The Voice that Crieth in the Wilderness

Franklin Burroughs

Let me first establish that I am a hunter, and have been for sixty years. So I start with feelings of friendly respect for any alpha predator.
     I live in Maine, not yet a battleground state in the wolf wars. But there’s still hope. Fifty years ago, critters started showing up in Maine’s north woods, and people at first thought they were wolves, or wolf-dogs; then they thought coy-dogs: dog-coyote hybrids. Turned out they were just eastern brush coyotes. That was good enough to raise the usual ruckus: they’ll decimate the deer, slaughter sheep, raid henhouses, cathouses, cradles. No such luck. They’ve now spread into just about every nook and eco-cranny in the east, all the way down to Florida. They have proven totally inadequate to controlling our major pest species, the white-tailed deer.
     I get it that wolves are not coyotes. They are powerful and relentless; a pack of them is the closest thing this country has had to a well-regulated militia since the Revolution. They are strikingly intelligent, and look so much like the finest, truest, doggedest dog ever to grace this planet that you want to make friends with them. Don’t bother; they have already succeeded in being what they are meant to be.
     We settled this country by shooting first and asking questions later: red wolves, gray wolves, wolverines, bears, cougars, coyotes, Native Americans: whatever frightened us. This kind of behavior is habit-forming, so now we shoot each other, wholesale, and fill our gun closets with weapons suited for no other purpose. But we cannot pretend that we’re frontiersmen, competing with other alpha predators for a limited protein supply. More and more of us live in cities and suburbs and cyberspace.
     But a lot of us go outdoors, hunting or hiking or skiing or sledding or surfing. It’s healthy and soul-soothing and so forth, but face it: we also go there in order to experience a trace of fear, awe, loneliness, exhilaration, the chance of going on and on, losing ourselves—each of those possibilities dependent on the others; all of them amounting to a sort of shiver down the spine. Even if we don’t actually do these things, we like to imagine that we do, and watch movies and television shows about them.
Fifty years ago this year, I spent a summer as an understudy to a timber cruiser in northern Quebec. We cruised roadless country that had never been cut. A float plane flew us over miles and miles of conifers, birches, lakes, muskeg, rock; set us down in the middle of somewhere with a canoe, food, a tent, and a map showing us where to go to count and measure trees. My cruiser and I usually traveled with another cruiser and his assistant, staying a week or so in one place, then being picked up, resupplied, and put down in the middle of somewhere else. It was a paid adventure, with just enough responsibility and discomfort to make us feel important, and we enjoyed it.
     In June the twilight had gone on and on, barely dying out to the west before the its first adumbrations began in the east. But by August the dark came early and it came quick. We’d sit around the fire and talk after supper. The loons that had been part of the long evenings no longer had much to say. One of the cruisers had a harmonica, and he might squeak away at that for a while. The fire and the music, such as it was, made the night and the woods and the big lakes all that much bigger, a mighty surrounding silence and invisibility. The four of us were barely out of adolescence, old enough to draft but not to vote, full of the big talk and bravado that come from knowing, deep down inside yourself, that you don’t know a damn thing.
     One night, past midnight, I went out to piss. The moon was down, the sky was utterly black and the stars, numberless as the sands of the sea or the sins of the forefathers, glittered starkly. There was frost in the air, and it was so still that you might have been inside a bank vault, instead of out here, away from the tent, under the mighty vault of the heavens.
     First it was a yip, and then another; then a howl that rose, full-throated and full of power, wavering and quavering on and on. This from our side of the lake, probably not close, although it was so startling that it seemed close. Then from across the lake an answer, the sound carrying over the water and spreading echoes in its wake. It was close. The howling, some of it shrill and puppyish, became general, call and response from one shore of the lake to the other. It sounded more forlorn than frightening, and it seemed, from where I stood, directed upward and outward, toward the merciless stars.
     Now, years of explanations have passed, and I can tell myself that what I felt was that my life had at last become like something out of a book, and that is because wolves—gray, shadowy, just beyond the circle of flickering light where the lost child sits shivering—lurk around the shadows of so many children’s stories, symbolizing the fears we secretly love. But at the time I felt, and I still feel, that hearing those wolves meant something. It had to. It was a variety of religious experience, in the same way that falling in love is: it does not commit you to a creed; it does commit you to trying to be worthy of a gift that came out of thin air.
     As a country, we rely on the bottom line to settle every argument. Or so we say. But we also, collectively and individually, disregard it, and live beyond our means. Wolf hunts won’t generate much revenue; wolf predation won’t have a measurable impact upon Michigan’s GDP. We aren’t going to settle this matter by arithmetic and bookkeeping. Wolves have haunted the psyche of the Northern Hemisphere out of all proportion to their danger. The reason for that is because they are so beautiful, so much like the dogs we have domesticated and yet so superior to them. We ourselves seem a bit small and grubby by comparison. For some people, that is exactly why we should kill them; and for some, myself among them, that is exactly why we should not.



Marybeth Holleman

My husband drove the five hours to Denali National Park, where he met up with the park biologist. The biologist brought him to the hunting guide’s house, and the guide’s wife showed them to the shed, where the carcass hung on a rusted nail. While my husband loaded it into a plastic bag, he made small talk with the guide’s wife. Then he drove back with the biologist, stopping to see where the guide’s client had made the kill shot, right next to the road. He drove home; he flensed the carcass; he buried the soft tissue up in the mountains and the bones down on the beach.
     I walked down to the beach with him a week later, and he showed me the spot: several large boulders on top of the burial site, a yellow line tied around a silver-gray stump that had washed up years before. Some dog, or bear, had discovered it, and partially dug it up. A dark red skeletal paw reached up through the sand. Without fur or muscle, each toe was very long, like a finger, each articulated joint visible.
     He reburied it deeper, found two more boulders to place on top, and we left.
     I had planned on doing some sort of ritual, some kind of funereal speech, but I didn’t. The last alpha male of the most well-known wolf family group in the world was now just an ordinary pile of bones.
When my son James was eight years old, he started a petition asking our governor to stop predator control in Alaska. The petition was for kids only, no voting-age adults. He gathered over 100 signatures, from King Salmon to Fairbanks. I typed it up just as he dictated it, and drove him places to post it. And I met with his principal after she took the petition off the school’s community bulletin board and called me to her office. She had received calls—some at home, at night—from several people in the town of Tok who were upset that her school in Anchorage would take a side on this issue. They were angry and rude to my son’s principal, but it was my son, and the wolves, who would pay. The petition was not allowed to be circulated on school grounds, she said.
     What’s more, she said, she didn’t see how an eight-year-old would be able to come up with this on his own; it must have, she said, looking straight at me, come from the parents.
     Oh, I wanted to say, of course my son could not possibly have that much intelligence and compassion, that much ability to think for himself and that much empowerment to act on his own beliefs—not coming out of this school system, where instead he was being taught obedience and cleverness, how to keep out of trouble and do well on standardized tests.
     But I didn’t say it, because I knew my son. In spite of the education she was providing him, my child had retained his perceptions of the world’s interconnectedness. He could still see beyond the walls of the school building, through the worksheets and report cards. He still saw wolves as part and parcel of the whole, as seamlessly related to him as his friends on the playground.
When the Toklat alpha male was shot and killed by a trophy hunter who wanted only the hide and the head, my son, now 13 and in eighth grade, was behind in his schoolwork, so he and I couldn’t take the time to go with my husband to retrieve the wolf’s body. My son was constantly not turning in homework, forgetting assignments, screwing up left and right—and his grades plummeted as his teachers clamped down with late work policies.
     James had started middle school with high hopes. He was excited about having different teachers for each class, about having electives so he had some choice in what he learned. He’d be a big kid, he’d have some freedoms, he could chart his own course. But it quickly boiled down to an endless list of small tedium, seven different classes, seven different teachers, all of them handing out a stream of little assignments, which did not add up to anything more than a lousy report card. Every morning I once more heard the refrain that I had hoped would fade with the new school: “I don’t want to go to school. I hate school. Please Mom can I stay home from school today?”
     He didn’t fall into the malaise of lowered expectations immediately. At the start of his second year of middle school, he learned that his social studies class was doing a citizenship project; they would pick an issue, learn about it, take a position on it, and take some action. The first step was for the kids to pick an issue—not the teacher, the kids. James thought of the wolf control issue, or of bear baiting, or even of what to do about Maggie, the solitary elephant at the zoo, depressed since her companion had died. But instead the class chose school lunches. Evidently there was some debate about school lunches, something about nutrition. So that’s what his class worked on all year, school lunches. James was not an enthusiastic participant, and his grades showed it.
Meanwhile, wolf control amped up way beyond our wildest nightmares. The Board of Game opened up more and more of Alaska’s state lands to trapping, snaring, and aerial gunning. They’re allowing methods that haven’t been legal since before statehood, back when there were bounties on bald eagles, Steller sea lions, bears, and wolves. Now, state biologists are gassing wolf pups in their dens. They’re gunning down entire family groups from helicopters, a method that was outlawed in the 1960s. They’re going after bears now, too. Hunters can bait and snare both brown and black bears, and can climb into bear dens with lights to kill cubs and sows while they hibernate.
     The Board of Game, which makes these decisions, is comprised entirely of hunters, trappers, and guides. One member of the Board of Game, who makes his living selling wolf traps and “processing” hides, posted a video on YouTube discussing the Toklat wolves while skinning a wolf at his tannery. He explained that the book of Genesis in the Bible tells us we should subdue nature and control it, for God gave us dominion over nature.
     Already, over 95 percent of Alaska’s land was open to trapping and hunting, and several thousand wolves were killed every year. But that still didn’t produce enough moose and caribou to satisfy the Board of Game. Now over 70,000 square miles are open to state-funded predator control; with four new programs approved, including two on the Kenai Peninsula, that number will grow by at least a third. The Board of Game is also attempting to spread predator control into national parks and wildlife refuges, even though federal land managers struggle to keep it at bay in order to uphold their management mandates.
     But there’s more. There’s a hidden predator control program that’s much worse, hidden under the guise of legalized hunting and trapping. It’s far less expensive to have private citizens kill wolves. Increasingly liberalized hunting and trapping across the state is now the largest de facto predator control program Alaska’s wolves have ever endured. Ever.
     Hunting seasons now run as late as June and as early as August 1, even though late summer wolf hides are virtually worthless. These liberal seasons also mean hunters kill adult wolves when their newborn pups are still in the den in June, and when their pups are still entirely dependant on the adults in late summer—this effectively kills untold (and unaccounted for) numbers of pups.
     This hidden wolf control kills as many as 1,700 wolves each year. What’s more, this annual number only includes kills reported through the sealing process; most villages traditionally don’t seal wolf pelts, so these kills are not reported. In addition, the number of pups that die because the adults are killed is entirely unreported but certainly high.
     And the Toklat wolf, the one my husband retrieved, he lived in a protected wilderness, in Denali National Park, alpha male of a long-lived family group. First Adolph Murie and then Gordon Haber had studied this family group, a continuous 70 years of research, making them the most well-known wolf group in the world. But there’s a sliver along the northeast boundary of the park, the Stampede Trail, where the caribou migrate in winter, and the wolves follow. This area, just outside the park, is part of the Toklat’s territory. And unprotected.
     Two men trap in the Stampede area. Two men, one of them a state employee, neither of them relying on trapping for a living, lie their traps in wait along the park boundary, take out the wolves that hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world come to Denali every single summer to see.
James wrote letters to the Board of Game at every oppor­tunity for public comment; he asked them to please stop killing wolves and bears, to instead reign in human hunting pressures. But they didn’t stop; they sent back a form letter, and dispatched more gunners in airplanes and helicopters.
     James slipped behind in class again, missing assignments, failing to write the thank you letter to his social studies class guest speaker, a salesperson from a local bookstore.
I didn’t want Rick to get the Toklat wolf carcass. And I didn’t want him to bury it in our yard, as he had planned. I didn’t even want to see it. It was hard enough knowing the story of how the wolf was killed; to then have to look upon its skinned, headless body, to then have those sorrowful remains buried in the yard where my son and dogs played, where I grew vegetables and flowers, was not something I could handle.
     I didn’t want James to do poorly in school, either. I had been a straight-A student all the way, a good test-taker and compliant note-taker. I’d taken those top grades all the way to the bank, getting a full four-year scholarship to college. I was always a well-behaved student—except in seventh grade, when I simply took a strong dislike for the teacher, and refused to do anything he asked of us. I was expelled, the same week that our family dog, Pepi, was hit and killed by a car, and was buried in our back yard.
Still, I wasn’t surprised that Rick went to get the carcass.
     “I just can’t stand the thought of it being thrown in some dump in Healy,” he said. On that point, I agreed. And for that sentiment, I loved him.
     When he and I were first seeing each other, he lived in a small town, in a small untidy house, and worked as a marine biologist in a shack on the docks. In his little house, which was once the home of the church minister, there were so many bones, so many skulls. Of a black bear, found on a forest trail. Of a Steller sea lion, found on a beach, complete with the bullet holes to the head that had killed it. Of a wolf. The wolf, I asked how he got it.
     His secretary had come in one day and told him that she and her husband had trapped a wolf. She was proud that they’d taken such a grand animal, and told him all about the hunt and the gorgeous brown skin they now owned.
     “What did you do with the carcass?” he asked her, prob­ably with a polite smile pasted to his face.
     “In the town dump,” she replied.
     In the dump. Rick couldn’t stand the idea of that wolf tossed into the dump, so he left immediately, went to the dump, climbed over the trash, dug and found that wolf body. He carried it with him, took it to his office—late, after she had gone home; he never told her what he did—slid it into a mesh bag and dropped it into the water below the dock. He knew the sea would clean it, and thought those bones might have something to teach. Then the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef, and his world turned upside down.
     A year passed before he remembered that wolf in the water. He pulled it back up and found a full clean skeleton. Over the years, he gave away different pieces of it. A few ribs to a friend who had cancer, to help him heal. A few ribs to another friend, who ground them up and drank them. Some to a friend’s son, who wanted to study wildlife. All he now had left was the skull.
     Rick did not retrieve the skull of the Toklat alpha male. The hunter took it, head and skin. It was a black wolf, which evidently made the hunter even happier with his trophy.
I didn’t want that wolf in our yard because I didn’t want to remember every day how we had failed that wolf, how some guy from Pennsylvania had jumped out of the guide’s pickup and shot him, so excited he at first forgot to unbuckle his seat belt, right beside the dirt road of the Stampede Trail, shot the last remaining adult male of the Toklat family group. I didn’t want to think of the gorgeous black fur of that young wolf on some guy’s wall in his den, overlooking his pool table and wet bar. Didn’t want to think of how he must brag to his buddies over a cold one, brag about whatever kind of skill or courage he thinks it takes to fly on a plane to Alaska, drive out in a pickup truck, and shoot a wild animal that, having lived within the boundaries of Denali National Park, was so used to people who wanted only a glimpse of that black beauty, he didn’t run from the sight of two men in a pickup. I didn’t want to think of how his mate had been trapped and killed in that same area a few months earlier. I didn’t want to think of how he had stayed by her side, wandering that area nearly two months after she had gone. I didn’t want to think of the remaining pups, who would likely not survive, unable to get food on their own. Didn’t want to wonder which wolf would be next, and how it would go down, and how that death would be trivialized by our government, our media.
     I was saying no to what I thought I couldn’t change. I had been so busy teaching my college students and trying to help James get all his assignments in on time, that when the wolf was shot I barely let myself think about it.
Somehow, I knew my son’s failing was our failing. He’s a bright boy; he tested into the gifted program in third grade. Once he decides he wants to learn something, he does, and he never forgets it. Ask him to explain how a camera works; ask him the latest on electric cars. Ask him what percentage of Alaskans hunts (fourteen); ask him the success rate of wolves hunting moose, of the time it takes a wolf pup to mature. By the age of eight, he’d read books on wolves that most adults would find too dense and difficult, but for James, they were like candy.
Did this Toklat wolf’s life matter any more or less than any other wolf that has died in these years of widespread trapping and aerial hunting? Predator control has wiped out entire families of wolves. State workers have cleared thousands of acres of wolves. There are wolf dens that this summer lie idle, the flowers growing up around the entrance, the interior dry and dusty, empty. There are moose and caribou that stand around, watching, but never see that slink- ing shape, and begin to change how carefully they walk the woods. I wonder if this makes them easier for the human hunters who will descend upon them come fall.
     There are tourists on the buses in Denali National Park right now, looking through binoculars for sheep, moose, caribou, brown bear, and most of all, for wolves. But they won’t find the Toklats, who had become so immune to the sights and smells of humans in vehicles that they often trotted down the road right past buses loaded with gape-mouthed tourists, gasping and clicking their cameras. They’d become so oblivious to us that even their little fur-ball pups would stand by the road. The Toklats, most often-seen wolf family group of Denali, the wolf family that Adolph Murie studied, and Gordon Haber studied, for seventy consecutive years, are gone.
     What we do know is that wolf family groups can only sustain so much killing before the entire group fragments, dissipates, disappears. The Toklat male was killed almost two months after his mate, the alpha female, was trapped in the same area. She suffered in the trap for two weeks, and all that time he stayed near her. When she was gone, he continued to frequent the area, often seen howling all alone. When he was shot, all that was left of the Toklats were six two-year-olds and yearlings, inexperienced young wolves that hadn’t yet learned the boundaries of their territory, the hunting traditions of their family group.
     For we also know that each wolf family group has unique behaviors and traditions that they have passed down from generation to generation, behaviors that are finely tuned to their specific territory. To the east of the Toklats lived the Savage family group; Gordon Haber documented several unique hunting traditions the Savage wolves routinely used, traditions that disappeared for good with the Savage wolves in winter of 1982–83, when the entire family group was killed by illegal aerial hunting.
     Do the Denali guides tell the tourists what happened? Or do they ignore the truth, let the tourists believe they still might get a close-up view of a wild wolf? The tourists may not know that those lovely photographs they sell in the Denali gift shop, of wolves, and wolf pups, that one we have hanging in our hallway of the dark wolf pup standing along the road, are images of animals who are dead. If they did know, would they still buy them?
My son’s eighth-grade Language Arts teacher was a clever woman. She made them read some excellent books: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Tale of Two Cities, The Martian Chronicles, Farewell to Manzanar. Good classic reads. She broke things down into bite-sized pieces for them, too—quizzes, vocabulary, summaries. And she was strict: by midpoint in the year no late work was accepted. Not even one day late. This was more strict than the graduate school where I teach. But her late policy was grooming them for high school, and she chose what they read and wrote and discussed based solely on what they needed so as to do well on standardized tests.
     Her intentions are good, and for these intentions, her plan works well. But all she was preparing them for was more school. She is an eighth-grade teacher preparing kids for high school. In high school teachers prepare kids for college. In college, where I teach, we prepare them for jobs. My son’s teacher was not focused on helping James enjoy the books, the learning. Not helping him discover what he was passionate about, his true calling. Not helping him fit what she fed him into the real world, the one we all inhabit, where wolves pad tundra and men shoot them from heli­copters.
     The park biologist that Rick spoke with didn’t think the loss of that particular male wolf meant a thing. He is a systems manager, and he is concerned only with the popula- tion of wolves, not the individuals. He is a clever man; he knows a lot about wolf biology, probably as much as in all of James’s books. He knows the body of a wolf inside out. But he was trained to view the park ecosystem as only so many moving parts. Studying the park wolves, he doesn’t concern himself with family, lineage, the particular behaviors and traditions of a cohesive long-lived family group. He wasn’t interested in the unique character of this dead wolf, of what this wolf did and learned and survived in his seven-year lifetime.
     He was not even concerned with the significance of a black wolf to Native Americans. And he wasn’t concerned about what the tourists who saw that wolf last summer and the summers before, alive and well and padding down the Toklat River with his family group, might feel knowing the wolf they saw, and took pictures of, and dreamed about months later, was now dead.
Eight-year-old James did finish that petition drive, and sent his hundred signatures to Governor Knowles. The governor didn’t alter his course; he didn’t reply to James, not even with a polite form letter. Nothing.
     But a local group, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, asked James to speak at a rally they held in downtown Anchorage. It was a panel discussion of opponents of predator control—two biologists, a tourism representative, an attorney, and my son. I sat behind him up on the stage, and Vic Van Ballenberghe, who has studied moose in Alaska for 25 years, leaned over and whispered to James, “Lucky you. I wish I had my mother here.” James just smiled brightly, wiggling in his seat.
     When it was his turn, he walked up to the podium, stepped up on the stool they’d put there for him, and took two small stuffed wolves out of his pockets. He put one on either corner of the podium, looking out at the audience of well over 100 adults, and began to speak in a clear voice.
I didn’t bring James to see the wolf bones buried in the beach sand. There have been so many wolves killed, so many losses of any sort of restrictions on hunting and predator killing, so much silence by so many people, that I fear he has forgotten what he knew at eight years old. I fear he is dis­connecting from the wolves, through his disillusion with school, with the factoids they spew at him and expect him to catch and keep, cluttering his mind and edging out any room for compassion, for intelligence, for the wisdom found in the green fire of a wolf’s eyes.
James’s teacher and the park biologist walk into their offices every morning and focus on standardized tests and school ratings, on population numbers and data points. It doesn’t matter if they’re staring at a computer screen entering pop quiz grades or radio-collared records, doesn’t matter if they’re talking to a new student or watching a wolf shepherd her pups across a river. They are focused on the parts and not on real life, not on the way we feel and think and walk through our days.
     I don’t blame them. They are not horrible people. They are simply products of their educations. They were trained for a particular career, maybe even one they thought of as a calling at some point, but whatever might have been the passion behind that calling—to help kids grow and learn, to pursue a fascination with wolves—is so long gone that they probably don’t remember it.
     Wolves know no boundaries of national parks, of state land, private land, farmland, wilderness. Learning knows no boundaries of biology, math, seventh grade, seventh period, school, house, woods. The more we try to place boundaries over everything, the more we compartmentalize the world in an attempt to make sense of it, the more we only distort it and make it impossible to understand.
     Like a pile of bones buried in a beach. Like ground bone drunk in desperation. Like a pop quiz on Shakespeare. Like a skin hanging on a wall in a house a thousand miles from a wolf’s natal den. Tests, grades, reports, numbers: all runes without a code.
     When Rick and I returned to the beach the next spring, the Toklat wolf’s bones were gone, washed out with the winter ice.


