It Really IS Politics!
Wolf Introduction in the Southwest
|It certainly isn't biology.
You're absolutely right, Kevin. The whole process of re-introducing wolves has been politics, not biology.
In the November 9, 1995 issue of The Bulletin, published in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Kevin Bixby, director of the Southwest Environmental Center, gave us "The Big Picture" about wolf re-introduction in the Southwest. In an article entitled "Wolf re-introduction: It's politics, not biology," he states that the killing of wolves earlier in this century was "a misguided attempt to make the world safe for livestock and deer." Now, "it's a safe bet most New Mexicans probably support" re-introduction.
Perhaps they do - since you really can "fool most of the people most of the time." A canceled State sponsored public opinion survey that "might" have shown support for wolves, "even in Catron County," wouldn't have made much difference anyway. When it was cancelled, a "privately financed" survey supposedly found that even Catron Country residents said they favor re-introducing the wolf to White Sands Missle Range. But, what were the questions? Any result desired can be produced in a survey, depending on what is asked, who is asked, where it is asked, ect. "Which would you prefer - to re-introduce wolves to Catron County ... or White Sands?" At White Sands? ... Chalk another one up in favor of wolf re-introduction!
But how could it be "Re-introduction?" There have reportedly never been wolves at White Sands Missile Range. And the Mexican Wolf cannot be "re-introduced" into Catron County or the Gila Wilderness, since it was never there, according to Fish and Wildlife biologists.
Edward A. Goldman, Senior Biologist, Fish and Wildlife Service, Dept. of the Interior, in The Wolves of North America (1944), reports that the northernmost range of the Mexican Wolf (Canis Lupus Baileyi) was Hatch, New Mexico.
The wolf found in the mountains of central western New Mexico was the Mogollon Mountain Wolf (Canis Lupus Mogollonensis), which was "decidedly larger" than baileyi. It is now extinct. (See the chart Distribution of subspecies).
Perhaps there weren't ANY wolves in the Gila until the cattle attracted them! When Lewis and Clark journeyed through central Idaho, the Indians were starving due to the lack of game, and no wolves were to be seen. Twenty years later, trappers reported buffalo and wolves in abundance. Wolves follow the game.
Of course, it's easy to live in the big city, with all the comforts and security of civilization, and think up nifty things to change out there in the boondocks. It just happens, however, that the people who live out there had something to say about it, and their concerns were heard by the Governor and the State. That's politics.
Politics is (should be) when government responds to the concerns of citizens. When people feel their livelihood and way of life, perhaps even the lives of their family and children, are threatened, shouldn't government listen to their concerns? Of course, only todays' socialists would believe that they should have more of a say in the lives of the residents of Catron County, or anywhere else, than the people who actually live there.
Of course, the folks in Catron County who opposed wolf re-introduction are (according to Bixby) just "a handful of federal government-bashing, wolf-hating ranchers" who don't deserve to be heard.
Bixby also blasted Jerry Marachini, director of the NM Department of Game and Fish, who said that the San Andres Mountains on White Sands Missile Range was a poor site for re-introduction because it would not provide a "test" of the effect of wolves on cattle or elk populations, after the state had recommended the San Andres years ago. "Even environmentalists think there are better places to put wolves in New Mexico." (How about Mesilla or Santa Fe? Perhaps we could re-introduce grizzly bears and jaguars to the Mesilla area while we're at it, since Bixby reported in The Bulletin, Nov. 23, 1995, that it is part of their historic range!)
The point is, it doesn't really matter where wolves are re-introduced in the Southwest. People will have to deal with them wherever they are. Environmentalists just seem to have a bad case of NIMBY (Not In MY Back Yard) ... they want them in YOUR backyard, when it comes to dangerous predators. Bixby's "safe bet" is mighty safe for him. Perhaps not so safe for those who would have to live with the wolf.
We don't need to "test" the effect of wolves on cattle and elk (and human) populations. Humans have known for thousands of years of their effect. The Indians of Canada are familiar with the wolf. Do they reverence it as part of Nature, and wish to "howl with the wolves" as environmentalists do?
