Friday, August 9, 2013

Gray Wolf Hunting

Our recent visit to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center has brought the plight of the wolf to the forefront of my world. Wolves possess that elusive 'free and wild' quality that us Humans have always longed to possess. And if we can't possess it, we want to control it (look at all the exotic pets in households across the country). And hey if we can't control it, we fear it and kill it. And hence we've circled around to the wolf.

Wolves and humans have a long adversarial history. And although they almost never attack humans, wolves are considered one of the world's most fearsome natural villains. Hell it's a bedtime fable - Little Red Riding Hood - that we were all told when we were young.

Gray wolves are by far the most common and were once found all over the Northern Hemisphere. Now they live only in isolated pockets and have been hunted to near extinction. Their numbers have slightly rebounded in the lower 48 states due to conservation and reintroduction efforts. In Alaska, the Gray wolf population is much healthier and the Alaska Board of Game has even authorized reductions in the state's wolf population. However, their reductions efforts leave much to be desired. They are quite controversial (remember Senator Palin??), their methods include shooting wolves from low-flying aircrafts or chasing them from the air until the wolves are exhausted and may be more easily shot from the ground. Talk about cheating! :(

Source: Wikipedia Commons

But wolf hunting hits even closer to home. Gray wolves were removed from the Federal Threatened and Endangered Species List in 2012, ending a four decade ban on hunting and trapping. And for the last two years the once protected Gray wolf is now subject to hunts in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and wolf season is fast approaching. In Wisconsin wolf season runs from October 15 through February and in Minnesota wolf season runs from November 9 through January. And guess what else? Another state has jumped on board - new this season, hunters in Michigan will be allowed to harvest up to 43 wolves in seven counties. Ugh, this just makes me sick. People don't eat wolves, they only kill them for sport. Gee, and who are we to call any other species bloodthirsty? At least wolves only hunt for food, they don't kill for fun or sport.

The Department of Natural Resources assumed management of the wolf in these respective states and allows what they call a conservative and regulated harvest. Harvest is apparently the politically correct term for hunt. Gotta love politics. So Wisconsin's wolf harvest quota for 2013 is 275 (an increase over the 2012 quota of 201). Last I have seen Minnesota planned to release its harvest quota at the end of July but I have not yet been able to find it. What I find perplexing is that even though population numbers are down (in Minnesota) by 25 percent in the last 5 years, they are still planning a harvest. Gee, don't let the fact that we are pushing them even closer to extinction spoil your fun. Wisconsin is at least planning to release a new management plan by 2014 as there has been a lot of pressure from tribal leaders against the wolf harvests. In fact in Wisconsin, you aren't allowed to hunt wolves on any of the reservations' lands.

According to tribal history, the fate of the Ojibwe and the fate of the wolf are intertwined.
Ma'iingan means a brother and is a symbol of perseverance, of leadership, and of family dynamics.

Almost any discussion of the fates of wolves is accompanied by a critique of elk or livestock. If we could move past that age-old debate, how than do you get people to realize the wolf is a top predator that plays an important role of nature? The science shows the benefit wolves bring to ecosystems they inhabit and also shows us that the disappearance of apex predators around the world is causing ecosystems to collapse. But people replace science with emotion and refuse to accept any reasoning. Livestock owners can't get past the fear that wolves will destroy their livelihood. Hunters complain that wolves kill all the elk and deer and leave nothing for them. You'll hear the common phrase: Shoot, Shovel, and Shut-up, while they hand out free ammunition to anyone willing to do it too. *shudder*

Wherever there are wolves, there are people who propose killing programs and where kill programs are at least temporarily stopped by the endangered species act, there are always poachers who make up their own laws. The wolves never win, adversity is stacked against them at every turn.

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. ~Barbara Bloom

Let's not let the wolf become so damaged we can't piece them back together into something treasured and beautiful.

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