This afternoon, while driving into town from my new abode, a peaceful respite away from Internet and cell phone reception, Marc and Lorenza Cooke informed me that the alpha female (06) of the Lamar Canyon pack had been killed in Wyoming.
Another wolf dead. Eleven Yellowstone wolves within the last month. And over 800 killed since the delisting. Hundreds, perhaps thousands more wolves will die before the system protects them once again. If it ever does.
My thoughts when I heard the news were complicated, still are. But my emotions were simple. Grief, over what is to most of us is a tragic and needless loss of sentient life.
There is rarely reason to kill wolves, certainly none at all with these Yellowstone wolves. Kim Bean lives in Montana and spends every moment she can at the park. She knows these wolves as individuals, their packs as families. She’s watched them play, rest, secure food, and travel the park lands in that steady trot that is distinctly wolf. Kim tells me that out of the 9 packs in the park, 5 have suffered recent losses from hunters. She says that the son of 06 was killed in the same area three weeks ago. These are wolves that previously did not leave the park. And these are not stupid animals.
Calling wolves with electronic devices that broadcast distress calls of crying puppies, injured elk and other sounds enticing to wolves, is legal in Wyoming. Imagine, if you will, purchasing such device, setting it up, and standing with your weapon behind a tree to wait for a wolf to appear. If you’ve read my blog you will agree that I avoid labeling or blaming. I feel most of us are doing the best we can in life. Yet I’m drawing the line here. Anyone who would do this is someone who has no respect for the sanctity of life. They are bitter and detached from any sense of kindness or compassion. Perhaps they have been dealt a bad hand in life, been hurt deeply by others. But there is no excuse, none, for this cruelty.
The folks behind the Wolf Project at Yellowstone must be hurting as well. Consider all the work they have done since the reintroduction, collaring wolves, studying them year after year, logging details of behavior, prey, social structure, and other facts. This is important research. And now 11 of the 88 park wolves are dead. How will this affect their work? How will they handle the damage done to them and their wolves by a handful of desperate individuals and a prejudiced political system that condones the slaughter of wolves? I’d be discouraged, at best. I hope they persevere. I hope we all do.