“I’m not a killer. I’m really not. I’d just had enough.”
January 21, 2015 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Wolflandia: The Fight Over the Most Polarizing Animal in the West
Twenty years after wolves were reintroduced in the Northern Rockies, many politicians would still love to see them eradicated, and hunters and ranchers are allowed to kill them by the hundreds. But the animals are not only surviving—they're thriving, and expanding their range at a steady clip. For the people who live on the wild edges of wolf country, their presence can be magical and maddening at once.

Previously: Wolves at the Door
posted by andoatnp (29 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
High Noon for the Gray Wolf
posted by gwint at 6:33 PM on January 21, 2015


Here in New England, coyotes have made a comeback! Large, shaggy coyotes that pack hunt Doberman Pinschers for sport five miles outside a large mill city. Coyotes. Sure.

Evolution in action, kids.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:37 PM on January 21, 2015


It's cougars in the midwest. People generally seem to be a little surprised to find out that they're squatting in the home of large predators that just stepped out for a bit.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:42 PM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


We live in what used to be rural Texas. We've become a bedroom commuter city, with McMansions popping up on what used to be grazing, hunting, and crop land. Our new neighbors built a chicken coop and put two dozen chicken in, without putting up a fence. We told them that the coyotes would eat the chickens. Sure enough, the chickens lasted less than 3 days. Those same neighbors are trying to get the coyotes exterminated. I'm working with a land trust to see if we can find them a safe place.
posted by dejah420 at 6:48 PM on January 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


And there are coywolves in Rock Creek Park in DC.

I have yet to see a mountain lion here in California, which is weird considering how common they are in the Peninsula suburb where I work. As long as it's on the far side of the parking lot and I see it before it sees me...
posted by rtha at 6:51 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm working with a land trust to see if we can find them a safe place.

The neighbors?
posted by nicwolff at 6:53 PM on January 21, 2015 [24 favorites]


Those same neighbors are trying to get the coyotes exterminated. I'm working with a land trust to see if we can find them a safe place.

Tell them to try Houston.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:56 PM on January 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


Also previously. Film here.
posted by maggieb at 7:10 PM on January 21, 2015


Ah, Northern American Rockies. I had a serious bit of cognitive dissonance there where wolves went extinct in BC and then were re-introduced all without me noticing.
posted by Mitheral at 7:20 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


People are shooting the wolves here as fast as they can, but the pack is still increasing faster than they are being killed.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:26 PM on January 21, 2015


I live in Montana, and there are some really cool and innovative programs here to protect wildlife and avoid human-wolf and human-bear conflicts. I saw a talk last year by Dr. Seth Wilson, who coordinates the Blackfoot Challenge's wildlife program in the Blackfoot Valley near where I live. They do anonymous livestock carcass pickup [pdf] to avoid attracting wildlife with boneyards, which has been very popular. They also identified wolf and bear hotspots on the landscape using GIS analysis, boneyard and calving ground maps, and rancher reports, and put up electric fencing and special bear dumpsters in those key locations. I wish there was better material on the web about their work because it's been really successful and it's quite interesting. Human-grizzly conflicts have decreased more than 90% in the Blackfoot Valley since they started, even while bear populations stay constant and there had been a positive trend in conflicts before, and they've had similar results with wolves.

But the most interesting thing is the way they've really involved the community of ranchers in the process. They employ range riders to look for wildlife and maintain human presence in grazing lands, they've built a network of 120 ranchers in the area to allow for early warning and hotspot mapping of wolf and bear sightings, and they've worked with ranchers very closely to make sure their values are represented too, focusing on areas of mutual agreement to maintain community buy-in.

