December 15, 2019

“Fishy” Wolves?

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The TRAVEL section of today’s Sunday newspaper’s feature article is about a recent tourist’s visit to Chernobyl.  This site of the 1986 explosion of a Soviet nuclear reactor encompasses a 1,000 square mile “Exclusion” Zone around the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine.

Three items concerning Canids in the article caught my eye.

1.    A photograph looking down at an angle from 20 to 30’ away of a canid walking toward the photographer on a snowy woodland trail showed what I took to be a +/- 60 lb. wolf at first glance.  The sharp protruding muzzle, the brownish-gray to light gray pelage, the long legs and the very alert attention forward were all offset by a bushy tail curled around 360 degrees much like a chow or Norwegian elkhound.  The caption read, “One of the estimated 300 stray dogs in Chernobyl that are descendants of pets left behind by the evacuees.”

2.    Mid-article contained the following paragraph:

“As we passed through various checkpoints and entered the Exclusion Zone, some students were nervous. Then they met a pack of Chernobyl puppies, mainly descendants of dogs left behind by evacuees, and their anxiousness about radioactivity subsided.  Many of the estimated 300 stray dogs are tagged and tracked by scientists.  At night, outside our hotel, packs of dogs yelped and howled.”

3.    The paragraph mentioned under #2 concluded with:

“About 2/3’s of the Exclusion Zone is a wildlife reserve, populated by increasing numbers of wolves, foxes, lynx, wild pigs, deer and moose.”

The article offers no clue as to whether the “Chernobyl” stray dogs were fenced off with a wolf-crossing proof fence from the “wildlife reserve, populated by increasing numbers of wolves” or if the dogs and wolves are separated merely by the dogs occupying the ghost town ruins of abandoned Soviet living areas and the wolves frequenting the long-uninhabited areas where “wild pigs, deer and moose” are “increasing”.

This question comes to mind as one wonders about just what is a wolf or a dog, not only In Chernobyl but, in the US and Europe where “increasing” wolf populations are coexisting with dogs in settled landscapes.  The answer to that question is not only arguable, it is something that should have been clearly defined before the European Union and United States government ever began spreading and protecting wolves through very strict laws and enforcement. 

European wolves are not only hybridizing with and being hybridized by dogs and “stray” (wolf/dog?) “dogs”: they are hybridizing with and being hybridized by golden jackals.  All three – wolves, dogs and jackals – interbreed and can produce viable, i.e. fertile offspring.

In the USA, wolves are hybridizing with and being hybridized by not only dogs but with coyotes as well.  Like their European cousins, all three – wolves, dogs and coyotes – interbreed and can produce viable, i.e. fertile offspring.

At what point does a “wolf” become a hybrid or a dog or a coyote or a jackal?  Unless this is established in a clearly definable and understandable (to those that read and are expected to comply with laws and regulations) way; how does a shepherd protecting his flock, or a rifleman hunting unprotected vermin, or a policeman shooting a “dog” threatening children in a park, know if he has killed a protected wolf, an unprotected predator like a coyote or a rogue dog?

There is an even more earth-shattering implication at work here.  If, as appears likely, Chernobyl “stray dogs” have significant wolf DNA, and the Chernobyl “increasing wolves” have significant dog DNA: does anyone ask the question of just what are we “saving” or “doing” making all this government fuss over wolves? 

1.    We spend millions forcing wolves on rural people that do not want them.

2.    We ignore the losses to shepherds and livestock producers.

3.    We deny the negative impacts to big game populations.

4.    We hide human attacks by wolves as much as possible.

5.    We ignore the losses of domestic dogs to wolves.

6.    We tolerate a cottage industry of wolf-apologetics’ “science” financed by government.

7.    We deny and ignore over 2,000 years of reports and writings about the dangers and destruction of wolves in settled landscapes that have caused generation after generation of humans, where possible, to take every possible means to periodically reduce or exterminate wolves at great expense and bother.

WHY are we protecting and spreading wolves?  We are told new and Draconian laws are necessary to be enforced at great expense and harm to rural people because:

A.   Wolves are a “Native Species” and “belong on the land”.

If this is so, is a hybrid (wolf/dog/jackal) a “Native Species”?  Were hybrids present 100, 1,000 or 10,000 years ago?  Is a hybrid making a living killing Irish Moose 5,000 years ago appropriate “on the land” in 2019?  What does this sacred (the correct word) hybrid look like, big/small, loner/pack animal, strong/crafty/fast/sly/rodent-eater/migrant/sedentary: Why does any Canid (wolf, dog, jackal, coyote or dingo) “belong on the land” other than at the sufferance and magnanimity of those living with them?

