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Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
Wolf Wars: Reports From the Front Lines, 2003
Page 2
Gray Wolf's Success Ignites New Debate
Candus Thomson, Baltimore Sun, 28 November 2003
Howls of gray wolves announce their dominance over the food chain from the park's Lamar Valley to the ranches of Montana, less than a decade after wildlife biologists returned them to their traditional habitat.
Bringing wolves back from the brink of extinction is being hailed as an ecological triumph, so much so that the federal government reclassified the animal this year from "endangered" to "threatened." The next step toward removal from the protected species list is for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to transfer responsibility for wolf management to game officials in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, possibly late next year.
"We have achieved biological success. Now we are trying to achieve bureaucratic success," said Ed Bangs, federal wolf recovery coordinator.
Each state submitted a management plan, which was reviewed by a panel of 12 independent scientists. Those critiques were sent back to the states this week and are to be posted on the Fish and Wildlife Service's Web site. Another round of public comment will follow before the agency decides.
"Nobody has officially proposed delisting the wolf yet, but even talk gets people's blood pressure up," Bangs said.
The livestock industry and sportsmen's groups, which have simmered as the wolf population soared from 31 in the mid-1990s to 750, can't wait for return of local control.
On the other side, environmental groups fear that a lack of federal oversight will mean a return to the "shoot, shovel and shut up" mindset that nearly caused the wolf's demise.
"Wolves are an emotionally charged issue, and they have been for centuries," said Douglas Smith, leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project for the National Park Service. "Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Romulus and Remus - the attitudes have been there for years."
Bangs and Smith have heard all of the arguments. Bangs came from Alaska in 1988 to lay the groundwork for the restoration program. Smith moved to Yellowstone in 1994 to be part of the restoration program and helped trap the original 31 animals in Canada and release them at the park.
Scientists also released 35 wolves in central Idaho and were prepared to transplant a like number each year for five years. But the wolves' adaptability made that unnecessary.
Last December, biologists announced that for the third consecutive year the Greater Yellowstone area had 30 breeding pairs, a goal that triggered the delisting process.
"We had two times as many wolves as we thought we would and half as many problems as we thought. So it's a good news, better news story," Bangs said.
Not to ranchers in the three states, who have lost 581 sheep and 214 cattle since the reintroduction began.
In newspapers across the region, letters to the editor warn that humans will be targeted by hungry wolves after they devour all the livestock and elk. Wildlife experts say that is preposterous and demagogic. During a legislative hearing this year in Helena, Mont., three dozen speakers demanded immediate relief from a wolf population they said was out of control.
Warren Johnson, a sports outfitter from just outside Yellowstone, said he had waited patiently for a balance between the wolves and the region's elk herd, "but there is no balance. Wolves are decimating our wildlife."
Bangs does not buy the argument: "There are 31,000 mountain lions out West that eat two times as much livestock as wolves. But no one says we need to kill all the mountain lions the way we still have people saying we have to kill all the wolves."
Former Yellowstone naturalist Gary Ferguson, author of the 1996 book Yellowstone Wolves, said the hostility toward the recovery program is all about the perceived meddling of the federal government in local affairs.
"I wonder if there would have been quite the outrage there if the restoration had happened naturally. I think probably not," he said.
Biologists consider the wolves "a keystone species" that affects the health of every other animal in Yellowstone.
When the National Park Service had a strict shoot-on-sight policy for wolves that eliminated all packs by 1926, "we took the food pyramid and just lopped off the top," Smith said. "Wolves are the kings and queens of providing meat to the scavenger population: grizzly bears, ravens, magpies, coyotes and eagles. Every wolf kill benefits at least five other animals, the most we've gotten is 10."
In addition to helping the ecosystem, the wolves also have been a multimillion-dollar boon to the tourism industry. Outfitters that lead snowmobile tours and eagle watches have added wolf itineraries. Visitors with huge spotting scopes take up positions in the Lamar Valley, hoping to watch wolves stalk elk herds in the winter and raise their pups in the spring.
"Wolves are so much like us," Bangs said. "We can see ourselves in them - good and bad - and we project ourselves into them."
Federal officials say the wolf population is leveling off in the northern Rockies, where growth rates have slowed from 15 percent last year to 11 percent this year. Yet there are signs that the recovery is breaking new ground.
In September, federal biologists confirmed the existence of a new 16-animal pack, mostly pups, south of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The sighting is the eighth wolf pack in Wyoming outside Yellowstone.
On Nov. 5, a Yellowstone visitor saw a pack in the northeast section of the park, which marked the 1,000th straight day with a wolf sighting.
But 17 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, do not believe that success in the park is enough to justify delisting. The groups filed suit last month against Interior Secretary Gale Norton to stop delisting, saying that recovery had occurred in just three of nine states in the Western region. Further, they contended, removing the wolf from federal protection would curtail recovery elsewhere in the country.
Norton "is backing away from wolf protection before the job is finished and is jeopardizing all the progress her agency has made so far," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the 430,000-member Defenders of Wildlife.
Defenders officials point out that since 1987 the group has paid market value to ranchers who have lost livestock to wolves, more than $210,000.
Bangs believes the federal plan will prevail. "So far we've used good science," he said. "We've followed the law and we've won every lawsuit."
Although the spotlight has been on the wolves in the three northern Rocky Mountain states, interest - like the packs - has spread.
In the early 1990s, captive red wolves were successfully released in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, which has a population of about 100 animals.
Officials in Wisconsin, which has more than 300 wolves, held a series of hearings last week on a management plan that would take effect if the wolf is removed from federal protection.
The Utah Legislature this year urged game officials to develop a plan after a migrating wolf from Yellowstone was captured in the northern part of the state last fall. Although they have not had a sighting yet, Colorado wildlife managers are working on a similar plan.
And in Maine, New Hampshire and New York, state lawmakers passed bills to prevent transplanting Quebec wolves to remote areas of their states.
"The polarization is already there," said Craig McLaughlin of Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources, who has been traveling the state taking comments from residents. "You see the dichotomy between people who make a living off the land in the southern part of the state who let us know that they really weren't interested in having wolves, and the people who live in the metropolitan area who are much more supportive."
The Defenders of Wildlife recovery plan calls for restoring gray wolves throughout their former range where there is suitable prey and habitat to support several hundred wolves.
But Smith doesn't think that is realistic. "Wolves don't belong everywhere they've ever been. They need wild country and we have precious little wild country left. I'm pro-wolf, but not pro-everywhere."