This was the coolest part of his talk to me, though: they found that ranchers didn't want to take orders directly from government agencies like the Forest Service or the BLM because they didn't feel like they shared the same values, but they were happy working with those agencies to meet those very same federal regulations if there was an intermediate organization like Blackfoot Challenge involved. Jumping from a local scale to a national scale was too much, but once there was an intermediate regional-scale organization to administer things, they were much happier and more willing to contribute and join up because they felt more like they were working with like-minded people and had more control over the process. I feel like this has applications everywhere in American politics, not just in conservation, and I'd love to see more regional and local organizations try things like this to get people on board who might otherwise have resented and resisted their recommendations and regulations.

In any event, some ranchers do want to improve the situation without killing wolves, and we should hold those people up as great examples instead of only talking about ranchers who are part of the problem.
I still couldn't make it through that description of wolf hunting, though, had to skip ahead. Oof.
posted by dialetheia at 7:33 PM on January 21, 2015 [36 favorites]


Our new neighbors built a chicken coop and put two dozen chicken in, without putting up a fence.

Reading these words transformed me from a nerdy bookish non-hunting non-farming 30-year-old woman into a grizzled 55-year-old man in a cowboy hat for just long enough to begin chewing a toothpick and say derisively, "City people."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:33 PM on January 21, 2015 [38 favorites]


I live in NW North Dakota, one day's drive from the front range of the Rockies and about the same distance from the Minnesota woods. Last summer, while plowing up some land that had been previously underwater and then overgrown with tall weeds, my cousin flushed what he thought were a couple of coyotes. He thought something was wrong because they looked incredibly well-nourished, bigger than normal, and something seemed odd about their shoulders. At twilight, when he was ready to call it a day and drive back into town, he could hear them up on an old pasture, yipping and howling. He finally ran into a fish and wildlife guy a couple months later and he described the coyotes. The wildlife guy shook his head. "You do not have coyotes on your farm."

We've already got cougars in western ND and moose have moved into our part of the country. But wolves? I'm kinda hoping the increase in large fauna scares off some of the oilfield trash.
posted by Ber at 7:34 PM on January 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I hear coyotes giving tongue in the night. They sound like children laughing. I take comfort from this.
posted by SPrintF at 7:39 PM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


This happened a few weeks ago in Utah: Coyote hunter kills a wolf by mistake near Beaver

Must resist urge to make joke about killing the wolf to protect the beaver...
posted by jessssse at 7:45 PM on January 21, 2015


Having fought them in Tomb Raider, I'm ag'in 'em. As a property owner in Vermont plagued by deer, I'm all for them
posted by jwest at 8:06 PM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have yet to see a mountain lion here in California, which is weird considering how common they are in the Peninsula suburb where I work. As long as it's on the far side of the parking lot and I see it before it sees me...

There are roughly 10 mountain lions per 100 square miles in California.

San Mateo (as an example Peninsula suburb) is about 15 square miles, so it has about 1.5 mountain lions.
posted by sideshow at 8:24 PM on January 21, 2015


They're not exactly distributed equally!
posted by rtha at 8:47 PM on January 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


San Mateo (as an example Peninsula suburb) is about 15 square miles, so it has about 1.5 mountain lions.

Fewer than that, even, because there are zero on the eastern side of El Camino Real.
posted by purpleclover at 8:48 PM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, not since that one hanging around the elementary school in Palo Alto was shot about a decade ago. Poor thing.
posted by rtha at 9:33 PM on January 21, 2015


This was the coolest part of his talk to me, though: they found that ranchers didn't want to take orders directly from government agencies like the Forest Service or the BLM because they didn't feel like they shared the same values, but they were happy working with those agencies to meet those very same federal regulations if there was an intermediate organization like Blackfoot Challenge involved. Jumping from a local scale to a national scale was too much, but once there was an intermediate regional-scale organization to administer things, they were much happier and more willing to contribute and join up because they felt more like they were working with like-minded people and had more control over the process. I feel like this has applications everywhere in American politics, not just in conservation, and I'd love to see more regional and local organizations try things like this to get people on board who might otherwise have resented and resisted their recommendations and regulations.