"...Our government says don't kill the wolf, save him so you and your family can do without meat, so their friend, the wolf, can multiply and wipe out the moose. Then they can issue foodstamps and welfare checks .... Let's stop being damn fools in destroying what little we have .... get action on wolf control .... the moose will multiply again along with the caribou, beaver, etc. Conditions will improve for both Man and animals. I and hundreds of other Indians say control the wolf by any means possible." (Sydney Huntington, native Indian born on the Koyukuk River).
Perhaps the Russians could tell us of the wolf. "Wolves inflict enormous losses on various game animals and fowl, exterminating at least 60% of the natural annual increase of ungulates in the Caucasian Reserve. Great danger arises in connection with rabies infections among wolves; rabid wolves attack even men..." (G.A. Navikov, Carnivorous Mammals of the Fauna of the USSR, 1956).
Why study something nearly every People on Earth knows? Only government biologists and environmentalists feel the need to spend money on something so obvious. Wolves are predators, and like to EAT cattle and elk... and deer, dogs, and anything else tasty that happens to come across their path when they are really hungry, including men, women, and children. Especially little children.
But that's just a myth, isn't it, like "Little Red Riding Hood?"...According to Bixby, Governor Johnson met with ranchers in October, and they told him the same old "pseudo-science, half-truths and myths about wolves."
And what is the "truth" about wolves? U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists have their very own version of the truth. Apparently they don't like the true history of wolves, so in true Orwellian fashion, they just change the definitions. According to them, there has never been a "documented" wolf attack in North America... because they have changed the definitions of "documented" and "attack."
These criteria negate all historical records.
Let's look at some of the historical record of wolves, and decide for ourselves if wolves attack humans.
Around 1830, John James Audubon reported an attack by a pack of wolves on two men travelling through Kentucky in winter. They killed one man, while the other escaped up a tree. (Audubon, J.J. and Bachman, J.; The Quadrupeds of North America, 3 volumes, New York, 1851-1854)
The Saint Paul Daily Globe (March 8, 1888) reported that a pack of wolves surrounded a farmer and his son and literally ate them alive. The article stated that "Wolves are more numerous and dangerous now then ever before known in North Dakota."
In one year alone, during the 1980s, more than 100 deaths were attributed to wolves in India. (Associated Press, 1985)
The game director of Iran, Rashid Jarnsheed, a U.S. trained biologist, in Big Game Animals of Iran (Persia), states that for over a thousand years, wolves have been reported to attack and kill humans. They grow bold in wintertime, when game is scarce, and will enter a town in broad daylight to attack people, with many cases of wolves running off with small children.
"Wolves were a constant threat in France, killing livestock and humans unable to defend themselves: children, the aged, and the infirm. Government and private campaigns resulted in the killing of tens of thousands of wolves throughout the kingdom." (Pierre Roudil. "Fear of the Wolf," Historama (France) 1984 (8): 41-45).
"Until the end of the 19th century the place of wolves in French folklore and as an object of popular fear was justified by the considerable economic damage they caused and by their attacks on people, mostly children. The number of wolves grew in times of economic disorder and war and due to wolves entering France from elsewhere.
"Deforestation, democratization of hunting rights, better arms, and better-organized hunts led to near extermination of the wolf by the end of the 19th century." (Alain Molinier and Nicole Molinier-Meyer. "Environment and history: wolves and humans in France." Revue d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine (France) 1981 28 (Apr-June): 225-245).
The above quoted "democratization of hunting rights, better arms" explains why there are so few reported attacks in North America, and so many in Europe and Asia.
In North America, citizens enjoyed a tradition of the right to self-defense, weapons were cheap and available to all, and every man had the right to hunt for food and protection.
The situation was very different in other parts of the world. In Europe and Asia, peasants were subject to "gun control," and hunting in the forest was the prerogative of royalty. The peasants' hatred and fear of wolves was the product of their experience as a defenseless prey for centuries.
In The Yellowstone Nature Book (1924) Milton P. Skinner wrote, "Most of the stories we hear of the ferocity of these animals... come from Europe. There, they are dangerous because they do not fear man, since they are seldom hunted except by the lords of the manor. In America, the wolves are the same kind, but they have found to their bitter cost that practically every man and boy carries a rifle..."
