RIP, Wolf 832F

//RIP, Wolf 832F

RIP, Wolf 832F

Wolf foot prints in soft mud and willow leaves

The only descriptors that come to mind right now are “backward” and “barbarian.” I’m so disheartened, time and again, that gratuitous violence toward our wildlife is not only tolerated but sanctioned by many wildlife agencies and politicians. And, as much as I’ve tried over the years to be “reasonable” and “balanced” (I have), it’s often a futile endeavor to find equivalency on both sides. It sometimes involves giving moral or ethical consideration to acts that simply aren’t deserving of that privilege.

Here’s the story: Yellowstone’s alpha female wolf 832F from the Lamar Canyon pack, was killed just outside Yellowstone on Thursday. The New York Times reported today that Yellowstone’s most visible “rock star” wolf was taken outside the park’s boundaries in Wyoming.

I simply cannot see the anti-wolf side on this issue. The way the wolves were delisted — and then so quickly put on the hit list — is so transparently, politically motivated that arguments for the ‘science’ behind the cull fall flat on my ears. I would have to reach into my chest cavity and crush my beating heart with a waffle iron in order to stop feeling as I do about this. As you can see, I just don’t have the equanimity today to grant validity to wolf hunters and their various rationalizations.

Here in Washington State, we just saw the annihilation of the Wedge Pack, all at the behest of a rancher who then took his personal outrage to the wildlife department which, in turn, agreed to kill off the entire wolf pack — at a cost of $77,000 to taxpayers, I might add … for slaying seven wolves. Idaho lost 50 percent of its wolves in a year to hunters and trappers. In the past few weeks seven collared wolves from Yellowstone were killed outside the park boundaries, including 832F. There are countless more stories as more states expand hunting opportunities against these magnificent apex predators.

I know I am in the minority with my views on hunting in general, because hunting/trapping as wildlife management is the accepted norm in our country and, frankly, just about every country. I know many people, wildlife advocates included, who are uncomfortable taking a stance that doesn’t support, at least in part, the killing of hundreds of millions of wild animals that occurs every year by a minority of our population — 13.7 million hunters in a population of 314 million plus.

But the more I see, the more injury and suffering I encounter, and the more obstinance I witness in the entrenched system that allows this to happen — the rampant slaughter of wolves — the more I believe that as long as we sanction and reward violent acts toward select wild animals, we will always be in this atrocious predicament of blurred ethical lines between what is “right” and “wrong” — which species are deserving of our protection and mercy, and which are not.

It’s been “right,” by our current model, to kill coyotes, ongoing, with very little restriction, so it’s not really that great a leap to wolves, psychologically speaking. It’s been “right” to kill Sandhill Cranes according to some states which, apparently, is not that much of a difference for the people who shoot Whooping Cranes, accidentally or not. It’s been “right” to not even have a bag limit on crows in some states, to destroy Starlings without a thought, so I shouldn’t be surprised by the videos I see on You Tube, of young kids taking air rifles to the “black birds” they see in their gardens, irrespective of species. I can’t even get You Tube to flag or remove illegal shooting of songbirds, let alone expect that over-taxed, under-staffed and under-funded enforcement departments could take action.

I know what the counter arguments are here, one being that I’m generalizing from select events to characterize our system as flawed. Well, I do see the system as flawed, based on the fact that when issues of human-wildlife conflict come into play, the default position is often slaughter, which is what’s happening with these wolves. And, because we so easily kill many species under the auspices of a pretty liberal legality, it’s barely a step across an ambiguous line to decree the death sentence for any species that becomes an inconvenience. The fact that the Endangered Species listing for wolves was overridden with a budget rider speaks volumes to what is wrong here both culturally and systemically.

