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Running head: Wolves: Innocent victim or vicious killer?

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Wolves Stephen Hawks Western Governors University

Wolves: Innocent victim or vicious killer?

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Wolves

Introduction

Wolves, the very name polarizes people from one end of the spectrum to the other. From the people that believe they should be shot on site, to the opposite end where environmentalist feels that people hunting wolves should be shot on site. How could you argue with the people most directly affected by the re-introduction of wolves into their area? When your livelihood is constantly threatened by the predators, it drives people to extremes. In our initial settling of this country we drove the other predators (mainly Native American and wolves) from their lands; forcing them to remote outskirts. We nearly killed the wolf off in our drive to seize this vast territory and everything in it. By doing that we threw off nature’s food chain, which caused a ripple effect among other animals and plants directly affected by the wolf. By re-introducing the wolf to its once natural territory, are we trying to right an injustice done by our ancestors long ago? Research has shown that wolves impact society through its reputation as killer of livestock, important link in the eco-system, and pawn in the ongoing debates between Government and Conservationist groups. There’s something spiritual about gazing into a wolf’s eyes. It touches your soul and it changes you. According to Lopez (1978) “It takes your stare and turns it back on you. People suddenly want to explain the feelings that come over them when confronted with that stare-their fear, their hatred, their respect, their curiosity” (p4).You cannot deny the power and strength that lies in that stare, although we share different physical forms, we can still aspire to the virtues of

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the wolf namely strength, loyalty, pride, and wisdom and a oneness with its surroundings. Mankind has associated the vices of his own and named it wolf; then using the term as a metaphor for a lot of despicable human behavior. The bible depicted the wolf in an analogy sense as those that would prey upon God’s sheep. Wolves tales have been handed down through folklore and word of mouth since the dawn of time. Lopez (1995) proclaims: The human mind entertains itself with such symbols and metaphors, sorting out the universe in an internal monologue, and I think it delights in wolves. The wolf is a sometime symbol of evil, and the mind dotes on distinction between good and evil. He is a symbol of the warrior, and we are privately concerned with our own courage and nobility. The wolf’s is also a terrifying image, and the human mind likes to frighten itself. (p 226). Mankind endured a lot of suffering and pain during the middle Ages and due to this deep frustration and anger; they took it out on the wolves. This underlying concept was obviously still in our ancestors conscious when they first landed in America. The ferocity and tenaciousness that they hunted the wolf bordered on obsessiviness. Mirroring their ancestor’s passions and actions when they originally drove them from England. They still had this deep hatred from their homelands for the wolf, only to find that by the time they sailed to the Americas, they found themselves face to face with wolves again. Thinking themselves the predators, they had to fight to gain a foothold against two already established predators the Native Americans and wolves. Among some of the early pioneers and settlers a thought dawned upon them that the Native Americans already knew. The wolf was an integral part of the landscape and as much a part of the land as the forests, grass, and other animals. It too, had its role to play and was an important link in these new and uncharted eco-systems. To rid the land of the wolf was in some minds the

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same as erasing the sky overhead or the land beneath. Much to our chagrin we did our best to rid the land of the wolf, and then either repentant or realizing we had made another mistake by attempting to control nature, we brought the wolf back. Wolves’ behavior stimulates an excitement in men and brings on strong emotions, especially if the men or their livestock are threatened. Everyone looks for explanation for the wolf’s behavior. Eskimos’ and Indians using natural explanations, and accept that some things are inexplicable and just attribute the many legends handed down of the wolf. Biologists study their data looking for clues, but in the end it is what we imagine the wolf to be, than what hard evidence suggests. (Lopez, 1996) (Coleman, 2004). Wolves have territory’s which they will stray from time to time. They are always on the hunt for their next meal. They are also opportunists and will take an easy kill over harder to work for kill such as an Elk or Moose. While the rancher’s cattle and other domesticated animals may be in the rancher’s territory the wolf does not see it that way. They are just acting on instinct to provide for their family (pack), and if it can save energy and time by nabbing an easy target, than it will. Harsh winters, or other encroaching packs may cause the wolf to look outside of its normal range for food, thereby causing it to come closer to people’s homes and settlements. Follow the wolf as he traverses his territory, as he glides through the woods, the seeds stuck in his fur fall off, miles from where they originally became stuck in his fur. Thereby dispersing plant/tree seeds. He hears a Raven perched on the carcass of an animal the wolf had killer earlier. The den that the wolf was born into has become home to a family of porcupines. Running down a herd of Moose, the slow and sick animals get left behind by the rest of the herd; an example of how the wolf predominantly prunes the various herds of the old and infirmed and very young. On the other hand wolves have been known to run through the herds just for the

