The Loss of a Bird and the Life of a Wolf

When I came home from work I found the red-breasted sapsucker dead on my back porch. It lay on a mottled black and red blanket that covers my air mattress. I sleep there sometimes, the battle with mosquitoes fair trade for the cool touch of the night air and the open view of the stars, their brilliance unhindered by city lights. First thing I thought when I realized the lump on the blanket was a dead bird, was how well camouflaged it was, just as it had been against the trunk of the nearby aspen where the sapsucker had spent much of its time. Against the tree, the white and black feathers merged with the same shades on the trunk. On the blanket, the redness of the bird dominated over its black and white, blending in perfectly with the blanket. Amazing how nature hides its creatures so well. sapsucker download

Hides them until an element more powerful comes along. I don’t think it was my cat; he is old and slow and was inside all day. Perhaps it was the picture window, as the bird’s body lay just below the window. And when I picked him up, there was no blood, only the lifeless, stiff feel of him, in sharp contrast to his previous vibrant state, pecking away at sap on the aspen trunk or soaring across the field to the pines where his mate waited, more cautious than he.

I’m alone in this big house along the lake, and the resident animals help to entertain me, the sapsuckers, the deer, the red-tailed hawks, even the bats that swoop into my bedroom through the open door, fold their webbed wings and cuddle into the corners of the vaulted ceilings—providing even more reason to sleep outside. A senseless death of one of my creatures grieves me, and opens my thoughts to more.

The loss of a beautiful bird, who went about his work so diligently and whose short, sweet call was a pleasure to hear, is a loss, but we’re surrounded by losses more profound. I think of my relationship with the little bird and then I consider the relationship thousands have had with wolves that have needlessly died, in Idaho and Montana, Michigan, outside of Yellowstone, and elsewhere. People have observed these intelligent and competent animals, come to know and respect them, and then had to tolerate an existence in which the wolves were legally killed, as though they were nothing more than clay pigeons, target practice for a bored hunter.

yellowstone-wolves-killed

I think about Journey, the wandering wolf who is bedded down now in southeast Jackson County and southwest Klamath County, a few miles from my home. Journey is a symbol of hope for so many, hope that wild creatures still stand a chance of surviving in our developed and overcrowded world, and hope that we’ve finally evolved past the need to conquer and kill.

But it would only take Journey a day or so to travel north, cross the Snake River and enter Idaho, where it is a well publicized fact that there are those who would love to gun him down and lay claim to ending the life of the world’s most famous wolf.

What would we do, what could we do, to prevent this from happening if Journey decides to travel that way?

We are working so hard to salvage a safe existence for wolves. Yet our victories are few. Are we strong enough in our efforts, or have we allowed ourselves to settle, to give into the acceptance of violence and discrimination that the dominant paradigm adheres to?

Have we, in Rachel Carson’s words, “….fallen into a mesmerized state that makes us accept as inevitable that which is inferior or detrimental, as though having lost the will or the vision to demand that which is good?”

Perhaps there are tactics we have not yet explored in our efforts to save wolves…

Ashland gives me inspiration that I have not felt in years, not since I was a naive and trusting young woman who believed that justice, love, and compassion would invariably win out. A few weeks ago, someone(s) snuck into a field outside of town and uprooted 6,500 sugar beet plants, pulling them up by their roots and tossing them on the ground to die. Vandalism? Economic sabotage, as the FBI says? Perhaps, but the reason these sugar beets were destroyed was because they were GMO crops, planted by Syngenta, a company similar to Monsanto. So which is the worse sabotage, the destruction of the crops or the production of genetically modified plants that have been scientifically proven to greatly impair our health as well as the efforts of local, organic farmers?

The individuals who pulled up Syngenta’s plants face federal charges for their actions. It was illegal to do what they did, despite the fact that their efforts were done in regard to the greater good, rather than the artificial, economic dynamic that tends to run our world. Civil disobedience is at times the only remaining recourse when the health and well-being of the planet and its inhabitants are at risk.

I wonder… how many people would it take to stretch across the border between northern Oregon and Idaho, to stand between a lone grey wolf and the people who wish to shoot him? Laws would be broken in this effort, charges like–infringing on the rights of hunters and trappers, trespassing on private land, interfering with the duties of the Idaho Fish and Game Department, perhaps with some uniformed Wildlife Service officers as well. But if it kept a bullet from killing one more wolf, and a wolf that epitomizes so very much, it would be worth it.

