06 September 2009


ever since the gray wolf was delisted as an endangered species in select parts of its range in the rocky mountain west, and responsibility for "management" of wolf populations in those areas was turned over to the respective states, rabid hunters and ranchers have been clamoring for a legalized wolf hunt, ostensibly to thin the numbers of wolves to a "reasonable" level -- which to most of them means zero wolves. sadly and predictably, idaho was the first to institute a legal hunt, and my native montana was right behind (though that effort is under appeal in u.s. district court).

on september 1, the Missoulian reported the first wolf kill (murder) in idaho under the now legal aegis of state licensing. the hunter, a real estate agent, took the day off work and dispatched his victim with a high-powered rifle and scope -- from 25 yards away. i'm thinking, for this you need a scope?? big brave hunter.

i'm also thinking, for the craven mentality that sees nature as something which humans must conquer, rather than as the source of our species' well-being and health, wolves (and indeed all large predators) will always be mistakenly viewed as a threat -- not a direct physical threat to human lives, but rather a threat to the ungulate game species (elk, deer, etc.) for which we compete, and/or a threat to the cattle, sheep and other livestock which we humans introduced into the wolves' historic range. never mind that there is a mountain of evidence which refutes this view. in the dark mythos which surrounds the wolf in our culture, pathological denial runs deep.

to the hunters i say this -- for millenia, wolves have enhanced the health of their prey species, culling the old and infirm from the herd. there has always been a dynamic balance in nature between predators and prey, long before european settlers brought their blood lust to north america. if you are a true hunter and take pride in your fieldcraft, trade in your rifle for a camera. you will still have to understand your target animal's daily and seasonal habits, the terrain, the weather, and your own limitations. any photos you bring home will be more worthy of pride than a macabre stuffed head mounted on your wall. i double-dog dare you to rise to my challenge, if you have the cajones. even better, become a guide for the growing numbers of ecotourists who would pay handsomely to photograph these magnificent, intelligent animals in the wild.

to the ranchers and stockmen i say this -- get over it. gray wolves in the upper midwest (minnesota and michigan notably) have gotten along fine with dairy and livestock farmers for decades, thanks largely to a program for reimbursement from governmental and private conservation groups for any animals legitimately lost to wolves (and there are many, many false claims of wolf predation made by those who would abuse the system), and thanks also to easy, common-sense protection measures taken by residents. there is nothing preventing similar programs from allowing you to turn a profit in the west, except your own stubborn, willful ignorance and false pride. education and cooperative effort is to everyone's advantage. simply saying "kill the goddamn vermin" will only eradicate them from the wild needlessly, as we did in the early 20th century.

i grew up in a hunting culture. as a boy i hunted small game, mostly pheasants. i take no great pride in this, it was simply how i was raised. as a thinking adult, i learned to question assumptions, and gave up hunting. i have no problem with those who truly hunt for subsistence, which in our culture is a rarity. but i have zero respect for those who hunt for trophy animals, or out of blood lust. i've been known to place my own body on the line in defense of hunted animals, and will do so again -- armed or unarmed. confrontation in defense of nature is no vice. murder in defense of profit is no virtue.

in followup stories, the idaho hunter is bewildered to have received angry phone calls and mail, denouncing his actions. time to get a clue, seems like. in the meantime, all you wolf hunters out there, you might want to keep a loose eye over your shoulder. you never know when environmental activists might be stalking you -- not to harm you, but to spoil your fun.

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