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thrill of it. They will also choose the fittest of the herd, and they don’t always kill just what they need. At times they will kill in surplus. Normally if the Alpha couple is denning, the extra food supply comes in handy. They have shown an uncanny ability to not kill where the herds are thin in their territory, but they wait until the herd has filled out before attacking them again. Other factors come into play affecting the wolves’ choice of food; weather, abundance of game, andother packs wandering in their territories. They are predators on the prowl for their next meal, but they are also opportunist and will feed on domestic animals when available. Klein (2002) states “The wolf had one of the widest distributions of all land mammals before the colonization of North America. Their territories included most of North American including the Yellowstone area” (p 90.) The standard procedure at the time was that man was the master of this new land, and as such killed and claimed as he went; including poisoning and killing the wolf on site. Perhaps compounding the problem was the hatred of the wolves that the early settlers brought with them. The late 1800’s brought a demand for Wolf pelts even though the Government created a Wildlife Protection Agency in 1872. The wolf was not part of the protective list. Along with the indiscriminate killing of the normal prey of wolves by hunters, it was no surprise that wolves started feeding on livestock and other domestic animals. The ranchers convinced state legislature to put a bounty on the wolf. “Nearly 30,000 wolf bounties were claimed between 1895 and 1917 in Wyoming alone” states Klein (2002, p 90) The local livestock producers were still not satisfied with the state’s efforts at eradicating the wolf. They turned to the Federal Government who up until the 1950’s acted on their policy to kill the wolf. Conflicting emotions were beginning to emerge as there were some who worked in the newly formed national park system that believed their primary creed as stated by Klein (2002) was, “the fundamental purpose of the (national) parks is to conserver the wild life therein and to provide

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for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations” (p 92). Fortunately for the wolves, and other predators; the scientists started understanding the ecosystems better and came to an understanding of how important a role the predator played. One biologist, Aldo Leopold, came face to face with the problem when the deer population had exploded and now they were dying. Without the wolf to control the deer population, the deer had depleted the vegetation, and that along with several harsh winters caused thousands of deer to die. Public sentiment and scientific understanding started working together to convince the Government to stop its’ predator control program. The wolf had been largely eradicated from Yellowstone Park and now an abundance of elk were present. In the absence of any predators to keep it in check, the park rangers were authorized to kill a certain number of elk to keep the herds in check. The public caught wind of this and a public outcry caused the Government to prescribe a natural remedy where possible. In other words they wanted a “natural regulation”. Let the predators keep the herds in check. The new policy was somewhat flawed as the natural predator was gone from the park. During the 1980’s the Government had finally come up with a plan to re-introduce the wolf to Yellowstone Park. There was much debate how that was to be handled, during this time the wolf population had started to recover on its own, since it was put on the endangered list in 1974. While the Government debated endlessly with lobbyists and local municipalities, the wolf took matters into its own hands (paws) and started trickling into the Rocky Mountains on its own. Being the opportunistic hunter that it is, the wolf killed several cows and sheep it found along its way, thereby earning the ire of the local ranchers. Fortunately the Park Service Director William Penn Mott, came up with the idea of compensating the livestock producers $3000 for

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each livestock loss. He figured that would be the best way to remove the one big obstacle the local ranchers had against the wolf re-introduction. This eventually led to the creation of a permanent Wolf Compensation Trust, which was financed entirely by private donations. Throughout all this, several battles were fought locally between the ranchers and local Government representatives who pressured their congressman to oppose any wolf re-introduction policy from taking effect; or by constantly throwing up roadblocks to the passage of any type of bill for the Federal Government to adopt an official policy on wolf re-introduction. Pressure was building from the environmentalist who also had powerful lobbyists on their side who were also pressuring their representatives in congress to push the Government to adopt a program to bring the wolf back to Yellowstone Park and selected areas. Out of all this political maneuvering back and forth, the Wolf Management Committee was finally created in 1991 to resolve these issues. The committee was composed of 6 members, who represented state and federal agencies, two from the conservative interests, and one each from a hunting and livestock industry interest. Finally after much bickering back and forth between all members, a compromise was reached to allow the wolf to be re-introduced into certain areas, including Yellowstone Park with the caveat that even though the wolves were on the endangered list, the ranchers could kill the wolves preying on their livestock. The ranchers in turn would have to report each killing so the effect of the re-introduction of wolves could be measured. Along these lines the federally mandated act gave landowners permission to harass any wolf in a non-lethal manner at any time. No poisoning or traps allowed, although livestock producers on public lands could kill wolves under certain conditions. The Governmental agencies had the option of relocating wolves to another territory if the wolves’ depredations grew too rampant. The state and local tribes also had the power to relocate wolves if the hoofed animals (deer, elk, and moose) were unduly affected by