I had a chance to tour a bunch of the water projects they had partnered on a few years back -- they are doing impressive work. Partly that is coming from having smart people engaged in interesting problems and working hard for decades, but there are also resources there that don't necessarily map onto similar issues in other places that don't have those resources. I don't know the history there enough to know which is the chicken and which is the egg, in terms of what is driving that work and the very real successes they have had.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:10 PM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Look it's either us or the wolves. They would eat us if given the chance, ergo nuke the whales.
posted by aydeejones at 4:46 AM on January 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Related - How Wolves Change Rivers.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:31 AM on January 22, 2015


The same admiration and anguish for wolves is seen in the classic Lobo, The King of Currumpaw, written when the last great wolf packs were being eliminated from the American West. (Warning: Sentimentality and grisly animal deaths.) Here's David Attenborough telling part of the story.

Wolves, I think, are too much like us: Smart, resourceful, able to work together, deadly predators.
posted by clawsoon at 7:34 AM on January 22, 2015


Wasn't there some body bank or something where you could donate your body to be eaten by wolves? Was that some crazy fever dream? If it's not true, let's make it true. There's so many dead people, if instead of filling them with chemicals, and enclosing them in airtight boxes, and taking up real estate; we threw offered them to the wolves, we could solve a few problems all at once.
posted by dejah420 at 7:58 AM on January 22, 2015


Yes, let's help the ever-increasing packs of dangerous wolves develop an actual taste for human flesh. This seems like a good idea.
posted by umberto at 9:04 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let me try and get this straight, some of the ranchers complaining about wolves killing a few head of cattle are 1) using BLM or National Wilderness Areas as grazing grounds, 2) are being compensated by various government agencies for each confirmed wolf kill, and 3) are griping over a predator that predates cattle in those areas by generations. If that doesn't sum up American entitlement in it's purest form, I don't know what does.
posted by hangingbyathread at 10:55 AM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Unlike coyotes, wolves aren't usually scavengers, so it's not likely that the flesh of the corpses left on body farms will be eaten by them.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:56 AM on January 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a wolf and coyote (and coywolf) advocate, I have to say that this is hands-down the best wolf article I've read in the last year or two. It's certainly the most expansive. They even mention fladry. Well done. It's rare to see a thorough article that critiques wildlife advocacy groups and ranchers alike and really delves into nuance rather than siding entirely with one or the other, which is too easy. The truth is complicated.

An excerpt from The Predator Paradox by John A. Shivik, pp. 29-30:

"Concluding that a wolf is either a bloodthirsty threat, or alternatively a beneficent spirit of the forest, is a dishonest dichotomy: red or white, both are unworthy of the complexity of the beast itself. Does denying the potential danger of a wolf deny the very form and presence of the wolf?

"Yes.

"Predators are designed to kill things. It is their job. The value of a wolf is its particular brand of wildness. Its value is precisely that it isn't, and shouldn't be expected to behave like, a human, a domestic dog, an angel, or a devil.

"There are few things as unsavory as observing a wolf face-deep in a feeding orgy of steaming blood and guts while a suffering victim watches itself be disemboweled. This is the kind of attack a wolf will do enthusiastically. The human reaction, when faced with such an unpleasant acceptance of fact—a cognitive dissonance—is to create myth and symbol that extends beyond observation. Our stories about wolves mollify our disturbing emotions.

"And emotion—indeed one in particular—is the root of the predator paradox. It is typically not one of the feelings worn on one's sleeve, like hatred or love. Those two feelings were expressed clearly in the different camps in Diane's audience. The actual underlying emotion that sustains the partisanship is rarely expressed or acknowledged, but it is the primary motivator for advocates and eradicators alike. It is the same emotion that Lynne Gilbert-Norton felt so vividly when a couple of bold coyotes cornered her. It is the whispered language between predator and prey. It is fear."
posted by quiet earth at 3:48 PM on January 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


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