Sunday, December 06, 2009

Loving the Monster

The geniuses in New Mexico have been reintroducing the Mexican Gray Wolf to certain areas along the New Mexico/Arizona border. And now they are surprised that things have gone a little astray.

So I hardly know where to begin here. How about this: humans have spent quite literally thousands of years trying to rid the world of the things that kill us. In Europe, wolves were the predator that did the job of killing humans best. You don't get to be the star of essentially all of a culture's fairy tales if you aren't the thing of nightmares. They are, quite literally, monsters.

From the LA Times article:

Environmentalists argue that grazing practices are part of the problem and the wolf reintroduction program has failed because of mismanagement by the federal government.

Here's why the program has failed: they're wolves. They eat stuff that we don't want them to, like cows and small human beings. Ranchers are going out of business because, surprising to no one but "Bud Fazio, coordinator of the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program", wolves are really good at killing cows. What?! Millions of years of selective pressure optimizing large predators made wolves good at what? Killing what? Yes, killing cows, you idiot.

Fazio says:

"One thing about wolves is they bring out extreme emotions..."

Yes... fearing for one's livelihood tends to do that. I am pretty sympathetic to the idea of protecting endangered species. I'm soft-hearted about it, and I hate the idea that we kill entire species for non-critical activities. But I consider ranching pretty critical.

I want to protect wildlife, but we can't be stupid about this... wolves are enormously dangerous and we can't pretend they are not.


shadowfax said...

Here's why the program has failed: they're wolves.

I don't agree with you, but this did make me laugh out loud.

I think the human response to the presence of wolves is way over-blown due to the fact that they are the monsters of legend. The reality in some cases fails to stack up with the legend, but people are driven by their deep beliefs, and wolves=monsters is a firmly held conviction, most especially among ranchers.

I know nothing about the NM experience (didn't even click the link, to be honest), but the Montana/WA/ID experience is one of minimal predatory impact and absolute over-the-top rancher hysteria.

Truth is that cows are big and wolves will tackle the occasional calf but (again, in our neck of the Rockies) only infrequently will they go after a full-grown steer. Badgers and raccoons are their preferred quarry.

And don't even get me started on Bobcats...

Matt Dick said...

I think the human response to the presence of wolves is way over-blown due to the fact that they are the monsters of legend.

Unfortunately I could not find reference on line to a point they made in the radio on WGN. The comment is actually more what fueled this post. Apparently wolves in small towns on the borders of the reintroduction areas are waiting outside schools and following groups of children home. So unless WGN is making up stories, this is a pretty big deal.

Also, if you do click through tot he article, the stats are more interesting than just hysteria:

Four ranches have gone out of business since the wolf reintroduction began and another four are expected to do the same before next summer, Wehrheim said.


He gave the example of a third-generation ranch that harvested about 200 calves annually before going out of business earlier this year. The operation was capable of bringing in more than $1 million in tax and other revenues to the county.

I'm sure it's emotion-driven, too, but there are real hazards associated with these wolves in this area.

The JD said...

While I don't disagree that wolves are dangerous, I think that the reintroduction program has grossly misjudged the little amount of land, shelter, and food that exists for wolves these days.

It's easy to think, "Oh we have deer problems." "Well, the wolves are gone." "That must be it, lets bring the wolves back, they'll eat the deer."

When in reality, hunting small children at the nearby local town is much easier. Not to mention the tiny baby calves that are being mass produced to feed the ever growing populations.

I'm all for (100%) reconstituting species (regardless of most danger, as I do not support a human elitist attitude). However, I am also for doing it in a WELL thought out fashion.

Now, having stated my feelings on wildlife reintroduction, I am certain to be eaten by a coyote (all that we have around here) some day. I'll go stoically, however. I know they just have limited land, and a subsequent limit to prey, left.