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the wolf, if their numbers became too thin to support hunting and the wolves’ dietary needs. The federal policy also removed the payout to ranchers and livestock producers of any animals lost due to the re-introduction of the wolf. The Government did acquiesce by stating that they would revisit the situation after several breeding cycles to see if the wolf population was sufficient enough to take them off the endangered species list. At that point the local tribes or states would take over the wolf management program and the Federal Government’s involvement would end. (Klein, 2002). Bickering and debate continued due to some of the states not wanting to manage the wolves themselves, because they wanted their constituents to have permission to kill the wolves on site. The states primarily supporting this: Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming did not have enough public support to come to agreement on a suitable wolf management program. The states essentially agreed that until the wolf came off the endangered list, they would have very little to do with the wolf management project. In an effort to appease the local livestock producers and ranchers the Defenders of Wildlife did start compensating for wolf kills of domesticated animals as long as the person contacted their state game warden, and had a trained biologist conduct the investigation. The rancher would be compensated fair market value for their loss. (Klein, 2002). One of the biggest obstacles the wolf faces is from the hunters. Unfortunately humans and wolf sometimes both seek the same prey. Hoofed herds that have been thinned out are sometimes blamed on wolves, but it is the commonly the sportsman and trophy hunters that were overzealous in their pursuit of game to shoot. Even as early as the 1930’s and 1940’s research had shown that predator control was ineffective and unnecessary in game management, unfortunately few people listened. (Busch, 2007).

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Wolf management is difficult at best, and must take into consideration every concern of those that coexist with the wolf. It is always striving to maintain harmony with state and local representatives, which must be continually maintained to ensure the wolf recovery program continues successfully. As the number of wolves increase, they tend to stray farther than the territories the Government has set aside for them; thereby increasing the risk of run-ins with humans and their livestock, in an effort to help avoid any temptation on the wolf’s part. Studies have shown that wolves living near livestock do not prey on them as much as originally thought; though they do tend to attack sheep more frequently than cattle, which wolf recovery coordinator, Ed Bangs, acknowledges the fact that “sheep are just vulnerable to predators”. There has been direct correlation to the greater the wolves population, the greater the depredation of livestock especially on federal lands or territory adjacent to federal lands. Overall though, it is a small number compared to the same depredation of livestock from other predators including; coyotes, mountain lions, and bobcats. (Wilmot, J. Clark, T., 2005). The management process still continues today full of disputes between conservation groups, wildlife managers, hunters, livestock producers and others. The debate continues in the newspapers, courtrooms, scientific and management arenas, including legislative sessions. The differences remain largely in the eye of the beholder, and as such finding common ground remains elusive. Needless to say, the financial payout to ranchers and livestock producers has gone a long way to dampen the fire of hatred they originally felt for the wolf. (Wilmot, J. Clark, T. 2005). Studies have found that the success of wolf re-introduction has been regarded overall as a success, but it depends on whose point of view you hear. The sheep farmers who tend sheep in the French section of the Alps will tell you that they were just barely getting by to begin with.

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Than along come the wolves again, and even with compensation from the Environmental Department, the money hardly makes up for their loss of livestock. According to the environmentalists in France, the wolves were not entirely to blame. France has a stray dog population of 50,000 plus roaming the countryside that also attacks livestock and kills in somewhat the same manner as wolves. In the end the Government put forth the “existence of wolves is an enrichment of Frances natural heritage.” They acknowledge that conflicts are inevitable and that the sheep farmers should take adequate precautions to minimize the risk of wolves attacking their flocks. They reaffirmed their backing for continued compensation from wolf depredation. (Herda-Rapp, A.G, Theresa, L. (2005). Although the controversy continues over the wolf re-occupying its once ancient territory. Smith and Bangs realize that “Wolves are seen as pawns in a larger cultural and philosophical battle that has been ongoing since the settlement of the American West. In part, predator eradication was “how the West was won”. The range was made more profitable for livestock production through predator removal.” This sentiment still rings soundly in the mid-western part of the nation where the majority of the wolves are now. The studies continue today on the hunter’s claim that the wolves are killing off the elk. The wolves also prey on hoofed animals including the bison and moose, but appear to favor the elk. The conservationists side with the wolf because the elk were wreaking havoc on the Aspen trees and other foliage. All parties agree that more long-term studies need to continue to monitor this eco-system since the dynamics have changed since the wolf population is rebounding in its federally protected territory. (Hayward, M. W. Somers, M., 2009). As Doug Smith (Wolf Project Leader) stated in 1999 “The wolf recovery has been incredibly successful, but very difficult. The real challenge has been to reverse past policy.”

