September 18, 2018

The “Intellectual Rubbish” of “Ecosystems” and “Balance of Nature”

Today, we learned that Dr. Valerius Geist, a foremost wildlife scientist, “Denounced Ecosystem Management“. In his condemnation he described the belief in “Utopian philosophy of ecosystem perfection absent of all human activity” as “intellectual rubbish”. He also challenges, in a way, those not stricken with “intellectual laziness” to “Know the difference between positive and negative feed back, and you are on the way of understanding both homeostasis in individuals and stochastic non-determinism in ecosystems.”

I would like to take a layman’s stab at explaining about ecosystems and the myth of nature balancing itself. As with everything I write, I don’t ask readers to simply believe what I write but to do some research and make their own determinations.

Of late, I have composed a couple articles in reference to “natural regulation, here and here. The theory of “natural regulation” can just as easily be described in the same fashion as Dr. Geist used above; “utopian philosophy of ecosystem perfection absent of all human activity.” Or, in words we can all understand – just leave it alone and let things go as they will.

Part of the problem is that all people have been subjected to the use of the word, “ecosystem” to describe a landscape where flora and fauna live together in perfect harmony. “Eco” being a hip word these days (I assumed derived from ecology) and the “system” I am willing to wager is very much misunderstood. Many people, if engaged in some kind of biology discussion, might think of a system as their own body; a composition of organs and tissues all working together, the result of which is a living, breathing and walking specimen of human being.

Unfortunately the “system” in ecosystem is only used as a means of classification, or dare I say, should be used in that way. Regardless, the term in and of itself is quite misleading.

Dr. Geist spoke of “know[ing] the difference between positive and negative feed back”. This information can easily be obtained by doing searches Online but perhaps it’s much easier to find than understand. As individual humans (animals), our system (body) works to maintain “homeostasis” – “to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus tending to disturb its normal condition or function”. The responses to those disturbances are what are known as “negative feedback loops“, working to reverse or negate those disturbances. Dr. Geist says this is why “individuals are individuals”, i.e. “because they are controlled by negative feed back – negative!“.

In the contrast, as is pointed out by Geist, groups of organisms living together, in what is now too commonly referred to as that somewhat mythical “ecosystem”, are “never controlled but instead are subjected to “whims and randomness of positive feed back”.

Positive feedback loops, logically would be the counterpart to negative feedback loops. In the positive feedback loop, the body senses changes or disturbances and reacts to actually speed up the change. Some examples of this in humans might be a heart attack, clotting of blood, or even labor pains.

Dr. Geist tells us that if we can gain a solid understanding of the differences between positive feedback loops and negative feedback loops, then we might better understand “both homeostasis in individuals and stochastic non-determinism in ecosystems”.

Stochastic as it would apply to our “ecosystems” involves “a random variable or variables“.

Our ecosystems, so used, is a conglomeration of organisms all subjected to the influences of random variables that are forever changing. Geist describes those random variables as: “whims and randomness of positive feed back.”

If in our minds we can envision that our world is comprised of multiple pockets of habitat of varying sizes, each abutting and/or overlapping, or even standing apart, comprised of diverse species of plant and animals (including man) and all being subjected to random variables, it becomes much more difficult to seriously give credit to a “balance of nature”.

Share

Dr. Valerius Geist: “…….Because the Coyote is Coming”

American Hunter magazine has an article they published back in November of 2010 called, “How Coyotes Affect Deer Herds”. The article tells that 16 years ago, in 1994, Dr. Valerius Geist, while attending the annual Southeast Deer Study Group meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia, said the following as it pertained to a perceived “problem” among wildlife managers in dealing with too large populations of whitetail deer.

“Enjoy your problem while it lasts, because the coyote is coming. Once he’s here, you’ll miss your deer problems.”

Dr. Geist’s crystal ball was pretty clear back then, as today many of these same wildlife managers now have coyote problems.

Today, there are new studies ongoing and some of the preliminary data is not only impressive but revealing things about the coyote that confirms what some biologists have suspected for a long time and that seasoned outdoor sportsmen have been seeing for a long time – coyotes are having a much bigger affect on whitetail deer herds than imagined.

