Video: Still howling wolf

The passionate and complicated feelings people have about living with wolves in the Northern Rockies


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Thirteen years after the government began an ambitious reintroduction program for the endangered gray wolf in the Northern Rockies, the Feds declared the program a success.  They went so far as to delist it March, but put the delisting on hold after conservationists expressed concerns about genetic viability of the wolves. The increase in wolf population has resulted in a healthier ecosystem: a decline in coyote populations and an increase in willows, beavers and songbirds. But it has also pitted environmentalists against ranchers and hunters, sparking long-held animosities, and scuttling cooperative efforts in other arenas.

Oct 06, 2008 08:21 PM
Great video. Thanks to the good people on the Wind River Indian Reservation for their "live and let live" attitude towards the wolves. I hope we can all learn Indian Way before this planet is reduced to nothing but humans and what we like to eat. Creator put all these species on Earth; we are all related.
Oct 07, 2008 11:51 AM
Yes I agree that we should mirror the Native Americans in their attitude and management of wolves, but they don't show or ask if/how the Natives are managing them. I doubt the Natives will never harvest any wolves as it is their tradition and right to do so (how many paintings have you seen depicting wolf skin clad hunters stalking buffalo? Where do you think those wolf skins come from?). How many times do you see a native clad in animal skin regalia at pow wows? Native Americans are going to hunt/harvest these animals.

I can understand the rancher's plight as I own a small ranch myself. The sudden increase in coyotes over the last few years in my area has brought with it more "lost" pets and killed livestock, I can only imagine the destruction a pack of unchecked wolves could do.

Out here the coyotes were running rampant until people started shooting them. There are laws out here that prevent firearm discharge within a certain distance of homes, but shotguns don't have the range of rifles and you only have a problem if you get reported by a neighbor. Everyone has no problems with the shotguns going off anymore, since nearly everyone in our little rural community has lost a pet or some sort of livestock to the coyotes or knows someone who has. And near L.A. people have nearly had their toddlers/children carried off! The coyotes here are now much more reluctant to invade the small ranches since it could mean death and the amount of livestock and pets lost to them has greatly decreased. I know it is controversal, but I think ranchers should have the right to shoot the wolves coming in attacking the livestock.

I also understand that the wolf has made the ecosystem healthier, more willows, more birds, more moose, etc. (although at the expense of the elk population, but that probably is the population of more ancient, wolf occupation times). The hunters are upset at the reduction of the elk, and being a hunter myself, I understand. But I do think the health of the environment takes precidence over my ability to obtain an elk tag.

Basically if the wolves are allowed to run without consequences, the people suffer. There are even wolves becoming bold enough to attack people now, loosing their fear of people is not good. Same thing occured here with the coyotes, but now the coyotes have regained a healthy respect of people. If we eradicate the wolves, the health of the ecosystem suffers. But if we give the wolf full reign, people and their livestock/pets suffer and die. It can't be totally for the wolf nor for the people, there has to be checks and balances.
Oct 08, 2008 09:51 AM
First, there has been only ONE confirmed unprovoked attack on a human by a wolf in the lower 48. Period. So, your fear of wolf attacks growing in numbers is based on fear, not science, and you would be better off focusing on tying your shoelaces tight before going on a walk to avoid injury than looking in the brush for wolves.
Second, coyotes can be a problem from the human perspective for a variety of reasons--loss of habitat due to development and encroachment by humans; the presence of prey animals in and around human habitation because they too have lost more remote habitat; poor husbandry practices by ranchers and suburban folks who leave pets out at night; they are an intelligent predator who learns; and they lack a predator of their own...wolves. Talk to any of the biologists in Yellowstone, and they will tell you that since the wolves came, the coyotes are not nearly the problem they used to be.

The Native Americans did indeed use the wolf skins and paws as part of their cultural activities, but they did their hunting with respect and awe. These were creatures to be thought of as demi-spiritual creatures with great strengths and intelligence which the human could take on by the wearing of the skin. The ranching and sport hunting communities in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming exhibit none of the tolerance much less knowledge of the wolf. It is hate, sheer hate, that drives their actions and led to the deliberate extinction of wolves in last century, and if the state wolf "management" plans were left in place before the latest, science and law-based decision by the courts and USFWS to return the wolves to the Endangered Species List, there would have been a second extinction. How ironic is it that the large majority of these ranchers get sweet subsidized deals on the use of the public lands for grazing, and yet they vilify the efforts to restore the wolf to these very same lands. They claim great economic hard, yet Defenders of Wildlife established a reinbursement fund for ranchers for livestock kills that can be proven to be wolf-caused..the last part is key because many more cattle and sheep die from lack of management by the ranchers (no more range riding and protecting the herds by modern ranchers), or disease. That part is always left out of the propaganda put out by the cattleman's associations. As for the elk...they are way overpopulated in those states; the wolves only take the weak, the injured, and the young if they can. Biologists are noting that where wolves are, bison, elk and other prey animals are returning to their normal prey behaviors, becoming more adept at hiding and fending off attacks...a good change, a return to more natural behaviors. There are plenty of elk in these areas; hunters may have to work harder to find them, but isn't that too a return to the more traditional hunting experience; that it isn't supposed to be easy,or guaranteed?

