The Annals of Country Life: The Wolf at the Door

February 5th, 2014 11 Comments

Wolf by Quinn

Long, long ago, when the world and I were both much younger, I went camping in Algonquin Provincial Park with a very pretty girl and my two dogs. It was in the beginning of the off-season, so while the weather was lovely, we had the place pretty much to ourselves; in fact, I don’t remember seeing another human being in the two days we were there.

We had cooked a meal, sat around the fire talking, and were just heading into our little tent for the night when suddenly a pack of wolves began to howl. It froze me in my tracks, and the effect on the dogs was amazing. One of them was a big, tough Briard, but even as their hackles went up and they both began to growl, I could tell they were terrified. To be honest, my hackles went up and I began to growl, with about the same degree of conviction and for much the same reason.

Wolf howling

I know now that the pack was probably about a mile away, or even more, and that it was probably just a normal pack of wolves, not the several hundred animals it sounded like, but at the time, all by ourselves, barely out of our teens (we were on our way back to college), unarmed, it was a—you should pardon the expression—hair-raising experience. For all four of us.

Since then, I have heard other wolves, seen fresh tracks while bird-hunting in northern Minnesota, visited with some semi-tame ones in a scientific compound where the wolves were part of a genetic testing program, and I have also grown up considerably and learned a good deal more about this most magnificent ancestor of my dogs and ancestor of the genetic tribal memory—for good or ill—that runs in each of us.

So it was with mixed feelings that I received link to an article in the Idaho Statesman with the following headline: “Lawmakers: $2M aimed to kill more than 500 wolves.” Putting aside the less than graceful headline, the lead paragraph succinctly sums it all up:

“Republicans promoting Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s proposed $2 million taxpayer-financed fund to kill wolves hope the cash helps reduce Idaho’s population of these canine predators by more than 500 animals, to just 150 wolves in 15 packs.”

Predictably, the so-called animal rights organization Defenders of Wildlife (an organization with only a “D” rating—as in A, B, C, D, and F—for spending only forty-three percent of its total expenses on its programs) denounced the proposed action.

“This is just another example of Idaho’s unwillingness to manage wolves as a wildlife species,” said Jonathan Proctor, a Defenders of Wildlife spokesman in Denver. “They’re singling out wolves for special persecution. The majority of Idahoans expect state managers to manage all wildlife appropriately and not exterminate them to the bare minimum they think they can get away with.”

Wolf snarling

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no desire to hunt wolves. (I don’t even like to shoot the ubiquitous coyote, though I have done so at the specific request of ranchers.) And in the spirit of full disclosure, I have little regard for animal rights organizations, with their cuddly portrayal of a Disneyesque natural world and their use of emotion to trump both science and reality. But in this particular case, I happen to agree with Defenders of Wildlife. Not because I want to cuddle up with wolves in my tent, but because this makes less than zero economic sense. Let’s review the bidding.

Wolves in Idaho have drastically reduced both the resident deer and elk herds. The elk herds have been particularly hard hit. Elk hunting represents a significant economic boost to the economy in Idaho, and the wolves’ reduction of the herds has had a predictable effect on outfitters, with some of them simply closing their doors and looking for other lines of work.

The economy is hurting generally throughout America. When the economy is in the toilet, fewer people go hunting. When there are no elk to attract hunters, even those lucky people with extra cash go elsewhere where they can reasonably expect to find elk. State fish and game departments are funded largely by hunters and fishermen. State fish and game departments are responsible for managing fish and game in their respective states. Since the economy in Idaho is no better off than the American economy generally, and they no longer have the hunters coming into the state in the numbers they used to, their fish and game department is feeling the pinch.

Soooooo….. The Idaho state legislature puts two and two together and comes up with three. Instead of offering many more, and more liberal, wolf-hunting licenses and various inducements to encourage hunters to come to Idaho and spend the money that would put much needed revenue into the fish and game department’s coffers, the state legislature decides to spend the tax-payer’s money to achieve the same goal they are going to spend two million dollars on.

I know very well that hunters, even in large numbers, are very unlikely ever to take five hundred wolves in a single season, but it would reduce the wolf population while bringing in money, and hunting pressure has been shown to have an impact on the surviving animals, making them more wary around humans and consequently less likely to prey on domestic animals.

