Monday, January 24, 2011

Keep Me From Being... The One The Wolves Pull Down

I hate busybodies. I despise the very concept of a person that would dictate to others how they should live because they think that they’ve found some better way of doing things. Notice I said “dictate” not “suggest.” Suggestions for improvement, or opinions, are one thing – God only knows, I’ve got enough of both. It is when the person chooses to use the force and violence of government to impose their will on another that makes my blood boil.

My most recent experience with this is fraught with misconception, laced with idealism, and completely ignorant of reality, and it has to do with wolves.

Yeah, like howling-at-the-moon wild canines.

First, a bit of history. Men and wolves have a strange relationship. We either love to live with each other, or hate each other’s guts. Case in point, we took wolves into our villages and domesticated them as dogs, and yet, those wolves that decided to stay wild have been a competitor and the bane of our existence since the dawn of civilization. They are stiff competition to natural resources; they kill massive amounts of prey that would otherwise be in the forest for humans to eat. Often times, wolves kill just for the sake of killing, further driving up the competition for resources that have, historically, been much better and more thoroughly used by man. Wolves also kill livestock. Lots of them, and again, often times just for fun.

For these reasons, men and wolves have developed a very contentious relationship, leading to bounties on wolves placed by ranchers who’s livelihoods were being destroyed by thrill-killing predators. Current elite city folk like to pretend that the bounties placed on wolves back in the day were the result of misunderstandings, and prejudices, ignorance, dim-wits, and fear of stories about the “big bad wolf.” This is wrong. The men back then understood fully what they were doing, why they were doing it, and fear and prejudice had nothing to do with it; rather, it was brute survival. The wolves were killing these men’s stock, and destroying their ability to sustain themselves – it was kill or be starved. People and wolves do not coexist well. They never have.

That being said, I do not agree with the idea of extirpating them, as is what occurred. There was the ability back then, as there is now, to reasonably manage the wolf population so that they would not run the wild stocks so low that they had to resort to much more risky livestock killing. Instead, they killed them all, and I think that this was a crime against nature.

That being said, when the concept came about back in the 1990’s to reintroduce wolves into Idaho, where they had be extirpated 70 years earlier, I was not against it. I will admit to some concern at the concept, though, and my concern appeared to be well-founded.

They made several mistakes long the way. I’ll start from the tippy-top.

First, they didn’t reintroduce native, Idaho wolves. They went north, to the Tundra, and caught some timber wolves, and reintroduced those. The problem here is that what used to be a population of small, 65 to 80 pound wolves, is now a population of 130 pound super-predators (Note the weight - 127 pounds !!!)*. There is a reason that big, Canadian timber wolves never lived in Idaho, and it is because Idaho’s ecosystem wasn’t designed to have them there. The big timber wolves of the north are designed for very cold climates where they are pulling down very large prey like moose and caribou. The smaller, Idaho wolves were designed to hunt deer and young elk, but it was conjected (and backed up with some historical data) that they rarely preyed on mature elk, the way the current lot of wolves is doing.

Second, they reintroduced them, and then kept an eye on their numbers with the attitude that every additional wolf was a good thing, without any concern for the capacity of the ecosystem and the current herds of elk, moose, and deer in Idaho. Wolves remained federally protected (and still are) throughout the process, so there was no method by which they could control overpopulation in an ecosystem that had gotten used to them not being around. What this means is that over the 75 years that no wolves roamed Idaho, the elk and deer herds stayed about the same size, but concentrated into smaller areas as more land got developed and lost to elk and deer, and the animals, themselves, felt much less pressure to move and range away from wolf packs. They also got complacent, because they were only being hunted for 2 months out of the year by humans, and for the remainder of the year by absolutely nothing at all besides the occasional single cougar. So, you have thick population density of animals not used to worrying about wolves being around, and what resulted was a slaughter. Wolf populations soared as gluts of easy-pickings resources were taken, and elk and deer populations suffered horribly. The only method for population control was to live trap and relocate these superpredators, but the problem then became that they eventually ran out of places to relocate. The whole of Idaho is now overpopulated with wolves, and Idaho very seriously needs to do something about it. (Note, Washington isn't far behind. We are starting to have our own problems with wolves and also relocated problem Grizzly bears, also federally protected by people in Washington, DC)

And here is where we get into the busybodies. You see, they have followed the wolf saga from day one, and throughout the whole thing, they have been orgasmic with the concept of fixing that which we screwed up in the first place. In the process, however, they’ve screwed things up even worse than they were to begin with, but are not willing to accept that. Every day, we here in Idaho have to live with livestock losses, the decimation of our elk and deer herds, and the constant depredation of property and beloved family pets brought about by wolves, while they get to live in their ivory towers, 2000 miles away from the action with the smug feeling of satisfaction that they get by thinking that they’ve undone a horrible wrong, when in fact, all they’ve done is create another.

And this is where the elite part comes in, because, from 2,000 miles away, not having experienced on the ground what we are experiencing, and not having to deal with the wolves, themselves, they are calling us ignorant hillbillies that believe in the big bad wolf stories from our childhood that don’t know what we are talking about and that the wolves won’t cause problems. Again, they speak in theory (communism is a great thing!) while we, here in the trenches, speak in reality and actual experience (communism has killed more people than all other forms of evil combined, and makes even Hitler look like a piker in total body count). They ARE causing problems. There is no theory remaining, just actual experience. Idaho has actually created a wolf hunting season, and has released quite a few tags for a tiny harvest of the total wolf population, and the feds have sued to stop it. A legally issued tag by the state can become a liability to anyone that shoots a wolf, because even though Idaho says it is legal, a shooter still risks federal prosecution if they shoot a wolf. Idaho has told the Federal Government that they created a huge problem when they released wolves (against Idaho’s wishes, by the way) and now are saddling Idaho with the burden of handling the problem and not helping. The Feds have basically ignored every complaint.

And so, we are left with a choice. We have a sustainable, population control harvest of wolves, or, we allow things to continue until all livestock, deer, and elk have been killed in the state, and then the wolves starve to death, leaving nothing in their wake. Our Federal government has chosen option 2.

It boggles the mind.

*Take some time to read the website "Wolf Clash." Especially if you are from New York, or back east somewhere and you think the "re-introduction" of these non-native super-predators was a great, noble thing. Then, shut the hell up.

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