Friday, December 5, 2014

Wolves - The Endangered Species

A letter to the editor of the Idaho Mountain Express by Chris Albert

Humans have damaged wildlife more than wolves! 

Wolves are effective predators, but I am not sure why people insist on calling them “vicious.” With only teeth and fast strong bodies they hunt to live - that’s their role. 

They do not extirpate their prey. When researchers follow wolves, they find their success rate is usually less than 20 percent. That means the prey are not at all defenseless: their fast, strong bodies save them more than 80 percent of the time. Given the opportunity, wolves will surplus kill, but research shows us that they will go back to the site of surplus kills for months and feed. Assuming, of course, that people don’t lay in wait, to shoot, trap or poison at these sites. 

What puzzles me most of all is why we condemn the behavior in wolves that we, ourselves, engage in. We are outraged when a wolf “tears apart” a mother elk, but in a few months it is fine for us to go shoot the mother. Is it the “neatness” that makes it OK? We object to the “violence” of wolves against our livestock, but send the same livestock to premature violent and untimely deaths. To ask wolves to have a conscience is silly. They are wild animals. They are not supposed to have a conscience. That is a human trait. We humans are by far the worse in comparison: we do have a conscience, yet revel in the (often cruel) splintering and annihilation of wolf families. 

We nearly extirpated both elk and bison. We dare to think we are the only capable wildlife managers, refusing to admit that nature, before we came, was doing just fine. Once there were teeming herds of elk, bison and other game, living just fine with an estimated two million wolves. Why do you think it’s the wolves causing the problem?

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Wolves are amazing creatures. They form social structures that could make any modern family blush. The Alpha male enters a lifelong bond with the Alpha female of a pack. Wolves love wolf babies. The Beta male is responsible for the welfare of the little ones, but the whole pack plays with them and is very protective. There are friendships and there are fights within a pack, but even the weakest of all, the Omega wolf is taken care of if he is in need. 

Wolves are very territorial species and they will protect their territory from other wolf packs. They are predators. They kill big game and sometimes cattle, but seldom attack people. However, they kill to survive and not, as it is wrongly believed, out of pleasure of killing.

In 2013 grey wolves were taken off the list of protected species in the USA. Hunters can now organize hunting rallies and are permitted to use tracking dogs. They have the  permit to kill not only the magnificent grey wolves, but also the endangered and rare Mexican red wolves. The plea of the conservationists and the nature lovers is ignored by the authorities in most States where wolf hunting is allowed. 

The subject is quite delicate. It is believed that hunters play important role in nature and I can understand hunting for food, but the "recreational" killing of animals is bare of any ethics. 

The argument that wolves decimate herds is a very weak one. In Poland, where wolves are protected species, the government reimburses farmers for their losses. Why this could not be done in one of the richest countries in the world is puzzling to me. 

By Dominique Allmon


For centuries wolves have been characterized as bloodthirsty beasts and the bane of helpless livestock. Determined to overcome this misconception, film makers Jamie and Jim Dutcher, the creators of the Emmy Award Winning "Wolves at Our Door" documentary spent six years in a tented camp in the wilderness of Idaho living with a pack of wolves. Please watch and share this amazing documentary. It is quite eye-opening.

Also of interest: A Valley of the Wolves and  A Man Among Wolves

Image source here

Letter to editor source here