Ferguson said if the three state management plans pass muster, it is time for environmental groups to stop putting up legal roadblocks and allow delisting to proceed.
"America needs and deserves a success in the restoration story," he said. "This is it."
Less Protection for Wolves?
Monique Balas, Green Bay News-Chronicle , 24 November 2003
With the nine-day deer-gun season in full swing, hunters can expect to see a few wolves while they're out in Wisconsin's northern and central forests.
The state's population of gray wolves has rebounded quickly over the years, making them more visible and surprising many wildlife officials. The state is attracting nationwide attention for its plan to take Canis lupus off the threatened species list because it consistently has been meeting population goals for recovery.
The animals remain under state and federal protection, and shooting a wolf could mean a $5,000 fine and a prison sentence. But those protections will be weakened if the animals are reclassified from threatened to state protected species.
"We hadn't expected the wolf population to grow as fast as they have in the Midwest," said Ron Refsnider, a regional endangered species listing coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It shows wolves are adaptable animals. All they need is an adequate prey base and pretty much to be left alone, not killed every time they're seen."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reclassified wolves from endangered to threatened in April, whereas Wisconsin reclassified them four years ago. Wolves had been listed as an endangered species since 1972.
If Wisconsin upgrades wolves from threatened to protected, the federal agency likely will follow suit, giving the state ultimate authority in controlling its wolf population.
"State listing is only symbolic, because the federal is more restrictive," said Adrian Wydeven, a mammalian ecologist for the state Department of Natural Resources and the agency's point person on wolves. "Once the federal government totally delists wolves, then all management authority goes back to the state. Then we can continue to manage wolves however we want."
Only five years ago, there were 32 wolves in Wisconsin but that number has increased by tenfold to an estimated 335 in the past half-decade, Wydeven said. The wolves began moving here from Minnesota in the 1970s, and a combination of factors have kept them here. State and federal protection, an abundant deer population, mild winters and more wolf education programs are some of the factors.
The resurgence in Wisconsin and neighboring Michigan and Minnesota is the only natural restoration of gray wolves besides the wolves of northwestern Montana. The Upper Great Lakes regional wolf population is the largest gray wolf population in the lower 48 states, according to the Timber Wolf Alliance, an educational group based at Northland College in Ashland.
What would a change in status mean?
If the animal is delisted to a protected species, restrictions on controlling problem wolves would be loosened. Landowners would need only one case of verified wolf depredation - the loss of livestock from a wolf attack, for instance - instead of two before state officials could trap or kill the wolf.
"So that would mean we'd be able to trap more quickly on a farm," Wydeven said. As it stands now, only certified state officials can respond to nuisance wolf complaints by trapping or killing the animals. Before the federal reclassification, wolves only could be moved, not killed.
Since April, 17 wolves have been euthanized for depredation to livestock, Wydeven said.
A change from threatened to protected would put wolves in the company of elk, moose, wolverines and badgers. It would mean that once the species is removed from federal and state lists, the DNR's wolf management plan could allow for landowners to shoot problem wolves and could allow for a public harvest if the population becomes overwhelming.
While landowners might be pleased, some environmentalists and animal-rights activists are concerned that removal of protection may mean the wolf population could decline before it's had a chance to flourish.
"I'm not against delisting the wolf if it stays a protected nongame species," said Norm Poulton, who heads a wolf task force for the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of the Lakeland Area.
But a movement to allow public harvesting does concern him.
"They have a tough life," said Poulton, who serves as a volunteer tracker for the DNR's Wolf Recovery Program. "It's not easy being a wolf. Bad things can and do happen to wolves."
Diseases, territorial disputes and car accidents can lower the population back to the point of extinction, he said, and Wisconsin's wolves won't be any better off than they were in the 1970s, when they were first listed as an endangered species.
A California-based animal-rights group, the Animal Protection Institute, has said the state is "preparing to launch war on wolves" by its proposal to declassify the animals.
"Federal and state laws have helped rescue the wolf from the brink of extinction," API program coordinator Brian Vincent said in a statement. "But the wolf still needs intensive care. Wisconsin's attempts to weaken protection for the species is like pulling the plug on a patient in critical condition."
Wolves used to be plentiful in Wisconsin's forests until a bounty system that began in 1865 slowly killed them off; the last living one was shot by a bounty hunter in the 1950s, Wydeven said.
"There was a lot of incentive to kill wolves and trap wolves," Wydeven said. "After we got rid of them, we started thinking maybe they had a place in the state."
As long as there is a combined population of 100 wolves in Wisconsin and Michigan - which has been the case for nearly 10 years now - and there are reasonable steps in place to maintain the population and habitat, the state will meet delisting requirements.
The DNR has been holding public hearings about the delisting process throughout the state to get the public's input. A public comment period ended on Friday.
Wydeven said reaction generally has been in favor of removing the animal from the threatened list.
"We'll probably recommend we'll go ahead with delisting based on what we're going on so far," Wydeven said.
The federal process likely would take about a year, Refsnider said. The Fish and Wildlife Service must analyze possible threats such as disease and human impact to determine if it will be able to survive in the state without federal protection. The agency would have to allow for public comments and Refsnider said he expected to be sued by animal-rights groups, which would slow the process. If both processes go as planned, state delisting could occur as early as next year and federal delisting by 2005.
What are the environmental consequences of a wolf resurgence?
"The general trend is when there's a healthy wolf population, there's a healthy plant population as well," Wydeven said. "Deer behave differently, they're not overly browsing, causing destruction of plants."
Deer tend to be more scattered when wolves are around, so they won't keep eating one plant until it's gone. That means more plant variety and a more variegated ecosystem in Wisconsin's forests.
So far, no wolves have been detected in areas where chronic wasting disease has been detected among deer, and Wydeven said the fatal brain disease hasn't been known to affect wolves. In fact, a bigger wolf population could mean another way to control the disease.
"Wolves are really good at picking off sick animals or animals that are weak and less fit," Wydeven said. "An animal with chronic wasting disease is likely to be picked off in the early stages and prevent other animals from getting sick."
Refsnider said it's hard to predict environmental consequences of a species' reintroduction into its habitat.
"They're moving into an ecosystem where they've been gone for a while. It'll take some time for changes to be noticed," he said.
Hunters shouldn't worry about competition. Each wolf consumes roughly 18 to 20 deer each year, including scavenging, which adds up to about 6,030 to 6,700 deer per year consumed by the species. Human hunters harvest more than four times that amount. Last year, the DNR reported more than 300,000 deer were harvested by gun seasons alone.
