Seeing Wolves as Wolves

No media coverage on Oregon 7 for nearly three weeks now.  Since his telemetry collar would inform the ODFW if there was a problem, and since they are compelled to provide updates to  Journey’s vast public, we can only assume that no news is good news.

I took another trek up to the Hyatt Lake area, where Journey was last said to be, this time with Rhaja, daughter Megan’s Rhodesian Ridgeback. Rhaja accompanies me on many of these trips. She is a great dog to take hiking or snowshoeing, although she does try to walk on my snowshoes when tired of trudging through the deep snow. Otherwise, Rhaja is the ideal companion, she doesn’t wander, she’s there when I need her, and she agrees with everything I say. If only men were more like her!

While Rhaja runs ahead, flushing towhees from a small grove of trees, I wonder about the differences and similarities between dogs and wolves, especially in the minds of us humans. Most of us respect and appreciate dogs. And most of us feel the same about wolves, the ancestor of dogs. Yet, what is the mental mechanism that triggers some people to view wolves as enemies,  animals to be conquered and destroyed, while the dog remains cherished?

Perhaps both extremes are alternate forms of anthropomorphism. Dogs are attributed the best of human characteristics, kindness, loyalty, love. Wolves earn this same reputation from some, but in the eyes of those who loathe them, wolves take on the most evil of human traits, savagery, wonton destruction, even revenge. They are blamed for having the same behaviors, such as being bloodthirsty and cruel,  as the humans exhibit who seek to destroy them.

To understand both species, and to understand ourselves a little better as well, people need to not project our emotions, motives, thoughts, and actions onto animals. Not that animals are incapable of these traits, but when we expect them to behave like us we interject our judgment on them as well.

In my estimation, less harm occurs when animals are thought of in an altruistic manner than when they are determined to be  evil. But objectivity from both sides allows for a species to be understood as it truly is. A wolf is a wild animal deserving of our protection from those who refuse to understand them. Dogs are simpler. They do what we say and strive for our attention, an easy sell in a world where some project their hostility on others, including wolves, instead of searching inside for the root of their pain.

9 thoughts on “Seeing Wolves as Wolves

  1. I had a dog, Honey, who was sweet-natured and compliant, easy to be with ~ most of the time. Once, though, I saw her rip little baby skunks to shreds. Although I was horrified, I realized that she was still, after all an animal and connected to her animal nature/instincts.
    I’ve often thought about what domestication does to an animal. Like babies/infants, once a being is dependent on someone else for survival (like providing food), they learn to adapt their behavior accordingly…


    • What happens is they leave looking for love. And when they don’t find it, they keep walking – because the love of their life is just over that hill,” said Ed Bangs, a wolf expert who spearheaded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s reintroduction of wolves to the lower 48 states in the 1990s. “He won’t stop doing that until he dies. Or he finds the love of his life.” (from the Reuters piece on Journey)
      Talk about anthropormorphism! But sweet nonetheless.


  2. Beckie I love your writing. With all of the negative energy & chaos surrounding wolf issues it’s a breath of fresh air. Your articles help keep me grounded & motivated. Fighting for wolves here in Idaho is a battle that nips at my sanity at times! lol Thank you for the much needed reprieve.


  3. Thanks much, Lesly. I have so much respect for you folks in the Rocky Mountains who fight for wolves amongst such a negative mindset. It’s easy here in southern Oregon, at least for now. But if the wolf population ever thrives in these parts, we’ll be facing the same turmoil as you. What a tragic mixed blessing it is, to have wolves in your environment but then to have to witness their externination.


  4. Hi Becky,
    Enjoyed your thoughts very much, and lucky you to be able to go see Barry Lopez , hope you will post a report on that.
    For an insight into the human mind and in its relationship with the wolf and other animals, I really would highly recommend Mark Rowlands book, The Philosopher and the Wolf’, about his relationship with his magnificent wolf hybrid (touchy subject maybe), the life they led and his very persuasive, insightful and quite worrying thoughts about humans and why we do the things we do. Mark is a philosophy teacher at Miami Uni., but his book is written in very lucid terms. Its also very funny and touching and raises many issues that you will turn over in your mind. To me its a one of those books which turns a light bulb on over my head, as it is able to reconcile and illuminate those thoughts that I had only known by instinct and could not think through myself. Highly recommended.
    Les Grice


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