Fire in the Path

Christopher Camuto

Destroying the unknown creates confusion.
     Diga’kati’yi: “place of setting them free.” Once a site on the Tuckasegee River where the Cherokee released their prisoners of war, now the word could be used to refer to the backcountry acclimation pen for the Tremont wolves.
     Wolves seem to have a prejudice that they do not belong in pens. When watched from out of sight, they do nothing, or very little. They sit, walk about, feint at each other in spiritless adumbrations of dominance and submission, eat when food comes with no memory of having hunted, defecate shyly like dogs. There is no drama in captivity. Wolves don’t howl and hurl themselves at the chain-link fence. Suspended from real action, the mind of this creature designed for constant engagement retracts, coiling not like a snake but like an overwound spring.
     When you approach a wolf pen, the wolves slowly panic, stirred not by fear but from lack of choice. The closed geometry of captivity turns flight into a neurotic motion. The juveniles race half circles together, running an arc through the mud and shit in front of the corner opposite the gate where the humans are gathering. This creates a constant pounding that is unaccountably loud. The wolves change direction without apparent effort or motive, their uncharacteristically pointless behavior driven by some tic that will not serve them well in the wild. Intellectually, these young wolves know that they should not be near humans. But captivity forces them to entertain a contradiction, not something for which the animal mind is grooved. Occasionally one of them will stop and shyly pull a gape into a half snarl, vaguely assaying its power, careful not to fix its eyes on any of the men or women who are now entering the pen. Ears back, the wolf will lock its forelegs, which are spread defensively, involuntarily raise a ridge of hackle between its hunched shoulders, and tentatively clamp its tail down in the tense semaphore of threat display. But even the elaborate communication system of wolves is no match for the ambiguity of this situation.
     The adult wolves stand aside, wasting no energy, eyes sliding back and forth across the humans gathered now on the inside of the gate. They keep as much distance as possible, moving distinctly a little over and back to this spot or that, like knights in chess. They do not bark and snarl as captive feral dogs will. They watch and think.
     Despite the disclaimers in the technical literature, the wolves are red, some more than others—laced through the back of the ears and neck and splashed through their shoulders and haunches and legs. Not bloodred, gi’gage’i, but wa’dige’i, the brown-red color of certain animals like the copperhead and the grouse, a forest red that easily darkens to brown or black in a wolf’s shoulders and across its back and flanks, or bleeds into the ruddy yellow that fades to the pale fur of its underbelly. What a connoisseur of trout fly hackle would call furnace, or like the tawny blend of a cross-phase fox or of a fox squirrel in winter. Red in the signature way that a red-tailed hawk is red. Red as a point of departure. A red quickly hidden in the flowing motion of a running wolf, when the animal turns darker, almost black, not red at all.
     Once we are in the middle of the pen with an odd assortment of gear piled around us, the adults join the juveniles in their pointless race around the inner perimeter of the enclosure, effortlessly accelerating and decelerating, dancing the dance of the dispossessed. This is too much even for them. The family runs bunched up, stumbling over one another in a way they never do in the wild, stopping in the corners where they literally hang their heads and create a collective stare that is as intense and centerless as the strange sound of their running. Then they run again, silent ahead of the galloping sound, intent on their half circuits, as if they might create space with motion.
     The gathering of those faces in the corner of the pen, ancient images hovering in front of the gleaming chain link, is what I remember most vividly. I remember one face— the face of the red wolf—and different faces—these six red wolves that I would come to know as two generations of numbers: 337F, 357M, 520M, 521M, 522F, 525M. I liked that they were named with numbers. It made the subsequent narrative of their lives austere, almost abstract. The numbers protected them from human emotions, which is the only thing that can harm them. In history and mythology, red wolves had suffered from either too much love or too much hate. The numbers allied them with the other side, with Kana’ti and Selu and with the ancient Wolf People who failed to stop the Wild Boys from starting history. Whatever the taxonomists eventually decided, Canis rufus was one of the race of wolves that had made it into time. And here it was, about to be released into one of the fragments of that original world.
     The face of the wolf is one of the extraordinary masks of being—a triangle in a circle, a blend of bear and fox—a dense totemic look, a forest visage. The medial line of raised fur that divides a wolf’s face is one of the great edges in nature, keen diameter of perfectly balanced predatory senses. The bilateral symmetry of a wolf’s face comprises one of those rare, finished images of creation, something that could be improved no further. Another 10 million years of evolution and not a hair would move—no more than the shape of sharks will ever change. The wolf’s face, like the face of the bear and the mountain lion, is not so much a mask as nature’s embodiment of the idea of the mask, something final, like the form of salmon or falcons.
     The face of the red wolf is a further refinement of the idea of a wolf—the snout elongated, the eyes more narrowly set than those of a gray wolf and tilted more steeply, the ears almost dainty. There is a foxlike quality to the look of this wolf, but drawn heavier and bolder than a fox, as if the idea of a wolf had been whittled down to the idea of a fox and then molded back into a wolf as a finer form stained with new shades of fur. There must be at least a dozen colors in the swirling pelage of a face nearly lost to extinction and still shadowed by an uncanny hatred from which wildlife management alone will not rescue it. The juveniles have more white around the muzzle and larger patches of grizzled fur above their eyes. They have not earned their colors. The faces of the adults are darker, redone in those shades of bled umber that take red into black and brown over the underfur of gray and cream, an art that makes a red wolf in dense vegetation no more visible than a grouse on the forest floor.
     Eight people have entered the Tremont pen to witness or assist in the preparation of these animals for release: Chris Lucash of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who is in charge of the Smoky Mountains red wolf reintroduction; his assistant Barron Crawford, then of the National Park Service; Lucash’s boss, Gary Henry, a veteran of endangered species work who oversees the project from the Asheville, North Carolina, office; two student volunteers; and two cameramen from a Knoxville television station. Lucash directs the work, but all the principals know what they have to do. The first time I walked into Chris Lucash’s office, a government-issue house trailer planted near the Cades Cove Ranger station, he was on the phone haggling for cattle carcasses produced by a tractor-trailer accident on I-40 east of Knox- ville, an unexpected bonus for the wolf program, which was always looking for roadkill. And Lucash was, first and foremost, a pragmatist who was well aware of the obvious contradictions of trying to manage wildlife and of the supreme irony of trying to manage wolves. But his job was not speculative. A windfall of wolf chow might not make the pages of the Journal of Mammology, but here in the Great Soggies, it made life a little easier.
     With an undergraduate degree in zoology, Lucash had worked his way up through the ranks in the wolf business, first in Minnesota with David Mech’s gray wolf project and ultimately for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. From 1985 to 1990 he was one of the backcountry biologist-caretakers at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in coastal North Carolina, site of the first permanent reintroduction of red wolves and a breeding source for some of the animals he was handling now.
     Fish and Wildlife sent Lucash to the Smokies in October of 1990 to test the feasibility of red wolf reintroduction there while Crawford was doing his study of the park’s coyote population. A year of experimentation with free-ranging wolves in Cades Cove convinced Lucash that the red wolf could survive in the mountains without undue controversy and simultaneously convinced Fish and Wildlife to put Lucash in charge of that effort.
     When I first talked to him in 1991, Lucash told me so emphatically that he wasn’t a “wolf groupie” I assumed that he once had been. Tried it in college, perhaps, but hadn’t inhaled. But if this dark, wolfish-looking midwesterner had brought any Romantic feelings about wolves east with him, he had worked through them during his tour of duty at Alligator River while living in a dank houseboat moored to a mosquito swarm from which he sallied forth to poke gingerly—there were alligators at Alligator River—around blackwater swamps radio tracking Canis rufus through the cypress, cedar, blackgum, and sawgrass.
     By the time he had gotten set up in the Smokies, the thirty-something Lucash was seasoned and all business. Except for defending their significance as a unique North American canid, he never expressed any feelings about the animals under his care. And he seemed to pride himself on how well his operation took care of its wolves without coddling them. His acclimation pens were well-run, minimum-contact staging areas, not zoo exhibits. The whole point was to prep the animals to leave and never voluntarily come near humans again. With an animal as psychologically sen­sitive and socially complex as the wolf, quality of captivity was critical.
     I grew to appreciate Lucash’s clarity of purpose more and more as time went on. He and Barron Crawford knew exactly what they were—and what they weren’t—doing. They were neither practicing science nor dancing with wolves. They were physically delivering an apex predator, a major North American carnivore, to what was left of eastern mountain wilderness—right under the nose of the twenty-first century and flat in the face of American history.
     The pen is the standard fifty-foot chain-link square surrounded by an electrified fence. Two roofed plywood boxes serve as rudimentary shelters. A few trees have been included within the perimeter to provide shade in summer, but the ground has been churned into a barren, muddy yard. There are water troughs and the black-haired carcass of a wild boar that has been eaten down to its nose, a delicacy that even here didn’t pass muster. When the wolves are not running, you can hear a stream tumbling through the foggy woods. This pen is maybe a dozen miles and half a dozen headwater drainages from the Cades Cove acclima- tion pen. The big spine of mountains, heart of the Smoky Mountain backcountry, rises abruptly to the south, which explains why the small stream runs so hard.
     The site is remote enough to have made it necessary to helicopter the fence sections into what was once a logging camp, the last in the area where, in a final spasm of greed, the Little River Lumber Company destroyed a watershed of old-growth forest that had made it to the brink of preservation before handing the stumps over to the federal government to make a national park out of in the 1930s. Skidder cables and other rusty junk still lie strewn through the ­second growth of mixed oak, hickory, and maple where, with a little forebearance you might have seen trees twenty feet around whose roots reached back to the contact. The surrounding woods are as lean as the wolves, which are themselves a kind of second growth.
     The idea is to release another family of red wolves here—at a backcountry site where the prey base is smaller and more widely scattered and where the terrain is rougher than at Cades Cove. To see what wolves off the tourist route will do. As a release point, the Tremont pen comes as close to what is now called wilderness as it is possible to get in the southern Appalachians, which is to say we’re a few miles into some quiet woods visited only by the occasional backpacker and trout fisherman.
     Lucash is clearly enthused about this release although somewhat daunted by the prospect of having a dozen wolves at large. But keeping track of the Cades Cove wolves had already become routine, and by December the project needed a few new wrinkles. And the Tremont release was intended to have less predictable, more interesting effects. If these wolves stayed in the backcounty, they would be much harder to track but they would give Lucash and Crawford a better idea of how red wolves used mountainous terrain and the great variety of vegetation zones for which the Smokies were famous.
     The home range of the Cades Cove wolves was unusually small and their movements perhaps less complex than they would have been without the centralized prey base provided by the woodlots and pastures. The movements of the Tre­mont animals should provide better information on the red wolf’s relation to deep-forest habitat where apparently it had once thrived. That readaptation was essential to the red wolf’s long-term survival, since the edge was, even within a national park, not the best place to be. And beyond national parks, there is nothing but edge. It’s quite likely that massive deforestation made the wolf, and many other North American animals, much more creatures of edge habitat than they were naturally. Fish and Wildlife needed wolves that, like the surviving population of black bear, were inclined to stay in the mountains.
     Unlike the Cades Cove wolves, which were a natural family, the Tremont wolves were a makeshift arrangement, not unusual in captive breeding programs—for wolves or other species—where candidates for release are often in short supply. But given the importance of early emotional bonding in wolves—between parents and offspring and among siblings—the adoptive status of three of the juveniles raised questions about the bonding within this composite wolf family, which had been pacing off the dimensions of its pen since summer.
     The four-year-eight-month-old female, 337F, was born at Alligator River, where she had a run of ten weeks in the wild before being paired with the three-year-eight-month-old male, 357M, which had been born at the Texas Zoo in Victoria, Texas. They mated and then bred in April of 1992, producing 525M and three other wolves that died soon after birth. Around the same time, a large litter of seven pups was born at Alligator River to a pair of red wolves out of the Horn Island, Mississippi, and the Bull Island, South Carolina, facilities. Three of these pups—two males (520M and 521M) and a female (522F)—were transferred at two weeks of age to the Tremont pair. Adoption in the wild was not unknown among wolves, so this strategy had some precedent.
     In any event, Fish and Wildlife couldn’t afford to be too picky; the Red Wolf recovery program was still racing to escape the narrow genetics of the founding population of wolves. At the time of the Tremont release, in early December of 1992, the original band of fourteen red wolves had increased to several hundred animals, a small but increasing fraction of them wild born. Most of the captive-born wolves were at least born in open-air acclimation pens in wild settings, which exposed Canis rufus to the sights and sounds of a portion of its historical habitat. But the relatively small size of the red wolf population left considerable genetic overlap among the wolves available for release—and even within a given wolf’s ancestry—a breeding density that was an afterglow from the species’ brush with extinction on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast in the 1950s.
     The last of the original red wolves died in 1988. The Tremont female was two and three generations removed from that founding stock, closer than most wolves in the program. The male’s bloodlines went back three, four, and five generations to the last free-ranging wolves. Between them, they shared seven of the fourteen founders. Of the female’s twelve ancestors in the program, all but one also appear in the male’s family tree. Within the male’s ancestry, four wolves showed up in both its maternal and paternal lines of descent, with two of those animals also shared within its maternal line.
     You did not have to be a geneticist to see that the evolution of Canis rufus was starting over. Twenty-five years after the species was first listed as endangered, the people at Fish and Wildlife who were piloting the genetic recovery were staring at some dangerous if slowly improving readings on their instrument panel—distribution of the founders’ alleles, survival of founding genomes, retention of wild heterozygosity as well as an inbreeding coefficient they watched as intently as a rate-of-climb indicator during a foggy take­off. The recovery program’s goal was the same as it had been from the beginning: Increase the population and genetic variety of red wolf stock and expose as many animals as possible to the shaping forces of natural selection within their historically known range. With any luck, the Great Smoky Mountains would have two litters of wild-born wolves in the spring of 1993, and the natural history of Canis rufus, never studied under natural conditions in any part of its historic range, would begin to unfold as it had in and around the blackwater swamps at Alligator River.
     The cage in the woods was history, the eye of the needle.
     The work in the pen is routine. The student volunteer approaches the racing wolves with the kind of long-handled net used to boat salmon or steelhead. When she has a wolf singled out, she intercepts it along the fence, trapping it with a lunge and instantly snapping the net mouth to the ground. As the wolf surges in the net, rocking the net handler about, Crawford grabs the animal’s head from behind while simultaneously kneeling on its body, the aluminum rim of the net helping ro turn the glaring teeth away. The wolf struggles until it exhausts its options and senses it is pinned. Then it idles, mixture rich, breathing hard and straining in a controlled way, cycling its muscles through a continuous test of the possibilities of escape.
     The mesh is pulled back enough to enable Lucash to tie a strip of cloth around the middle of the wolf’s snout as a temporary muzzle, at which point the net is pulled out of the way. Crawford shifts his weight about like a wrestler to keep control over the animal’s head and back so that it can neither bite nor jump upright. A nylon muzzle is exchanged for the cloth noose. The wolf is now all eye—black and amber outrage—but struggles only if the pressure on its neck or hindquarters is eased. Then it will surge against the opportunity and try to free its head and get to its feet, which are soon loosely tied together.
     The wolf is inspected for injury, vaccinated, and then weighed. Finally the animal is fitted with a radio collar. The crew works methodically but quickly. All this takes about ten minutes but seems much longer, as if in the presence of wolves, wolf-time takes precedence. Lucash is keenly aware of the dangers of contact time. Not the danger to the handlers, which is minimal, but to the wolves, which is enormous. Then the legs are untied, the muzzle is removed, and the wolf, unhanded, springs away without a sound and stands off with its mates, distinguished now by the thick, brightly-colored collar.
     Despite all the handling, intimate in its way, there doesn’t seem to be any contact between man and wolf in this exchange. There is no oohing and aahing over these beautiful animals. No one says anything to calm the wolf being handled, as you would to a dog at a vet. The animal is rarely alluded to in what little instrumental conversation goes on. The wolves have not been given pet names, as was once the odd fashion in wolf research, and although their numbers will take on character and narrative significance once they are released, in the acclimation pen the studbook designations are merely a bookkeeping convenience, tags to each animal’s genetic ancestry and medical history that now are pegged to a radio-tracking frequency. This intense work goes on in an emotional vacuum with the tacit hope that the necessary handling, all the better for being perfunctory and a bit rough, will not ruin the prospects of release.
     The adults are the last to be prepped and collared and are noticeably harder to deal with, partly because they are twenty pounds heavier than their young but also because of their stronger emotional, or psychological, reaction to this contact. That intransigence is a good sign, since both are well traveled and have been handled before. Good wolves never get used to this.
     Not surprisingly, the Tremont male is the most difficult. For a zoo-born wolf, 357M is assertive. He wants no part of what is happening to him and cannot be handled in the open. Eighty pounds of healthy, independent-minded red wolf doesn’t make for a docile patient, and shouldn’t. If the proponents of the red wolf are correct, this bristling canid represents the wildness descended from all those red wolves lost in history.
     Somehow 357M is driven into the three-foot-square plywood kennel, the sliding door of which is quickly closed. Perhaps he just dives into it to escape the net handler’s futile moves. Once in, 357M settles down. This is escape, not aggression. The wolf is seeking space he can’t find, a wolf’s fate.
     When the roof is slid off, the Tremont male seems stunned to find itself confronted from above. The animal looks trapped but not frightened. It has no moves to make in this man-controlled world. Crawford gets a long-handled noose on the wolf, and Lucash lowers himself into the box to pin the animal with his knees. The noose is the last straw. The Tremont male bares its teeth for the first time in this struggle, a silent, neck-twisting, eye-bulging snarl, momentary flash of gleaming dentition—that ridgeline of incisors, canines, premolars, and molars archaeologists love to find—a New World tool that can be traced back to the Irvingto­nian, when the idea of canine predation hereabouts was refining its resourcefulness in a real-life diorama of Smilodon and mastodon, ground sloth and tapir. The wolf in the box has come a long way, its slashing jaws the working edge of a timeworn wildness.
     Crawford controls the animal from above with the noose while Lucash does his work—cloth noose, nylon muzzle, inoculations, radio collar. The juveniles suffered the indignity of being hog-tied and hung upside down for a moment from a large spring scale. The big wolf’s weight is guestimated. The animal is covered with mud and shit, as is Lucash. But this muddy, shitty, cold, and bloody work—Lucash has cut himself with the knife he’s using to trim the excess length off the radio collar—is how wildness gets back into the world. A man and a wolf wrestling in a plywood box. It’s come down to that—this unruly inheritance from the Wild Boys.
     Lucash is done and out in ten minutes. Crawford releases the noose and the kennel door is opened. The Tremont male bounds out and reoccupies the netherworld of the perimeter where it has taught itself to wait. Its posture is neither submissive nor aggressive. The young wolves watch the elder wolf closely. Judging from its neutral body language, 357M seems psychologically unharmed.
     Physically, the Tremont male or any of the wolves could have pounced on the human intruders and taken a piece out of someone, but there was no suggestion of any such possibility. There is so much natural separation between man and wolf, this intrusion is accomplished quite casually. Wolves, too, observe taboos, adhere to a rational nature when they are allowed to do so. The animal is a predator, but predation is not the same as violence. No one who knew wolves would think of bringing a weapon into a wolf pen. The danger is all on one side. Except for what history has done to them, these wolves have come through the prep unharmed. All they need now is to be allowed to take their numbers into the woods they have been observing with great interest for half a year. They watch us with intense indifference.
     The prep is done in an hour. The gear is gathered up and we troop out, backs to the wolves. Someone stops to chain and padlock the gate. The gap in the electric fence is restrung and the juice turned back on. This is not to keep the cunning, rapacious beasts at bay, in case they should pick the lock, but to protect them from humans for one more night.
     Last I saw of them, the mud-spattered Tremont wolves stood together on the opposite side of the weird enclo- sure staring obliquely at us through a dismal grain of sleet. I remember the filthy boar’s head and the hull of muddy ribs and that the wolves looked more like lean, offbeat survivors in a Beckett play than sweaty heroes in a Jack London story. But Canis rufus had run the gauntlet. Six wolves were headed home.
     As we moved down the trail single file, I realized that except for that eerie pounding of their paws on the frozen mud, the wolves had not made a sound. All the language, all the vocalizations I had heard that morning on Anthony Creek, they kept that to themselves.
     When, on the way back down to the vehicles, I asked Lucash when he would consider the reintroduction a success, the pragmatist threw an unwittingly Emersonian answer over his shoulder.
     “When wild-born wolves give birth in the wild.”
     Then he stopped and we stood aside and let the others troop by with the nets and gear.
     “When we’ve got wolves out there that don’t remember this shit. Then we might have something going.”
     The next day, exactly two months after the release of the Cades Cove family, the gate on the Tremont acclimation pen was left open and the backcountry wolves were free to leave. The crew from WBIR had mounted a video camera over the gate hoping to capture the moment on film. Whoever opened the gate turned the camera on. That afternoon the first winter storm of the season settled into the mountains, and the recovering forest slowly filled with snow. Some time after the videotape ran out, the Tremont wolves stepped into the woods to begin, in private, a recovery of their own.



