Extremely Endangered Red Wolf
“Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation? And what creature of all that the Lord has taken the pains to make is not essential to the completeness of the unit – the cosmos?” – John Muir, “A Thousand-mile Walk to the Gulf”
Weep for Wisconsin. It has a Department of Natural Resources stuck in the Stone Age. The DNR exists as an aggressive commercial killing business with deer and natural predators as the main commodities.
The DNR, stuck in farming-for-killing mode, is massively recruiting more killers, with old white guys teaching children animal cruelty. It is well-documented that children who learn to abuse animals are more likely to engage in domestic violence, war, or serial killing. It is unsurprising that Wisconsin spawned serial killers Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer, who rendered people like hunters chop up wildlife. Recently a video surfaced showing a Wisconsin teen, having shot a pregnant doe, riding on top of her as she was crying in terror and pain struggling to get away, dying. The teen posted, “Found out that the deer I shot yesterday was really two of them, LOL.”
Hunters came out for damage control, denouncing this as “not hunting.” What distinguished this incident is that it was filmed. State-approved trapping, bludgeoning wildlife unable to defend themselves, blasting deer’s legs off, leaving wild animals to bleed out, torturing wolves and bears with packs of dogs, chasing animals to exhaustion to shoot them out of trees, killing for skins and profit, for recreation and gory pictures ― all of this is state-promoted animal cruelty. It is adult manipulation of children who have a right to peaceful relationship with other beings.
Wolves and wildlife pose negligible threat to us, yet the state continues promoting killing wolves and cougars and coyotes and any wildlife hunters want. This is no longer a matter of survival. It is primarily recreation.
Killing, like any fevered acquisition, has become consumer delirium. Bigger, different, exotic, more, and never enough. Natural predators are unwelcome competition: Anything the wolf eats, the hunter does not get to kill.
We have known for nearly a century the delicate balance of interdependency in natural wild systems, and the vital importance of natural predators. Ken Burns’ documentary on the national parks highlighted the distinguished career of Adolph Murie, who served the national parks service from 1934 to 1966. IN 1937 Murie wrote “Ecology of the Coyote in Yellowstone,” which argued against the policies of predator eradication. Murie’s studies were groundbreaking and not welcome 80 years ago. Although his studies have stood the test of time, coyote eradication is still being implemented today in Wisconsin, where wolves are despised and bears are killed by the thousands annually.
The parks service assigned Murie to study the relationship of wolves with Dall sheep in the area of Mount McKinley, now renamed Denali. According to the Burns documentary, Murie walked 1,600 miles in the park and collected thousands of samples of wolf scat to analyze what wolves eat. He found a wolf den and watched it for 195 hours, once continuously for 33 hours, whatever the weather. He adopted a wolf pup and named him Wag. Murie knew wolves better than anyone.
His studies in 1939-1941 culminated in his classic book, “The Wolves of Mount McKinley,” which laid out the land as a set of relationships, all connected. He revealed that wolves, like coyotes, eat a lot of mice, and that wolves strengthen sheep, deer, and elk herds by culling the weak and the diseased. Murie stood against the campaign of poisoning and shooting coyotes, wolves and bears even then. He was instrumental in saving wolves in their last refuge in Alaska, where hunters and the state wanted them completely eradicated.
Whereas natural predators are a positive force in the balance of nature and keeping diseases curtailed, hunters are causing evolutionary damage with trophy hunting. By choosing the biggest and best rams, they obviously remove those rams from the gene pool. “Ironically, hunting based on minimum size criteria — such as horn size — selects against the trait most desired by hunters: the size of the trophy,” said David Coltman, professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta. He and his colleagues analyzed data covering 39 years in which Dall sheep were intensively trophy-hunted for 23 of those years.
A recent article by Jennifer Pascoe further quotes Coltman: “It’s not just the size of your horns, but also how old you are. For a ram to become highly successful and socially dominant, he’s not just large-horned. He’s also experienced.” However, writes Pascoe, rams are often shot prior to reaching that age of experience. “What we see is a decline in horn size over time,” said Coltman. The average size of a set of horns at Ram Mountain has declined more than 20 percent over 43 years. Part of the problem is many more licences are issued to trophy hunters than there are available legal rams.
Coltman concludes, “We have to be more evolutionarily enlightened about how we manage and conserve animal populations.”
Is it possible we are not the center of life? Or wise enough to manage it? Let’s actively honor all that Muir called “sermons in stone, storms, trees, flowers, and animals brimful with humanity.”
This is a call for reform and revolution ― before it is too late.