"They're truly not competitive with man at all," said Christina Sherman, senior animal keeper at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary.
Where are they around here?
Wolves tend to travel in packs and live on territories ranging between 70 to 75 square miles. They are reclusive and tend to avoid humans.
Wydeven said there are a group of three wolves just south of Suring, a pair east of Mountain, two packs in Marinette County and a group on the Menominee Indian Reservation.
The closest Green Bay residents might ever come to a wolf are the ones kept at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. One female wolf from a research facility in Minnesota and her four male offspring consider the sanctuary home.
"I don't think we'll ever see one close to Green Bay because they're going to be around less human-impacted areas as much as possible," Sherman said. "A densely populated area such as a major city is not going to be attractive to a wolf. They need hunting ground, they need territory, they need space."
Wolf Is Back In Spain, But Hostilities Linger
Chris Brown, Reuters, 20 November 2003
GAMONAL, Spain -- On a hill outside Gamonal in central Spain, a cross marks the spot where a young boy was believed to be eaten by wolves about 90 years ago.
Folklore or not, hatred of the wolf and its status as vermin caused Spain's Iberian wolf population to plunge to about 400 by the late 1960s.
But a 1970 hunting law, human exodus from the countryside and greater ecological awareness among Spaniards have helped boost the wolf population today to between 1,500 and 2,500 -- the biggest in Western Europe.
"There were no signs of the wolf here for about 50 years and then suddenly in 2000 we had a pack," said Rafael Ruiz, head of the wildlife department in Guadalajara province, about an hour's drive from Madrid.
Despite greater awareness, hostility lingers in many country areas.
Sightings of wolves eating the bodies of those killed in the Spanish Civil War remain engraved in the psyche of many people from that generation, according to ecologist Carlos Blanco.
The most recent recorded fatal attack on a human was in 1974, when a wolf killed two children in Galicia. The animal was quickly hunted. Experts say wild dogs are to blame for a lot of damage said to be caused by their canine cousins.
"Even if that sad case in Galicia was a wolf, then we have probably just two deaths in 50 years. Many more die from dog attacks," said Carlos Sanz, who runs a wolf refuge in Chapineria, 30 miles southwest of Madrid.
Experts say the wolf shies away from contact with humans, although not all farmers would agree.
"Although the wolves around here attack at night, they don't seem to be afraid of humans, and you can see them occasionally during the day," said Aldina Murias, a farmer in the northern Asturias region.
The wolf revival has surprised many farmers who had become used to leaving animals unprotected, making them easy prey as the wolf moves from its stronghold in northern Castille-Leon region, home to up to half of Spain's wolf population.
"It's terrible to see. They grabbed the foal by the throat. I managed to distract them but there was nothing I could do to save the animal," said Murias, adding he has lost several foals and calves to wolf attacks.
Further south, official data shows 1,000 cattle were either killed, injured or disappeared in 59 attacks in 2001 in Guadalajara, in Castille-La Mancha region.
The attacks have since fallen due to a combination of stealth hunting, wolves seeking new territories or because farmers, helped by subsidies, have reinforced pens or bought mastiff dogs to protect herds, officials say.
For some ecologists, the drop in attacks highlights the precarious situation of the wolf. Ringed in by roads and hunting estates, the species in the south of the country is believed to be almost extinct.
The 1970 national hunting law laid the base for the wolf's recovery. From then on it was considered a controlled hunting species and not vermin.
Then a 1992 European directive protected the wolf from hunters south of the Duero, a river that cuts across north-central Spain.
In Castille-Leon, a region split by the Duero, native wolf populations rose, forcing many of the animals to other areas in search of food.
While the species is protected south of the river, it can be legally hunted to the north, where the right to enter a reserve and hunt one wolf costs 2,885 euros ($3,352).
"Like in most things though, there's a parallel black market. The head of a wolf is a prized trophy," said Theo Uberhuber, coordinator of green group Ecologistas En Accion.
Wolf Attacks Drain Money Set Aside to Reimburse State Farmers...
Tom Held, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 9 November 2003
Wolves preying on calves, lambs and hunting dogs in northern Wisconsin have wiped out the funds the state set aside to reimburse farmers for their losses and made the wolf reintroduction in the state a costly success.
The state Department of Natural Resources sets aside roughly $36,000 each year to reimburse farmers for animals killed by wolves, but officials expect that money to be long gone before the fiscal year ends in June.
Reimbursements totaled $75,668 in the last fiscal year and $62,560 the year before, said Signe Holtz, director of the DNR Endangered Resources Program. The funding shortfalls were covered with state tax dollars shifted from other DNR programs.
"We're thinking that we're going to have to look for other sources of money to pay claims, but we don't know exactly where that will come from," Holtz said. "This year, we've made a commitment to pay people who have losses, but we have to work over the next eight months to develop a long-term plan on how we're going to manage the situation."
The money has now become a part of the ongoing debate over wolf management in the state, pitting farmers and hunters against advocates who applaud the success of the wolf reintroduction.
Wolves were hunted into extinction in the state in the 1950s, then began to return with their endangered species protected status over the past three decades.
Now flourishing in 94 packs, the wolves have returned in numbers that frighten and anger their farming neighbors.
"You cannot raise livestock with wolves in the same area," said Eric Koens, a director with the Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association.
Koens and his group want the DNR to take steps to reduce the wolf population in the state, now estimated at 335. That will be a long battle, but in the short term, they plan to pressure officials to keep the state from "weaseling out" on the reimbursement payments promised in the wolf management plan adopted in 1999, Koens said.
"They're going to have to come up with the money," he said. "And frankly, I don't care where they get it."
Waiting for reimbursement
One of Koens' fellow farmers, Judy Antczak, is waiting for her reimbursement for four calves killed on her farm near Rice Lake in April and May. She has asked for $700 each, what she considers the fair market value for the young beef cattle.
Antczak has lost at least six animals from her herd of 65, including two calves killed in 2002. Another two calves have disappeared in that same time period, but the carcasses were never found and the state won't reimburse farmers unless the wolf attacks can be confirmed.
But, Antczak said, "If you're in a wooded area and they drag it off, your chance of finding them is nil."
The attacks on farm animals in Wisconsin have increased right along with the wolf population, which grew from 50 in the early 1990s to 335 late last winter.
From January through September this year, federal agents verified 29 wolf attacks that killed 14 calves, five lambs, six hunting dogs, three pets and one penned white-tailed deer.