Now, as government attempts to disarm its citizens, self-defense is looked down on, the forest once again belongs to "the King" (federal government), and predators are encouraged to multiply, (and even re-introduced), humans are once again becoming defenseless prey in North America.
In Wolf Attacks on Humans, T.R. Mader, of the Abundant Wildlife Society of North America, states "Today predator control is very restrictive in scope... attacks on humans by predators are becoming more common. In recent years, healthy young coyotes in Yellowstone Park have attacked humans. Similar attacks have occurred in the National Parks of Canada.
"On January 14, 1991, a healthy mountain lion attacked and killed an eighteen-year-old high school senior, Scott Lancaster, in Idaho Springs, Colorado. The boy was jogging... within the city limits of the town when the lion attacked and killed him."
In recent years mountain lions and bears have attacked and killed several people. They were "endangered" and protected... the people were not.
Wolves kept in close contact with humans, as pets or those in zoos, do not fear Man, and are well documented to attack and kill humans.
"Alyshia Berzyck, of Minnesota, was attacked and killed by a wolf on a chain on June 3, 1989... Peter Lemke, 5, lost 12 inches of his intestine and colon and suffered bites to his stomach, neck, legs, arms and back in another wolf attack in Kenyon, Minnesota.
"Zoos also carry abundant records of wolf attacks on children. The child climbs the enclosure fence to pet the "dog" and is attacked. (The Albuquerque Zoo commercial on KOB has a small child voice saying "I love the wolves, they look like my doggie"). (Wolf Attacks on Humans).
Having found that wolves do indeed attack and kill humans, let's look at some of the myths about them.
"...Conservation Officers often see cattle losses from wolves: their jobs entail dealing with predators... Al Lay, a Conservation Officer... has personally viewed about 500 wolf kills.
"...I asked him about the myths surrounding wolves. Namely, that wolves only attack the weak and diseased, they always make clean kills, and they only hunt if they're hungry.
"...Wolves disable their prey by attacking the hind quarters, so first they must get their victim to turn and run. Instinctively, moose and deer will face a wolf... Cattle... don't strike with their front feet and most are hornless, making them easier prey.
"To make a clean kill, a predator must launch a frontal attack... But out of the 500 wolf kills he's inspected, only one was attacked on the front quarters... 'I've seen week-old calves bitten on the hind-quarters and left when it would have been easy for them to make a clean kill. But it's not in their nature.'
"'Wolves need seven pounds of meat a day to maintain themselves... But they can eat up to 40 pounds of meat at one sitting...'" (Glenda Smith, "Just Prey Animals For Wolves," Multiple Land Use Review, Nov. 1995).
So why do we have people advocating that we let loose a dangerous predator once again in our forests, after we took the time and trouble, and taxpayer money, to rid ourselves of them?
In High Country News (Feb. 06, 1995), Jim Robbins, in an article entitled "Wolves may not need Big Brother," reported that two wolf biologists believed the federal re-introduction of wolves is a big mistake.
Diane Boyd, a biologist who has studied wolf migration for the past 15 years, is quoted as saying "They don't need to reintroduce wolves, the wolves are doing it themselves. There's wild wolves all around Yellowstone... Wolves disperse, and they breed like rabbits."
Robert Ream, a wildlife biologist, shares her view, "People pushing for reintroduction have so much invested, it's hard for them to back off."
The article states that "A wild wolf population is far preferable, Ream and Boyd say, to one created by humans."
When wolves naturally colonize an area, Boyd says, "There is a really strong selective process at work. Wolves that go to Yellowstone choose to go there. They ran the gauntlet to get there. They don't eat livestock; they avoid people. They stay out of sight. Those behaviors are really good to pass on."
But, once the federal government starts introducing wolves, according to Boyd, "there are no more natural wolves in Yellowstone." All wolves found in the area are intensively managed by the government, and "It becomes a political rather than a biological population. Once the government puts the wolves in, they have to manage them. Forever."
She also believes a natural population makes sense from a social perspective. "The wolves up north trickled in. The locals aren't wolf lovers, but they got used to it. Big Brother did not shove the wolves down their throat. That makes a huge difference. You need the support of the locals."
But according to Bixby... the locals are just a bunch of ignorant hicks, who shouldn't have been listened to: "So chalk one up for the cowboys and good old boys. Ten years of planning to restore an endangered predator to Southwestern ecosystems (perfect case, by the way, for not transferring all federal environmental responsibilities to the states)."