B.   Wolves complete or “balance” something called a “Native Ecosystem”.

If “wolves belong” somewhere to perform some valuable service: does a hybrid behave the same or “serve” the “ecosystem” in the same way?  Those Chernobyl “dogs” certainly behave differently than the “wolves” and one does not need an advanced degree in Ecology to grasp the fact that a country or Nation full of “wolves” would be a very different place (human safety-wise, livestock-wise, and economically) than one awash in “stray dogs”.  The desire for and the perception of settled human landscapes as “Native Ecosystem” petri dishes for Native Species is an imaginary human construct held as some sort of a religious (the correct word) construct by a hodgepodge of urban voters, environmental organizations and bureaucrats with an assortment of hidden agendas from fund raising to career enhancement and political incumbency.  The only thing they have in common is the fact that they, unlike rural residents forced to live with wolves, are unaffected by their self-serving weapon of choice, i.e. the villain in all those cautionary tales from Norse Mythology and Aesop’s Fables to Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Peter and the Wolf.

C.   Wolves are “Endangered”.

Wolves have been, and continue to be, ubiquitous throughout the Northern Hemisphere (i.e. the land mass from the North Pole to the Equator) as far back and beyond as any written records of man have been found.  Anyone claiming they are in short supply, much less on the precipice of extinctions is either a liar or ignorant.  In the 1970’s when the US and the UN experienced a wave of hysterical claims about the end of the world being just around the corner for species after species much like climate change claims as I write, there was an explosion of laws, regulations, Treaties and bureaucracy addressing, among other things, Endangered Species.  We were told that while certain species were decreasing in numbers, numbers alone were not to be the sole criterion for experts telling us which were to benefit from the full force of all the new laws and bureaucracy being formed to “save” (fill-in-the-blank).  Certain populations and segments of some Species would have to be listed because their rarity might presage their extinction and then their DNA (which may hold the cure for cancer or some other secret of the Universe) might then be lost forever to humankind.  All of which takes us back to Chernobyl and the question, “what is a wolf?”  Does 60% wolf DNA constitute a wolf?  Does 35% jackal DNA and 25% Dog DNA constitute a wolf?  Why does any of this matter if wolves are everywhere they ever were?  Why are “we” (i.e. government, radical organizations and “experts”) causing this chaos in rural precincts?

You know and I know who is doing this and why.  It must be undone the same way it was done and that is politically.  Just as wildlife authority and jurisdiction was elevated from US States to Washington and the UN halls of their HQ in New York and similar authority and jurisdiction was elevated from European Countries to EU HQ in Brussels and the UN; so must it be returned to rural governments and rural people under the protection of their own country.

It seems we have only three options to regain robust and people-friendly settled landscapes:

1.    Repeal existing laws and Treaties that establish these elevated and remote points of wildlife authority so easily controlled and manipulated by politically powerful interests for their own hidden agendas.

2.    Amend existing laws and Treaties that allow for vast bureaucracies to control, based on “science” they pay for, untethered government force over wildlife for their own agendas.

3.    Through Legislation or Referendum return the authority and jurisdiction over wildlife back to State (or Nation as in Europe) authorities who then make it optional for lesser State of National governments to delegate the optional authority and jurisdiction over wildlife into the hands of governmental sub-units (US Counties/European Nation States or such jurisdiction) to manage the fish and wildlife in their Local “ecosystem”.  A Locally-Elected official in each such sub-unit could submit an annual fish and wildlife management scheme to the Nation or State by a certain date based on the desires of the Local community to be enforced and managed by the State or Nation.  States or Nations simply maintain their law enforcers and specialists and the County or European State annual plan reflects the will of those residents living, voting and paying taxes in that locale.  If the residents simply want to leave it to the State or Nation, they simply do not submit their annual plan for that year on the required date at which time the state or Nation simply does what it thinks best.  The costs to the Local community should be nil as the concerned residents simply give the elected official what they want for next year.  Any uncooperative elected official simply faces the voter’s wrath in the next election.  It is not rocket science and it is certainly better than what we have today.

You then determine “what” a wolf is, how they will be managed and then you create the sort of ecosystem that you and your neighbors want to live in.  Not only is there nothing wrong with this, it is the system that all men deserve and strive for where they raise their families and live their lives!

Jim Beers

28 April 2019

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Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.

Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting.

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