Wolf running

Didn’t the politicians in Idaho learn anything from the boneheads in California? Twenty years ago, voters in California, influenced by cuddly and emotional anti-hunting campaigns that had nothing to do with reality, banned mountain lion hunting over the objections of the scientists at the California Dept. of Fish and Game. Today, the very predictable result is: an out of control mountain lion population; increased (and historically unprecedented) confrontations between humans and the big cats; drastic reduction of deer numbers in some areas and (more importantly) of desert big horn numbers in the mountains east of San Diego, where the sheep had been re-introduced at the tax payer’s considerable expense; loss of revenue from mountain lion hunting fees, a loss that the most under-funded (California game wardens earn less than any other form of law enforcement in the state) fish and game department (relative to the population) in the nation could greatly use; and an increased expense for the tax payers because today professional hunters are paid (by the tax payer) to kill more mountain lions annually than were taken by hunters who paid for the privilege twenty years ago. Yep, that sure makes a lot of sense, by golly. They say that California leads the way for the rest of the nation. Is that supposed to be a good thing? Not if Idaho imitating the Golden State is an example.

Wolf Two by Quinn

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I attended Vermillion College in Ely, MN back in 1992-94. I was working towards an associates degree in Conservation Law Enforcement, with the intent of applying to either the MN or WI Police Academy upon graduation… with the intent of someday applying for a Game Warden position in either state. Well, that never happened. I ended up going into Business/Aviation, and then threw my business degree out the window and instead got a second associates degree in Maritime Science and became a Merchant Marine. HOWEVER, I loved my time at Ely. I spent most of my free time out on the various hiking trials, canoeing on the gin-clear lakes, snow showing in winter, cross country skiing in winter…and of course wolf howling.

    A handful of friends and myself would go out in the dead of night far from the town and find old logging roads or foot trails to hike down. Once far removed from the main roads we would howl like a pack of wolves and wait eagerly for the return call of a nearby pack. Eerie to hear, yet beautiful and majestic. Sometimes, when the return call was to darn close for personal comfort…well, let’s just say that there are only a few memories I have were I recall the sudden sensation of my testicles shrinking.

    In the last couple years wolf hunting has been introduced to northern WI. I partake in most hunting seasons in my state, but I don’t wolf hunt. The arguments are much the same here as in Idaho. Animal rights groups huff and puff about the season, while hunters and conservatives rejoice for the opportunity to keep the wold packs well culled as to not make too drastic an affect on the other game species, mostly the white tailed deer.

    Every so often in the dead of the night when I am up at my retreat cabin in Northern Wisconsin, I can hear the whiley call of the coyote, and the occasional call of the wolf pack.


    TD Bauer

  2. Anonymous says:

    The lawmakers in Idaho are about to piss people off. The wolf is a beautiful creature. The First Nations regard the wolf highly in their culture. If it is an over population issue I’m sure it can be resolved in another way.

    Tena French Halifax Nova Scotia Canada

  3. Anonymous says:

    It sounds like you were fortunate to make back from that camping trip alive. It sounds like a very dangerous idea to be out camping in the middle of no where unarmed when there are wolves around. What was the reason that the state of Idaho gave for this action? We have had the same thing in Michigan. The state reopened wolf hunting and gave licenses to people who wanted to hunt the wolves. The reason for this is because there is an overpopulation of wolves in the Upper Peninsula. There have been reports of ranchers loosing their livestock and people were afraid of being attacked by the animals. Of course, the usual animal rights people started a protest and other people who live in the lower part of Michigan protested as well. However, as one resident of the U.P. said “You people in the lower Peninsula don’t have to deal with these wolves.” Another said “That people in other areas didn’t have to be afraid of wolf attacks because there were no wolves in the areas that they lived in.”

    I agree people seem to have some fantasy about wildlife. Maybe, the have watched too many Disney cartoons with cute furry animals that can talk.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wolves have to be the most politically polarizing critter out there. I cringe when I hear proclamations like Idaho is making, but I try to be realistic even as I growl under my breath. At least there ARE wolves in Idaho now–not long ago there were NOT ANY there. I personally can’t understand WHY anyone would want to shoot a wolf that was not bothering them or their livestock, but that’s because I didn’t inherit a “trophy” gene, and can’t imagine anyone really wanting to EAT one! I’m kinda backward that way. Plus I have been severely biased by close friendships with several wolves(in captivity), and wolf-dog crosses of my own. And WAY too many dogs–seems far too much like shooting dogs for “sport” to me–though I have known people that DO kill dogs for fun, too(and no, it wasn’t legally). I realize immediately I’m being a hypocrite, since I don’t feel so strongly regarding other animals, like deer or rabbits, for instance, who value their lives certainly as much as any wolf! I just try and revel in THE FACT that wolves HAVE RETURNED to so many more places in recent times, where they were exterminated before, and wallow in THE FACT that people who love and admire them now far outnumber those few who think nothing of trying to blast whole packs out of existence–and let me stress that much as I might cringe and whine in this regard, I DO NOT fault anyone doing so to protect their livestock–depending on individual circumstances, of course. I DO get really aggravated that unbiased scientific study after study has been done with both wolves and coyotes and these guvmint “control” programs, which tend to disrupt packs and the wild canid social structures which, left mostly alone, WILL regulate their own numbers far more efficiently than any human program! Both coyotes and wolves have been proven to BREED MORE and produce MORE offspring when disrupted like this than if left to their own devices. However, what Nature deems the proper number of wolves or coyotes for any given territory isn’t necessarily what some greedy humans want, who want to share “their” game animals and the landscape with NO predators! Those selfish types that want to TOTALLY exterminate ANYTHING that competes with them1 I do not consider people with that attitude to be “good” hunters, in ability or philosophy! Let’s not let that minority(in the minority at long, long last!) make the decisions to totally exterminate predators ever again, as used to be common in this country(U. S. A.) in the past. Even if we get incorrectly lumped in with the equally unrealistic humaniacs, who wouldn’t know a real wolf if it et them!….L.B.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Americans do not seem to have a healthy respect or fear of wild animals. The other day I watched a program about people in the U.S. buying and owning exotic animals One man had received a lion cub from some one and of course the lion grew into a full grown adult. Also, he had a female lioness. At one point the lion escaped and was chasing cars down the interstate. After that he kept the lions in a small horse trailer. The lioness also gave birth to some cubs. They were put into an enclosure and the male lion was electrocuted accidentally after that the man finally let the lions be taken. I have heard way too many of these stories where people have been killed or an animal is unnecessarily killed because people seem to think they can keep wild animals for pets. I think this explains some of the reasons people have an unrealistic view of wild animals.