James Galvin

When you walk into a stand of old-growth redwoods, when you walk into Sainte Chapelle, when you encounter Bernini or Michelangelo or Caravaggio, when you see a wolf pack or hear their haunted song, it touches an ancient place in the psyche, a place that was made to receive it, a place at least as old as the cave paintings in the south of France, a place called awe. You don’t even have to believe in anything. You have that place. If you don’t have it, you should seek help immediately because awe is the only thing that makes life worth living. Making life worth living is conducive to survival. A wolf’s gaze, that deep, steady knowing, is all you need to know. To quote Victor Hugo, “We are all under sentence of death but with a sort of indefinite reprieve.” To save the old-growth redwoods we turned to the spotted owl. It was a legal argument. But it wasn’t the real reason. Those trees are sacred. We would be impoverished, spiritually, without them. Same with wolves—just knowing they are there. Why would you want to fell a redwood? Money. Why would you shoot a wolf? Economics, if you are a rancher (but really, the government has you covered). To destroy its grandeur and feel superior to it? A trophy? Like a Vietnam­ese ear? And let’s face it, if you are not going to eat it, which in the case of a wolf you are not, you have come to a place where you identify slaughter with pleasure, the ethos of genocide (the destruction of a tribe). Why should we not genocide wolves? Same reason we should not throw stones at the windows of Sainte Chapelle. Same reason we should not take a hammer to Michelangelo’s Pietà. Same reason we should not shoot Martin Luther King (wasn’t his fearless grandeur fearsome to some?). Same reason the caves of Lascaux need to be closed, so they don’t disappear. We need to know they are there. Walter Pater says, “… we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more…. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time…. For art comes to you frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for the moments’ sake.” The presence of wolves comes to you professing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake. We need their song, an occasional sighting. We need to know they are there.


Dreaming of Wolves

Ken Lamberton

South of Big Lake, black and naked trees stand skeletal against an oyster-shell sky. In places the spruce and fir still show green. Then the forest returns, untouched, only to retreat again to bristling charcoal. I drive through a gerrymandered map of forest peeled back by fire and laid desolate. The largest blaze in Arizona’s history, the 530,000-acre Wallow Fire, torched this part of the state for the entire month of June last year. I’m worried, and I feel the weight of it on my chest. “Beneath any landscape,” writes author Craig Childs, “is a desert.”
     But this is not a desert yet, I try to reassure myself. This is a place of return, of life restored, of once the wildest now wild again. This is where in only the last couple of decades the Mexican wolves have come home.
     Along the forest road, I navigate the low carriage of the Kia Rio over dozens of diagonal waterbars the size of overturned sofas. Signs warn that “Low Clearance Vehicles Are Not Recommended,” but I press on, scraping bottom. This late in June, I have a narrow window of maybe one week before the first monsoons arrive in these mountains, the ­seasonal thunderstorms having already begun pelting southern Arizona. And when the rains come, the roads will go—waterbars or no—as deep layers of ash turn to mud like slick, wet cement and whole hillsides tumble and roll before relaxing into the newest angle of repose. By the 4th of July, the US Forest Service will close the entire region.
     At five p.m. I make my campsite with a couple hours of light to spare. I’m completely alone. I can see that the Wallow Fire swept through the undergrowth, but giant ponderosa pine still forest the deep canyon I’ve chosen. Willow and alder still thicket the banks of the river.
     This is good, I consider with some relief. The river runs clear, and five days ago telemetry in this area located the Bluestem Pack.
On March 29, 1998, eleven captive-raised Mexican wolves, the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in the United States, were released for the first time here in the Apache National Forest near Campbell Blue Creek. The last recorded wild Mexican wolf in Arizona was killed in 1970, although few had been seen since the 1950s. The release did not go well. Left alone, the wolves were fine, doing what wolves do, hunting elk, having more wolves. The alpha pair of this, the Campbell Blue Pack, even produced the first wild pup of the recovery program.
     But by the end of the year, in what appeared to be an organized effort of sabotage, most of the wolves were dead or missing.
     Wildlife officials would not be denied, however, and the following year, in the midst of the controversy, the lawsuits from the New Mexico Cattlegrowers Association, the angry threats from ranchers, the government brought in Dances with Wolves author Michael Blake and released twice as many wolves in five packs covering two states. Wolf recovery by shock and awe.
     The Bluestem Pack came along in June of 2002. Nine wolves—an alpha female named Estrella and her mate, two juveniles, and five pups—took to a home range that spread out over this national forest and into two adjacent Indian reservations, even making forays into the ranges of other packs. After seven years as the alpha female, Estrella left the pack and her daughter became the alpha female. A year later, a hunter illegally shot Estrella, bringing an end to a legacy that included twenty-two pups—six of which became leaders of other packs. At her death, she was the oldest living Mexican wolf in the wild.
     Reports say the Bluestem Pack survived the Wallow Fire with pups in tow. And this year, as one of the most successful wolf packs of the program, the Bluestem has denned again.
     Today, about sixty Mexican wolves in eleven packs haunt these woods, from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian reservations in Arizona to New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, the so-called Blue Range Recovery Area. Last year, at least thirty-four pups were born to these packs. Three hundred additional wolves live in captive-breeding facilities—all of them descendants of five Mexican wolves captured in 1973.
After setting up camp, which for me amounts to rolling out my sleeping bag onto the pine duff, I pull on my fishing vest and walk to the river, threading my fly rod through a mesh of alder branches tight enough to screen bear. I tie on a #18 parachute adams and get a strike on my first cast, the fish retreating in a swirl of dark water and yellow underside. Apache trout!
     Moments later I land a nice brown trout. Then, finally, a ten-inch Apache. The official state fish of Arizona, and officially … my breakfast.
     At seven-thirty, the light fades. A Clark’s nutcracker caws from looming pines. I eat a dinner of Triscuits (dill, sea salt, and olive oil) and Jarlsberg, crawl into my bag and switch off my headlamp. An eggshell of moon bathes the forest, turning every burnt stump into a bear … or wolf. I think about the two wolves from the original Campbell Blue Pack that showed up at the camp of some hunters and, as they watched, began dismembering a deer they had killed. Careful, I try not to release my trepidation into the woods where it could take on steel-white teeth designed for shearing and tearing, and claws as hard as obsidian. Instead, I try to comfort myself with the thought that a mountain lion is more likely to make a meal of a human than a wolf.
     Then I start hearing a soft padding in the gray ash and seeing pairs of green eyes.
     At three a.m. my brain shakes me awake to the imagined howls of wolves. Or were they imagined? I can’t be sure, but I hear nothing now. I sleep with my eyes open, and sometime between the blackness of moonset and the bird song of dawn I dream of wolves. There is movement among trees, like the shadows of shadows slipping past each other. And breathing, a wet, deep-chested huffing. I dream of wolves with my hazel eyes wide open.
In the morning I find tracks near my camp. Everywhere are the cloven prints of elk, like giant plant stomata plump with moisture. Bighorn sheep, too, from a cluster of ewes that came to the river for water the evening before. These tracks I remember. But then I see the palm-sized imprints: four toes and a center pad. “X marks the spot” I hear my daughter say as she points out the diagnostic cross pattern of canine pads. Jessica is the Wildlife Linkages Program Coordinator for Sky Island Alliance and an expert animal tracker. She has seen wolf tracks here. She has seen wolves here. But I’m not sure if these are wolf or very large dog. Maybe a dog … I just know I didn’t see them yesterday.
     I take photographs of O’s and X’s, and print my own letters on paper to remind myself to ask Jessica how to read the language.
To see a wolf is to see an animal two million years old. This is about the time the ancestor of Canis lupis parted ways from what would become the modern coyote. But the story of the wolf is really much older, older than the dinosaurs, as mammals go—at least the gopher-sized insect-eaters that slept in the shadows of dinosaurs and only came out at night.
     What we begin to recognize as “wolf-like” appears in North America after the great extinction of sixty-five million years ago when a group of slow and clumsy carnivores called creodonts gave way to the carnassials with their special teeth for shearing flesh. Ten million years later or so, this group of carnivores split into the two great divides, the Cat Branch (cats, civets, mongooses) and the Dog Branch (dogs, raccoons, bears, weasels, seals, walruses). From this latter branch, the first canid, the fox-sized “dawn wolf” took to the trees, walking on padded toes or stretching out its long, supple frame among the limbs.
     In the following epochs—Oligocene, Miocene, and Pliocene—while the cats honed their basic stealthy, ambush form, the dogs explored many variations on a theme, molding and remolding their bodies into a cornucopia of predators. While one line tested out flippers and tusks, or a massive bulk with huge heads and marrow-extracting jaws, another tried longer legs and compact feet, a shorter tail and broader snout. It’s during the early Pleistocene, nearly two million years ago, that we see the greatest development and diversification of the North American wolf.
     Now comes the rise of Canis. C. edwardii, the first wolf. C. rufus, the red wolf. C. armbrusteri, a giant wolf and sister to the dire wolf, C. dirus, the largest bone-crushing wolf ever to exist, which became extinct only 8000 years ago. And C. lupus, the modern gray wolf.
     Some researchers think the progenitor of the gray wolf crossed the land bridge to Eurasia and evolved there into Canis lupis, crossing back again into North America where they shared the continent with dire wolves. Both had already established themselves here as the first Native American people, trailing their domesticated wolves, came over Berin­gia around eighteen thousand years ago.
     Human packs living and cooperating with canine packs.
After millions of years of evolution, of nature sculpting organs, muscles, bones, and the orderly wires of instinct to create an animal designed to hunt together in packs, to kill together in packs, I hear my first wolves. I’m camping near Hawley Lake on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, home to the Tsay-O-Ah, Maverick, and Paradise packs. It’s just before sunrise and the land is still and wet. A mist boils off the lake’s iron skillet. When the howling begins, in the moments it takes for my brain to register “wolves,” the blood pools in my chest. I feel no warm surge of pulse. I stand half in and half out of the world. Light slides over my paling skin as their calling moves through the forest like an unexpected hush. It is the sound of angels mourning their immortality.
     Then it ends as suddenly as it started, my foot still lifted, poised mid-step over the threshold of a connection.
Being pack animals ourselves, we either have an alliance with wolves, or we compete with them. In the beginning, before we drew out and formed from their stock our canine familiars, it was all alliance. Today, I’m afraid, it’s mostly competition. We speak the same language, but like so many other human traits, we’d rather polarize than compromise. The politics of predators like the politics of insects. No compassion. No concession.
     But the nature of wolves lies outside whatever we may think of them, beyond alliance or compromise, beyond our science and our myths. They are as real as the sound of their voices through the trees, as vital as breath. Their way is as evident and mysterious as a trail of blood in the snow.