I think the final solution will be to buy out these grazing permits, and return these public lands to the wild animals that are there. The ranchers there, for the most part, and unlike yourself, can't make a living without the welfare given to them by the Federal government.The large majority of them don't have enough private land of their own to make it a viable business; they rely on the government handouts. Or, they can be innovative, and agree that the only grazing on these lands be done by bison. They are more biologically in tune with the ecosystems in these area; they cause much less damage and require less management because they are made for that climate, and they are much better as a species in repelling wolf attacks in addition to be a healthier red meat source, and don't require feed lots to be a viable source of meat. A win-win proposition.
Oct 09, 2008 10:04 PM
I know Natives hold them in spiritual regards. I have Cree in my ancestry and my grandmother (who was half) instilled that in me. I was also taught that people are part of nature and we don't just isolate ourselves or our animals from the rest of nature, we are nature. There is no "encrochment," just people or animals out of balance. And yes, animals can be out of balance, it isn't just the people's "fault" as many environmentalists seem to insist.

The reason wolves (and buffalos, cougars, etc.) were decimated is more likely linked to the bounty that were on their heads. I very much doubt people would have hunted them so heavily if it wouldn't have been profitable. The decimation of most species was due to MARKET HUNTING, not people protecting their livestock nor hunting to put meat on their table. The buffalo disapeared to the massive demand the government put on their hides. People would not have slaughtered thousands of animals if it was not a profitable activity. The government wanted the Native's main food supply gone so they put a great bounty on the animals hide. Market hunting is what did the buffalo and the wolf in. Not people protecting their livestock or putting a meal on the table or "hating" them.

As for wolf attacks, I wasn't just refering to the lower 48 and I am well aware that the likelyhood of being attacked is very minimal. I was not stating that out of fear, only a warning that balance needs to be maintained otherwise these things start ocuring.

What I was trying to get across is there has been attacks, recently, something that has never occured in the past. Balance has been lost. Think about it, why would it be happening recently? What has changed?
And "encroachment" isn't the answer as there has ALWAYS been cohabitation without incident in the past.

What has changed is that they do not get the "corrections" anymore for hunting livestock or eating out of landfills (it's happened all too often with bears as well) or hunting pets. Livestock, pets and landfills are around people, they get used to getting food near people and then at some point we start getting looked at as potential food as well.

I was using our coyotes as an example of a potential solution with the wolf if they were given a simular rebuttal. If wolves never have a negative consequence for hunting livestock, they are not going to stop. In fact they will increase their predation of livestock because they are easier meals than elk and deer.

Out here there has been no more "encroachment" into the coyote's habitat. The human population here has been stable for years with no further developement into "virgin" territory. There are strict regulations about roaming pets and roaming animals are rarely seen. Plus, livestock can't exactly be brought into the house at night ;)

The issue with the coyotes started after the explosion of the rabbit population out here after an unusually abundant anual rainfall created an abundance of the otherwise scant vegitation out here in the desert. Wildlife is not a constant, it is a very static, variable entity. With the increase in rabbits, the coyote population exploded. After the rabbits declined, the coyotes were not going to go right along with them if they could help it. Once the supply of rabbits deminished, they looked for another source of food. Guess where they went?

They are still terrorizing other, more urban neighborhoods out here, going over six fot high walls and chain link fences with grace and ease. Our little community was able to solve our problem since we all agreed it was only going to continue, as it still does in the town and also in the large city, if we didn't put the surounding coyotes in check.
And the coyotes learned very quickly. My neighbors and I still hear their songs every night, but they are not coming in masacuring the pets and livestock anymore. I agree, animals are very smart. They know what happened to their pack members.

I think allowing ranchers to shoot wolves attacking their livestock would work. The attitude here in my little comunity does run very high on animosity with many individuals when it comes to coyotes. They have no reverence for the coyote's spirit. But, they do have a right to protect their livestock and I would not want to prohibit their right just because I don't agree with their view on coyotes.

Coyotes do not have the protection wolves do. Actually they are listed as pests here, no bag limit. If these individuals that hate these animals wanted to, they could go "coyote plinking" every night out away from the houses. It would be perfectly legal since they are far away enough from the houses.
They don't, they only shoot coyotes that come in or near their property. They are, in fact, satisfied with being able to shoot the offending animals and don't go out killing every thing that howls.

Things get ugly when government tells people that they have no right to protect their way of life. The real animostiy towards wolves are shown in the areas that prevent shooting the ofending wolves in exchange for the "reinbursment" for livestock lost. I know I wouldn't be satisfied to know I'm going to be reimbursed while watching wolves taking down my livelyhood.
Oct 10, 2008 05:54 PM
Excellent writing, Jim. Thank you for saying it do clearly. Reminds me of what attracted me to Ed Abbey years ago. He advocated getting the welfare ranchers off the public lands, and the issue is still valid. I think it all still boils down to world views: whether humans are one of many species in the world, or whether Man is God's Special Creature who gets to rule the world. The people saying we need to "manage the resource" are invariably of the latter view, while people who regard the wolf and every other creature with respect are of the former. We only need to consider how healthy and vital the animal populations were before the European/Christian people arrived. Wolves and Elk and everything else was abundant and in balance, no need to be "managed" by arrogant newcomers to the scene. Indeed, the only thing needing "management" is the appetite of us newcomers. If we don't ever really learn the meaning of words like "balance" and "enough" and "community" we are all doomed to gobble up this poor planet and end in ruin.
Never Cry Wolf
Chel Pyne
Chel Pyne
Oct 09, 2008 06:11 PM
If you really enjoyed this video, but would like to see a different view of these creatures, i would suggest Never Cry Wolf. It was a summer reading book and it showed an amazing side of wolves and its very enjoyable and enlightening true story.