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Man vs Wolf - Is that Really How it Should Be?

November 20th, 2013

Man vs Wolf - Is that Really How it Should Be?

Question…. do you consider yourself pro-wolf or pro-people - or do you think it is possible to be both?

I find myself feeling pressured to choose one or the other, as if caring for one excludes the possibility of caring for the other. We should be pro-people first and always - however, I do not think this means we cannot care about, and allow for the existence of wolves.

There are many reasons wolves should be allowed to roam in the wild, there are many examples of ranchers co-existing with wolves, and the argument that wolves are killing all elk, moose, and other ungulates is pure myth.

Predators are a part of our ecological system, and have been since the beginning of time. While many would have us exist in a world without natural predators, what they ignore is that would lead to an unhealthy and unnaturally acting ecosystem. If we allow elk, deer, moose, and other ungulates to enjoy unimpeded population growth there are negative affects… unchecked over-grazing of grasses, brush, and trees would leave us with barren landscapes and eventual starvation of those same creatures. Coyotes are constantly complained about as a pest and scavenger, their populations are such they are hunted by man so freely as to not need a hunting license – wolves are a natural enemy of coyotes and will help to contain their population. Wolves force ungulates to retreat into the forest more often for protection, allowing Cougars to hunt them in their natural habitat, rather than forcing the cat down into human populated areas searching for food – ensuring less interaction between humans and Cougars – something we can all agree is best for the cat and us. Below is a link to an excellent blog on the many ways wolves and wildlife of all kinds affect our landscape.

Man has traditionally believed the best way to ranch is to eliminate his competition… This doesn’t always mean beating out your neighboring rancher (historically this may have been but that is a subject for another day). It does mean eradicating anything that threatens his livestock; coyotes, cougars, bears, and of course Wolves. In the beginning of taming the West, it is unlikely alternatives were at all considered, new settlers were dealing with so many challenges it is doubtful they had time to consider the long-term negatives, or benefits, of wolf eradication in their newly acquired home. Today, we are better educated and now know there are ways to deter wolves from being attracted to cattle…. Below are links to how this can be done, including a ranch practicing these methods.

And lest we forget, hunters who claim wolves are killing all the elk, moose, deer, etc. This is nothing but hype and myth shared and encouraged for various reasons…. I was raised in northern Idaho where hunting is a large part of the culture, I have hunted and filled tags for both elk and deer. I was taught to hunt, not just getting in a truck and driving gravel roads, but to get out, gear up, and hike for miles through trees and brush, always being aware of your surroundings and tracking sign of your intended target. Sadly this does not seem to be the norm today… today I cannot go for a drive on a back road during hunting season without passing someone in their truck, orange gear on the dashboard, doing the slow “looking for something to shoot at’ crawl down the road – and I will see someone every 5 minutes, sometimes there are two or three together. Elk and deer are smart – they know when they are being shot at and they know to associate it with vehicles – they leave the roads and go farther into the forest, it is a natural instinct to protect themselves from harm.

There are those who hunt in the Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, WY. These tend to be the loudest objectors to wolves, claiming elk populations in Yellowstone and Tetons are decimated, and yet, we continue to need annual hunting in a national park because of over-population. I have had a personal experience with these hunters…. A truck of hunters parked after us on a pullout from the main road, we had been set up set up and waiting for around 30mins, they told us we were going to spook the elk from them – seriously – their opinion was the national park elk were there for them to hunt, and we were interfering and needed to leave. Of every conversation I have had with someone about wolves destroying ungulate populations I have brought up the fact that hunts still continue in a national park due to over-population – not one person has been able to give me an answer – in fact it is the one question that seems to end the conversation completely.