In the same way that I’ve been reluctant to demonize, without question, non-native species in my blog here and even in my volunteer wildlife work, I’m also reluctant to grant a free pass to a wildlife conservation model that often ignores the sound voices calling for more humane and compassionate choices toward individual animals within the species parameters. I don’t deny that we have one of the best in the world. But policies like the new wolf-kill plans defy the new understandings we have about wild animals, and fall way behind what a progressive model would look like.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a book by Marti Kheel, Nature Ethics. She is but one voice — now sadly departed from this earth — arguing to dismantle our long-held paradigm of ecology. This paradigm holds that wildlife is a mere resource while ignoring individual wild animals and their inherent value, their couplings, their families, their emotional experiences, and their critical contributions to their own ecosystems. Our species adds insult to injury by continuously turning a critical, scapegoating eye toward other animals, while keeping well alive the [endangered] elephant in our own living rooms … that is, that our consumption patterns and our ever-expanding population are culpable in almost every extinction event, every habitat loss, every wildlife displacement, and even every human-wildlife encounter that comes to harm. There are times I think about leaving my blog space for a while because every time I research wildlife issues for my photography, I encounter Google hits that document the corresponding exploitation. It gets difficult to bear.

If it sounds like I’m over the status quo, honestly, I am. I don’t see how we humans will ever coexist in more caring and intelligent ways without first deconstructing the mythology we’ve created about our nobility in this endeavor. We certainly have the capacity and ingenuity for revolutionary “dominion,” in the most ethical and enlightened sense of that word. If we started now, we could construct a stunning, new model of global sustainability and conservation that took the needs of all species into account. Instead, I see humans squandering our self-appointed mandate, as it were, for short-sighted, self-serving gain.

I continue to hope that there are shifts in events and consciousness that make these choices into imperatives, both moral and ecological, before it’s too late for us to manifest what could be a more symbiotic world. I do keep hoping — despite my pessimism today, on this fog-choked day in Seattle. It is possible, theoretically speaking. But is it probable? Changing the planetary outcome for us and for them (nonhumans) would require a significant and cooperative change in a national and global mindset toward animals. I’m grappling with the impossibility of that notion, all the while trying to find ways to see the light, when the landscape looks too bleak. What I wouldn’t give to have exposure compensation and aperture settings for my dim view on the world this afternoon.

By the way, if you go to wolf hunting websites or Facebook pages (I wouldn’t recommend it), this is a pretty typical level of intelligent exchange. The Wild West lives on …

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If you can donate even a little, support organizations like Defenders of Wildlife that are at least trying to bring some sanity back into the anti-wolf mania: Lawsuit filed against Wyoming’s wolf-kill policy.

I found this slightly-shaky and windy video, showing the whole pack (including 832F) in Lamar Canyon:

Another video, Generation W … about the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction, and discussing how researchers determine that wolves tend to target weaker members of elk herds.

Related posts: Lawsuit Filed Against Wyoming’s Wolf-Kill Policy | Fire Wildlife Services Trapper Jamie Olson | Livestock, Wildlife and Food Choices |

By | 2012-12-09T15:31:36+00:00 December 9th, 2012|Blog, Endangered Species, Fishing & Hunting|19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Ron Dudley December 9, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Bravo, Ingrid! So well written and so logical. And so tragic, for “them” and for us.

    I won’t say much here. I feel so intensely about this kind of thing that it’s not good for my sleep or my health to dwell on it too much, which I would do if I made an in-depth comment. I get incredibly frustrated and angry and I just can’t shut it down.

    Perhaps we’re a lot alike…

  2. Mia McPherson December 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Ingrid, you are not alone. I feel as you do about what is happening with the wolves and other wildlife that are being senselessly and ignorantly slaughtered.

  3. tana hunter December 9, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    This is shameful. Hunters only comprise 10% or less of the population, and the fact that we let them reign supreme over wildlife is incomprehensible. I can only think that it is lack of exposure in the media. If the facts were presented in mainstream news, perhaps we could see a change in this despicable downturn for the wolves and other wildlife. People need to know what trapping, hunting and “predator control” really do. We are all being held hostage by the likes of the NRA. So, so sad.