In just those nine months, wolves attacked nearly five times more domestic animals than they preyed upon from 1990 to 1994, according to the Wildlife Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That agency is expected to spend $400,000 in the current fiscal year investigating wolf attacks and trapping and killing nuisance predators.
Wolves killed
Since April, federal agents have trapped and killed 17 wolves, including a pack of eight that preyed on cattle in Bayfield County. Wolves suspected of attacking farm animals were also captured and killed in Barron, Burnett, Price and Taylor counties.
Only government agents are allowed to kill wolves, given their status as a threatened species, under authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Farmers such as Koens and Antczak are pushing government authorities to remove the wolves from the threatened list and allow them to use lethal methods to protect their farm animals.
"I suggest that we be able to shoot them when we're hunting in this area or when they're causing problems," said Antczak, who hears wolves howling near her house at night.
The DNR held hearings last week on a proposal to remove the wolves from the threatened list in the state, but that would be a largely symbolic move until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes the same step. At that time, the DNR would take authority of the wolf management, and the Legislature could authorize a hunting season.
Marian Kiggens of Prairie du Sac told DNR officials at a meeting in Rhinelander that she fears that removing the wolves from the threatened list would be premature, given the short amount of time their packs have flourished.
And killing the wolves would prevent them from serving as a predator helping to strike an ecological balance, she said.
"Let them live out their lives and do what they were put here to do," Kiggens said.
Ranchers Sue to Remove Wolves
John Kamin, Eastern Arizona Courier, 22 October 2003
Ranchers and county leaders are trying to stop the Blue Range Mexican Gray Wolf reintroduction project by suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Coalition of the Arizona and New Mexico Counties Executive Director Howard Hutchinson said that individual ranchers and cattle groups joined forces to file a lawsuit to remove the wolves from the wild. The preliminary injunction that was filed about two weeks ago includes testimony from local rancher Rocky Manuz about the reintroduction project. In his testimony, Manuz addresses alleged and proven depredations caused by the wolves.
The primary goal of the lawsuit is to prove the wolves are crossbreeding and to put them temporarily back into captivity until safeguards are designed to prevent the disruption of the wolves' gene pool. If this were to happen, wolves would be removed from the Blue Range Reintroduction Area that includes eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
Hutchinson said the lawsuit focuses on the high probability of wolves interbreeding with domestic canines or wolf hybrids, decreasing the purity of their endangered gene pool. He said the groups have evidence of a wolf litter that has markings that look exactly like a breed of ranching dog known as catahoula dogs.
"We also believe that there have been other instances of crossbreeding with coyotes, domestic dogs or wolf hybrids," he said. "Part of our claim is that the Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to honor our Freedom of Information Act request with this genetic issue."
He said the FWS has refused to release information about crossbreeding studies. Environmental Impact studies and environmental assessments have not included information about wolves' genetic impurities, or the economic concerns of the counties that have the wolves, he said.
"That is a violation of the Endangered Species Act that the Fish and Wildlife Service is perpetrating," Hutchinson said. "The Fish and Wildlife Service assured everybody that they were going to monitor these wolves."
Center for Biological Diversity wildlife biologist Michael Robinson said the lawsuit is a slightly different version of a 1999 lawsuit.
"It's a rewrite of the lawsuit that got laughed out of court in 1999," he said. The 1999 suit claimed that all the wolves that were being released were genetic hybrids, whereas the recent lawsuit claims that the wolves are mating with hybrids and ranching dogs.
He said the Albuquerque Journal wrote an editorial about the 1999 lawsuit and referred to ranchers' evidence as "cowboy biology."
Robinson said there was one litter of hybrid wolf pups that was discovered by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"It is not a threat to the program as a whole," he said. "They reacted as they said they would to the hybrids."
The FWS destroyed the litter to prevent more hybrids from threatening the genetic purity of the wolves.
"This group of people that has no sense of sympathy for the program is now shedding crocodile tears over the wolves," Robinson said.
Economic impacts
Another safeguard that ranchers want considered is the economic impact that is caused by the wolves.
He said that ranching interests were not taken into account when the first Environmental Impact State-ment of 1996 was written. The initial calculations of the EIS estimated how many cattle deaths would be caused by 100 wolves in the wild.
"That's the basis for analysis, that those 100 wolves would take so many cattle," he said. "We pointed that out to them about the first EIS. That many wolves would do more depredations."
He said the system that reimburses ranchers for depredations is faulty because the group that reimburses the ranchers is the Defenders of Wildlife group. The group supports the reintroduction project.
"If Defenders (of Wildlife) wants to turn all of that funding over to an independent third party, then that's fine," Hutchinson said.
Robinson said the ranchers are only being reimbursed because the Defenders of Wildlife felt generous enough to offer them money.
"The system is the way it is because the Defenders of Wildlife offered to set up a fund," he said. "There is absolutely no legal obligation for anybody to pay for lost animals."
He questioned the reimbursement process by noting that if a rancher loses a cow to a mountain lion, bear or other wild animal, no one reimburses them. He noted that he lives in a forest, and that if there is a large wildfire and his house burns down, no one besides the insurance company will reimburse him because he knew the risk of living there.
"They've been sucking at the government's teat for so long that they've completely lost perspective," Robinson said.
Economic impacts could also affect hunting tourism to the counties in the reintroduction area, he said.
"We felt they were in error of calculating a natural prey base," Hutchinson said.
He said western New Mexico has seen a decreasing deer population.
If the wolves start to eat more elk, the number of elk permits will eventually decrease because hunters won't want to hunt in areas with bad elk populations.
"There's this hunting industry that gives hunters an opportunity to successfully take an elk, which is why they buy the permits," he said. He said the permits are the cornerstone of revenue for the Arizona and New Mexico Game and Fish departments.
Danger to humans?
Hutchinson said it was only a matter of time until a wolf attacks a human.
"People's pets are being injured and killed," he said. "How much is a human child worth? How much is your grandmother worth? To say that a wild predator is never going to attack a human is ridiculous."
Robinson acknowledged that wolves are wild animals and that they are dangerous if they are approached.
"Wolves fit into the same category as bears, rattlesnakes and mountain lions," he said. Robinson said that a New Mexico man recently had to be airlifted to a hospital after going into his tent to try and scare away a raccoon that walked into it.
"If one does not treat animals with respect, they're in trouble," Robinson said. He said many ranchers are complaining for their children's safety and that they do not feel safe about letting their children play alone on the ranches.