Shadow Dance

Terry Tempest Williams

Wolf eyes
Wolf wise
From the edges of wildness they watch us—
We want them dead.
We do not recognize them for who they are—
We see them as ourselves—
blood-thirsty and ruthless
hiding in the creases of cruelty.
No wonder the wolves howl—
Wolf eyes
Wolf wise
Here is our folly as humans: Kill the wolf
and he-she remains, haunting our hearts
forever, familial, fierce, and hungry—
From the edges of wildness they stalk us—
We want them dead.
Wolf eyes
Wolf wise
We are afraid of our own shadow.


Head of a Stag

Geoffrey G. O’Brien

If you go to Madrid and walk past the austerity coating everything and enter the Museo del Prado and drift chro­nologically through it, which many do though few can, you end up encountering a melting thought about who and what gets to occupy the center of the canvas. Sacred history gives way to an exclusive portraiture of nobles and kings which then in turn slowly, begrudgingly, admits others within its frame, rich merchants mostly, some clowns and fools, and then even commoners make it into the oil, though usually in groups and either at work or drinking and gaming after, still not admitted to the slow, solitary sitting times of the wealthy. This morphing down through the history of Western painting is often reprisable in the work of a single painter, and at the Prado the most obvious case is Velazquez. When you walk through his work you traverse this same slow accommodation of beings beyond the holy or monarchical, including his famous rehumanizing portraits of court dwarves, but then you are pulled up short in front of a canvas called Cabeza de venado (Head of a Stag).


     Here, a deer has been swapped into the central space of human portraiture and regards you with a look as fictional yet full as those of Velazquez’s dwarves. The painter’s startling decision opens a temporary abyss behind portraiture’s human face and instead paints that human face’s contingent self-authorization precisely by removing it and showing what else could happen there; traditionally both the subject and object of the gaze, the human face of the observer, including mine, feels different when even a fictive two-dimensional nature stares back. As the end of a sequence of decentering authority that began with kings and nobles and gave way to dwarves and peasants, this deer’s stare still feels social because of its location in that sequence, but it is an impossible sociality because it cannot carry any social meaning even if we grant the fiction of the stag and grant that fiction a mind. It’s embarrassing for everyone, for kings and nobles who are suddenly no more kingly or noble than the stag who supplants them, and for any observer in the Prado, stoned from overconditioned air and the relentless stream of genius, who expects to see yet another face and suddenly finds herself first having to do the more difficult work of granting Cabeza de venado a face before encountering the depths of its flat and impossible stare.
     It is no longer 1626 or 1635, the possible dates of the painting’s composition, but in 2013 that stag looks as vulnerable to me as it might have at the end of a hunt par force de chiens (in which a royal deer is chased to exhaustion by dogs before being killed by their masters). It looks vulnerable to human economy whether that takes the form of medieval hunting and its hierarchizing functions for aristocracy or present-day territory depletion and population control (something wolves are, or used to be, but which humans can only do). The absurdity of its staring from portraiture, shorn from the universe and pent in a narrow human frame, is now also the obscenity of real deer staring out of a nearly totally built environment (there are only seventeenth-century clouds behind this stag’s head but they will soon scud over subdivisions). With the wolf, their natural predator here in North America, the situation is the same but the absurdity is even more farcical and deadly because it’s an apex predator.
     Which means humans find the wolf more comparable to themselves. They too sing, work together, play according to consensual rules, produce hierarchy that in turn produces uneven benefits to the participants. But unlike humans and unlike capitalism, wolves do not produce unnecessary surplus, nor is the uneven distribution of resources in a pack necessarily disastrous. They bother economy and its agents with the beauty of their mere survival, a being-social without money.
     The hunter is one parody of this survival, the rancher and his excessive territory another. Both hate the wolf inordinately, or enjoy killing her, because this animal lays bare the mediated, non-necessary relations to the physical universe that capitalism requires. Enough is not enough, instead one must kill for sport on the weekend because of the invisible injuries sustained during the workweek and its paltry psychic life; or dedicate an enormous tract of land to the fattening of livestock in order to make a “living.” When wolves live on the edges of that living they reveal its economic absurdity: a capital offense in every sense. From the Montana Record-Herald in 1922:

Livingston. A notorious lone wolf, said to have killed during his lifetime more than $10,000 worth of cattle on the range of Wallis Huidekoper, well-known Montana stockman and president of the state stockmen’s association, is no more. The head now is on display at the local taxidermist’s shop, and Mr. Huidekoper’s cattle graze undisturbed.
     For fifteen years, Mr. Huidekoper says, the demon ravished his cattle, slipping down almost nightly from the mountains to kill a valuable animal. Year after year all efforts to end the wolf’s career failed, but a few weeks ago the raider was shot and killed. Since that time no loss of stock has been reported.

     The wolf can be both demon and careerist in the same sentence because it’s an incoherent repository for the capitalization of life and action: this wolf apparently kills dollars not cows. The only form of harmonious nature available to this economic worldview is the decidedly nonnatural pastoral action of grazing cows “undisturbed” by any possibility of being embedded in a food-chain that extends beyond the human. The end of a “career” like this can only be a spectacular commodity, a stuffed head in a shop that stares out without life, filled as much with the social meanings of total conquest as with the taxidermist’s materials.
     Photographs too are stuffed heads, instants of animal action removed from context and abstracted into human values. There are many photos of wolves captured, like the stag of Velazquez, as though staring at an implied human observer. To a casual environmentalist, those yellow eyes might look reproachful or have an air of nobility, the nobility of being free from nobility, from human social divisions entirely. To a hunter or rancher it’s the implacable stare of a demonizable competitor or foe. But it’s none of these, it’s what the outside of capital looks like when caught, when seen, from within it.



Hating Wolves

Jack Turner

In 1814, John James Audubon watched a farmer torture three wolves. The farmer had trapped them in a pit after they had killed several sheep and a colt. He jumped into the pit armed only with a knife, hamstrung each wolf as it cowered in fear, and tied it up with a rope. Then he hauled them out one at a time and set his dogs on them as the victim scuffled, crippled, along the ground. Audubon was astounded by the meekness of the wolves and by the glee with which the farmer went about his cruelty; but he was not distressed because both he and the farmer considered torturing wolves a “sport,” something both normal and enjoyable. The sadistic behavior did not warrant comment. Indeed: “Audubon and the farmer shared a conviction that wolves not only deserved death but deserved to be punished for living.” Carefully ponder and memorize that sentence.
     This story (and most of the language I’ve used to describe it) begins Jon T. Coleman’s award-winning book Vicious: Wolves and Men in America (Yale, 2004). After reading a few paragraphs, you realize that the word vicious in the title refers not to wolves but (Pogo, again)—to us. And by the time you finish this scholarly reckoning of our slaughter of hundreds of thousands—probably millions—of wolves, you cannot help but ponder Coleman’s questions, questions that haunt me: Why is it that for 400 years Americans were not content just to kill wolves? Why did we persecute and torture an animal that both science and history informs us is a rather shy beast? What is the source of this penetrating hatred and why has it persisted through the centuries when so many former targets of American hatred, prejudice, and violence —witches, Jews, Poles, Blacks, gays, women, communists—a long list—have been to some degree, though certainly not entirely, accepted, integrated, and treated at least with attempts at equality and respect.
     You don’t have to take Coleman’s word for the shyness of wolves. In his awarding-winning book Of Wolves and Men, Barry Lopez quotes many early sources on this issue. The historian Francis Parkman told prospective pioneers who were headed for the Oregon Trail, “There is not the slightest danger from [wolves], for they are the greatest cowards of the prairie.” A seasoned wolf hunter confirmed that he killed most of his trapped wolves with either a tomahawk or a club. Nonetheless, for ranchers, wrote another historian, “wolves were an object of pathological hatred.”
     Granted wolves killed livestock, but the reaction was out of all proportion to their predation, and we avidly killed them before we even had livestock. And we didn’t merely kill them. We fed them fishhooks so they would die of internal bleeding, we dragged them to death behind horses, we set live wolves on fire, we released trapped wolves with their mouths and penises wired shut. It is this disproportion between injury and persecution that justifies claims of our pathology, and Coleman, a professor of history at Notre Dame, documents it in sickening detail.
     When it comes to animals, the wolf is a special case. No other animal generates such intense emotions, and research demonstrates that these emotions derive not from science but a pernicious blend of agrarian folklore and children’s stories of precisely the kind that so often perpetuate intolerance and hate. They remain embedded in some of our citizens’ souls. America does not have a 400-year tradition of burning skunks alive, but pathological hatred of wolves still flourishes in Wyoming, as anyone reading newspapers and legislative reports can attest. Wolves remain uniquely hated.
     Which is why we should not classify wolves as predators. With predator status, Wyoming Game and Fish will be helpless to prevent inhumane treatment of the wolf by the many wolf haters in this state. Predator status will legitimize sadism directed at a species that cannot deserve it and that many of us love.
     Hence Vicious is perhaps the most important source for an informed conversation about the future status of the wolf in America, and in Wyoming. Unfortunately, the book remains virtually unknown. None of the three officials I contacted at Wyoming Game and Fish had heard of it. Six libraries in Wyoming have the book but in two of them it has never been checked out.
     Precious few Wyoming statutes address the inhumane treatment of our celebrated wildlife. There is a prohibi- tion against hunting with artificial lights at night; another against running down game with vehicles; and an admirable statue prohibiting the possession of wild animals such as bears, cougars, and wolves (including wolf/dog hybrids). But crucially, although Wyoming’s Cruelty to Animals statute prohibits causing undue suffering, or cruelly beating, injuring, or mutilating an animal, it exempts “hunting, capture, or destruction of any predatory animal …” from these prohibitions (Title 6, Chapter 3, Article 2).
     In Wyoming there will be nothing to prevent a trapped wolf from being burned alive, a wolf hater from pouring gas into a wolf den and torching the pups, or any other form of mutilation and humiliation they can dream up. Classifying the wolf as a predator will be shameful policy that, given the Jurassic nature of Wyoming politics, will be virtually impossible to monitor or to correct. Nearly 500 wolves have been killed in the Northern Rockies this year. And how many were tortured?
     The federal government must hold Wyoming’s citizens and elected representatives to a standard of decency greater than that which many can now conceive, and until they can so conceive, wolves must remain under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Thirty years ago we fought to have wolves reintroduced to Wyoming; now we must fight to assure their decent, humane, and respectful treatment. Predator status is the first line in the sand. We can’t let it happen—even if we have to go to court for decades.


Integrating Values and Ethics into Wildlife Policy and Management: Lessons from North America

Camilla H. Fox and Marc Bekoff



Ethics in our Western world has hitherto been largely limited to the relations of man to man. But that is a limited ethics. We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also…. The time is coming when people will be amazed that the human race existed so long before it recognized that thoughtless injury to life is incompatible with real ethics. Ethics is in its unqualified form extended responsibility to everything that has life. —Albert Schweitzer, 1924

In the United States, few animals provoke as wide a range of emotions as wolves. For some, wolves are icons of a lost wilderness; their return symbolizes the return of wild nature and the integrity of healthy ecosystems. For others, wolves are viewed as vicious predators with malicious intentions and are better off dead. Such deeply held beliefs about a large carnivorous mammal that was exterminated throughout most of its historic range in the conterminous United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has stirred an impassioned debate that is bound to become even more heated as the U.S. government considers removing wolves from the federal endangered species list and turning management over to the states.
     Prior to the arrival of European settlers in the 1600s, wolves existed throughout much of the North American continent. European colonists, however, sought to eradicate wolves and other large carnivores, viewing them as dangerous and bloodthirsty predators and an impediment to progress [1–4]. As early as the seventeenth century, bounties were placed on wolves by U.S. government agencies, and by the 1930s, gray wolf populations were extirpated from the western United States [2]. A small pocket of wolves remained in the Great Lakes region of Minnesota, despite concerted efforts to eliminate them with poisons, bounties, and intensive trapping efforts [2, 5]. Subsequently, public attitudes toward predators gradually changed, and in 1973 wolves received legal protection with the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With federal protection, wolves began to recolonize northwest Montana, and in 1995 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began a controversial wolf reintroduction program in the Northern Rockies. In recent years, wolf numbers increased in the northern Rocky Mountains and in the western Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Deeming the gray wolf adequately recovered, in 2003, the USFWS reclassified gray wolves from endangered to threatened status in the lower forty-eight states (with the exception of the Southwest designated population segment, which remained endangered). The reclassification rule was considered the first step in the eventual elimination of all federal protections for gray wolves in the contiguous states. Animal protection and conservation organizations challenged the ruling, however, arguing that it was premature to remove federal protections for gray wolves and that the USFWS’s actions subverted the intent of the ESA to restore listed species to a significant portion of their historic range [6]. In 2005, a U.S. District Court ruled in the plaintiff’s favor and overturned the 2003 USFWS rule, restoring the endangered status to gray wolves (except in Minnesota, where they were listed as “threatened” under the ESA). Despite this ruling, the U.S. federal government, under the Bush administration, continued to seek delisting of gray wolves in the lower forty-eight states and animal advocacy and conservation organizations continued to challenge the proposed delisting, arguing that the federal government had failed to develop a comprehensive range-wide strategy for recovering gray wolves [6].
     Because the return of the wolf to the conterminous states is so laden with human values, attitudes, and beliefs, we argue that this historical moment presents a unique opportunity for reflection about the ethical issues involved in wolf restoration and the development of practical models for how humans can learn to coexist with wolves in an increasingly humanized landscape. By beginning with an ethical framework and dialogue that considers the interests and values of all stakeholders, including the wolves, who also are entitled to a point of view, we can ensure the process of wolf conservation and management is inclusive and democratic and better serves all affected. We also argue for less invasive and more humane methods of management and control when and where management and control are deemed necessary.
     Wolf recovery and conservation requires a sustained commitment toward building human tolerance for the presence of large carnivores. It also requires proactive outreach aimed at educating the public about the vital ecological role wolves [7] and other large carnivores play in maintaining species diversity and the integrity of ecosystems [8–10]. Wolves are the consummate keystone carnivore in North America.
     If those communities most affected by reintroduction and recovery efforts are to accept wolves and other large carnivores, conservationists must work toward public education and information dissemination to address real and perceived fears held by members of these communities. Integrating ethics into large carnivore recovery also mandates that we listen to community concerns and invest the necessary resources to build tolerance and dispel misinformation. Wolf conservation in general demands a collaborative process among parties who often do not speak to one another. A comprehensive wolf recovery and conservation agenda deals with animal protection, ecological concerns, and socio-political processes.


WOLVES—Government Sponsored TERRORISTS (bumper sticker from

A crucial point is that good science rests on good ethics. What scientists do matters; it counts ethically. —Jickling and Paquet [11]

The whale in the sea, like the wolf on land, constituted not only a symbol of wildness but also a fulcrum for projecting attitudes of conquest and utilitarianism and, eventually, more contemporary perceptions of preservation and protection. —Kellert [12]

Wolves are a prototypical example of an animal whose reputation precedes them. They bring out extremes in human emotions from almost romanticized idolatry and reverence to blatant contempt and hate (as reflected in the bumper sticker slogan above) that have deep historical roots [1, 3, 4, 13]. Prehistorically, in oral tradition, human fears of wolves and other large carnivores were reflected in fairy and folktales such as Little Red Riding Hood, a story in which a wolf follows Little Red Riding Hood home, eats her grandmother, and, according to some interpretations, rapes her. This is a story that is still read to young children throughout the world. Historically, people have viewed wolves as threats to livestock and as competitors in the human hunt for food or sport [1]. As a result of such conflicts, humans are usually the most important cause of mortality of adult wolves and other large carnivores, even within protected areas [14].
     Ethical reflection is needed in attempting to recover wolf populations on lands where abundant domesticated prey (i.e., unprotected livestock on the open range) bring them into conflict with livestock [4, 5]. Can we really blame them for taking advantage of an accessible meal? Should we be moving predators around if we cannot let them be the animals that they have evolved to be, when recovery means intensive management, or when the areas into which we place them are increasingly developed, fragmented, and hostile? Can we call wolf recovery a success in the United States when we have confined recovery efforts to less than 5 per cent of the wolf’s historical range and when approximately 80 per cent of all known wolf mortalities in the tri-state area of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are intentional removals by the U.S. federal government?