You missed the point, Kevin. Perhaps if New Mexico had the environmental responsibilities, it would not have wasted ten years of taxpayer dollars on planning for something that is not needed or wanted by its citizens. Perhaps we would have been listened to BEFORE we spent all that taxpayer money.
Aren't there enough REAL environmental problems and issues to deal with out there, without making up things to do?
As a geography major at New Mexico State University, doing research on desertification, I found Las Cruces shown as a prime example of bad planning - building sub-divisions in arroyos, where they block the natural drainage flow and are subject to flooding. Where has the Southwest Environmental Center been, while this environmental damage to riparian areas occurred? They were concerning themselves with an arroyo in Deming, that has water in it perhaps a few days a year, and wolves in Catron County.
Subdivisions are still being built in arroyos in Las Cruces. Why don't you concern yourself with those riparian areas? (Or are developers and government too rich and powerful?)
But that's different, you say. It's private land they are building on, not "public land" that is "our heritage." Well, do wolves released on "public land" know where the boundaries are? Don't they stray onto private land and kill livestock? And then what? Do the ranchers get compensated?
"In Mexican gray wolf stomach content surveys done in the Gila Mountain area of southwest New Mexico from 1918 to 1922 on more than 400 wolves, the following contents were found: beef-303 times; sheep-66 times; pork-52 times; horse-35 times; elk, deer, or antelope-17 times; rabbit-3 times; and mouse-once... wolves out in the wild will seek out what is easiest to kill... wolves overwhelmingly preferred beef over other available food types.
"...A fund set up by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture paid farmers $72,381.82 for livestock loss to wolves (maximum paid $400 per animal) from 1977-1980. In 1981, compensation was $37,000 and by June of that year, wolf attacks were in such great numbers that the compensation fund was totally exhausted and many farmers could not be compensated for their losses... A real major problem with compensation is those paying the compensation require proof of wolf kills." (Phil Harvey, Jr., "Wolf Reintroduction: Not in the Best Interest of New Mexicans," New Mexico Stockman, Oct. 1995).
We've already seen what kind of criteria U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists have for proof... they have to SEE the wolf attack livestock, or a human, before they will believe it. And a maximum of $400 per animal... can anyone buy good breeding stock or a good horse for $400 these days? More like thousands of dollars per animal.
Environmentalists are really brave, now that they have the full power of the federal government to back them up. They pick on the poorest, most powerless people in the state. Farmers and ranchers are isolated, unorganized, and living from day to day, as many of us who don't get free government and corporate grants do. The difference is that producers have to rely on the vagaries of nature, and the Hand of God, to make a living off the land.
And why are environmentalists picking only on producers -- such as ranchers, farmers, miners, and loggers these days? The Environmental Movement started because of pollution caused by government and big business -- corporations. The Federal government FORCED farmers to use pesticides. Has the government yet cleaned up it's toxic sites, such as the Hanford Nuclear Plant? And the corporations that contribute grants to environmentalists have moved much of their operations to other countries, where they continue to pollute the air and water. Mexican babies are being born with deformities in Juarez, Mexico, 50 miles south of here, as corporations have moved their plants south for cheap wages and lax environmental laws. Where is the environmentalist outrage over this murder of innocents? It should outrage us all.
So you see, Kevin, people who live off the land cannot afford to live by myths, half-truths, and pseudo-science, as some urban environites have the luxury of doing. They do not have the leisure time to fantasize about changing the world back to the "good old days" of a century ago. They have to deal with the Truth of Nature, the harsh realities of storm, drought, floods, and wild beasts.
Wolves were hunted for a reason. They not only killed livestock, but humans as well. We do not need any more predators in this world.
"Documents concerning the destruction of wolves in 18th century Franche-Comt indicate the considerable influence their presence had on rural life and the measures taken against them... Wolves were a source of danger to livestock and, particularly when rabid, to man. Rewards were offered for their destruction..." (Christian Duoas de la Boissony "A necessity for the security of the countryside: the destruction of wolves in Franche-Comt in the 18th century," Histoire, Economie et Socit. (France) 1991 10(1): 113-126).