-wolf activists to deal with. The generally acknowledged truth that wolves are less than interested in dealing with humans, let alone attacking them makes it hard to demonize them and the attacks which do happen are so few and far between that they don’t serve as the necessary rallying call to really turn the general public against wolves.
The reintroduction is falsely portrayed as adding additional stress and burdens to livestock owners which would not have existed without government interference. Wolves, travelling freely into the three rocky mountain states would have walked in to the states with 100% Endangered Species Act protections and over time (albeit an undefined and unknown amount of time) would have posed the same threats to livestock – This is much the experience that Coloradoans will have once wolves finally migrate into our state, with full ESA protections no less. The reintroduction actually opened up migrating wolves to a completely different type of protection. Those offered to nonessential experimental populations. The fact that there was a reintroduction allowed for the establishment of population goals – another bone of contention – and a very different set of expectations, measurements and rules.
While the entire reintroduction was a very successful endeavor, it did open up these wolves to many more threats based on it being a reintroduction. The anger at wolves (a problem the livestock industry believed it had taken care of 60 years ago – with the help of the federal government) was also directed at the old ally in those same feds. This makes the whole wolf issue, much like the abortion issue, and gay marriage, the definition of a wedge issue. One designed to place emotionally charged arguments into political discourse for the sole purpose of clouding more immediate and more widespread issues – such as double-digit umemployment. It becomes politically expedient to take a side on the wolf issue and ride it past many of the tougher questions. This political season will see many candidates in Idaho and Montana especially, attack the federal government, pound their chests, talk big and when elected, walk small about the wolf issue.
The Mexican Gray wolf reintroduction shows what happens when an isolated wolf population is introduced. It fails and the politics are interfering with significant federal involvement. The strategies of the wolf hunters in that region are all drawn from lessons learned since 1994. It even appears that the hunters there may even be tracking alphas via their collar telemetry – which is a pretty sophisticated, though predictable solution to dealing with the incredibly elusive wolves.
In short, while “Us” is clearly a true and supportable answer to the question, it is also a generalization. The wolves have a unique ally in their plight to recapture some parts of their historic range. They have the federal government (in part) and a majority of the US public on their side. Those allies also make their enemies more aggressive. The anti-wolf movement is a vocal minority who play to the fears of those who are feeling ganged up on by people they don’t respect.