The authors’ guiding principles for how we interact with other animals are simple and straightforward: do no intentional harm, treat all individuals with respect and compassion, and recognize that all animals have intrinsic value or worth, irrespective of their utility to other animals, including humans. We recognize and acknowledge that our ethical principles and framework reflect not only our cultural backgrounds, biases, and education but also our deeper Greek-Roman ethical heritage dating back to Socrates, Plato, and even earlier to Indo-European cultures. Ethical positions within human societies differ profoundly across cultures and time. Hence, when we speak of our guiding ethical principles, we do so knowing that they reflect only a few cultural perspectives amongst a broad array of perspectives that come into play when discussing wolf recovery and conservation.
     While very few people in any culture attempt to cause intentional harm or delight in doing so in their efforts to conserve and restore ecosystems and biodiversity, the other principles that call for treating individuals with respect and compassion and recognizing an individual’s intrinsic value or worth are all too easily overridden because they are too difficult to consistently adhere to regardless of cultural biases. In some cases, while it clearly is not one’s intention to cause harm to other animals, the very design of some studies or perhaps the very reality of some conservation efforts means that inevitably some animals will suffer or die. We must ensure that we do everything we can to minimize pain and suffering and cause the least amount of harm.
     The recognition that wolves and other individual animals have intrinsic value demands that we consider ethics when we conduct projects and practices that impact them. When we use the term “ethics,” we are referring to Socrates’ notion of “how we ought to live” [15]. Hadidian et al. [16] also note: “ethics is a conversation about the moral values that inform (or should inform) our thoughts and actions … ethics is not only a critique of who we are as individuals and a society today, it is a vision of what our future may be if we act with ethical sensibilities in mind … ethics is meant to help us refine our knowledge and action, to distinguish better from worse arguments, methods, data and facts.” While many agree that ethics must play a central role in any project involving the use of animals [11, 16–18], it is interesting to note that in many books on human–animal interactions and carnivore conservation there is often no mention of ethics. This needs to change.
     We assert that recovery and conservation efforts for wolves and other carnivores should be firmly rooted in ethical principles. And yet, when we look at current wolf management in the United States, consideration of ethics is largely ignored. For example, as we write this, the United States Forest Service is planning to ease restrictions on killing predators in protected wilderness areas within the western United States, allowing expanded use of aerial gunning and certain poisons [19]. And the USFWS recently issued lethal control permits to the states of Wisconsin and Michigan that authorize officials to kill up to fifty-four gray wolves annually if the wolves are perceived as threatening livestock or pets [6]. However, animal and environmental organizations sued to stop the killing and in August 2006 the federal court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, stat- ing that the issuance of lethal kill permits violates the ESA. The state of Wisconsin argued the kill permits were “necessary to maintain social tolerance for the wolves” [20]. In her court decision, the judge responded by saying, “The recovery of the gray wolf is not supported by killing 43 gray wolves” [20].
     Furthermore, there are examples of “Judas wolves” [21], individuals who are collared and then followed back to their pack so that other pack members can be located. The Judas wolf, having unknowingly betrayed its pack-mates, is then killed along with the entire pack, including pups. Despite the fact that gray wolves remain federally listed under the ESA, more than three hundred have been killed by the U.S. federal government since 1987, most for preying on livestock [21]. Lethal removal of wolves continues while we know, and have known, that eliminating predators does little to increase economic gains for livestock ranchers [22] or to reduce attacks over the long-term [23].
     Discussions about ethics and animals can make people uncomfortable. Surely, they exclaim, there are more important things to talk about. While ignorance may be bliss, ignoring questions about our ethical responsibilities to animals not only compromises their lives and our integrity but also can compromise the quality of scientific research. More and more students and practising scientists recognize that asking questions about ethics is in the best interests of “good science,” and increasing numbers of non-researchers are also keenly interested in animal well-being [24–32]. Wildlife managers and scientists are under growing scrutiny by a concerned public who not only question how funds are used to support wildlife management practices and various scientific research projects but also want wildlife managers and scientists to be less arrogant and authoritarian and more accountable to those who support them [12, 26, 29, 32–34]. Furthermore, science, including conservation biology, is not value-free [11, 18, 32, 35]. Soulé [35] argued that con­servation biology must be based on a set of ethical axioms. Personal views held by scientists influence funding and the dissemination (or withholding) of certain results. Indeed, dealing with personal sentiments and emotional conflicts makes questions about what we ought to do extremely difficult. Complicating the situation is the fact that values and sentiments change with time and are sensitive to demographic, political, and social-economic variation, as well as to personal whims. However, regardless of changes in values and sentiments, if we remain loyal to doing no intentional harm, treating all individuals with respect and compassion, and recognizing that all animals have intrinsic value and worth irrespective of their utility (the authors’ guiding principles expressed above), we will ensure high ethical standards in our discussions on interaction with other species and in our actions which impact them.


As we try to repatriate and restore wolves to the landscape, we have a duty to consider the broad impacts of such efforts from all angles: on the wolf packs, the populations and eco­systems from which they are taken, and on the human, animal, and ecological communities in which they are placed. In discussing the social dynamics affecting wolf conservation in Yellowstone National Park, for example, Clark et al. [36] aptly state, “Understanding the human participants is essential to understanding what has happened, why, and what is likely to happen.” While it is imperative to consider and negotiate differing perspectives and values amongst various human stakeholder groups in wolf recovery efforts, we contend one viewpoint is often missing in this discussion: the wolf’s. This chapter focuses on under-represented perspectives in wolf-recovery efforts (e.g., the wolf’s viewpoint) and does not attempt at understanding the viewpoints of all interest groups. The growing body of literature on animal cognition and emotions demonstrates undeniably that animals have interests and points of view [29, 30, 34, 37]. Like us, they avoid pain and suffering and seek pleasure. They form close social relationships, cooperate with other individuals, and likely miss their friends when they are apart [29, 34, 37, 38]. Emotions have evolved, serving as “social glue,” and playing major roles in the formation and maintenance of social relationships among individuals [37]. Emotions also serve as “social catalysts,” regulating behaviors that guide the course of social encounters when individuals follow different courses of action, depending on their situations [29, 30, 34, 37, 39]. If we carefully study animal behavior, we can better understand what animals are experiencing and feeling and how this factors into how we treat them.
     Recognizing that wolves and other animals have emotional lives forces us to consider their needs and interests as individuals, as families, and as members of a community. Because the wolf is a species with complex social struc- tures and tight family bonds, we must consider the ethical implications of our actions when we disrupt family packs through management and control programs. We need to consider the wolf’s point of view in our overall conservation and recovery efforts.


Consider the case of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program. Mexican wolves once ranged from central Mexico up into Arizona and New Mexico [40]. They were exterminated throughout most of their historic range by the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey and its successor agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Damage Control program (now called “Wildlife Services”) [41]. In 1976, the subspecies was placed on the endangered species list and a reintroduction effort was initiated in 1998. While approximately 90 captive wolves were reintroduced over the course of eight years in New Mexico and Arizona, as few as 35 (estimated range: 35–49; mean estimate: 42; USFWS 2006c) wolves remained in the wild population by the end of 2005 [42]. From 1998 through 2005, illegal shooting (23), lethal agency control (3), vehicle collisions (9), and capture complications (1) accounted for the human-caused deaths of 36 wolves; and 83 wolves were captured and either removed or translocated at the agencies’ discretion for management purposes, which included 31 wolves involved in livestock losses (Adaptive Management Oversight Committee AMOC [42–44]). High wolf “failure rates” (mortalities + removals) are precluding population growth, causing population declines in 2004 and 2005, despite continued releases of wolves during those years [43, 44] The program has been criticized for poor management, bureaucratic processes that hinder effective recovery, and unrealistic political boundaries that do not allow wolves to colonize public lands outside of the defined recovery zones [5, 40]. Moreover, ranchers are not required to improve or alter their livestock husbandry practices to reduce predation even after a wolf is removed or killed (which is the case throughout the United States, not just in the Mexican wolf reintroduction program). And, in July 2006, the USFWS announced its acceptance of a set of recommendations that, if implemented, will allow the government, tribes, and private individuals to trap or kill Mexican wolves with few restraints when the combined populations in New Mexico and Arizona exceed 125 wolves [44], a cap that cannot be considered either viable over the long term or ecologically effective for the region [10, 28]. We simply must ask, “What are we doing and why are we doing it?” This sort of bureaucratic mismanagement and shameless killing must be stopped if we are ever to extricate ourselves from the persecute/eliminate/try-to-recover-­the-species cycle. How can we get out of this loop and constructively facilitate coexistence with this sentient, social mammal?


In conservation biology, the interests and rights of individuals are sometimes traded off against perceived benefits that accrue to higher levels of organization: populations, species, and eco­systems. Animal protection advocates who prioritize the welfare of individual animals are often marginalized because their perspectives are perceived as obstacles to conservation efforts. Estes [45] poignantly and succinctly gets to the heart of the matter in his discussion of whether or not to rehabilitate oiled wildlife, specifically California sea otters (Enhydra lutris):

The differing views between those who value the welfare of individuals and those who value the welfare of populations should be a real concern to conservation biology because they are taking people with an ostensibly common goal in different directions. Can these views be reconciled for the common good of nature? I’m not sure, although I believe the populationists have it wrong in trying to convince the individualists to see the errors of their ways. The challenge is not so much for individ­ualists to build a program that is compatible with conservation—to date they haven’t had to—but for conservationists to somehow build a program that embraces the goals and values of individualists because the majority of our society has such a deep emotional attachment to the welfare of individual animals…. As much as many populationists may be offended by this argument, it is surely an issue that must be dealt with if we are to build an effective conservation program.

     Some of the main issues concerning trade-offs among individuals, populations, species, and ecosystems are highlighted when considering reintroduction programs. Such efforts raise questions about when and whether it is permissible to override an individual’s life for the good of its species —when can individuals be traded off for conservation gains? Consider the reintroduction of gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park (YNP). All of the wolves who were reintroduced into YNP were translocated from Canada. Some were separated from their family packs; some died shortly after their release [4]. Currently, those that venture out of the protective zones of YNP may be lethally removed if they prey on livestock. Our view is that individuals count and that jumping among different levels of organization is not as seamless as some make it out to be. We believe that carnivore recovery programs are essential to restoring ecosystem integrity and diversity, but we also believe that in so doing we must be rigorous in the questions we ask, mindful of the individual animals we are translocating and of their progeny, and ethical in the way we conduct such programs. Researchers have an obligation to attempt to fully understand the effects of reintroduction programs on life history strategies, demography, behavior, and animals’ lives [18].


Recovering native species through reintroduction programs requires massive human effort and large sums of money. Humans and human society are major factors in what goes right or wrong, and people who are most affected at the local level are sometimes resentful and hostile at having to share land and space with a large predator that their forefathers purposefully eradicated. This is easy to understand especially when they have been living their lives and making their livelihoods in the absence of these predators. Moreover, the myth of the savage wolf persists and this also makes it difficult for some people to accept their presence. Fear is a powerful motivator, so those who advocate the reintroduction of wolves must work toward alleviating unfounded concern about their danger, allocate the necessary resources to build tolerance for wolves through public education and outreach programs, and help reduce conflicts where real conflicts exist.
     Natural recovery of wolves also presents challenges as seen in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin; but perhaps more people would be open to the presence of wolves if they return on their own. Those less receptive would be given more time to get accustomed to the fact that wolves are on the way, and those who dislike government intervention might be open to wolves if there were less bureaucratic interference. Yet there’s no denying that wolves—whether from reintroduced or naturally recolonizing populations—face tough odds when attempting to venture beyond the political boundaries in which they’ve been confined. For example, in September 2006, a wolf likely dispersing from one of the Yellowstone or central Idaho packs was found dead in a leghold trap on private land in Utah [46]. Four years earlier, another wolf was discovered in the state—also found in a leghold trap [46]. In Maine and Vermont where gray wolves historically roamed, at least three wolf-like canids believed to have dispersed from Canada have been shot or trapped before their presence in the states was even acknowledged [47]. So a high tolerance level among the general public does not necessarily translate to safety for wolves if a few key humans (e.g., trappers, hunters, ranchers) have low tolerance; thus, dispersing wolves often find a lethal human environment where basic survival becomes a challenge. While there is certainly no guarantee that natural recovery will increase tolerance for wolves over reintroduction programs, the costs and benefits of both should be weighed before recovery efforts are implemented.
     We also need to reconcile the disparity in the status of wolves who are reintroduced and those who appear on their own. The former are granted “experimental, non-essential status” under section 10(j) of the ESA and are subject to being killed for being the predators that they are (when they predate livestock), whereas naturally occurring individuals are ostensibly granted full protection under the ESA. While some argue reducing federal protections for reintroduced wolves was a necessary concession to garner acceptance from the ranching community [4], we must ask if it is acceptable to continue to designate wolves “experimental, non-essential” and then kill them when they prey on livestock while not requiring ranchers to take some responsibility to reduce losses by removing livestock carcasses and improving their animal husbandry techniques. Caring properly for livestock is and should be one of the costs of doing business and should be reflected in the price of meat at the supermarket. Unfortunately, the current system in the United States externalizes the costs of livestock predation, and it is the American taxpaying public that bears these costs through subsidies for government predator control programs and livestock grazing subsidies. The wolves also pay with their lives when they are lethally “removed” for preying on livestock.


In the United States, as the federal government evaluates the opportunity to delist wolves, we can expect the debate about wolf conservation and management to intensify with ethics and human–wolf conflict mitigation moving front and center to the debate. When delisting occurs, wolves will no longer be federally protected under the Endangered Species Act; management will revert to the states and tribes [Edi- tor’s note: wolves were officially delisted January 27, 2012]. Heated debates have already begun about how wolves will be managed and whether traditional forms of management, including trophy hunting and commercial and recreational fur trapping, will be allowed, as they are for some species of large carnivores. For example, Minnesota’s state management plan would allow wolves to be killed to protect domestic animals, even if attacks or threatening behavior have not occurred, and eventually allow for the commissioner to “prescribe open seasons” on wolves, thereby legalizing trophy hunting and fur trapping (MNDNR) [48]. The Minnesota state law also allows for paying “certified gray wolf predator controllers” $150 for each individual killed (see ­Section 97B.671 Predator Control Program of Minnesota State Law for details).
     Wyoming’s proposed management plan calls for wolves to be classified with “dual status” (Wyoming Game and Fish Department [WGFD] 2003, more details can be found at, allowing them to be managed as trophy game in national parks and wilderness areas and as a “predatory animal” outside of these designated areas, allowing them to be killed at any time. The USFWS, however, has rejected Wyoming’s plan, stating it is inadequate to ensure long-term viability of wolf populations [49]. Despite this, in January 2007, the Wyoming legislature introduced a bill that would authorize the killing of almost two-thirds of the wolves in the state. Wildlife and animal advocates have already begun to challenge both the delisting process and the state management plans, which has served to increase public debate about the future of wolf management in the United States [6].
     One need only look at Alaska to see why there is signifi­cant concern about how wolf management may unfold in the lower forty-eight states. In Alaska, wolves are not considered endangered and receive none of the legal protections under the ESA that their counterparts do in the rest of the United States. They can be legally trapped, trophy hunted, and aerially gunned where they are chased to exhaustion by low-flying aircraft and then shot. Between 2003 and 2006, more than 550 wolves have been killed through aerial gunning in Alaska, despite the fact that Alaskans have twice voted to ban the practice (1996 and 2000) in statewide bal- lot measures (the Alaska legislature then overturned those bans). In some areas, the Alaska Board of Game has approved the killing of up to 75 per cent of the wolf population, ostensibly to boost moose and caribou populations for big-game hunters. In 1998, a citizens group called “Alaskans Against Snaring Wolves” sought to prohibit the use of snares for capturing wolves through an unsuccessful public ballot initiative after photos of severely injured snared wolves were published in local and national media outlets. The grassroots effort and the ensuing public debate it generated on the use of snares and other control methods supported by the Alaska Board of Game highlighted the growing controversy over the ethics of wolf management and individual management techniques, and the way that management decisions are made.
     Some have argued that decisions made in Alaska regarding wolves cannot be compared to decisions made in the lower forty-eight states. However, when states like Idaho take an official position that the federal government must forcibly remove all wolves from the state (adopted as House Joint Memorial No. 5 in 2001) and Wyoming wants to declare open season on wolves, it becomes apparent that a similar, firmly rooted anti-wolf sentiment amongst some sectors of the public is not limited to Alaska.


While strong anti-wolf sentiments persist in some areas of the United States, particularly in more rural regions, such attitudes are rapidly changing as the populace becomes more urban and educated [12, 50]. Over the last century, we have seen a shift in the public’s attitudes toward wildlife and nature, moving from a primarily dominionistic/utilitarian valuation toward one that is more humanistic/moralistic oriented [12, 50, 51]. With this shift in public values has come an increased demand for humane, socially acceptable, and ecologically sound management strategies for addressing conflicts between people and wild animals [52–55]. One national study on public attitudes toward wildlife management concluded that a majority of Americans favor the use of non-lethal methods over lethal in managing wildlife [55]. In this study, survey respondents were asked to rank the importance of factors to be considered when selecting management techniques; human safety, animal suffering, effectiveness, and environmental impacts ranked highest. Less important was monetary cost, suggesting a willingness amongst the public to invest more money to develop methods that ensure public safety and mitigate animal suffering. If lethal controls must be employed, the public would like those methods to be humane and selective [52, 55]. Yet one study that looked at lethal carnivore management programs across the globe found that between 30 and 81.3 per cent of the carnivores killed in control operations bore no evidence of involvement in conflicts [56], despite the efforts to target so-called “problem animals.”
     Strong objections to U.S. government-funded lethal predator control programs have also been expressed by professional scientists with the American Society of Mammal­ogists (ASM). In 1999, the ASM passed a resolution stating that the “common methods of predator control are often indiscriminate, pre-emptive, lethal measures, particularly in relation to state- and federally-funded livestock protection programs … and often result in the needless killing of animals that are not contributing to the problem, as well as many non-target species” [57]. They called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Program and other federal and state wildlife management agencies to “cease indiscriminate, pre-emptive, lethal control programs … and to focus on the implementation of non-lethal control strategies, compensatory measures, and sound animal husbandry techniques” [57].
     If ethics, societal values, and animal welfare are not fully vetted and incorporated into wildlife management policies and programs, what are some potential consequences? Increasing use of the public ballot initiative process is one possible outcome if a large segment of the public contin- ues to feel their values and opinions are not considered in decision-making processes. Similarly, if wolf opponents feel their concerns and values continue to go unheard, we may see an increase in illegal killings as have been documented in Idaho where a number of wolves were intentionally poisoned with the deadly poison Compound 1080 after wolves were reintroduced in the region [43].
     A first step toward mitigating reactionary responses to wolf conservation policies and practices is for state and federal wildlife agencies to create greater opportunities for public participation in the decision-making process. In the United States, many state and federal wildlife management agencies have been criticized as operating in bureaucratic, self-serving ways that ensure their continued control and power over wildlife management while largely excluding the public from meaningful participation [36]. These institutions often fail to change strategies and policies to reflect new and more holistic ecosystem approaches to wildlife conservation that incorporate adaptive management practices [36, 40]. They also tend to shun discussion or consideration of ethics, public attitudes, and values by deeming such concerns as unscientific and contrary to traditional approaches to wildlife management. The current problems with the Mexican wolf reintroduction program reflect this bureaucratic institutional system that largely disregards public input, particularly from the conservation and animal protection communities, and fails to ensure transparency in its processes, policies, and practices [5, 40].
     So, what is the solution to this entrenched systemic problem? As Clark et al. [36] state, “Expanding confused bureaucracies is not the answer, although this is what we often do…. To improve wildlife conservation, especially large carnivore management, bureaucracies must be reformed.” A first step toward wildlife management agency reform is to create models and processes that promote integration and inclusion—where people feel heard, where they feel their values are considered, and where they feel they can have a meaningful say in the matter. Such civic-minded processes will also help foster mutual understanding and common ground and counter the dominant wildlife management paradigm in the United States that tends to promote divisiveness instead of cooperative problem-solving [36].