  4. About A ‘Rock Star’ « New Heathens December 10, 2012 at 7:18 am

    […] Guardian in the UK, the Daily Mail in England, United Press International, Outside Magazine and plenty of blogs all ran pieces on this wolf that cited my reporting. The story was also one of the top […]

  5. ingrid December 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks for the comments and the supportive sentiments, Ron, Mia and Tana. And Tana, I agree that a lot of people don’t know what’s happening. There are, of course, people who don’t want to know. What makes this even more of a travesty, as we all know, is how skewed the issues become when they involve economic and political power like that of hunting and ranching groups.

    I came up on this Sierra Club document on wolf-livestock predation which uses the National Agricultural Statistics Service for its figures: Wolves and Livestock. And here’s that USDA/NASS summary.

    One additional note: Through a trackback from the New Heathens blog (the band), I found this blog post in the New York Times by journalist/band member and Montanan Nate Schweber who writes about the effect these collared-wolf killings have on the Yellowstone studies: Research Animals Lost in Wolf Hunts Near Yellowstone.

  6. ingrid December 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    An interesting addendum in today’s news … Costa Rica bans hunting. I admit, I triple-sourced it to make sure it was true. I never thought, in my lifetime, I’d see this courageous a measure:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/11/costa-rica-bans-hunting-sport

    One of the quotes from the brief Outside Magazine story: “We’re not just hoping to save the animals but we’re hoping to save the country’s economy, because if we destroy the wildlife there, tourists are not going to come anymore,” said activist Diego Marin

    The same could be true about Yellowstone and other ostensibly protected wildlife areas in our country.

  7. Bea Elliott December 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Sigh… The way these hunters are going after the wolves is savage – There’s almost a hatred of them. And I just don’t understand why. Wolves are so close to our “beloved” domesticated dogs it’s eerie… And from what I know there’s less than one human fatality a year due to wolves… And the livestock? Well I guess if I were a wolf – corralled sheep and cows would look like a picnic to me too. The cattle/livestock industries are the ones that don’t belong. And the human hunters are out of place too. Too bad wolves can’t vote or buy off politicians. It’s all disheartening and tragic.

    I totally understand your dim view – But stay strong. The world needs movers and shakers and thinkers like you. Indeed – Those with generous hearts towards wolves and birds and all living beings is the only hope we have.

    • ingrid December 12, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Bea, thanks for the comment. You know, I became invested in animal issues back in the early 80s, and although I’m not a quitter and never have been, there are times it’s quite difficult not to take a dim view. It’s probably just the natural, cyclical nature of preserving one’s sanity in an often insane world.

      I agree, there’s no denying there is wolf hatred among the wolf hunters. One needs only peruse their own blogs and websites to see them establish this for themselves. Human fatalities obviously aren’t inconsequential from a compassion standpoint, but from a numerical one they are. Plus, well, I’d be repeating myself endlessly to discuss again how we interact and how we respond in human-wildlife conflict scenarios. I think many of us would agree that the balance of how many animals we kill versus how many kill us through predation is so skewed as to be inadmissible.

      With livestock, Larry brought up great points below. Even where livestock issues exist, there are proven methodologies for deterring predators, including dogs, llamas, range riders and other non-lethal methods that many ranchers simply do not employ. The old cowboys rode alongside their cattle in drives for many reasons, cattle rustlers among them. In Washington, as I wrote earlier, the state offered the rancher range riders, but he declined, and the wolves were then killed.

      So, what it amounts to on public land is a rancher free grazing his or her animals for a pittance — because of taxpayer assistance — then calling for extirpation of predators like wolves when those same, unattended animals are harmed by predators in whose habitat the animals are grazing. This is habitat and these are animals in whom we all have a legitimate interest since they reside on public lands.

  8. Larry Jordan December 12, 2012 at 12:08 am

    A beautifully written piece on this monumental disaster Ingrid. I cried when I read the article you referenced on Research Animals Lost in Wolf Hunts Near Yellowstone. Grazing cattle on public lands needs to be stopped, period.

