Dead wolf sprouts wings
Wolves do get around – but none more so than one that was already dead.
Wolves are well known in the animal world for roaming long distances. Radio collars equipped with GPS have put new details in this marvel. One Oregon wolf covered nearly 300 miles this fall, simply looking around.
Even so, the peregrinations of real wolves are dwarfed by the hype of the blogosphere, where some anti-wolf zealots are trying to scare people silly.
Take this picture, for example.
It was attached to an email, warning people this giant was shot in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. “Imagine a pack of these coming at you,” the email intoned. You could imagine primal shivers going up spines all around the Beehive State.
Trouble was, before that wolf was allegedly shot in Utah, it was also allegedly shot in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, and “near Manitoba.” Lord only knows the real story – the wolf has become an urban legend and internet hoax. It has its own comment thread on the hoax-busting website, Snopes.com.
Now, I am guilty of looking at and even sending out hunting photos via Facebook and email. To me, this image looks like a big adult male wolf, being hoisted by a shorter-than-average hunter. Hunters are experts at arranging their photos, using photo angles and lenses to exaggerate the size of their kills. (Me? Would I do that? Never!)
But this goes beyond braggadocio. Wolf issues are hot in Utah right now. There are few wolves roaming Utah today, but the state is located geographically between the expanding northern Rockies wolf population and the struggling population of Mexican wolves in the southwest. Whoever sent the latest bogus email is trying to rev up fear about these animals. It’s stooping to politics of the worst sort.
Mark Twain said that a lie travels around the world before the truth can tie its shoes. And that was in the day of the telegraph.
When wolves are around, level heads are hard to find atop human shoulders. More than ever, we need to manage wolves, other predators and just wildlife in general with a cool heads and hard data. In the absence of that, we all need to fine-tune the BS meter and read whatever we see with a grain of skepticism.
What other online wildlife information have you seen that strains credibility?
Ben Long hunts among wolves, mountain lions, grizzly bears and other creatures in northwestern Montana. He is senior program director for Resource Media.
Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.