In addition to new modes of civic processes that foster inclusion and integration, we also need practical on-the-ground carnivore coexistence model programs that promote large carnivore conservation and cooperative community-based problem solving. Clark et al. [36] call this “practice-based improvements,” the application of which use actual experience and adaptive management practices to address site-specific conflict areas rather than theoretical principles as the basis for making improvements. Musiani and Paquet [58] argue that such efforts should focus on rural areas where human–wolf conflicts are more likely to occur. We argue that such programs should also incorporate ethics and humane concerns. Globally an increasing number of “practice-based improvement” models provide examples of practices that foster large carnivore conservation and promote coexistence. For example, in Bulgaria, non- governmental organizations have implemented a program aimed at reducing conflicts between livestock and wolves non-lethally and building tolerance for the presence of wolves by supplying shepherds with Karakachan guarding dogs [59]. They have also conducted a broad public awareness campaign that includes outreach to ranchers, students, and the general public [60]. In Sweden, a government-run program provides ranchers with financial support to implement electric fencing and other non-lethal predation deterrents [61]; ranchers are compensated for the presence of carnivores on their property at pre-determined rates, fostering better animal husbandry and carnivore conservation [62]. To date, the program appears to have been successful in reducing losses and building tolerance for the presence of wolves and other large carnivores [61, 62]. In Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program employs people from the local communities to protect the wolf, conducts outreach to ranchers to improve livestock and agricultural practices, vaccinates domestic dogs to help prevent the spread of canid diseases, and has an extensive educational program aimed at building local understanding of the important role that the wolf plays in the Bale mountain ecosystem [63].
     Isolated models of carnivore coexistence programs that integrate ethics and ecological concerns are beginning to appear in the United States as well. For example, in Marin County, California, a non-lethal cost-share program funded by the county provides qualified ranchers with financial assistance to implement non-lethal deterrents including guard dogs, llamas, improved fencing, and lambing sheds [64, 65]. A cost-share indemnification program was later added to the program to compensate qualified ranchers for verified livestock losses resulting from predation; to qualify for compensation, ranchers must participate in the cost-share component of the program and have at least two non-lethal deterrents in place. Importantly, the program was adopted as a result of public opposition to the use of poisons, snares, and other lethal methods employed by a taxpayer-subsidized government trapper under the USDA Wildlife Services program [66]. The debate centered around ethics, animal welfare, and the use of taxpayer monies to support the killing of native carnivores to protect ranching interests. The program has garnered national attention, and initial data from the County Agricultural Commissioner’s office indicate it has been effective at helping to reduce livestock losses for some ranchers [67–69].
     Hence, new models of predator/livestock coexistence strategies combined with traditional techniques that historically proved effective in many parts of the world, such as shepherding and the use of guard dogs, have the potential to improve wolf conservation efforts globally [58, 62, 70].


As conservationists struggle to stem the hastening global biodiversity crises, we face many ethical challenges. How do we balance the urgent need to restore ecosystem health through large carnivore recovery with our obligation to consider ethics and animal well-being? These are difficult questions with no simple answers. Nonetheless, serious ethical reflection, public education, and dialogue are needed before deciding to restore a previously extirpated species such as the wolf. Ultimately, it is unlikely that a quick fix is the best way to proceed, especially when a lack of understanding of the complex and interrelated sociopolitical, economic, and ecological variables involved can make or break a recovery project. For example, the very early stages of Canada lynx reintroduction into southwestern Colorado were marred by the death of four reintroduced individuals soon after they were released because there was not enough food [18]. Some state officials, independent wildlife biologists, and animal advocates had argued that the available data suggested that the habitat was unsuitable to support viable lynx pop­ulations; yet lynx were released using what some called a “dump and pray” strategy [18]. The hasty and politically motivated “quick fix” clearly did not work; however, when reintroduction protocols were changed and attention was given to the scientific data concerning food availability and habitat suitability, fewer deaths by starvation resulted, and ultimately some of the reintroduced lynx went on to breed.
     As we attempt to restore wolves and other large carnivores in a human-dominated world where fragmentation —environmental and spiritual—and accelerating urban sprawl threaten to undermine such efforts, it would beho0ve us to look back on history and gauge where we have come from and where we are going. Less than sixty years ago, the last remaining Mexican wolves in Mexico were eliminated by the very same agency that is leading the wolf recovery effort in the United States today; less than thirty-five years ago, wolves were hunted without restrictions in many states [2]. What have we learned since then?
     Aldo Leopold, considered by many to be the father of wildlife conservation in North America, had an epiphany watching a wolf die (after having slaughtered this one and many others himself), and for the first time connected with an individual wolf in a way he had never experienced before. Through this experience, Leopold stepped beyond seeing the world through a myopic anthropocentric lens and recognized that another species had its own wants and needs—its own intrinsic worth—and a desire to live free and unfettered. Out of this and other experiences, Leopold [71] developed what he termed “The Land Ethic.” In his words:

The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land—and it affirms the right of all to continued existence. The extension of ethics to land and to the animals and plants which is an evo­lutionary possibility and an ecological necessity. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.

     Ultimately Leopold’s Land Ethic was a call to action to create a new paradigm for the way we interact with and coexist with native carnivores—indeed all living beings—one that recognizes the ecological importance of these other species and life forms as well as their intrinsic value. As we struggle to rectify the wrongs of our past and as we gauge our almost limitless power to both create and destroy—and then recreate, restore, and recover other species and ecosystems, we must, like Leopold, take a long moment to reflect upon our actions. We must be willing to ask difficult ethical questions and learn from our past mistakes. Ultimately, we must always challenge ourselves: should we be doing what we are doing and, if so, can we do it better?
     Michael Soulé, a founder of the field of conservation biology, perhaps said it best:

We’re certainly a dominant species, but that’s not the same as a keystone species. A keystone species is one that, when you remove it, the diversity collapses; we’re a species that when you add us, the diversity collapses. We can change everything, dictate everything and destroy everything [72].

     Soulé is right. As big-brained and often self-centered and arrogant mammals, we can do anything we want anywhere, anytime, and to any other beings or landscapes. We must recognize that this unprecedented power comes with enormous and compelling ethical responsibilities to do the best we can. Let us remember that in most cases we can do better; and in all cases we have an obligation to strive to do better than our predecessors.


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Acknowledgments: We thank Dave Parsons, Michael Soulé, and Bonnie Fox for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


Radio Telemetry

Devin Johnston

Under rain
your whip antenna with
a solar cell
rotates, listening for
something winter
meant to say:
far north
desperate joy
without remorse
wakes and tilts
across the swale;
a slow wave
pours away.
Sifting bleeps
and bearing lines
sniff the air.
What pertains?


Wolf Wars

Nick Jans

On a cold afternoon in 2006, my wife Sherrie and I stood in the foyer outside the Nome, Alaska post office, clipboards in hand. Out on Front Street, snow spattered on a blustery west wind. I’d just come from three days in Kotzebue, where I’d spent hours at a time outside at 15 below, rotating a half dozen pens from an inner pocket, trying to keep each from freezing long enough to scratch a signature. By comparison, this was Miami Beach.
     A steady stream of people, all on missions that didn’t include talking to us, bustled past. A grizzled gold miner type in worn Carharts held my eye and nodded politely—the sort of guy I’d have a beer with. And, for the umpteen hundredth time in two days I nodded back, stepped forward, and said, “Excuse me, would you like to sign a petition to help stop the state’s program of shooting wolves from planes?”
     He stared back incredulously. “Stop it? Jesus, if I had a plane, I’d like to get a few of the bastards myself! They’re eatin’ all our moose!” I stood there, watching the greasy back of his jacket recede, feeling like an idiot. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sherrie approach a grandmotherly Eskimo woman with an armload of packages. “Have you heard about our petition?” Meanwhile, a young man with a toddler in tow ambled by. I sighed to myself, and heard my voice, tired at the edges, once more. “Excuse me …” The guy stopped, smiled, and took the clipboard from my hand. Thanked me, in fact. One more down. No, two, with Sherrie’s. Three hundred-something more to go in Nome, thirty-some thousand statewide.
     Don’t ask me how I got into doing something I loathed so much. I’m not talking about the cause, but about being political, and the idea of interrupting folks minding their own business and asking them to jump through some hoop. Bad enough in Juneau or Anchorage, but far worse in the bush, where the unwritten code is do-what-you’re-doing-and-mind-your-own.
     Not only was I gathering signatures. I’d somehow ended up co-sponsor of a statewide ballot initiative to limit aerial wolf control for the third time in a decade. Twice a majority of Alaskans had voted against the practice and banned it by law; and twice the governor-appointed Board of Game had reinstated the program as soon as a two-year statutory limit had expired, to be used as a management tool over broad areas. This time around, they were permitting private pilots to do the actual shooting.
     It didn’t take me long to re-confirm what I already knew: I might as well have signed up to sit on a lightning rod. Aerial wolf control has long been Alaska’s most controversial wildlife management issue, the sort of topic that leads to hard feelings, finger-jabbing, nasty letters to the editor, and occasional bar fights.
     Two opposing philosophies define the argument. (Ahem). Ready?
     Position A: wolves constitute a looming predatory menace to the game animals on which the people of Alaska depend—not to mention a threat to human safety. Keeping their numbers under control by whatever means (including shooting, snaring, leg-hold trapping, and shotgunning them from low-flying aircraft) is a common-sense necessity. Left to their own devices, wolves will multiply and Hoover every moose and caribou out of the country. People come first, and Alaskans have a right and a legal mandate to manage wildlife for their own maximum benefit. Any opposition to such a plan obviously comes from greenie-weenie, barely Alaskan, non-hunting city slickers and out-of-state radical, pinhead lackeys of PETA.
     Position B: wolves, as top predators, are a natural part of healthy, complex, self-regulating ecosystems that have evolved over millennia, and removing most of them (the plans call for up to 80 percent in certain management units) is only bound to screw things up. Without wolves, deer and moose numbers explode unsustainably, then crash, over and over. Wolves, too, are a valued resource on which trappers and subsistence hunters depend. Beside that, blasting wolves from airplanes is just plain wrong and reflects hor­ribly on the state’s image. Anyone who doesn’t see things that way is a nearsighted, beetle-browed, knuckle-dragging redneck.
     That’s just the CliffsNotes summary. The unabridged version gets far more nasty and multi-layered, replete with biologists, politicians, wildlife advocates, and hunters flinging mudballs made of statistics and rhetoric in each others’ faces. Add in the real extremists—old-schoolers who consider wolves four-legged cockroaches, and the animal-rights types who worship Canis lupus as imperiled uber-beings, and you have the makings of a full-scale brouhaha that spills over state and even international boundaries. Wolves, by virtue of their innate canine charisma and endangered status through most of their former range, are a big deal. People far away care what happens here—a fact that rankles many Alaskans, who believe wolf control is no one’s business but their own.
     Alaska’s wolves are unique in at least one respect. At the dawn of the 21st century, there’s still plenty of them—statewide, somewhere between seven and eleven thousand, according to state biologists. Thanks to the elusive, no-paparazzi nature of the species and the scale and roughness of the country, these are educated estimates at best, with a huge amount of slack (more than 50 percent the minimum figure) built in. Some biologists figure it’s more like five to seven thousand. But whatever the number, some folks—especially those associated with the big-dollar sport hunt- ing and guiding industry, who consider every bull moose a walking paycheck, and a few thousand rural residents living in relatively game-poor areas—figure it’s too many.
     I could run down the whole time line of Alaska wolf control, from federally sponsored bounties, government hunters and cyanide-laced baits of the territorial days through a period of more enlightened, ecosystem-based wildlife management, to the current tug of scientific evidence and ideologies, but that’s its own convoluted story. Somehow, though, all that led to us and dozens of others standing with clipboards all across the state, gathering signatures that would give voters a chance to reaffirm what they’d already decided twice: shooting wolves from the air wasn’t Alaskan or right.
     My own history with wolves isn’t what you might expect. One of the reasons I headed for Alaska 28 years ago was that wolves still roamed wild there, and I wanted to be part of that landscape. Naturally, I wanted to get close to them, interact somehow—which meant, to a twenty-something kid raised on Outdoor Life magazine, hunting. Not in a systematic, specific way, but wolves along with everything else, from grizzlies to Dall sheep. I launched my education as a packer for a big game guide, then honed my skills along- side the Inupiat hunters who were my friends and neighbors for 20 years. And with time, I got pretty good at hunting most things—enough so that after a few years I lost count of the wolf hides, even though I often passed up fresh trails and easy shots. The skins ended up as parka ruffs, decorations, and gifts to village elders. Meanwhile, I never saw any subsistence hunter who truly needed a moose or cari- bou go without.
     I stopped hunting wolves as a matter of personal choice, mostly because, through long familiarity, I started liking them much better alive. An empty hide didn’t have eyes that flashed yellow fire, didn’t flow across the tundra with effortless, loose-wristed grace, or play with ravens and sticks, howl unseen from a ridge, lead wobbly pups past camp, taunt grizzlies, and sometimes cavort with my dogs. Pull the trigger and all that was gone, reduced to a bloody pile of hair and meat. Dangerous? Potentially, sure. But in dozens of meetings, sometimes as close as 20 feet to healthy, wild, full-grown wolves from the North Slope to Southeast, I’d never had the least hint of trouble. Moose were one hell of a lot more risky.
     Not that I had any illusions about what wolves were, what they could do, and how they lived. I’d seen dozens of kills over the years—moose, caribou, Dall sheep—some so fresh the gutpiles were still steaming. Wild wolves struggled for dominance and often killed each other. They starved, died of mange, got their heads stove in by moose kicks, went days at below zero without eating, and got run down by hunters on snowmachines. The miracle was that they somehow managed to survive at all. And even when they were abundant, they were spread so thin over the land that most Alaskans have never glimpsed a wild wolf, or heard one howl. But they should have that opportunity, and not just in some national park. They and their grandchildren should be able to legally hunt and trap them if they want, too.
     Wolves, even unseen, fill up a landscape with wildness, define it. You’d think, after the mess we made elsewhere that people would know better, learn to value the last places where large-scale ecosystems without boundaries exist, complete with the predators that define and shape them. Am I overreacting? The Position “A” guys would say way worse than that—I’m ranting against nothing, fear-mongering, distorting, and promoting ballot-box biology. They just want to manage wolves, not eliminate them, and their science is good. There will always be wolves in Alaska. Couldn’t get rid of them if they wanted to.
     Sorry, guys, I’m not comforted. You don’t remove 80 percent of a population of social, pack-oriented animals without getting rid of them all. And sure, just in some game management units for now, but the working plan is to expand predator control areas, not reduce them. Check the minutes of recent Board of Game meetings. Think we lack the technology and will to exterminate wolves? Compare a map of former with current wolf range worldwide and get back to me. As for science, there’s plenty of respected biologists on the Position “B” side, specifically questioning that “good science” behind the state’s program, poking holes in faulty data and methods, and pointing to issues of sustainability. I try to imagine big chunks of Alaska essentially wolfless and Pennsylvania-like as some would have it, and three things happen. First I get unspeakably sad. Then comes the anger. And then I head for the post office.
Author’s note: The ballot initiative did make it to the statewide ballot in 2008, but failed by a few percentage points.


Forget Forest

Janet Kauffman

Fire into the sky, into the tall grass,
that’ll help at first, shoot the moon, the dog,
but then—stop—lop off the edges,
zero in, forget webs, forget forest,
take aim at one thing, one more,
you know the rule is whatever
walks or flies and does not say amen
or build or marry or join you at the ranch
bungalow garage mansion office
living-room kitchen bed, no room
for any weathering, wild-eyed, whatever
wolf, woman, child, bird, mother or father,
you can name them, all those things
outside day and night, you know, no need
for you, they live in unswept worlds,
you can’t live that way, you just can’t
walk by, let live, admire or even pay
homage, hell, what do you mean admire,
she just might turn and tear you apart
with teeth, her bare hands, you don’t know
how without tools or armor they can scare
the hellfire out of you but you do know
what it takes, you’re dressed, belted, geared,
you won’t break one fingernail
out of fear.