He questioned the logic of allowing children to play alone in an area known to have wildlife without supervision.
Robinson said there are no documented attacks of a healthy, non-rabid wolf attacking a human in North America.
"To say there are no attacks in North America is a complete and blatant lie," Hutchinson said. "A false sense of security is out there."
USFWS Investigates Wolf Deaths
John Kamin, Eastern Arizona Courier, 12 October 2003

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the late August deaths of four dead Mexican Gray Wolves since late August and the capture of another wolf only 22 miles away from Safford.
In a Oct. 3 press release, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Press Information Officer Victoria Fox said seven wolf deaths are being investigated. Four of the seven deaths have occurred since Aug. 26.
Wolf f856, a female pup, was found dead near Wild Cat Point in Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest on Aug. 26.
Wolf f510, an alpha female, was found dead near Snake Creek in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest on Sept. 15.
Wolf m509, an alpha male, was found dead on Highway 180 west of Silver City, N.M., on Sept. 24.
Wolf m584, a male, was found dead one mile east of Snow Lake in the Gila National Forest on Sept. 28.
Fox said killing an endangered species is a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act that can invoke criminal penalties of up to $25,000 and/or six months in jail. The press release mentions rewards up to $10,000 that are offered to anyone who can help apprehend the individuals responsible.
Center for Biological Diversity Wildlife Biologist Michael Robinson said he believes the awards have increased to $20,000 to $25,000 thanks to money being offered by the Defenders of Wildlife and the CBD.
Southwest Environmental Center representative Jean Ossorio said conservationists heard rumors that the wolves died of gunshot wounds. Wolf m509 is also suspected to have died after a hit-and-run attack, she said.
"The reason is that none of these wolves were known to be in poor health and none were extremely old. Healthy animals in the prime of life don't just die for no good reason," she said in an e-mail to the Courier. "The government officials themselves are treating these deaths as a law enforcement matter. But I do believe that it is their policy to release their cause of death only after necropsy results have been returned to them."
Fox said the USFWS National Forensics Lab in Ashland, Ore., must perform necropsies on the animals.
"They are world renowned and known as the Scotland Yard of wildlife forensics," she said. "The lab expedites high profile cases for USFWS agents. Necropsies may only take several weeks to complete, given the lab's existing case load."
She said the USFWS will not speculate on the animals' cause of death until after official necropsy reports are received from the lab.
"The most galling thing about the recent wolf deaths is the fact that three out of the nine wild packs have been effectively destroyed in a two-week period," Ossorio said. "With one alpha animal gone from the Francisco, Gapiwi and Saddle packs, one-third of the packs no longer exist, and up to eight pups are in jeopardy. This is a loss the program can ill afford."
Robinson said wolf m509 would probably be alive today if the USFWS heeded urgent recommendations from the independent scientists who wrote the three-year review in 2001.
"They advised allowing wolves to roam outside the boundaries of the recovery area, just like all other wildlife (including wolves in the northern Rockies) are allowed to do, unless they are creating problems," he wrote in an e-mail to the Courier. "The Francisco Pack was removed for being outside these boundaries, and just like every other translocated pack, they split apart."
After the split, wolf m509 was wandering alone near Hwy. 180, leaving him vulnerable, Robinson said.
He said the USFWS is "partially culpable" for this wolf's death.
Wolf found near Safford
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Coordinator John Oakleaf said wolf m732 was captured about 22 miles away from Safford on Aug. 26. He said the wolf's re-release is being evaluated.
"That's still a decision that goes through time," Oakleaf said. The wolf was from the Minas Mountain Pack and was linked to one confirmed and one probable cattle depredation. A depredation is a cattle death that was caused by a wolf.
He said the collared wolf stayed around the initial release area in early June, and then moved to the White Mountain Apache Reservation. After spending about a month and a half on the reservation, the wolf traveled south to the Black Hills Rockhound Area. The depredations were on a ranch near the wolf's capture area.
Oakleaf was not able to legally release the rancher's name.
Bureau of Land Management employees said the Twin-C Allotment is the only ranch in the area and that it is owned by rancher Rocky Manuz.
At the Adaptive Manage-ment Work Group meeting on Oct. 3, Manuz said the 24-hour time period is too short to allow him to report a dead cow. He also said Defenders of Wildlife representatives took more than one month to contact him about the depredation.
The Defenders of Wildlife is the organization that reimburses ranchers for confirmed wolf depredations.
Radio announcements
At the AMWG meeting on Oct. 3, wolf conservationists, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees and ranchers discussed radio announcements that preceded the death of wolf m509. According to the USFWS press release, m509 was found dead along Hwy. 180, a short distance west of Silver City, N.M.
Preceding the wolf's death, Silver City radio station KNFT reported that it received a call that a wolf was wandering about 15 miles northwest of the town, near Highway 180. Chuck Hayes of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department said press officer Marty Frentzel confirmed that a wolf was in the general area, as they would with any other call from the public.
In a phone interview with the Courier, Frentzel said he confirmed reports and did not give out specific information. The department did not order a media announcement of any kind.
Frentzel said he knew the agency received calls about the wolf three days before, and did not think the wolf had stayed in the same area for that amount of time.
"We don't want people panicked about the existence of a wolf," Frentzel said. He did not think he was giving out any specific information because Hwy. 180 covers a large area.
KNFT news director and station manager Larry Behrans said he called Frentzel after receiving calls from a person who had seen the wolf twice and a woman who said she was missing some chickens.
After speaking with Frentzel and Fox, he announced over the radio that a wolf had been spotted in the area. Shortly after making the announcements, Behrans heard that a dead wolf had been found in the area. Behrans said he heard that the wolf had been shot, and several other wolves that had been shot recently.
Hayes said the agency responds to questions from the public and the media with the intent of providing as much information as possible without jeopardizing resources. There is a state law that prohibits the New Mexico Game and Fish Department from giving away the specific location of any endangered species. The law means state agencies cannot announce a species is on a specific parcel of land, unless the owner of the land gives the state agency authorization to do so.
Ossorio said the USFWS told people at a meeting in Glenwood, Colo., that specific locations of the wolves would be left out of bi-weekly USFWS field notes to protect the wolves.
"I suspect the instincts of the FWS were correct when they took the specifics out of the field notes," she said.
"But if they are going to broadcast the information anyway, then why bother to leave it out of the notes?"
