About Them Thair Wolves...
I don't hate wolves. People who talk to me on the matter, may think otherwise, but its just not true.
I was heavily involved in the politics of wolf restoration in Idaho back in 1994-95 when Wolf Re-introduction was first set on the table. In my own way I was a lone wolf on a two-sided issue, with a third side no one wanted to hear. The two-sided issue was simple. Pro-wolf versus No Wolf. At the time the proposal was to bring several hundred breeding pairs of Canadian wolfs from Canada and place them in Idaho's 64 million acre wilderness area. Naturally, you had folks who were frothing at the mouth to bring them-there wolves to Idaho, and you had folks who were frothing at the mouth to stop them-there wolves from stepping foot into Idaho.
I confess. I was on the "No-Wolf" side of the argument as were most of Idahoan’s who work and live off the land. There were many valid “No-Wolf” concerns which now some 16 years later have proven to be very accurate. Idaho has virtually no more elk and the deer are equally as scarce; and, the wolves take down a number of cattle and sheep every year too.
So what is the third-side of the Idaho wolf argument? In a room full of heated debate I stood up and said, "what about the Native Idaho Wolf that is already here? If you people want to save wolves so bad, why don't you fight to restore the endangered, Native Idaho Wolf?" In my mind this was a win-win situation. Wolf folks would have something to rally behind to save, and hunters and ranchers didn’t have to worry about a critter decimating deer, elk and livestock herds.
Suddenly, I was public enemy number one on both sides of the fence. I might as well told them to fight to save "Big Foot." Neither side wanted to comment or acknowledge anything to do with the native Idaho wolf. They didn’t see the win-win proposal in the suggestion. One pro-wolf environmentalist began yelling that there was no such thing. I handed him photographs I took of "no-such thing" one day near one of my favorite mountain lakes... in Idaho. The photograph showed three Rocky Mountain Wolves (canis lupis irremotus) that were obviously 40 - 60 pounds smaller than the proposed Canadian Grey Timber Wolf, (canis lupis occidentalis). There is even a chance the animals in the photo are something along the lines of Canis rufus, a wolf-coyote mix that has developed into its own species, however, no "ologist" or environmentalist seem to give the matter two seconds of thought.
(Issues like this are one of my primary complaints about environmentalists and why I consider so many of them to be "arm-chair.” Many have a scripted view of nature from childhood movies like Disney's Pocahontas. They only choose environmental issues that come down from the throne of long-term political benefit to their party. Any environmental solution that doesn't lead to some kind of freedom stealing, or economy-destroying law, they seem to violently oppose and/or conveniently ignore.)
Back at the meeting...
This person began yelling about how they wanted to "restore" the wolf with this "re-introduction" plan. I asked him again, "then why can't we work to save our native wolf? This is not a re-introduction being proposed here, the Canadian Grey wolf is not native to this area and has never lived here naturally or otherwise. What you are proposing is a human introduced invasive species to a non-native environment all in the name of 'environmental restoration'. These native wolves exist. They are small in number but they are out there and they are close to endangered levels. The Canadian wolf is a non-native species and will quite possibly kill the remaining native wolves to eliminate the competition."
Whether or not the native Idaho wolf was at endangered levels is an empirical-estimation. You almost never see them in the wild. Aside from a few state fish and game officers who have also seen them around, the State of Idaho seems to deny their existence. I grew up in the mountains, I have seen them on more than one occasion. I know others who have too.
The room was quiet for a few seconds when the forum leaders reverted back to the original discussion and moved past everything I had just said, as if I hadn't said anything at all. I was in complete disbelief.
My last effort on the matter was at a statehouse rally. I showed up with a sign that said:
“Save Idaho's Native Wolf
Say No to Canadian Wolves!"
I stood off to the front and left, facing the crowd of pro-wolf folks. I didn't want to get lost in their crowd, and I wanted them-there wolf-lovers to see my sign. I got a lot of nasty jeers, but no legitimate inquiry or conversation.
The Idaho wolf picture is now clear. The Idaho Native wolf is and was not hard on ungulate-herds. However, the Canadian Wolf is. Prior to Canadian Wolf introduction, Idaho elk counts were high in various elk habitat districts. Today, those districts are reporting between 82%-85% losses in herd numbers.
Ed Bangs, Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is quoted as saying, “The wolves are here to stay. It doesn’t matter if they eat every damn last elk. Live with it .”
The pro-wolf crowd argues that the only reason the no-wolf crowd doesn’t want wolves is so they can hunt the deer and the elk for themselves without the competition. And as an avid elk hunter, I confess this to be true in regards to myself, I cannot speak for others. However, in contrast, after 16 years of wolf “re-introduction” elk herds have diminished across the state up to 85%. I think a valid point here is hunters did not diminish elk herds 85% before the wolves were introduced. In fact many hunter supported programs helped increase the herds.
It is no different than Ducks Unlimited. The organization is filled with duck hunters, however, they are also responsible for brining back skies black with waterfowl from their contributions and conservation efforts. By 1930 some American duck populations were on the verge of extinction. Groups like Ducks Unlimited brought these populations back to healthy levels. So who is really the environmentalist here?
I remember seeing the Idaho Native Wolf as if it were yesterday. It was a fabulous experience.
However, environmental politics in the name of saving wolves has sealed its fate and I wonder if I will ever see one again. I reckon I will not.