A young wolf
“Native Americans were certain that wolves and many other creatures were people.” ~ John Vucetich, Michigan wolf biologist
Richard Thiel, retired Wisconsin DNR wolf biologist, debuted “Wild Wolves We Have Known: Stories of Wolf Biologists’ Favorite Wolves” at the International Wolf Symposium held in Duluth, Minnesota, in 2013. Twenty-three wolf biologists wrote stories about their experiences working with wolves — work that transformed them into wolf advocates.
The introduction, written by John Vucetich, is a call to human empathy, invoking the moral obligation of man to recognize the fellow humanity of wolves. He writes how knowing individual wolves changed his own life. While acknowledging that humans possess capabilities that wolves do not, he writes: “But it is an entirely separate concern to ask, is a wolf a person?” He poses that wolf possessing these traits — “sensory consciousness, memory, dreams, intentions, personality, emotions — certainly qualifies as being an actor in the world, as the experiencer of a life.” He affirms, “It is perfectly right to treat our dogs as people.”
Vucetich documents that wolves, who are extremely loyal to family, lose one in four family members to death every year of their lives. He adds, “Trust me — just as your family dog knows when you are gone for the weekend, so too does a wolf experience a missing sibling or parent.”
Suffering is a commonality among species.
The word “hierarchy” derives from the Middle English word “ierarchie,” meaning “order of holy beings.” Vucetich: “Developing a healthy relationship with this ‘order of holy beings’ is quite a challenge. One great development in this relationship was the widespread realization, during the 20th century, that humans are not the only kind of organism that deserves our moral consideration…. Not so much because it serves us to treat the non-human world well (which it does), but for its own sake.”
He points out that wildlife are treated as “populations” to be managed, denying individual animals any significant value. He says: “Another approach is to deny that populations and ecosystems have any significant value.”
Vucetich continues that too often we are “harming innocent manifestations of life to pay the price for (our) harming some other manifestation of life. Do two wrongs really make it right? This relationship with the great hierarchy of life is perverse…. I do not know precisely what that (healthier) relationship should look like, but I’m pretty sure it involves greater respect for life at each level in the great hierarchy. And the solution almost certainly involves better understanding of individual organisms.”
This awakening, calling for our moral responsibility to fellow beings, is new within the scientific community. Citing the intensely social lives of wolves, Paul Paquet, a Canadian wolf biologist, states bluntly that it is immoral to kill wolves, period.
Randy Jurewicz, a Wisconsin wolf biologist, recently retired from the DNR and is now free to say that wolves do not “need” to be hunted at all since their populations are self-limiting.
Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, has joined Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in co-sponsoring Johnson’s Senate bill to remove Endangered Species Act protections from Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming wolves: H.R. 424 and S.164.
In Wisconsin, delisting would mean using packs of dogs and traps — anything goes for killing combinations.
Eight of nine Wisconsin citizens polled in a 2013 Mason-Dixon poll do not want wolves hunted, and nine in 10 oppose the use of bait, traps, and packs of dogs to trophy kill wolves.
Who is Baldwin representing?
Repeated emails requesting an interview with Baldwin and Freedom of Information Act inquiries into how much funding she receives from hunting organizations and the NRA got no response.
I spoke directly to Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, asking him how we could protect our wolves. He replied, “Double down on calling your senators and representatives and organize.” He cited the women’s march on Washington and the coalitions being built to resist the destructive aggression of the Republican takeover.
The DNR has forsaken all credibility by scrubbing its website of climate change references and purging the wolf committee of all humane representation on wolves’ behalf. The incompetence of the Trump administration described by Paul Krugman is also applicable to the DNR: “Blind ideology, blind loyalty, contempt for knowledge, nuance and expertise, and lack of ethics are the values…”
The Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release and video including this quote: “The new Congress is the most extreme and anti-wolf our country has ever seen, and members wasted no time in attacking endangered wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This bill promises to undo hard-earned progress toward gray wolf recovery that has taken years to achieve. Without federal protection hundreds of wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan will once again suffer and die every year.”
Citizens can send a letter opposing this legislation from the center’s website.
Please network that it is urgent to call Ron Johnson (202-224-5323 or via his website), Tammy Baldwin (202-224-5653 or via her website), and Rep. Sean Duffy, R-District 7, co-author of the house bill (202-225-3365) voicing vehement opposition to these political, anti-science bills.
Organize with wolf advocates. Hold wolves in your hearts and act now.
Originally published in the Madison CapTimes on January 29, 2017.