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While scientists agree that in the larger eco-system the predators do play an important role in regulating populations of other animals, which in turn cascades down to the other organisms in the food chain as well as the eco-system. Evidence has suggested also that wolves tend to favor wild game instead of domesticated animals, but still ranchers will show you the carcasses of dead cattle to argue the point. On the other side of the argument the local hunters and ranchers state that the number wolves reported by the Government is off, because a lot of the wolves have dispersed to start new packs in new territories. Regardless of the actual facts and opinions, the controversy lingers on. (Lowry, 2009, p 19). While this seems such a simple debate as to whether to bring the wolf back, it is much deeper due to the many parties involved and the larger issues at stake. Whichever party is pushing their wolf agenda it is always with the slant being toward their advantage and gain. As Steven Primm and Tim Clark say, "Carnivore conservation in the Rocky Mountains is more than a biological problem; it is a public policy problem with multiple dimensions. If carnivores are to survive in the wild, scientists, conservationists, land managers, and citizens must develop a broader understanding of the social, cultural, economic, and administrative dimensions of carnivore conservation." After all has been said and done there is no “one size fits all” answer to the wolf issue. (Nie, M.A 2003). The papers reported nationally in May of 2011, that the Grey Wolf had been removed from the endangered list. The joyous cries of hunter and ranchers alike could be heard throughout the western states. While humans may be kind on the outside, they are vicious to the core, especially when it comes to wolves. Perhaps some of the best reasons for letting the wolf re-populate the United States may be historic rather than ecological. The wolf has proven it helps ecosystems overrun with leaf nibblers, they also bring a sense of wildness to the parks they

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inhabit. Their continued repopulation will certainly maintain the love/hatred mankind has felt for them since the early settlers starting exploring this land. (Coleman, 2004).

Conclusion Wolf management does not have to be done through the barrel of a rancher’s gun. Education, and following safeguards can help deter the potential of conflicts between wolfs and livestock. While the grey wolf was taken off the endangered list earlier this year, it is too early to see if this nation will make the same mistakes as in the past to eradicate the wolf once and for all, or if saner heads will prevail. It is too early to tell if the combination of open season on the wolf, combined with Government policies will keep the wolf population at a satisfactory level to keep all the parties involved content. Only time will tell if the processes put in place, will allow mankind and wolf to co-exist in long running love/hatred affair that has lasted several hundred years. The question of whether the wolf is an innocent victim or vicious killer is answered best by where the reader stands in the wolf issue. Studies have shown that wolves do impact society through its reputation as killer of livestock, important link in the eco-system, and pawn in the ongoing debates between Government and Conservationist Groups.

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References Brunner, R.D., Colburn, C.H., Cromley, C.M.,(2002) Wolf Recovery in the Northern Rockies. Klein R.A. (pp 88-127) Finding Common Ground: Governance and Natural Resources in the American West. New Haven, CT. Yale University Press. Busch, R.H. (2007) The Wolf Almanac: (3rd ed.). Guilford, Conn, USA: The Lyons Press. Clark, T.W., Casey, D., & Rutherford, M.B., (2005) Wolf Restoration: A Battle in the War over the West. Clark, T.W., Wilmot, J. Co-existing with Large Carnivores. Lessons from Greater Yellowstone: (pp. 138-176). Covelo, California: Island Press. Coleman, J (2004) Vicious: Wolves and Men in America: New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press. Delach, A., Fascione, N., Smith, M.E., (2004) Minimizing Carnivore-Livestock Conflict: The Importance and Process of Research in the Search for Coexistence. Breck, S. (pp 9-27). State Wildlife Governance and Carnivore Conservation. Nie, Martin. (pp 197-219) People and Predators: Covelo, California: Island Press. Hayward, M. W. Somers, M. (2009) Reintroduction of Wolves to Yellowstone National Park: History, Values and Ecosystem Restoration. Smith, D., Bangs, E.E. (pp 92-125) Reintroduction of Top-Order Predators: Hoboken, NJH: Wiley-Blackwell. Herda-Rapp, A, Goedeke, A., Theresa L. (2005) Constructing the People and Places in Wildlife Management issue. Campion-Vincent, V. (pp 99-101) Mad about Wildlife: Looking at Social Conflict over Wildlife. Leiden, NLD. Brill Academic Publishers.

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Lopez, B.H. (1995) Of Wolves and Men. New York, NY. Touchstone. Lowry, W.R. (2009). Repairing Paradise: The Restoration of Nature in America’s National Parks. Washington, D.C. Brookings Institution Press. Nie, M. A. (2003) Beyond Wolves: The politics of Wolf Recovery and Management. Minneapolis, MN, USA: University of Minnesota Press.…...

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