Those are the most basic arguments for and against the wolves…. But none of them are why I have chosen to stand with the wolves. I have spent some time considering the question of wolves, and have bounced back and forth, and am sure my feelings and thoughts will continue to evolve over time. The one thing I strongly believe is this:

If a living creature exists, and Christians believe that God created all living creatures, then we, as humans and stewards of this earth, should not be so hell bent on destroying another living creature that was created for a purpose on this earth, by a Being with far more knowledge and understanding of nature than any one human alone will ever possess.... I believe that we need to approach this argument from a point of quiet strength and unconditional love - for the humans and the wolves. There is much more to this argument than one simple blog can possibly cover, and no doubt I shall be writing more in the future, but the one thing I am certain of is that anger, fear, and hatred, is not the arguments that should be used by either side. Those weapons intimidation is not how God meant us to live our lives on this earth.

Braking for Birds

October 21st, 2013

Braking for Birds

While driving back roads one day looking for wild mustangs my friend suddenly asked me, ‘Are you braking for the birds?!’

When I replied yes, I was, she shook her head and laughed at me….. Not an uncommon reaction, and the general attitude of the average automobile driver – ‘why would we brake for a bird? It is much faster than us on wings, and clearly it had to have seen us and had time to move out of our way!’

So here is the thing…. Yes they can see us, as can most any wild creature that dashes in front of our vehicle at the least opportune moment, usually requiring us to make split second decision what to do when presented with another living beings life in our hands and resting on our choice, a decision that could very well harm us as well as the wild creature (or creatures) in front of us.

But wild creatures do not have the ability to reason like you and I. They do not have automobiles, they do not know they are made out of several thousand pounds of material which will crush their rib cage and break their legs in a matter of seconds, sending them into a painful, hopefully quick but often slow, death. If they are female they will in moments be leaving their young motherless and defenseless, likely ensuring their death through starvation or by predator.

Birds almost always fly into our windshields, all they see is a reflection of the sky, to them a safe place to be, and they assume they can fly through our space and out the other side, just as they do in trees and other spaces that have tunnel like places they can fly through with no harm. Birds will also fly into our grills – I had a recent experience of renting a white truck with a black grill, and over a weekend had 3 birds crash into the grill and end their lives. It took me sometime to realize that the black against the white looked like a cave of some kind – needless to say I will never buy an auto with that kind of combination, I was pretty devastated to have caused the death of so many birds in such a short period of time.

When large wildlife such as a deer or moose charge in front of a vehicle there are a couple of factors in their reasoning…. Sometimes they think it is a game, we are a bigger entity and sometimes they see us as another animal to play with, or race against. In their world this game would result in one or both creatures suddenly changing direction and avoiding a collision. I have witnessed this firsthand from a Pronghorn charging in front of my car, as I slid to a stop, swerving into a (thankfully empty) opposite lane, missing him by inches, he landing on his butt in a last minute swerve to avoid me, and in that second of getting back up he looked at my car and contemplated charging in front of it again – enjoying the game of chase!

Fox, coyotes, raccoons, and other smaller creatures seen usually in dusk and night hours, most often seem confused by our headlights. I have watched them first turn to run away from the highway and oncoming vehicle, but then turn and sometimes zigzag before making a mad dash across the road in from of my automobile. Many wild creatures have eyes that see better in the dark hours, certainly better than you and I can see into the dark…. When light appears they are naturally drawn to it, however, it will also blind them to the surrounding dark areas, and leave them confused about the movement of our automobile causing them to make the usually fatal mistake of believing they can safely cross in front of us.

So I beg of you, the next time you see a wild creature, whether it be winged or four footed, please, give it a brake... Remember, they don’t know the things you and me know – their world is limited to the things they were created to understand. Always, always, be safe and consider your safety when making that split-second decision ; brake, turn, stop hard, stop slow, whatever it is you do, consider your own safety in all actions, as well as passengers you have with you, and whatever traffic you have around you – but give those wild creatures a fighting chance as well. From birds to squirrels to deer and moose, they were all created by God, and he created them in love, giving them to us to care for and be stewards of – let us be good stewards in all things given to us.