    I know we have discussed these problems and we feel the same way about the total inadequacy of the current system of “wildlife management.” Our wildlife, the biodiversity of the planet, is being systematically exterminated by government entities in collusion with hunters and ranchers for profit. I agree that most people probably don’t know what is going on with the USDA and how many animals they kill every year via their “wildlife services” department. We can only hope that informing the public as much as possible about these horrors will eventually change the destructive course we are currently on.

    • ingrid December 12, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Larry, I couldn’t agree more passionately about the grazing issue on public lands. This is one area we could easily delineate, no gray areas. As you well know, it’s such a vicious cycle of funding, special interests, and public complacency that keeps this damaging system in place, and I’m at a loss to present a real solution, short of all 77 million of us wildlife watchers, photographers and birders boycotting the beef and livestock industry. I personally do my imperfect best in this regard, but I understand how difficult it is for people to make changes based on their own self-interest, let alone a coyote’s or a wolf’s or a wild mustang’s.

      I agree information is critical. I don’t know what else we should do to bring greater pressure to bear on the agencies that sanction this giveaway to ranchers, who then hold all of the cards when wolves are in the crosshairs or leg-holds. Does anyone here have additional or experiential input on this? It’s dramatic, the connection is between livestock production and wildlife. That’s even beyond the considerations presented by researchers like Goodland and Anhang who have cited figures as high as 51 percent in terms of livestock’s contribution to greenhouse gases.

      Larry, if you had time to watch the video, what did you think of George Wuerthner’s arguments about cattle and habitat destruction? I’ve heard counterarguments from ranchers suggesting that rotational grazing solves all of the issues of riparian areas, etc. I don’t buy it, nor do I see any of those practices even possible with the number of cattle we raise each year (upwards of 40 million, I think). For anyone who hasn’t seen it, here’s the presentation by George Wuerthner at the NWVEG meeting: http://vimeo.com/29989350 — I don’t see this issue being discussed widely outside of vegetarian circles, probably because it’s so threatening to what our society has come to accept about the big business of beef production.

      The grazing and ranching issue also hits hard at the romanticized version of rugged, American individualism. If you read through the myriad rancher and wolf-hunter arguments, you see a consistent, often defensive, and sometimes violent sense of entitlement over the land they graze and the wolves they kill in the process. And everyone seems to crumble in the face of this pressure. The industry and its enablers are effective at keeping the true costs and externalities of livestock ranching under wraps from the general public.

      Thanks for the link to the Predator Defense piece (check it out in Larry’s comment above). I’ll explore all of the related links, much appreciated. For anyone who hasn’t read it yet, included in the website’s list of references is an excellent exposé by Tom Knudson of the Sacramento Bee: The killing agency: Wildlife Services’ brutal methods leave a trail of death.

  9. M. Firpi December 14, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Ingrid: I found these two excerpts from Jack London for this post:

    “But he is not always alone. When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack.”
    ― Jack London, The Call of the Wild

    and:

    “In this manner had fought forgotten ancestors. They quickened the old life within him, the old tricks which they had stamped into the heredity of the breed were his tricks… And when, on the still cold nights, he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolflike, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him.”
    ― Jack London, The Call of the Wild

    Jack London is one of my favourite writers.

    • ingrid December 24, 2012 at 7:14 am

      Thank you for these quotes, Maria. I love this: “And when, on the still cold nights, he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolflike, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him.” We had a tree squirrel who regularly bounded from a nearby tree onto the deck of our urban flat. She was somewhat habituated by, I’m sure, bird feeders in the neighborhood. She’d sit on the ledge of our window and watch me type on the computer. Although I’ve been trained otherwise, I’m a sucker for naming regular animals who come around, so as I was paging through my name book, I came upon a Japanese designation … “Chiyo” which means “a thousand generations” or worlds. I thought that was appropriate when I thought her of genetic code, her cleverness, her beauty, carried through a lineage that preceded my own.