In response to differences between locations on USFWS field notes and phone calls, a more consistent policy among government agencies is being developed, Hayes said. He said the locations that used to be given in field notes indicated what geographic landmarks the wolf was near.
Counties Discuss Wolf Reintroduction to Recovery Area
John Kamin, Eastern Arizona Courier, 9 October 2003

Ranchers, environmentalists and government employees met in a public forum last week to discuss the reintroduction of the Mexican Gray Wolf to the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area.
A public meeting for the Adaptive Management Work Group was held last Friday. The group is a committee that was created to include local government officials in the decision-making process for the reintroduction of the wolf. Private meetings were also held on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area is the name for the wolf reintroduction area in Arizona and New Mexico.
Arizona Game and Fish non-game and endangered species chief Terry Johnson said the Memorandum of Understanding for the reintroduction for the wolf is being finalized and will be available to the public on Nov. 2. County officials from New Mexico and Arizona will review the MOU until that date to ensure the language does not violate any rules pertaining to their county.
Graham County Supervisor Mark Herrington said the county's official stance opposes the reintroduction of the wolves. Graham County's social, cultural and economic interests are now part of the MOU, which Herrington said made the 11 hours of meetings worthwhile.
"We need to stop putting wolves where they interface with people and cattle," he said. At the public meeting, it was acknowledged by all that a wolf did come as close as 22 miles from Safford. The wolf migrated south through the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
Herrington said officials told him that news at the private meeting, but because the MOU required so much work, other topics regarding the wolves were not discussed.
Johnson acknowledged public requests for more wolf warning signs in the Gila National Forest, two nominations for environmental agencies on the stakeholder recovery team, and more information to the public when wolves are near populated areas. The next AMWG meeting will be held on Jan. 30 in Socorro, N.M.
One of the topics of concern at the meeting was the four wolves who were shot recently near Silver City, N.M., and in Arizona. In Silver City, sightings were announced over the radio.
Shortly after, a wolf was found dead near the edge of the Gila Wilderness. The wolf is suspected to have died of a gunshot wound, but the cause of death is still unconfirmed.
Jean Ossorio of the Southwest Environmental Center in New Mexico asked Johnson about government involvement in the radio announcements.
Chuck Hayes of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department said information was given to the radio station that called without any knowledge that the information would be used on the air. Other officials agreed that no government agency ordered any kind of announcement.
Ossorio said that broadcasting knowledge about a wolf's location endangers the wolves because the public could use that knowledge to harm the wolf. The safety of the wolves should be a primary concern after so many wolf deaths in the last month, she said.
Johnson said investigations on the wolf deaths will continue as the cause of death is determined by biologists in the Game and Fish Department's lab in Ashland, Ore.
Rancher Carol Manuz said announcements need to be made to protect children. She questioned whether wolf advocates were really concerned about children.
When Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity asked everyone in the room how many children have died from wolf attacks in the last 100 years, he received no response.
Rancher Rocky Manuz said he is unable to receive payment for dead and missing cattle because the recovery teams do not investigate wolf deaths as quickly as they need to. He said he had only one confirmed wolf kill despite losing four cattle to what he suspects were wolf attacks. The kills cannot be confirmed to be caused by wolves unless investigated within 24 hours of the time of death.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field coordinator John Oakleaf said the wolf field teams try to notify humans near the wolves about their presence as soon as the wolf's location is confirmed.
Manuz said wolf supporters have a right to their opinion, but that he would like more notice of approaching wolves so he could move his cattle in advance and warn his grandchildren.
Greenlee County Super-visor Hector Ruedas said he is neither for nor against the wolves, but wants to create a system to consider ranchers' opinions in the future. Greenlee County Manager Kay Gale also attended the meeting to gather legal information for Greenlee County Attorney Derek Rapier.
Oakleaf, the communication liaison between the wolf field teams and the governmental agencies, said there are 53 known wolves that are alive. He presented statistics that said the leading cause of wolf deaths is by humans. Out of all the human-related deaths, wolf shootings were the top cause of death, followed by disease and vehicles.
He said wolf populations are highly dependent on pup production and pack formation.
Pup production in the Blue Range Recovery Area is lower than other wolves in the country because of smaller litter sizes.
Oakleaf thinks the population will continue to grow through the fall as wolves and pups feed off dead animals found in the forests. He presented statistics from graduate student Janet Reed that said wolves feed off elk more than any other kind of animal.
Reed studied about 100 wolf scats for food content, Oakleaf said.
As the wolf population increases, wolf releases will decrease, according to Oakleaf. He also said the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area has higher depredation rates than other areas of the country except for the Northern Rockies.
Depredation rates are more likely to be higher in the Blue Range area because of a smaller recovery area, closer proximity to cattle and no central protection area.
"Our area has more competing factors," Oakleaf said. The Blue Range area has 394 square kilometers, compared to Idaho's recovery area that has 1,296 square kilometers.
Wolves Bring a Surprising Ecological Recovery to Yellowstone
Nicholas Thompson, Boston Globe, 30 September 2003
LAMAR VALLEY, YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - It's a morning of freezing rain in the valley and a pack of wolves is roaming around Black Tail Creek. A few pups gnaw on an old elk carcass while some adults scout the nearby valleys for prey. Not far away, a few elk have sensed the impending danger and are dashing about.
To the tourists in the park, the prospect of a wolf attacking an elk is riveting. To the biologists staring into their binoculars, the real action is taking place in Black Tail Creek itself.
There, a cluster of willow plants is flourishing along the creek bed - a small but crucial sign that wolves are boosting biological diversity and restoring balance to America's oldest national park.
According to numerous biologists and wolf-watchers, the willows have grown because the elk, worried about staying too long in open streambeds, no longer gorge on the nutritious plants. Since the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, the elk have been increasingly itinerant and drawn up out of the wetlands to high rocky areas where they eat more grass. As hunters, soldiers, and elk all know, streambeds and valleys are dangerous. Attackers can scout from up high and pounce.
This is just one of the biologically salutary effects that wolves may have brought to the park, restoring a centuries-old balance that was upset when humans exterminated Yellowstone's wolves in 1926. Though no peer-reviewed proof exists of their impact on the willows, wolves may well be demonstrating their role as a "keystone species," an animal whose presence in the area increases diversity and overall ecological health - even as they spend much of their time lunging at other animals' throats.
"Wolves are to Yellowstone what water is to the everglades," said Doug Smith, the National Park Service's director of the Wolf Restoration Project.