We’d best start planning soon; one never knows what’s next on Journey’s agenda.

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15 thoughts on “The Loss of a Bird and the Life of a Wolf

  1. Yes I will join the human chain. I am too aware that Americans have fallen into complacency, that is so dangerous. We must fight until we attain victory. All of our wildlife is imperiled.
    Thank you for a heartfelt plea to protect the most imperiled and beautiful animal in north America.

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  2. Good one Beckie. Idaho and other like-minded states are being so profoundly aggressive not only to wolves but to those who challenge their brutal and narrow perspective on wildlife that they invite civil disobedience.

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  3. I live in this stupid- backward-minded state, AND try to put these IDIOTS out of my mind, there is A word that discribes them perfectly, GREED ! the same word that discribed most of the settlers, they were not willing to share with the native people, “put them red-skin on a reservation, they are living on MY LAND ! today, it’s the so-called “hunter” that’s saying, the same thing, “don’t want no wolf eating MY Elk ! us “White- ass’s are pretty good at claiming EVERYTHING ! the word is “GREEDY”

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  4. Beckie, your best writing and heart-full post yet! Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t post a comment without logging onto a wordpress.comaccount.

    When do you start working in Medford? Am going to make time to go up to your lovely home. Let’s see what we can work out. And I look forward to having time with you in Medford as well.

    Love, Jaelle

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  5. I live in NW Montana and have watched with sadness as many of our beloved wolves have fallen to the hunters and trappers (and Wildlife Services). All of our public comments to Fish Wildlife and Parks, all of our testimony against wolf-killing bills at legislature, all of our opinions in the newspapers, all have fallen on deaf ears. I am moving to Oregon soon, hope to be on the ground floor of helping to shape a ‘good’ wolf policy. When it comes time for the human chain, count us both in-seriously…

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  6. The best article you have written, Beckie! I love it! And I do think it will take civil disobedience to make some changes, to get some attention…the high road is NOT working, as April pointed out. We play the game, we play by the rules, we get ignored, dismissed, or have new legislation introduced to head off a wolf hunt referendum (Michigan). So sorry to hear about the bird, always a shame when they hit the window. Excellent prose about the wolves, well done and thank you!!

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  7. Love this, dear friend. Again, so eloquently and powerfully stated! IMHO, it would be far more beneficial if rather than say march at state capitals, at the start of the wolf killing season, people patrolled the borders of places like Yellowstone whether on horseback, 4-wheeler, snow mobile or foot. So sad when we can no longer watch and enjoy wildlife but instead have to create fear in them to keep them alive from those that only view wildlife as something to kill.

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  8. What a wonderful thought provoking piece… I believe and hope that if I leaved close enough (I’m waaaay over in WI) that I would stand between Journey (or another wolf) and those who would kill him with sick joy in their hearts… Brother Wolf has come so far and still there are those who have learned nothing from his time away.

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  9. You comments are all so appreciated. Thanks!
    While we feel outnumbered at times, due to the overwhelming influence of the NRA, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Farm Bureau etc, the truth is we are in the majority. The vast majority of us want wolves and other predators to exist naturally. We want the pockets of our remaining environment to be as truly wild as they can be. So the idea of a human chain is feasible, there are plenty of us willing to hold hands to save wolves. We just need to stick together and organize and never, ever give up!

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  10. I love birds and I love wolves. I have read about their complex families and how they pose no problem to the herds of deer, antelope and other species.

    Thanks for your post. I wish you well protecting Journey, his family and friends.

    Cheers,
    Dennis

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  11. I saw that someone in Montana is working on a device to train wildlife to avoid traps. It is a wolf trap with a modified spring so it won’t close all the way, connected to a battery-powered electric fence charger. So anyone who steps on it gets a nasty shock but doesn’t get hurt. The idea is to teach the animals to be wary of the smell of metal and also the sight of the traps (if visible) before they encounter a real one. These devices would be easy to make and, as far as I know, NOT EVEN ILLEGAL; you could probably even put them on public land if you had the appropriate trapping license. If you live in an area where trapping takes place, why not build some and try it out?

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  12. Actually she is a veterinarian and dog trainer out of Kentucky. The traps and info are posted on our Footloose Montana facebook page 7/2/13. She used the design of the popular wolf trap, a MB750, that sell for around $35. The modified wolf trap is connected to battery operated fence charger. Chris says, “It closes with just the weight of the animal and when connected to a fence charger, will deliver a powerful shock. “AVOID THIS” I hope to train wild wolves.”

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