      • M. Firpi December 25, 2012 at 7:52 am

        This post brought me many memories of “The Call of the Wild”. For me, it is precisely London’s anthropomorphism of the dog that unravels the conflict between the “domestic” and the “wild” in such a masterful style and manner, and that he also had a captive audience among younger readers. Just why do younger readers need this anthropomorphism of animals in literature for me is their way of holding out to nature at their developmental level in the course of life, to reach the final conclusion into their adulthood that at some point, it is indeed fiction, and that a dog would not really join a pack of wolves. But is there really so much fiction in this? The manner in which London’s story is written leaves me wondering if within the “genetic code” of every domesticated animal, there still is this latent, inner drive to break free from humans.

        When adults finally “draw the line” for children, as it happens in the movie “The Yearling” (with Gregory Peck), the young boy is “forced” to see his pet fawn as a “wild animal” that has to be shot because it has come to conflict with his own family survival. Not all children come to “learn” this at such tender age as the boy in the movie, but most begin to perceive an attitude later in life, that wild animals will compete with humans for survival at many levels, and the concept of an imminent “threat” from the “wild” begins to develop.

        As much as I despised the ending of the movie “The Yearling” (a novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings), it’s a film that depicts how humans finally do draw the line between themselves and wild animals. In this day and age, however, a “domestic” fawn would not have to be killed. It would just need a surrogate parent (such as a trained labrador dog for example) to nurse it into adulthood, and then release it into the wild. At the time “The Yearling” was made, such technology did not exist.

  10. Deb Potts December 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Ingrid, if you could only see the standing ovation you received after I read your post. Your views are shared by many, including myself and our numbers are growing; posts like this certainly help in sharing and educating those who wish to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to how much control ranchers, farmers and hunters have over wildlife concerns.
    The wolf hunt rages on here in Wisconsin too and to add insult to injury they just open up some state parks to hunting and trapping despite public opposition.
    Our efforts to halt these killing sprees seems daunting at times but we have to remain strong and vigilant in getting the word out so more and more people will pull their heads out of the sand. Maybe then we’ll see a reversal of the completely backwards view conservation law makers have.
    Keep up the good work.

    • ingrid December 24, 2012 at 7:16 am

      Deb, thank you so much for this heartfelt note and your generous sentiments. And yes, I agree with you about consistently and persistently making the connection for people between those various economic interests and the sometimes awful outcomes for predators and other wildlife. It’s one link, one economic choice over which we do have control and that is, which industries and practices we choose to support with our forks and dollars.

  11. John Raymond December 20, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Nice work, Ingrid. Very important view.

    The battle has to be won.

    • ingrid December 24, 2012 at 7:16 am

      Thank you, John. I know you and I share similar sentiments on these issues.

  12. Mark December 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

    You are definitely not alone in your thinking here Ingrid. Nicely written post. I am as disgusted with the term of “wildlife management” as you are, as the biggest influence seem to be social factors vs. actual science, and worse yet, special lobby groups with ulterior motives. A bill just passed the Legislature here in Michigan and is waiting for our Governor’s signoff to allow “wolf management” to be taken up by our DNR. While it does not mean automatically a public hunt will be opened up, it certainly allows that option should their committee decide. I don’t understand why after so long giving protections to these larger predators that we want to back track.

    • ingrid December 24, 2012 at 7:20 am

      Mark, thanks very much and yes, I agree with you when you write, “I don’t understand why after so long giving protections to these larger predators that we want to back track.” A disconcerting component, beyond the policies which a backward idea of “management,” is the mentality inherent in the wolf hunting discussions of which I’ve been part. It is so brutish as to suggest cultural return to the era when we first eradicated these animals. There is not much difference between the wolf hunting attitude of old and the dialogue public and present in wolf hunting forum today. It makes me heartsick to think that centuries of time seem to sometimes mean nothing in terms of moral progress toward these and other nonhuman species.

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