Willows help the park's northern Lamar Valley, which was beggared of the plant before the wolves returned, in several ways. For one, they provide a decent nesting and migratory stopover site for many birds. According to Roger Pasquier, an ornithologist with Environmental Defense, several bird species that nest in the park could particularly benefit, including the yellow warbler, warbling vireo, and the tellingly named willow flycatcher.
Perhaps more important, beavers thrive on willows and those waddling creatures have recently returned to the Lamar Valley after a long absence.
Wolves do eat beavers, but the beavers seem to be quite willing to exchange a small chance at ending up in a wolf's belly for a good chance at their own tasty willow lunches. There are now four beaver colonies in and around the valley. There were none before wolves returned. One colony even lives right near a wolf den.
Almost wherever they exist, beavers create biological diversity when they build pools of slow-moving water around their dams. These pools create habitat for otters, muskrats, insects, moose, and many bird species.
Wolves also appear to be helping other larger species. Rick McIntyre, another wolf biologist in the park who has tracked the animals by radio nearly every day for more than three years, notes that many scavenging species, such as ravens, magpies, and even grizzly bears, eat the leftovers from wolf kills. A pack of wolves generally eats only about half of each of its kills, leaving plenty for other species to dine on.
A number of scientists caution that much is still unknown. "You can expect changes as a result of wolves being [introduced] in an ecosystem," said David Mech, a biologist with the US Geological Survey who has done wolf research in Yellowstone. "But I have been cautioning people not to jump to conclusions. It's early." Mech adds that wolves could also bring about potential unhelpful biological change, for example through the cascading effects of the reduction in the coyote population.
Smith acknowledges the large uncertainty over future effects and concedes that there isn't absolute scientific certainty either that the willows have regrown or that the wolves deserve credit. But, he said, "when I walk over to Black Tail Creek, I see willows that are over my head. Five years ago, they were barely at dirt level." Smith also has studied aspen trees, another key species for many animals that appears to be doing slightly better than before wolves were reintroduced.
When it comes to aspen and willows, changes in elk behavior seem to have much more effect than changes in the elk population. The National Park Service has tried several times to help plant species by killing elk, with little impact. In the mid-1960s, the Park Service tried killing elk hoping that would restore aspen growth. But it "didn't have any effect on the aspen," according to John Good, a now-retired Park Service employee who participated in the elk hunts.
Instead of simply killing them, the wolves - who hunt year-round and at night - keep the elk on their hooves all the time. According to Carl Swoboda, director of Safari Yellowstone, "The elk used to be relaxed. They'd go up to everyone and shake their hands and say 'welcome to Yellowstone.' They even said that to the first wolves."
In 1995 and 1996, wolves from Canada were brought to Yellowstone and to central Idaho. Similar efforts by activist groups to restore wolves to the Adirondacks and northern Maine have not gone far. Currently, about 250 wolves live in Yellowstone and the surrounding area, a number unlikely to increase since wolves tend to kill each other off at higher population densities.
Local ranchers have long opposed wolf reintroduction, fearing livestock predation. Wolves, however, have killed far fewer livestock than even the biologists predicted, and coyotes killed 28 times more sheep and lambs in 2002 than wolves did, according to the Montana Agricultural Statistics Service.
Proponents of restoration noted the potential biological benefits, increased tourism, and a sense that there is something special about restoring a dangerous mammal that roamed across the continent before humans killed most of them off.
"It's almost like we are making up for what we did to them," said Tony Martinez, a visitor to the park who drove from Colorado to scout the wolves. "Sometimes just thinking about them back here brings me to tears."
Making A Case for Wolves
Associated Press, 26 September 2003
MONTPELIER, Vt. The National Wildlife Federation and three other environmental groups plan to sue the federal government for ending a program to restore wolves to the Northeast. The groups argue that by changing the classification of wolves from endangered to threatened, and ending restoration efforts, the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act.
"Today, the wolf can be found on just 3 percent of its historic range in the lower 48 states, and millions of acres of former habitat remain potentially available for wolf restoration," the groups said in a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, giving her 60 days notice that a lawsuit would be filed.
The groups want the federal government to change its rules again, reviewing the proper classification under the Endangered Species Act for wolves in the Northeast, and reviving restoration efforts.
"They should go back and draw up a plan for figuring out how to restore the wolf to the Northeast," said federation attorney John Kostyack from Washington. "We know it's possible. We had great success in the West."
On April 1, the Fish and Wildlife Service reclassified most wolf populations in the United States from endangered, the most imperiled, to threatened. The move came after what officials felt was a successful reintroduction program in Yellowstone National Park. Wolves naturally repopulated parts of the upper Great Lakes from previously existing populations in Minnesota.
It was the success of those programs in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, where wolf populations are now thriving, that led to the rule change in April.
Paul Nickerson, an endangered species specialist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife office in Haley, Mass., said the goals of the Endangered Species Act had been met: the creation of a self-sustaining wolf population in the wild.
"I personally would love to see wolves reinhabit the (Northeast) region," said Nickerson, who had not seen the National Wildlife Federation's document, but was familiar with the arguments. "It's not a requirement of the Endangered Species Act that every inch of habitat be reinhabited."
The Wildlife Federation, The Maine Wolf Coalition, the Vermont Natural Resources Council and Environmental Advocates of New York on Thursday sent the 60-day notice to Norton. Kostyak said the lawsuit would probably be filed in a New England state, although he hadn't decided yet which one.
Wolves used to roam across much of North America, but they were pushed out of the Northeast in the late 1800s.
Now there are no known wolf populations living in the Northeast, although there are wolves living in eastern Canada near the U.S. border, and individual wolves have been found in Maine.
There are tens of thousands of acres of suitable wolf habitat in parts of northern New England and in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, experts say.
Even before the rule change, wolf restoration plans for the Northeast weren't far advanced. The goal to reintroduce wolves was met with fierce opposition by some people who feared the effect on wildlife and farm animals.
The new rules put the Northeast into the same region as the Great Lakes states, Nickerson said.
This is despite a Fish and Wildlife Service study during the Clinton administration that emphasized the importance of wolves in the Northeast, believed to be genetically distinct from the Great Lakes animals, said Kostyack.
"In the Bush administration's final rule, they didn't retract any of that. Instead, instead they harped on the success in the western Great Lakes," Kostyack said. "Never did they say the overall gray wolf population is OK. It's not OK. You still have a very small range of occupied habitat."
