Once again, Hollywood has chosen mythmaking over reality in its portrayal of predators, in this case, Alaskan wolves, in a new movie called The Grey. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the "man-versus-beast thriller" pits stranded oilfield roughnecks against extreme cold, hunger and a pack of starving wolves; when carnage erupts, "the wolves are usually the winners." This greatly annoys Gary Wiles, a wildlife biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, whose first reaction on hearing the plot was, "Oh, no!" As far-fetched as the movie is, he says, it deftly plays on the fear that wolves routinely target and attack humans. But in 60 years, only two human deaths have been attributed to wolves in North America -- home to 60,000 wolves. And not a single person has been harmed by wolves in the Northern Rockies since they were restored to the area in 1995. That suggests that if Hollywood were to shoot a real movie about wolf packs, which prefer to avoid people, the plot might prove excruciatingly boring. It could be spiced up, however, by showing somebody like Angelina Jolie walking an unleashed dog in the vicinity of a wolf pack. Wiles advises hikers to keep Fido leashed because wolves have killed at least 144 dogs in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming since 1987. Nearly all of the pets were running loose when attacked. Film director Joe Carnahan insists he never meant to demonize wolves as vicious killers; he told the Los Angeles Times that the animals were merely defending their turf from human intruders. But Wiles, who helped write Washington's recently adopted wolf management plan, which calls for a minimum of 15 breeding pairs in the state, plans to skip the flick: "Anything that makes wildlife look far worse than they really are, I avoid."
Watch out for Las Vegas cabbies, warns a headline in the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Competition has Vegas cabbies taking prisoners for tips." The story is more nuanced, however, since only a handful of drivers seem to have locked their doors and given passengers ultimatums about payment. It is true that many drivers complain about too many cabs on the street vying for too few fares, and some say they can't make a minimum wage even over a 12-hour shift. In any case, driver representatives insist that hostage-taking is never condoned.
Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.
From our friends
From a HUGE admirer
I just want to tell you that I'm a huge admirer of High Country News. The reporting, the stories you write it's so important to those of us in California who see ourselves as part of the West and share all its issues. And they're always all so well-written. When people I know move to the West, I give them a gift subscription.
— Dr. Stephanie Pincetl, UCLA
Inspiring words from a die hard reader:
"I subscribed to HCN for a number of years, loved every issue...I stopped subscribing because my work load escalated. It was ok the first few months but after six months I was regretting the decision...the relevance of HCN did not diminish. I continued to look at the enticing titles of articles in the online newsletter but couldn't read enough to satisfy the craving. So I'm back. I also kicked in another 50 bucks as a personal reminder that quality reporting is not free."
Robert E. Hall, Washington D.C.