The death of at least 8 Yellowstone wolves, especially that of 832F, better known as 06, has spurred worldwide attention. As result of this tragedy and the concerted efforts of Wolves of the Rockies and other advocacy groups and individuals, as well as the foresight of the Montana FWP commissioners, wolves crossing the northern border of the park into Montana will now be safe from bullets and traps.
This is how the world works when wolves are involved. We kill off the individuals that are significant to research, one’s known and respected by thousands, or we annihilate populations to the brink of extinction, before the decision to protect them is made.
The disasters of Manifest Destiny, which included a planned genocide against both native peoples and native animals, especially predators, allowed for no protection at all. It is only because of small pockets of tenacious wolf populations and the foresight of people like Aldo Leopold that wolves survived in the lower 48 at all. The native people survived due to their own devices, and eventually with the help of a slow and narrow minded justice system that finally kicked in to help.
The protection of wolves leaving Yellowstone and wandering into Montana is a huge step forward and a rare victory for those who see wolves as they truly are, a keystone species that deserves to grace the landscape of what little remaining wilderness there is.
Yet I remain frustrated over discussions on the management of wolves. There is much talk about science. Science is the way we are governed to discuss wolves these days. Science is what we grasp onto in order to defend the mere existence of these animals. It has become the only language allowed, the only evidence that is admissible in court, if you will, when we stand up against groups like The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cattleman’s Associations, the NRA.
I have no argument against science but we need to extend our thinking past it. For one thing, we need to realize how little, despite all the research done, we know about wolves and the environment as a whole. It will take centuries of objective study before humans can truly grasp the concept of a natural ebb and flow of wildlife populations that supersedes all need for control, and eventually, if only for a time, results in homeostasis. Perhaps the wolves and elk have reached this plateau in Yellowstone. But it will no doubt disintegrate again, as we will view it, for reasons beyond us.
So when we use science, as we must to stand our ground, perhaps we can also interject the rather obvious fact that the managing of wildlife is still an experiment and is based on human desires and needs, not because it is essential for the animals or the environment.
People manage wolves because we have to manage the people who dislike them. We allow wolves to be hunted and trapped because of the theory that this will increase the social acceptance of wolves. As far as I can see, this theory did not work in the 1800s. And I don’t believe it is working now. If anything, the blood lust has increased as trophy hunters and trappers are given legal rein to slaughter wolves.
Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and soon Michigan, are condoning this behavior. When will the social acceptance arrive? When will the individuals who see killing wolves as sport reach a level of satiation? And when will we reach out of the box and pull the pendulum to the other side, the side that allows wolves to manage themselves, as they do so well in Yellowstone and Isle Royale? With rare exceptions, wolves don’t need to be culled and controlled, they need to be left alone.