December 11, 2023

Give 'Em An Inch And They'll Take A Mile

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Greed and selfishness run rampant everywhere these days. Combine that with a society that believes lying, cheating and stealing are all very acceptable practices and what are we left with?

In the sometimes fantasy worlds where office dwellers live, they stare out the window envisioning the utopia of the lion laying beside the lamb. There’s probably a unicorn or two trotting around, while Gentle Ben, the massive grizzly cuddles up with mom in front of the log cabin’s fireplace and Bambi rules the forest. Time to get real.

Several years ago, many of these dreamers envisioned the lone and mysterious wolf once again dominating the landscape of the Rocky Mountains – the cry of the wild. So it was decided to bring in a species of wolf that was not indigenous to the area and see how it would go. Plans were made and goals were set. Was that a real problem?

Many thought so and even more knew that in time it would present an entire array of future problems. Welcome to the future. Here we are several years later and war has broken out. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Monday they plan to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act list and turn management over to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The move may be delayed in Wyoming because that state has yet to come up with a viable and suitable wolf management plan the Feds like.

This all sounds innocent enough but the opposing sides are bringing out bigger guns and the battle lines are being drawn. The posturing for position has the livestock growers, hunting groups and others using their facts and figures to show that the wolf is destroying everything in its path. On the other side you have preservationists, conservationists, animal rights groups and just plain old animal lovers, claiming that all of the information the other side is presenting is false. They provide their own biologists, list of talking points, rhetoric and data to show that the wolf is not harming anything and should be allowed to continue to populate all of the world.

This kind of bantering is expected and will go on probably forever. The debate will end up in court and the outcome really will depend on who the last judge or judges are that rule and where they stand on wolves’ rights, whatever that is.

Both sides use government statistics to support their positions. I think the wolf advocates have an advantage because typically the government will opt for the “politically correct” assessment on wolves. Governments incessantly state that the claims by hunting groups that the wolf is killing of game species is not supported by their data. The Government also says that livestock kills are not nearly as big as the livestock growers claim. The media prints this information without finding out all the facts and the public buys into it and it forms the basis for discussions at local coffee shops.

What isn’t being told is that the “official” data doesn’t really tell the truth. There is no way for either side in this debate to know what killed a calf elk for example. The same is often true with a sheep or a cow. Unless someone in a position of authority sees it happen, more times than not this is not listed as an official wolf kill. I’m sure someone can produce numbers that will show how many deaths of animals occur and how many are labeled official wolf kills and how many are not.

Often times when authorities show up to a kill scene, they will admit that they see evidence of wolves – i.e. tracks, scat, etc. but if there is no direct evidence proving the wolf killed the animal, the owner of the livestock is out of luck. The wolf, like a coyote, is a predator and they will eat whatever is available. They are not one of the kind of animals that will only eat what it kills. It will scavenge.

Defenders of Wildlife, one of the agencies that advocate for the wolf, reimburses ranchers for livestock loss but only for official wolf kills. Ask the ranchers how many animals they lose total and what percentage they get compensated for.

The same is true for wildlife killed by predators. Grizzly and black bears, along with the wolf and coyote will kill elk calves and deer calves as well as small or weakened adults. If hungry enough, they will kill any other animal they can. Wildlife biologists will “guess” as to what percentage of loss might be attributed to each predator species but they have no exact numbers on that, even though some would suggest they do.

It passes my mind at the moment who it was that made the statement that “statistic prove that statistics can prove anything”. This debate will rage on and both sides will continue to fling statistics they can get any so-called authority to claim to be fact and the bottom line will come down to whose statistics are proving what, what you want to believe and how it fits into your own personal beliefs.

The one key ingredient in this passioned debate is a very large fact that almost never makes it into the round table discussions. When it was decided that wolves would be released in these areas to prosper, federal wildlife biologists and just about every other Tom, Dick and Harry stated what would be the goals of considering the re-introduction a success. Success meaning a large enough and stable enough population of wolves so that the animal could be managed without realistic fears of it being eradicated again.

This information is readily available. The goal for Wyoming, Idaho and Montana regions, which include the Yellowstone National Park, was 300 wolves involved in at least 30 packs, which would include breeding pairs. At present, the estimated population of wolves in this same area is around 1,200 and at least 50 packs. I have read estimates much higher than this.

The question I have to ask is why is it that when the wolf was brought into this region 300 wolves and 30 packs was an acceptable goal? Many thought it wasn’t feasible and would never happen. Well, here we are in 2007 and the discussions have turned to an over population of wolves and those who fought to get the wolf here are saying 1,200 wolves aren’t enough. Why?

That answer is quite simple. It’s called greed and selfishness. The old cliche of “Give em an inch and they’ll take a mile”. It’s what turns people to not want to support these kinds of interests. There is nothing reasonable about their agendas. If hunters kept demanding more animals to hunt and kill without consideration of conserving for the future, soon the mass population of Americans would turn against hunting. Fortunately hunters don’t do that but almost never, do groups such as Defenders of Wildlife ever look to compromise or concede. For them some is ever enough.

Very few people want to completely kill off all the wolves. Most want them controlled better. Most sensible people, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, know there are now too many wolves. They are having too great a negative effect on livestock growers as well as the balance of wildlife. It’s time to act and do something about it.

I believe the vast majority of Americans believe that there is good enough science available to make sure that any species will not be allowed to go extinct if there is any way humanly possible. It’s time for the wolf lovers and animal rights groups to back off. They need to lose some of the greed and selfish attitudes and allow to take place what is necessary to control and maintain a population of wolves that is beneficial to everyone and everything.

Tom Remington