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Why the states have wolf management wrong

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In this Powell Tribune post, Wolf hunt ends with 24 taken, written by Gib Mathers, the big, glaring error in state wolf management is revealed.

The states, eager for revenue (gotten through the selling of hunting and trapping licenses), have gotten basic principles of wolf 'management' all wrong.

With wolves, 'management' is not as simple as removing individual bucks from a breeding population of deer - Wolves live in FAMILIES. Everything they do revolves around the well-being of their families - Including teaching their pups (who stay 'children', to be taught and protected, for three years), just as we teach our own children.

Wolves pass down learned information (for instance, to stay away from livestock) to their family, to their impressionable pups, in essence passing down a unique 'culture' of conduct and survival tools specific to each pack.

That includes respect for Man and his livestock.

Break the chain of knowledge by decimating family continuity, and you actually create problems where there hadn't been any before.

Through hunting and trapping seasons, we rob wolves of their hard-won, hard-learned family-knowledge of how to co-exist with us.

Wolves LEARN. We don't have to kill them. In truth, documented livestock depredation by wolves is exceedingly rare - Way behind other, routine, causes of livestock mortality such as weather and poor husbandry, for instance. Ranchers are compensated monetarily for even suspected kills by wolves, so ranchers are by no means financially harmed if a rare instance of a wolf killing livestock actually does occur.

The other lame argument is that wolves are jeopardizing herds of game (which human hunters wish to kill for fun.) Wolves will not eliminate all the game, either. If man has created enough challenges for wilderness systems that herd numbers actually do decline too much (as opposed to herd behavior changing to become more elusive targets), then the correct answer is to reduce the number of permits granted to sport hunters, for a season or two, or even three - Not to kill vital native species who have no choice but to hunt to live.

The best way to revitalize and rejuvenate a herd is to allow it to be under the management of their natural, original custodians - The wild predators, like wolves, who do not target the big, healthy and showy, with the biggest racks or heaviest pelt, in an effort to show off trophies and shore-up their fragile egos.

Wolves just want to eat. They catch what they can - the weak, the young, the old, the lame, the sick, the scrawny.

Leaving the biggest, healthiest, prettiest and best to spawn the next healthy, vital, resilient, magnificent generation.

And the carcasses they nibble on for the next few days or weeks, also feed a mind-boggling array of other creatures, from crows to beetles to foxes, and fertilize the forests and keep steams clean and fresh, and salmon populations thriving, and . . .Well, you can see how everything in nature travels in lock-step with everything else.

Human hunters don't give much of anything back to the forest - A steaming gut-pile, perhaps. But humans do take. We take and take and leave the forest impoverished for our presence, unlike wolves, who enrich the wilderness and increase biological diversity - And beauty.

Even if wolves did pose a legitimate occasional threat, we don't need to resort to the kind of wholesale slaughter we're now indulging in (which is the main justification for these severe hunts - hunts which don't afford wolves even the most basic humane considerations granted to species such as deer), including the hunting and massacre of innocent puppies still in the den, pregnant mothers, and utterly harmless (to humans and human endeavors) wolves; animals who are completely innocent and way out in the wilderness - even in protected wild lands and national parks and refuges, where wildlife is supposed to be able to exist without human interference.

Why send a lynch mob out into a national refuge to exterminate a naturally-occurring wild carnivore who, by all rights, needs to be there, fulfilling his age-old role?

Wolves are smart - We can teach them, using non-lethal means, to respect and avoid us, and our livestock.

But that doesn't mean we will never SEE them. Just because you see a wolf doesn't mean you, or your livestock, are even on her mind. She travels. She patrols. He explores. He hunts. He warns off rival wolves and coyotes - He has other things on his mind than harming you or your stuff.

Things like, making sure the kids are safe, or that 'Auntie', left in charge of the babies, is due a break.

You see, again, it's all about family.

Wolf pups and pack members also need the option to safely disperse - Just like your son gets to date girls, move out, learn to manage his own household and find someone to fall in love with and raise his own family with - and your cousin, who finds a good job in another city, can now vacate your spare bedroom (where he's been staying until he can get back on his feet) and move out, giving you back your space.

