Heed the call of the wild: don’t cull the wolf

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They encroach on natural habitats, kill wildlife and destroy native landscapes. While this is, in many ways, the modus operendi of human populations, it is the excuse now being given by the US Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) in its call on the federal government to remove the gray from lists. All for the purpose of using human “ingenuity” (read: guns) to help reduce the population to a more “manageable” level.

Decades after its near-extinction, the wolf of Montana is back in numbers. Photograph: Jeff Vanuga/Corbis

Activists are beginning to take to the social media networks in calling for the government to not slaughter wolves. One petition, began last week, has already garnered several thousand signatures en route to its 10,000 goal.

With thousands of wolves across the country struggling to survive after decades of reintroduction since humans slaughtered nearly the entire population, it seems odd that calls have grown stronger to remove them from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). According to the FWS, in the Great Lakes region, there are roughly 4,000 wolves; in the Northern Rocky Mountains around 1,700; Washington State has nine total; the southwest about 60 wolves. In Alaska, where wolves are not protected by the ESA, there live about 10,000.

So, why have the calls for “culling” wolves increased so dramatically over the past five years, in a plan to reduce the populations which the FWS terms “control”?

The modern wolf story largely begins in 1995, in Idaho (my home state), when the state reintroduced a number of gray wolves into the state as part of the “experimental, non-essential” clause of the ESA. From there, the animals developed and grew in numbers across the state as wildlife biologists helped support the small ecosystems that were developed for the animals’ use. And in the United States Pacific northwest, the Nez Perce Native American tribe also started their own project, which enabled a pack of wolves to live and create familial ties in a large fenced area.

Not everyone was pleased that hills covered in snow and jagged mountains – the difficult terrain of Idaho’s mountains – are now home to wolves: some government officials and ordinary citizens claim the species has now overpopulated the wilderness areas and is a threat to “human activity”.

As one family friend, a hunter, told me recently, the wolves are “killing livestock, attacking people in the natural parks and without action could overrun our landscape”. Although he is right that wolves do attack livestock (and wild prey), there is little evidence that people are being attacked. Wolves rarely are aggressive toward humans unless threatened.

The problem is rather with the continued development on what had, historically, been remote areas; there, wolves are simply attempting to survive. With calls for removing wolves from the protection of the ESA, however, it could soon be open season for hunters – in what officials argue are “conservation” efforts to ensure the wolves’ survival.

I spoke with an Idaho biologist who has worked with both the FWS and the wolf reintroduction program. He argues that human populations continue to “overuse” hunting in the name of sport and this has reduced deer and elk populations, not just in Idaho, but in the Great Lakes and Alaska. The result?

Wolves have been forced to look elsewhere for food and sustenance. This results in cattle being attacked because the regular food chain has been disrupted. Hunting wolves won’t stop this problem unless all the wolves are killed.

He also pointed out that during such culls – which we have seen in Idaho and other areas – it is the adult wolves that are killed, often leaving cubs unprotected and unable to fend for themselves. “It is sad that this sort of thing continues,” he added.

Activists have called for a blanket ban on wolf-killing, but there is a need to work with the FWS and those who feel threatened by wolves. We must understand that the issue of wolves is a nuanced controversy in which those directly affected by the encroaching wolf populations must be heard. There needs to be compromise that does not threaten the whole wolf population and finds sustainable solutions in the specific environments where the reintroduction process has occurred.

At the same time, we can’t afford to reverse the good work of reintroduction programs and go back to the days when wolves were seen as a deadly menace to humans and their livestock – and had to be exterminated because of that perception.

This article was written by Joseph Mayton for the Guardian UK.

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Anne Grice

This backward archaic culture of hunting which was prevalent in the dark ages must be stopped and the USA needs to accept that those practices of hunting wild life such as wolves is disgusting, unacceptable and has no place in modern society! This generational attitude must be wiped out of people's mindset and education is essential to foster civilised behaviour! Stop killing your wild life and stop encroaching in their habitat. They have to live somewhere and humans need to stop being bloody greedy and learn how to avoid wolf-human conflict. Wolves and their young deserve to live in peace… Read more »

Kirsten Lassen-Smith
Kirsten Lassen-Smith

Stop killing the little wildlife we got left!

Stephen Anderson
Stephen Anderson

has tiffany hurliman,considered,what would happen if people decided,to cull her family,as they are using to much oxygen,that could be used,for future generations,the logic of which,is that trees,natural rainforests,jungles etc,are being destroyed,at a frightening rate,,now the whole human race,depends,on them for life giving oxygen,so based on her use of logic,should we prevent ,her and her families,being culled? get there dna, save it for the future,for technology,to restore them,this is her logic,not mine, my point -being that if humans,were not so damm greedy,and corrupt,nature,would rightly take,its course, but when humans,interfere,that always,upsets,the balance of nature,humans should stop,interfering with nature,wild animals etc, and humans… Read more »

Suzanne Kledzik Dunham

Nature was put out of balance by the killing of the wolves Tiffiny. Nature can balance herself only if man stays out of the equation, which is not going to happen as long as there is money to be made! Leave nature alone and she will balance herself! Stop the big money! This is all about killing and nothing to do with anything else!

Chuck Girtz

Well stated, not only will the wolves kill your dogs , they will eat them and its not a pretty sight.

Tiffiny Hurliman

I think we should have not wasted all that money in bringing them back. Nature went on just fine without them. It's almost like what it would be if you brought T-rex back. Nature became balanced without them now it's out of whack because you brought them back. There is no place for them now. Not enough land and too many humans and livestock, No one thought about the future when they brought up this dumb idea. and FYI before you say " Save the wolves!" Look at what is happening in other states that have them in full force.… Read more »