The Wolf Issue: What Science Suggests; the Players, and Our Role

Norman A. Bishop

I will briefly sample a few recent studies, many of which were enabled by wolf restoration, that may inform the issue of wolf management in the greater Yellowstone area. Then I’ll discuss the way the wolf issue is playing out in Montana, and how we can get involved.
     It may be useful to put three issues in perspective before we move on to the science that compels a fresh look at our relationship to wolves: livestock depredation, human safety, and effects on big game hunting.
     About 2.6 million cattle, including calves, live in Montana. Seventy-four killed by wolves in 2011 out of 2.6 million is less than 0.003 percent. Western Montana, where most wolves live, has fewer cattle than the east side of the state. As of 2009, there were 494,100 cattle there. Seventy-four of these animals were killed by wolves, or less than 0.015 percent of the western Montana cattle population. Similar percentages apply to sheep. There were approximately 33,000 sheep, including lambs, in western Montana in 2009. Wolves were documented to have killed 11 of these animals, or 0.03 percent, in 2011. In that same year, 64 wolves were killed in response, plus 166 were taken in the 2011 hunt, leaving 653 at year’s end (Mallonee, 2011). This is not to say that the loss of a teenager’s 4-H calf or a small operator’s animals are not devastating; just that the industry is not at risk. Keefover (2012) compares Montana cattle losses reported to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA, 2011) versus those verified by USDI Fish and Wildlife Service (USDI, 2011). NASS, 1,293; FWS, 87; a difference of 1486%. From 1987 to 2010, Defenders of Wildlife provided a wolf compensation program to reimburse ranchers for livestock lost to wolves. In 23 years, they invested more than $1.4 million in an effort to build trust and promote tolerance within the livestock community. The state is compensating now, using federal funds. Meanwhile, federal agencies spend at least $123 million a year to keep U.S. public lands open to livestock grazing, and Wildlife Services spends $126.5 million annually to kill wolves and other animals on behalf of agriculture.
     Another bogus issue is the danger that wolves pose to humans. During a four-year period last decade, livestock killed 108 people in four states, and this does not include people killed by vehicle and cattle interactions (CDC, 2009). During this same time period, wild wolves in the lower 48 states killed no one. In the last 80 years, two fatalities—one in Sas-katchewan and one in Alaska—may have been wolf-caused.
     As of 2012, the Montana elk population statewide was doing well, with numbers at an all-time high of 112,000. The state management objective calls for 90,000, so they are about 22,000 elk over objective.
     Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks researchers and several scientists from Montana State University have contributed to our knowledge of large predator effects on the Gallatin elk herd. Hamlin and Cunningham (2009) concluded:

Even where intensive data has been collected, there has been scientific and public debate concerning the impacts of wolf restoration on ungulate populations. Disagreement generally does not occur about the fact of declines in numbers of some ungulate populations, but disagreement about cause(s) or proportional shares of cause continues to exist.

And: “Nowhere are data adequate to ‘scientifically’ assign cause(s) for any declines that may occur.”
     There is no doubt that wolves eat elk, and that their predation lowers the numbers of elk on the landscape, besides affecting their behavior. But how does that affect hunting? In his masters thesis, The Impact of wolves on Elk Hunting in Montana, MSU graduate student Steven Hazen (2012) wrote,

Since wolves primarily prey on big game, Montana’s hunting industry will likely be impacted in various ways. Overall, wolves decrease hunter applications by 19.9% of the standard deviation in the southwest and 2.9% of the standard deviation in the west central region. This corresponds to 286 fewer applications in the southwest, but only 6 fewer in west central Montana … [U]sing the current data available wolves are not having a significant effect on elk harvest in Montana. On the other hand, they are shifting demand in the southwest region from areas in close proximity to the border of YNP to areas farther away.

     Now, what about hunting and trapping wolves along the borders of Yellowstone National Park, which contains the only unexploited wolf population in the region? You might say that the loss of fifteen wolves from the Yellowstone National Park population of 88 (now about 71–78) is not significant. But you would be failing to consider a number of important factors. Hardly insignificant is the cost to science of losing seven radio-collared wolves whose collaring cost Yellowstone Park Foundation donors about $21,000. Those wolves were integral to the longest continuous studies of wolf population dynamics and wolf-elk relationships in the world, all in a uniquely complete suite of naturally present carnivores. Those studies are reported annually by the Yellowstone Wolf Project and published in many peer-reviewed journals. They are yielding a wealth of information essential to managing the national park to preserve natural processes. Those studies also constitute a control or baseline of data to compare wolf/prey interactions between those of an unexploited population and those that are being hunted and trapped in surrounding states. No other area is large enough—Glacier and Grand Teton are too small to function that way. Are citizens of the tri-state greater Yellowstone area willing to sacrifice all that for a few hundred dollars in wolf license fees?
     Aldo Leopold (1944) recognized that Yellowstone National Park was not large enough by itself to conserve a wolf pop­ulation. In his review of Young and Goldman’s The Wolves of North America, he took the authors to task for asserting, “There still remain … some areas of considerable size in which … (wolves) may be allowed to continue their existence without molestation.” But then he asked, “Where are these areas? Probably every reasonable ecologist will agree that some of them should lie in the larger national parks and wilderness areas; for instance, the Yellowstone and its adjacent national forests.”
     Hunters plead for “scientific management” of wildlife in Montana. Yet, they choose to ignore peer-reviewed studies such as one from 2005; Vucetich and others wrote:

In the period following wolf reintroduction to YNP (1995–2004), the northern Yellowstone elk herd declined from ~17,000 to ~8,000 elk (8.1% yr). The extent to which wolf predation contributed to this decline is not obvious because the influence of other factors (human harvest and lower than average annual rainfall) on elk dynamics has not been quantified. According to the best model, which accounts for harvest rate and climate, the elk population would have been expected to decline by 7.9% per year … (C)limate and harvest rate are justified explanations for most of the observed elk decline.

     More recently, Arthur Middleton (2012) conducted research on elk and wolves in the Sunlight Basin area of Wyoming. He concluded that a reduction of elk forage quality in summer due to rising temperatures, combined with higher grizzly predation pressure (41% of calves killed by grizzlies) is responsible for a reduction in migratory elk herds in this area. There has been an astounding eight degree rise in July temperature in Yellowstone in the past few decades.
     Now, about that elk calf predation. In an ongoing University of Montana-MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks study, Mark Hebblewhite and Kelly Proffitt tagged 66 elk calves in spring 2011 in the southern Bitterroot. They found that, in the following six months, of the 49 that died or lost their tags, 22 were killed by cougars, 11 by black bears, and two by wolves. The fate of the others were undetermined. In 2012, 50 staff and volunteers collared another 76 elk calves. Of the 55 known-fate calves, 35 are alive and 20 are dead. Similar to summer 2011, lion predation continues to be the predominant source of calf mortality. Of the 20 documented mortalities, mortality sources include lion predation (6), black bear predation (4), wolf predation (1), unknown predator (3), natural non-predation causes (2), and unknown causes (4).
     Perhaps we should think about the effects of wolf resto­ration on something other than elk. In 2009, Prugh et al. wrote in BioScience that

Apex predators have experienced catastrophic declines throughout the world as a result of human persecution and habitat loss. These collapses in top predator [wolf] populations are commonly associated with dramatic increases in the abundance of smaller predators [coyotes, foxes, skunks, raccoons]. (T)his trophic interaction has been recorded across a range of communities and ecosystems. Mesopredator outbreaks often lead to declining prey populations, sometimes destabilizing communities and driving local extinctions…. mesopredator outbreaks are causing high ecological, economic, and social costs around the world.

     Eisenberg (2012) looked at three different densities of wolves (high, medium, and low) in elk winter range. She found elk numbers high in the three areas, regardless of wolf population level. She also found that wolves had a strong behavioral effect on elk, making them more wary. Elk avoided aspen stands that had burned. She found a trophic cascade relationship, in that aspen stands that had burned, which were being used significantly less by elk, due to predation risk factors, showed a strong release in herbivory and recruitment of aspen trees into the canopy. In her book The Wolf’s Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity, Eisenberg found that keystone predators in ecosystems worldwide have been identified as increasing biodiversity, making ecosystems more resilient to climate change and to the stresses on wildlife caused by a growing human popu­lation. Eisenberg et al. (2013) provide a critical review of trophic cascades involving wolves, elk, and aspen throughout the northern Rockies. While wolf effects varied from study to study, Eisenberg et al. concluded that the scientific evidence indicates that aspen management strategies should incorporate what we are learning about wolf-elk-aspen food webs. Wolves can have powerful effects in food webs. These effects have been linked to aspen recruitment. Therefore, applying the precautionary principle to create healthier, more resilient aspen forests suggests conserving apex predators.
     And how does all this affect birds? In a 2001 study, Joel Berger et al. demonstrated “a cascade of ecological events that were triggered by the local extinction of grizzly bears … and wolves from the southern greater Yellowstone eco­system.” In about 75 years, moose in Grand Teton National Park erupted to five times the population outside, changed willow structure and density, and eliminated neotropical birds: Gray Catbirds and MacGillivray’s Warblers.
     In Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, the average number of ravens observed per carcass pre-wolf restoration was four. Dan Stahler (2000) reported 135 on one wolf-killed carcass. Eagles averaged one per four carcasses pre-wolf. Stahler saw 12 eagles and 65 ravens on one wolf kill.
     Mark Hebblewhite and Doug Smith (2010) listed species they observed on 221 ungulate prey carcasses between 1995 and 2000 that were killed by wolves. In Banff National Park, they tallied 20 species: most common were ravens (present at 96% of all kills), coyote (51%), black-billed magpie (19%), pine marten (14%), wolverine (8%), and bald eagles (8%); others, in descending order, were gray jay, golden eagle, long- and short-tailed weasel and least weasel, mink, lynx, cougar, grizzly bear, boreal and mountain chickadee, Clark’s nutcracker, masked shrew, and great gray owl. In Yellowstone, they noted twelve scavengers, of which five visit virtually every kill: coyotes, ravens, magpies, and golden and bald eagles. More species of beetles use carcasses than all vertebrates put together. Sikes (1994) found 23,365 beetles of 445 species in two field seasons at wolf-killed carcasses. No predator feeds as many other creatures as wolves do.
     Lisa Baril of MSU (2011) tells us that

After nearly a century of height suppression, willows (Salix<em. spp.) in the northern range of Yellowstone are increasing in height growth as a possible consequence of wolf (Canis lupus) restoration, climate change, or other factors … (T)he recent release of this rare but important habitat type could have significant impli­cations for associated songbirds that are exhibiting declines in the region. Bird richness increased along a gradient from lowest in suppressed to highest in previously tall willows, but abundance and diversity were similar between released and previously tall willows. Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) and Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) were found in all three growth conditions; however, Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia), Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus), Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii), and Song Sparrow (Melo­spiza melodii) were present in released and previously tall willows only. Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla) was found … to specialize on tall, dense willows.

     Some people ask, “Does Montana have too many wolves?” In 1884, Montana set a bounty on wolves; in the next three years, 10,261 wolves were bountied (Lopez, 1978). That’s 16 times Montana’s 2011 population of 653 wolves. Bergstrom et al. (2009) question that having gray wolves over 2% of their former range in the conterminous United States, and at a tiny fraction of their former number constitutes recovery. They wonder at the wisdom of reducing them just a decade or two after they have been back on the land. The large historic population size of about 380,000 gray wolves implied by genetic data provides a striking contrast to restoration goals in the western conterminous United States (Leonard et al., 2005).
      Is wolf hunting necessary? Cariappa et al. (2011) analyzed data collected at 32 sites across North America using linear and nonlinear regression and found that the evidence supported wolf population regulation by density-dependence as much as limitation by prey availability. The data suggested that wolf populations are self-regulated rather than limited by prey biomass by at least a 3:1 margin. They wrote: “In establishing goals for sustainable wolf population levels, managers of wolf reintroductions and species recovery efforts should account for the possibility that some regulatory mechanism plays an important role in wolf population dynamics.” What if we simply allowed wolves to regulate their own numbers, as they have in Yellowstone, going from 174 wolves in 2003 to about 80 in 2012?
     And, can hunting be overdone? Scott Creel and Jay Rotella (2010) wrote,

Following the growth and geographic expansion of wolf (Canis lupus) populations reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995–1996, Rocky Mountain wolves were removed from the endangered species list in May 2009. Idaho and Montana immediately established hunting seasons with quotas equaling 20% of the regional wolf population. Combining hunting with predator control, 37.1% of Montana and Idaho wolves were killed in the year of delisting. Hunting and predator control are well-established methods to broaden societal acceptance of large carnivores, but it is unprecedented for a species to move so rapidly from protection under the Endangered Species Act to heavy direct harvest, and it is important to use all available data to assess the likely consequences of these changes in policy. For wolves, it is widely argued that human offtake has little effect on total mortality rates, so that a harvest of 28–50% per year can be sustained. Using previously published data from 21 North American wolf populations, we related total annual mortality and population growth to annual human offtake. Contrary to current conventional wisdom, there was a strong association between human offtake and total mortality rates across North American wolf populations. Human offtake was associated with a strongly additive or super-additive increase in total mortality. Population growth declined as human offtake increased, even at low rates of offtake. Finally, wolf populations declined with harvests substantially lower than the thresholds identified in current state and federal policies. These results should help to inform management of Rocky Mountain wolves.

     Stahler et al. (2012), using 14 years of data from a long-term study of wolves in Yellowstone, noted, “At the population level, litter size and survival decreased with increasing wolf population size and canine distemper outbreaks.” In the annual report (2011) of the Yellowstone Wolf Project, we read: “Intraspecific mortality was again the leading cause (of wolf deaths).” Flatly put, when wolf populations rise, wolves kill each other.
     Other consequences of killing wolves include the effects on the social dynamics resulting from the loss of key pack members: if an alpha female is killed, that pack is unlikely to reproduce that year. If a pack’s only big male is killed, that may result in diminishing the pack’s food base, because big males are key to killing prey located and chased down by other pack members (Smith, personal communication).
     Rutledge et al. (2010) wrote,

Legal and illegal killing of animals near park borders can significantly increase the threat of extirpation for populations living within ecological reserves, especially for wide-ranging large carnivores that regularly travel into unprotected areas.


Our results indicate that even in a relatively large protected area, human harvesting outside park boundaries can affect evolutionarily important social patterns within protected areas.

     The loss of these social patterns negates the value of Yellowstone as a control or baseline against which other areas, where wolf hunting is allowed, can be compared.
     Should we control wolves? Biologist Bob Hayes offers some thoughts about controlling wolves in his 2010 book Wolves of the Yukon:

I spent eighteen years studying the effects of lethal wolf control on prey populations. The science clearly shows killing wolves is biologically wrong … As I began to better understand the wolf, I developed a clear answer to my question about the effectiveness and moral validity of lethal wolf control programs.

     A decade after his retirement in 2000, Hayes wrote, “I can now say the benefits of broad scale killing of wolves are far from worth it—not to moose, caribou, Dall’s sheep or people. It should never happen again.”
     We should also consider the services that wolves provide, that can avert epidemics of wildlife diseases. Bruce L. Smith, in his 2012 book Where Elk Roam, warns us of the danger of concentrating elk on feed grounds, because of two serious diseases: brucellosis and chronic wasting disease (CWD). Noting that Wisconsin has spent $27 million depopulating its whitetail deer to curb CWD (and no CWD has been detected where wolves live), he traces the inexorable march of CWD across Wyoming. “Recent modeling suggests wolf predation may suppress CWD emergence in deer.”
     Wolves and other large carnivores are essential to the health of the ecosystems on which our game animals and we depend. Wolves have been shown to be capable of reducing or eliminating the spread of brucellosis and chronic wasting disease (Hobbs, 2006; Wild et al., 2011), in part by reducing density and group sizes of elk and deer. Wild et al. concluded, “We suggest that as CWD distribution and wolf range overlap in the future, wolf predation may suppress disease emergence or limit prevalence.” Cross et al. (2010) wrote,

(T)he data suggest that enhanced elk-to-elk transmission in free-ranging populations may be occurring due to larger winter elk aggregations. Elk populations inside and outside of the GYE that traditionally did not maintain brucellosis may now be at risk due to recent population increases.

     We risk losing wolves’ essential ecosystem services by continually inventing new ways to reduce their numbers to a socially-acceptable minimum. The goal of wolf management might better be to establish ecologically effective populations of wolves (Lee et al., 2012) wherever the absence of conflicts with livestock make that feasible.
     It may be timely to consider the ethical ramifications of our relationship with wolves and other large predators. Aldo Leopold was a 1909 Yale School of Forestry graduate; he was the father of wildlife management in America. Leopold thought of ecosystems, including all their inhabitants and processes, as “The land.” In 1949 he wrote, “We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” He also wrote,

If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

     Jeremy Bruskotter and two other authors (2011) offer a way to rescue wolves from politics, by adopting wildlife as a public trust resource. They write,

In the absence of Endangered Species Act protection, wolf management reverts to states. Will states honor the substantial public investment made in wolf restoration or seek to dramatically reduce or even eliminate wolf populations, as opponents of delisting claim? ­The answer may depend on how states interpret a legal doctrine with roots dating back to ancient Roman and English common law (11). This doctrine, sometimes referred to as the “wildlife trust doctrine,” holds that wildlife, having no owners, are res communes, belonging “in common to all of the citizens” (12), and states have a sovereign trust obligation to manage wildlife resources for the benefit of their citizens (13). The wild­life trust doctrine is a branch of the broader “public trust doctrine,” which traces its legal roots in the United States back to the mid–19th century.

     Gibson (2013) writes,

By the 1990s, the northern Rockies had become a redoubt for America’s far-right wing extremist groups: paramilitary culture advocates who saw themselves as armed warriors facing federal tyranny, ranchers angry that they did not own the lands they leased from the federal government to graze cows, hunters who saw the region’s deer and elk as their private property, and those who hated all forms of environmental regulation. These groups created a common mythology, both resurrecting old forms of wolf demonization—wolves as evil, related to the devil—and inventing new ones: wolves as foreign invaders from Canada, wolves as icons of the federal government, wolves as disease-ridden with deadly tape worms, wolves as “killing machines” that would wipe out the region’s livestock, and in time, hunt people for food and sport.

     In his 1970 book The Wolf, L. David Mech wrote,

These people cannot be changed. If the wolf is to survive, the wolf haters must be outnumbered. They must be outshouted, outfinanced, and outvoted. Their narrow and biased attitude must be outweighed by an attitude based on an understanding of natural processes. Finally, their hate must be outdone by a love for the whole of nature, for the unspoiled wilderness, and for the wolf as a beautiful, interesting, and integral part of both.