You all stay in touch with everyone through email and voice mail. (In the case of wolves, through scent marking and howling.) But if no one could ever move out of the family home, the family itself would wither,

Wolves need enough room and prey, enough of their own estate, to establish their own households, where they and their children can thrive, without bumping elbows with other wolves.

Is it all a 'numbers game'? Well, think about it this way: Your third child deserves to live, grow and some day move out and find her own digs, not get shot because you're at your family quota of two adults and 2 children.

Right?

For all these things, wolves need safe corridors bridging their family homes with other lands, other safe, wild habitats, and other wolf neighborhoods, in which to travel, to explore, test their mettle in their own territories, and find that special, genetically-unrelated someone to go through life with in a loving, mutually-supportive marriage.

That, by the way, is not a romanticized, anthropomorphic statement.

Wolves mate for life. They bond with each other, they are affectionate with each other, they protect each other and cooperate with each other. They LOVE each other, just as we love our own spouses. parents, and children.

They show altruism and tenderness, protectiveness and cooperation, just like human families.

They grieve - For weeks - when a pack member is lost.

In many ways, wolf families put human families to shame.

Is that why the very existence of wolves is seen as so threatening by some people?

'Manage' (shoot/trap) wolves 'by the numbers' and you cause disintegration of their most important social support systems, leaving grieving relatives and dependent babies behind; we (often intentionally) widow wolf parents and leave them to try to keep their families alive without help - As for single moms everywhere, it is very hard trying to raise your kids without both parents around.

That's when many resort to less-than-ideal methods, out of desperation to survive and feed the family.

That's when confused and frightened orphans, ill-equipped to survive without the protection and guidance of their wiser elders, can turn into the equivalent of street-gangs or vandals.

They need their families - Just as human children do - to become proper citizens.

Ethical wildlife management isn't just 'by the numbers'. It can't be. Would you would want your own family arbitrarily 'thinned' (lethally) by an outside party, based on nothing but a heartless quota system?

With all their unique qualities, wolves can not be treated like other 'game' animals. Top-tier predators, whose numbers are naturally regulated by the availability and vigor of their prey, don't need redundant management by humans. Wolves, in fact, should NOT be game animals, at all. They are not pests; They are not vermin or infestations.

They are essential and precious keystone/apex species who belong in, evolved with, and invigorate our living wilderness landscape just by being a part of it.

Wolves are, in truth, the original, supreme game and ecosystem managers of the wilderness

State wildlife management should not be about running a feedlot for the benefit of hunters, or ensuring safe and secure cattle-grazing on public lands for privately-owned livestock.

National parks and public lands are to be intact, unmarred oasis's of authentic wilderness, lovingly protected and guarded against meddling or exploitation, for perpetuity.

Wolves and other species keeping a toehold in their rightful places in suitable areas need to be granted the right to BE and exist, as nature intended. Having shaped our herds, our biodiversity, the forests, plains and deserts, rivers and tundras, in the first place, for millenia, it should be obvious that wolves don't just belong - They are needed.

Humans are not owners of the planet - We are fellow citizens in a tapestry of interdependent and interconnected Nations, all working in harmony to keep our precious Earth vital and alive.

But humans seem to be on a giant ego-trip, and we're tipping the balance of everything out of whack, to where the very survival of our planet might be at stake.

It's time for wildlife officials, and wildlife management science, to rise to the demands of integrated, holistic ecosystem management, (not 'game ranch management', not public lands ranching, not pandering to special interests), using our increased understanding of the emotional and psychological needs of the beings we've decided to preside over, to guide us - to create fully biologically diverse, functional and dynamic ecosystems that are allowed to thrive without human meddling.

One final thought: Nature does not NEED us. In fact, we all might benefit from adopting a 'hands-off' management style for our wild and open places. Case in point: The wolves and ecosystems that have rebounded - breathtakingly - after the old Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Here, in that abandoned kingdom, wolves, herds, even endangered species, coexist in a humbling harmony and splendor, with no people attempting to micro-manage things.

Take this message to heart - Nature can function just fine without us. All we have to do is leave her alone, and ALLOW.

Watch RadioActive wolves, here.

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