It was fear and intolerance that drove wolves to extinction in the Southwest and most of the lower 48 last century. As recently as this summer, it led to the illegal killing of three more of the Southwest’s 42 endangered Mexican gray wolves. That’s why ignoring facts and playing politics with wolf recovery is no laughing matter.
Wolves are predators. To survive they eat other animals. Sometimes that includes livestock. Still, the facts are clear. Wolves aren’t a serious threat to the ranching industry, the continued existence of other native wildlife, or to humans. But facts don’t always get in the way of heated emotions like fear.
That’s why a wolf was killed by frightened hunters in Montana a few weeks ago. The story had the anti-wolf blogs all atwitter.
“God saved us this time, but those wolves are still out there. I won’t go in these woods without a sidearm ever again. These wolves were not afraid of us at all. They are killers”¦I am very pissed off. I lost all my hard-earned elk meat to a pack of damn wolves. I feel fortunate and blessed by God to have gotten out of there with my life, my friend’s life and horses’ lives.”
The wolves didn’t hurt or threaten anyone. They just showed up. The hunters on the other hand did kill one of the them. Federal agents are investigating the incident.
Wolves have the tools to kill animals much larger than themselves, but since the turn of the last century (1900) only two deaths have been attributed to healthy wild wolves on the entire North American continent. We, on the other hand, have not been nearly as benign.
If you’re ever lucky enough to see a Mexican wolf in the wild first-hand, our advice is “Grab your camera. Quickly”. They don’t want much to do with you. That’s what a wildlife photographer did in an encounter detailed on the Wildlife News:
“Nothing I have ever experienced comes close to how wild and beautiful these wolves were as they ran past so close that I felt that I could reach out and touch them. I might add that while we were both carrying bear spray, neither one of us felt compelled to even so much as loosen our holsters”¦Because Neither One of Us Ever Felt Threatened.”
The events leading up to both encounters were similar, but the end result was very different.
Emboldened by growing anti-government sentiment and a new crop of anti-wildlife politicians, conservationists are bracing for a wave of attacks on protections for wildlife including the Endangered Species Act itself. We’ve been here before, and we won because people like you didn’t back down. It’s important as ever that you speak up for wildlife, and our Lobo Activist Toolkit offers a range of opportunities to do so.
To some, an encounter with endangered wild wolves is a blessing and opportunity to appreciate the natural world. To others, it’s a moment of primal fear and an opportunity to kill. The dichotomy clearly illustrates the need for education about the issue.
For more information, see Oregon Wild’s web-page separating fact from fiction on the wolf issue.
This article was adapted for Lobos of the Southwest from an article written by Oregon Wild.