Park County Commissioners Reiterate Opposition to Wolves
Carole Cloudwalker, The Cody (Wyo.) Enterprise, 25 September 2003
Wolves are not welcome in Park County, commissioners reiterated Tuesday.
They decided to draft a resolution - the third involving their anti-wolf stance - dealing with wolf management in the area, state and nation.
Meanwhile, the curator of the Draper Museum of Natural History posted an e-mail to commissioners defending the predators, which he has studied extensively.
Commission chairman Tim Morrison said he placed the matter on the agenda after watching a television program that dealt with area predators, including wolves.
"I don't think there's going to be a question of survival of wolves," commissioner Marie Fontaine said. She said managing for wolves is "an unfunded mandate" from the federal government.
"It will be a management scenario that will never end," Morrison added. "There needs to be some statement from this county."
Morrison said livestock producers "are strapping guns on every time they go out, because there's grizzlies and wolves here."
Fontaine added that wolves are "not just on public land," where they were reintroduced, "but on private land."
Commissioner Tim French expressed frustration with the federal government, which he believes "says wolves can live harmoniously" on land adjoining Yellowstone, but he said wolves kill livestock, which he does not view as a harmonious situation.
Commissioners recalled the plan at one time was to reintroduce and manage for "no more than 30 packs, with four wolves to a pack."
"We're far beyond the original intent," said French, a Heart Mountain-area farmer and livestock producer.
"It would be nice if they never reintroduced (wolves) in the first place, but they're here now," he added. "It's not a happy situation."
French said grizzlies, another major predator of concern, were "always here" and should remain, but "they need to get them delisted."
The commission agreed that wolves will learn - possibly by being shot at outside Yellowstone - that they are safe in the park, where their numbers likely will swell. This is despite the federal belief that wolf numbers now are leveling off, commissioners said. Managing for a given number of wolves outside the park never will reflect actual numbers, they added.
In defense of wolves was an e-mail from Preston, curator of the Draper museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
"I hope the commissioners have availed themselves of the latest scientific data regarding wolves," Preston wrote. He said he could not attend the commission meeting in person but cited his specialty in predator ecology and its focus at the Draper museum.
"In the past, some commissioners and other political leaders have unwittingly propagated unfounded fears about wolf populations and their effect on game populations," Preston wrote. "This certainly is understandable given the emotional, 'sky is falling' climate of the public dialog in recent years.
"Without adequate scientific information, fear and dogma tend to rule," he added.
Preston said wolves present a "multi-million dollar economic opportunity for Park County citizens," though "ironically, we face the same challenges and opportunities with elk and other large game, and we exert management through hunting licenses."
Morrison proposed that commissioners host a public meeting to allow county residents to express, once again, their views on wolves and wolf management.
"I think it might be too late," Fontaine said. "The time to comment has passed."
Morrison said while wolf management should be based on science, often the views of ordinary people are overlooked.
"It's known to the common man that wolves are going to survive," Morrison said. "It's not 'scientific' information, but it's happening to people ... where does that come in?"
Commissioners planned to draft a resolution, based on minutes of their Tuesday discussion, and forward copies to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and possibly other agencies involved in wolf management decisions.
The Prospect of Eating Henry (Op-ed)
Arnold Okerman, Denver Post, 13 September 2003
It started when I was a child.
It came to a head when I was faced with the prospect of eating Henry.
I remember the night Henry and his sister Henrietta were born, our kids coming back in excitement to announce the miracle of their birth, twin lambs on a tiny farm in Littleton. The months in which they grew up was also the time when environmental groups were pushing hard to re-introduce the timber wolf into Yellowstone, and ultimately into Colorado.
For me, it became a very personal issue.
No one who has ever brought a wet, freezing newborn lamb into the house on a bitter cold winter night, warmed him by an oven while he dried, and then returned him to his mother to feed - and live - will ever believe that mere dollars, paid as compensation for a lamb torn apart by a predator, can possibly make it right.
Those infants were pure wonder, so delicate and so very near death when they were born, and yet so resilient that even a tiny taste of a mother's warm milk - I sometimes fed as little as half a teaspoon to get one started - was usually enough to send a quiver of strength through its body, to clear the glaze from those tiny eyes.
Any rancher can tell you that his lamb or calf was brought on to this Earth for one major purpose: to become breeding stock, or to provide wool, or for the rodeo, but mostly to provide food for humans. But that same rancher will tell you that its death has to be instantaneous, and humane, and at the right time, and until then that animal is to have a well-fed and pleasant life among his own kind. Anything else is tragedy.
Yet today, well- meaning activists bring domesticated timber wolves into classrooms to teach children that the wolf is a gentle creature that needs to return to the wild. Our children are being taught a fairy-tale notion of the wolf, one that helps the health of the herds by killing only the old and the sick, because they are easy prey.
But we know that even easier to kill are the babies, "Bambis," if you will, which are often crippled by the adult wolves and then turned over for training purposes to the wolf pups, who maul and finally eat, often while "Bambi" is still alive. That is the way the wolf family teaches its pups to kill and survive. In a time and place like Colorado today, it is no longer necessary or desirable.
Man has replaced the wolf as the primary predator, and man can control the over-populations in a far more humane manner than the wolf ever could. To force the wolf on rural Western populations that will be hurt by it is neither civil nor right.
The environmental movement is now so big, so wealthy and so powerful that it, in itself, now ranks as a full-fledged special interest group. Guided by their need for funds to keep their organizations growing, activists pretend the "battle" is still going on, that they must have contributions to fight these other special interests, the land barons and cattle barons - who, in actuality, many of us know to be hard-working ranch families, descendants of the pioneers who built Colorado who have lately had hard times making ends meet. In order to justify their work, environmentalists file lawsuits against the very people most able to really bring recovery, like the Colorado fish and game experts. Then, judges who understand neither Henry, nor Bambi, nor the timber wolf, end up making the decisions.
And the contributions by well-meaning donors often mean that we cannot help wildlife, cannot contain poachers or game hogs, because too much of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources' budget is spent defending lawsuits. Thus, the very contributors who most want to support our wildlife are defeating their own purpose.
It is apparent to me now that it is the people who have never actually lived near wolves who want to "know that they are there." People like me, who grew up in the great North Woods of Minnesota, who saw wolf tracks in the snow, occasionally heard their howls, occasionally saw one in the wild, who read about them and knew their history, we are the ones who firmly believe they should stay up north, where they are in no danger of extinction, where they still have an actual need in nature's balance.
Because I could never eat Henry. But I do not want a wolf to do it, either.