     Meantime, legislators in Montana are demonstrating total ignorance of the public trust doctrine, wildlife ecology, conservation ethics, or anything related thereto. House Bill 27 would legalize silencers for wolf hunting. HB 31 would allow 12-year-olds and up to hold five wolf licenses, allow recorded sounds and calls, and would have set a wolf population cap of 250. HB 73 would amend Sec. 87-304 to read:

(7) In an area immediately adjacent to a national park, the commission may not:
     (a) prohibit the hunting or trapping of wolves; or close the area to wolf hunting or trapping unless a wolf harvest quota established by the commission for that area has been met.

     In other words, some legislators want to micromanage wolf hunting in total abrogation of fair chase standards; just kill wolves as efficiently as technologically possible. What’s next? Helicopter gunships, drones, nightvision goggles and infra-red scopes?
     Finally, why do state game departments hammer wolves, mountain lions, bears, and coyotes? Demand from their constituents: hunters who see predators as competitors, and ranchers. Hunters’ license fees pay the bills, and ranchers control private lands on which much hunting takes place, so they must be placated.
     We could spend months in a university class examining all these issues in detail, or you could simply read, for starters, Cristina Eisenberg’s The Wolf’s Tooth (Island Press, 2010). I also recommend reading the Yellowstone Wolf Pro­ject’s annual reports and the Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery 2010 Interagency Annual Reports. For updates on the wolf issue, go to the website of the Wolf Recovery Foundation, and see The Wildlife News. For an international view, visit the International Wolf Center’s website. You can also take a wildlife tour or trek in Yellowstone with wolf scientists Dr. Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston by contacting The Wild Side, or subscribe to daily reports on the Yellowstone wolves. If you want to support the Yellowstone Wolf Project, consider contributing through the Yellowstone Park Foundation. Defenders of Wildlife and WildEarth Guardians are both invaluable resources for all of us who are committed to conservation.


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Thinking Like a Mountain

Aldo Leopold

A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world.
     Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.
     Those unable to decipher the hidden meaning know nevertheless that it is there, for it is felt in all wolf country, and distinguishes that country from all other land. It tingles in the spine of all who hear wolves by night, or who scan their tracks by day. Even without sight or sound of wolf, it is implicit in a hundred small events: the midnight whinny of a pack horse, the rattle of rolling rocks, the bound of a fleeing deer, the way shadows lie under the spruces. Only the ineducable tyro can fail to sense the presence or absence of wolves, or the fact that mountains have a secret opinion about them.
     My own conviction on this score dates from the day I saw a wolf die. We were eating lunch on a high rimrock, at the foot of which a turbulent river elbowed its way. We saw what we thought was a doe fording the torrent, her breast awash in white water. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error: it was a wolf. A half-dozen others, evidently grown pups, sprang from the willows and all joined in a welcoming melee of wagging tails and playful maulings. What was literally a pile of wolves writhed and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rimrock.
     In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks.
     We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.
     Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.
     I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades.
     So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.
     We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.



Christine Hume

No one knows all the motives for howling. We know howling is social, keeping the pack intact. We know wolves answer each other, echolocating over vast tracks. Howling attracts a scattered pack or a mate. Howling is long distance contact: a stroke for or against—a caress, a shove. Because all sound is vibration, we know the howl is a form of touch that overcomes distance. The air consolidates cravings as it trembles on your skin. Howl hurtles out of sublime vistas, out of fairy tales, out of the dark, out of your nowhere. Follow your thought or follow an animal path, a sonic thread out into the open. We know one howl can travel 140 miles. To hear it is to feel yourself heard by the wolf. A howl encircles, it saturates and demarcates. We know and we don’t know: howl shapes the world.
     A howl is language without words. It gives voice to alkali reaches, magnetic and sensuous. But howl also makes listening a priority. When wolves howl, they induce responsibility in its literal sense of responsiveness, receptivity; and its ethical sense of answerability. It is a call.
     Most of us will hear a wolf rather than glimpse one. Listening involves an experience different from seeing—more porous, less complete. Hearing a howl, we are taken in and taken away, filled with animal otherness and mesmerized by it (sight keeps things at a distance and in perspective). Howl converts our plasma to primal intoxication with the living; our bodies were made with its spectral incantation. Howl runs through us threatening dissolution; it passes through us and we recognize it. Howl calls us out.
     But the reverse is also true. We know wolves respond to human imitations of howls more than they do to stranger-wolf howls. We know that hunters howl in unison with wolves and wait for the animals to come to them.
     What is set off in a howl and what is set off toward us?
     Rather than a single, pure tone, a wolf chorus modulates and wavers. Listen. Rapid shifts in tone and pitch surround you. First one, then another, then a third joins in, a stippled suggestion of latent territories overlapping. Oscillating between ritual and improvisation, the chorus comes at multiple velocities, it careens off trees and rocks, it resonates in valleys, it scatters and reconstitutes in harmonics. You hear the howls echo and radiate, slipping into orchestrated intensity—the pulse of shadows rolling fast over hills at dusk express themselves in the precise rhythm of a chorus howl. One wolf channels multiple voices. Galaxies churn out trillions of stars. Your body teems with intensities, too. As one wolf becomes many, a chorus of three might sound more like thirty. This perceptual magic, called the Beau Geste Effect, introduces uncertainty enough to scare off rivals. In the 1924 adventure novel of the same name, Beau Geste of the French Foreign Legion successfully defends a desert fort by propping up the bodies of his dead comrades at the battlements, thereby conveying the illusion of indomitability to his attackers. In French, the phrase beau geste suggests a fine but futile gesture.


Hell Is for Senators

Derrick Jensen

Before you can commit any mass atrocity, you must convince yourself and others that what you are doing is not in fact atrocious, but instead beneficial. You must have what Robert Jay Lifton called a “claim to virtue.” Thus the Nazis weren’t committing genocide and mass murder against Jews and others, but instead were “purifying the Aryan Race.” Whites in the United States haven’t committed genocide and mass murder and land theft against the indigenous, but instead have manifested their destiny. Members of the dominant culture aren’t murdering the planet, but are developing natural resources.
     This culture wages war against wolves. It creates claims to virtue, declares wolves an enemy, declares humans the victims of wolves as it drives wolves from their homes, tortures them, kills them, wipes out families, wipes out entire populations.
And feels good about doing so.
     But we need to not lose sight of the general in the face of the horrors of this particular. This culture wages war not only against wolves, but against nature. It wages or has waged war against seals, great auks, passenger pigeons, whales, bison, coyotes, prairie dogs, cod, mussels, heart pine, white pine, insects, prairies, forests, rivers, oceans, indigenous cultures, women, children, and on and on and on.
     But we need also to not lose sight of the particular in the face of the horrors of the general. Right now this wolf is pulling desperately with broken leg and torn skin against the jaws of a leghold trap. And right now this wolf is being machine-gunned from a helicopter. And right now every muscle in this wolf is spasming continuously from strychnine poisoning, her backbone arched, her brain seizing, and seizing again, and seizing again. And right now this four-week-old pup is being pulled from his den, then held crying so that when his parents come to help they can be killed, after which he, too, will be shot in the head.
     I want to tell three stories about this culture’s hatred of wolves.
     As soon as members of this culture arrived in North America, they started slaughtering wolves (and polar bears, and cod, and whales, and indigenous humans, and on and on). The humans who already lived here noticed the pattern, and gathered a meeting to try to understand why the whites hated wolves so much, and why the whites were so hell-bent on killing them all. They discussed this for days, and finally came up with their best answer: the whites are completely insane.
     The second story happened in the early 1990s, when I lived in eastern Washington, just across the border from North Idaho. Jim McClure, a Senator from Idaho, was pushing hard to reintroduce wolves to that state. It was clear something was rotten in the state of Idaho, since Jim McClure was one of the most evil people who ever stalked the halls of Congress (which is obviously saying a lot). One of the proudest moments of the early days of my activist life was when at a public meeting I promised him that one day I would see him in the docket for crimes against the natural world (proud as I was, this accomplished nothing except getting security called on me: he died a couple of years ago, never having been arrested, much less charged for the harm he caused to the planet).
     Why would McClure do something seemingly good? And why would all the corporate newspapers support this reintroduction, when they routinely opposed even the most benign measures which might help wild nature? A few environmentalists signed on as well, calling this a “huge victory for nature” and a “win-win situation.” Of course any time an environmentalist a) allies with someone like McClure; and b) calls anything that emerges from that alliance a “victory for nature” and “win-win,” you know there’s something wrong with that environmentalist. But things got even more suspicious. Although I was a part of the regional activist community, I’d never heard of any of these so-called environmentalists.
     I made a few phone calls to people who love wolves. The scheme became clear. Wolves had already made their way back into Idaho and western Montana on their own. These wolves would be fully protected under the Endangered Species Act. This would be wonderful for the natural world, but not so good for the logging, mining, and grazing industries, which would now have to at least nominally take wolves into account when they wanted to log, mine, or graze on public lands. If wolves were reintroduced, however, the entire population, including those wolves who were already there, would be declared “experimental and non-essential.” This would mean that clearcutting, mining, and grazing could continue more or less as usual. As one activist said to me after the reintroduction, “Right now I could take you to clearcuts and mines and grazing allotments that would never have happened if it weren’t for McClure and those phony environmentalists.”
     It’s a safe bet also that current wolf slaughters in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming would not be happening if it weren’t for the reintroduction.
     McClure is now long dead, but the Republican Senator from Hell continues to massacre wolves from the grave.
     The third story is of a recent massacre of wolves in Washington, preceded by the lies and ridiculous claims to virtue that so often precede atrocities. I first became aware of this when an AP story entitled “Wash. State simmers over gray wolves” was sent out and published by scores of papers across the country. The article stated that the McIrvin father and son ranchers at the Diamond M Ranch in Washington suffered a “grueling summer of losses.” The son declared, “We just can’t operate with the kind of losses we’re seeing.” They claimed to have lost twelve cattle “killed or injured” by wolves, although we also learned that outside experts don’t believe their number.
     Of course when corporate newspapers or ranchers mention wolves, you can presume they’re lying. When corporate newspapers or ranchers say ranchers are being victimized by wolves, you can presume they’re laying the groundwork for a mass killing.
     It took me only five minutes to discover a few of the article’s lies.
     First, there was no financial loss. Washington State pays ranchers for cattle killed by wolves: ranchers get compensated twice market value for every confirmed wolf kill, and market value for every probable wolf kill. So the McIrvins would actually have profited from this. But McIrvin hates the real world, and specifically hates wolves. He had ada­mantly refused to accept this money, stating the only compensation that ever interests him is dead wolves.
     And what did the article mean by “killed or injured”? It ends up, not much. Some of the injuries were minor enough that they could have been caused by barbed wire.
     The article stated the McIrvin family runs cattle on public and private land, but failed to mention that members of this particular herd all graze on public lands. It also failed to mention that grazing on federal lands is subsidized by the American public, as grazing fees are a fraction of what they are on private lands.
     But here’s the real whopper: the article was supposed to make us feel sorry for the McIrvins’ financial losses, which were so “grueling” as to make it so they “can’t operate.” But two minutes of research revealed this to be nonsense. While the local herd is 300 head, a 2003 Cascade Horseman article revealed that in total the McIrvins run more than 5000 cattle: “Annually, they calve 2,500 cows and lease out another 700 to 800 head.” Unless they’ve contracted dramatically in a decade, at most their losses (for which they’d be compensated if they didn’t hate wolves) would have been 0.2 percent: completely trivial. Any business that can’t survive 0.2 percent losses doesn’t deserve to continue.
But as we all know, truth in these situations doesn’t matter. What matters is hatred, and hatred fulfilled. In this case, a sniper for Washington State Fish and Wildlife murdered the pack.
     Another day in Western Civilization.
     Although nothing came of my promise so many years ago to Jim McClure, Senator from Hell, I still think I was on to something. This culture hates wolves. This culture hates the natural world. This culture is murdering the natural world. This culture is murdering wolves. The murderers won’t generally stop because they have epiphanies. McClure didn’t push wolf reintroduction because he suddenly gained a soul or stopped being a sociopath. He pushed it because it was an avenue for his hatred, a hatred that finds manifestations all through this society. Likewise the state murder of the wolves to serve McIrvin did not sate his hatred of wolves, and he continues to advocate for their murder wherever they are found. He continues to make his ridiculous claims to virtue, and the corporate press continues to broadcast them.
     When I was younger, I was foolish enough to believe that somehow McClure would be put into a docket. He obviously wasn’t. McIrvin won’t be either. But that doesn’t mean people like them can never be stopped, nor that they can never be held accountable.
     Neither those who hate wolves nor those who hate nature will ever stop until they are stopped. The state won’t do it. The culture at large won’t do it. It is up to those of us who care about the living planet to stop them.


Who Speaks for Wolf

Paula Underwood

This Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) tale, though thousands of years old, was passed from an Erie elder to an Oneida healer named Tsilikomah around 1800. She in turn handed it on to her grandson, as did he to his own son. This man, Perry Leonard Underwood, taught the story to his daughter Paula, who gave it written form.
     Our People grew in number so that where we were
          was no longer enough
     Many young men
          were sent out from among us
                         to seek a new place
                                   where the People might be who-they-were
     They searched
          and they returned
                         each with a place selected
                         each determined his place was best
     That the People had a decision to make:
          which of the many was most appropriate
     There was one among the People
          to whom Wolf was brother
     He was so much Wolf’s brother
          that he would sing their song to them
                         and they would answer him
     He was so much Wolf’s brother
          that their young
                         would sometimes follow him through the forest
                         and it seemed they meant to learn from him
     That the People gave That One a special name
     They called him WOLF’S BROTHER
          and if any sought to learn about Wolf
          if any were curious
                         or wanted to learn to sing Wolf’s song
                                        they would sit beside him
                                                       and describe their curiosity
                                                            hoping for a reply
     The People sought a new place in the forest
     They listened closely to each of the young men
          as they spoke of hills and trees
                         of clearings and running water
                         of deer and squirrel and berries
     They listened to hear which place
          might be drier in rain
          more protected in winter
          and where our Three Sisters
                         Corn, Beans, and Squash
                                        might find a place to their liking
     They listened
          and they chose
     Before they chose
          they listened to each young man
     Before they chose
          they listened to each among them
                         he who understood the flow of waters
                         she who understood Long House construction
                         he who understood the storms of winter
                         she who understood Three Sisters
          to each of these they listened
                         until they reached agreement
                         and the Eldest among them
                                        finally rose and said:
                                                       ‘‘SO BE IT—
                                                                      FOR SO IT IS’’
     Someone cautioned—
          “Where is Wolf’s Brother?
                    WHO, THEN, SPEAKS FOR WOLF?”
          and their mind was firm
          and the first people were sent
                         to choose a site for the first Long House
                         to clear a space for our Three Sisters
                         to mold the land so that water
                                        would run away from our dwelling
                                                       so that all would be secure within
     He asked about the New Place
          and said at once that we must choose another
          “You have chosen the Center Place
                         for a great community of Wolf”
     But we answered him
          that many had already gone
          and that it could not wisely be changed
          and that surely Wolf could make way for us
                         as we sometimes make way for Wolf
     But Wolf’s Brother counseled—
          “I think that you will find
                         that it is too small a place for both
                         and that it will require more work
                                        than change would presently require”
          and would not reconsider
     When the New Place was ready
          all the People rose up as one
                         and took those things they found of value
                         and looked at last upon their new home
     This New Place
          had cool summers and winter protection
          and fast-moving streams
          and forests around us
                         filled with deer and squirrel
          there was room even for our Three Beloved Sisters
     and did not see
          wolf watching from the shadows!
     They began to see—
          for someone would bring deer or squirrel
                         and hang him from a tree
                         and go for something to contain the meat
                         but would return
                                        to find nothing hanging from the tree
                                                       AND WOLF BEYOND
     This seemed to us an appropriate exchange—
          some food for a place to live
     It soon became apparent that it was more than this—
          for Wolf would sometimes walk between the dwellings
                         that we had fashioned for ourselves
                                        and the women grew concerned
                                                       for the safety of the little ones
     Thinking of this
          they devised for awhile an agreement with Wolf
                         whereby the women would gather together
                                        at the edge of our village
                                        and put out food for Wolf and his brothers
     That this meant too much food
          and also Wolf grew bolder
                         coming in to look for food
                                        so that it was worse than before
     Hearing the wailing of the women
          the men devised a system
                         whereby some among them
                                        were always alert to drive off Wolf
     They soon discovered
          that this required so much energy
                         that there was little left for winter preparations
          and the Long Cold began to look longer and colder
                         with each passing day
     The men counseled together
          to choose a different course
     That neither providing Wolf with food
          nor driving him off
                         gave the People a life that was pleasing
     That Wolf and the People
          could not live comfortably together
                         in such a small space
     That it was possible
          to hunt down this Wolf People
                         until they were no more
     That this would require much energy over many years
     That such a task would change the People:
          they would become Wolf Killers
     A People who took life only to sustain their own
          would become a People who took life
                         rather than move a little
     One of the Eldest of the People
          spoke what was in every mind:
          “It would seem
                         that Wolf’s Brother’s vision
                                        was sharper than our own
     To live here indeed requires more work now
          than change would have made necessary”
     of a people who decided to move
          that from this
                         THE PEOPLE LEARNED A GREAT LESSON
                         IT IS A LESSON
                                             we have never forgotten
     At the end of their Council
          one of the Eldest rose again and said:
                         “Let us learn from this
                                        so that not again
                                                  need the People build only to move
                         Let us not again think we will gain energy
                                        only to lose more than we gain
                         We have learned to choose a place
                                        where winter storms are less
                                                  rather than rebuild
                         We have learned to choose a place
                                        where water does not stand
                                                  rather than sustain sickness
     That the People devised among themselves
          a way of asking each other questions
                         whenever a decision was to be made
                                        on a New Place or a New Way
     We sought to perceive the flow of energy
          through each new possibility
                         and how much was enough
                         and how much was too much
     Someone would rise
          and ask the old, old question
                         to remind us of things
                                   we do not yet see clearly enough to remember
          WHO SPEAKS FOR WOLF?’’