    In another case a women had her face ripped off by an adult chimp that was kept as a pet. Maybe Americans live to far removed from nature and they do not understand how dangerous these animals can be.

  6. Anonymous says:

    P.S. when I tried to submit my comments I keep getting some kind of weird error message.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The Wolf in Germany there were more than 150 years, only in the Grimms’ fairy tale. He was mercilessly hunted and killed by humans. Middle of the 19th Century, he was eradicated.But he’s back. Currently in Germany there are 22 wolf packs or pairs and four single territorial wolves. But where wolves are, there is also fear. Because we have forgotten how to live with the wolf.

    The probability to encounter a wolf is minimal. He is very careful and retires shy.Because people are not on his diet.Farmers and ranchers distrust the wolf, because one thing you need to know: The wolf is a hunter and can not distinguish : “The sheep or goat there, can I eat this?”

    We humans can try to protect grazing animals in wolf areas.With electric fences and guard dogs.The fact that the protective measures are effective, confirmed by a study of the Senckenberg Society in Frankfurt.Scientists have studied the eating habits of the Lusatian (Lausitzer) wolves. The results of the scientists are very soothing.

    Wolves eat in our country mainly deer, red deer and wild boar. In the forest, shows the wolf is a useful robbers.He regulates the wildlife by hunting preferred sick and old animals.The Wolf therefore has a significant importance for the biological balance in our forest ecosystem.

    The hunters see that unfortunately different. They get from rich businessmen a lot of money for the shooting of deer.That’s why it’s easier to shoot the wolf…….

    I always think of a nice story on the topic Wolf. Maybe a bit away from the topic.

    One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson by the campfire of a battle that rages in every man.

    He said: “My son, the battle is fought by two wolves that live in each of us.”

    One is evil.

    He is the anger, envy, jealousy, worries, pain, greed, arrogance, self-pity, blame, prejudice, feelings of inferiority, lies, false pride and the ego.

    The other is good.

    He is the joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, affection, generosity, honesty, compassion and faith.

    The grandson thought for some time about the words of his grandfather, and then asked: Which of the two wolves will win?

    The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”


    • Anonymous says:

      Hello Manuela,

      you are so right in everything you wrote about wolves. Thank you for expressing that so distinctly!!
      And I like that story at the end very very much!!!
      Actually I think JP ist absolutely right, too but politicians are capable
      to miss hearing the voice of reason any time 🙁
      On the other hand the mere number of 500 is really shocking to me measured against German conditions. Unthinkable!


    • Anonymous says:

      I had read that Cherokee story before, Manuela, but had forgotten it. Thanks for posting it! A GREAT story we can all learn from, for sure!….L.B.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Currently we are having a similar but somewhat different debate here in Australia. There have been a number of fatal shark attacks in recent times and one of our state governments (Western Australia) has decided to implement a shark cull policy.

    This has caused quite a stir among the general population around the country, not just the animal activists. Most people appreciate that the ocean is the shark’s home and that overfishing has caused them to come closer to shore for food and that they are an integral part of the marine ecosystem.

    Just a few days ago a young teacher from my home state of South Australia was taken by a shark while spearfishing. Only his spear was retrieved. As his family said, he loved the ocean and had a great respect for sharks. He knew he was visitor in their backyard and the last thing he would want is for the shark to be hunted down. I have heard similar comments from the families and friends of many past victims.


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