One area of study is pointing researchers to conclude that coyotes don’t just randomly take out a deer fawn when the opportunity might present itself. As a matter of fact, data suggest the coyote is studying and learning the habits of the deer and are specifically targeting them for lunch and dinner.

This can further be supported by the research that shows that in one area where coyotes and deer intermingle, 75% of the deer fawns died before they reached the age of six months. Of those 75%, 85% were killed by coyotes.

Despite the new research information, skeptics continue to cry for more time and more studies to support this. Who can blame them? They’ve had so much bad information drilled into their heads for so long, I guess it’s going to take a long time, perhaps even a miracle to get them to change their way of thinking.

So, is this new study suggesting that where there are coyotes all the deer will eventually vanish? I don’t think so but it does now present another management issue of predator control. Not in all regions but in those where there is a problem, again facing a seemingly insurmountable task of convincing wildlife managers a shortage of deer might be the result of too many predators.

What will it take to reach that point? Perhaps first, we need to work on educating people that over-protection of a predator such as a wolf or a coyote is not a good thing. It was in Hank Fischer’s book, “Wolf Wars“, where he quoted Dr. L. David Mech. Mech is a Senior Scientist with the Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota, and considered by many to be the foremost authority of wolf behavior.

“The wolf’s repopulation of the northern parts of the lower forty-eight states . . . will stand as one of the primary conservation achievements of the twentieth century. Society will have come full circle and corrected its grave overreaction to its main mammalian competitor. Maybe not quite full circle. If we have learned anything from this ordeal, it is that the best way to ensure continued wolf survival is, ironically enough, not to protect wolves completely. If we carefully regulate wolf populations instead of overprotecting them, we can prevent a second wave of wolf hysteria, a backlash that could lead once again to persecution.”

Even Dr. Mech understood the many facets of the over-protection of wolves, including the one that much of the Northern Rockies is experiencing of a backlash of citizens wanting the wolf killed off. This, of course, the consequence of over-protection.

It would seem to make sense that where over-protection of one species, such as the wolf or coyote, is bad, so it goes with all predators and species. For Mech to suggest that over-protection of predators will ultimately harm the species, it would seem he would then have to disagree with the notion that wildlife is self regulating.

There’s a huge divide here that needs to be crossed. We need predator control and to accomplish that, it seems one object in the way is protection of species beyond what is good socially and scientifically. None of this consequently matters if we cannot successfully dispel the myth that nature will balance itself out.

Nothing short of a miracle is needed here.

Tom Remington

Share

The Environmentalist

Thomas Sowell wrote: “People are all born ignorant but they are not born stupid. Much of the stupidity we see today is induced by our educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities.” He also said that one of the problems with education today is that what our educational institutions were created for, “to pass on to the next generation the knowledge, experience and culture of the generations that went before them….”, have become indoctrination factories in order to promote, “whatever notions, fashions or ideologies happen to be in vogue among today’s intelligentsia.”

Education is a good thing. It’s what we do with it and how we use it that makes us the individuals that we are. Indoctrination is not a good thing. It doesn’t allow a person to think and reason, thus making them lacking in common sense or the ability to decipher fact from faction, even when it is staring them in the face.

Bill Cosby, arguably one of the best comedians ever with the uncanny ability to turn real life, everyday events in gut busting humor, once did a sketch about using cocaine. He was explaining about cocaine and the effects it had on humans. When he asked why someone did coke, the reply was, “Because it enhances a person’s personality.” Cosby’s sharp retort was, “What if you’re an asshole?”

Does education do the same thing?

If what you start with is the south end of a north bound rhinoceros, then supplement it with education you just might end up dealing with a very large rhino with a bad case of hemorrhoids. Somewhere along the line people have come up with the outlandish notion that education makes you a better person and worse, better than others. A ski coach I had in high school, who remains a very dear friend, once told me you can’t make a good tossed salad if the only thing you have is lettuce. Educating a head of lettuce still will not give you a good tossed salad.

America has reached a point it seems that much of Urban America is at odds with Suburban America. I’m no psychologist so this is where the “educated” can exit the page because I might say things that aren’t found in one of their books.

An example of what I am referring to is the demand of city dwellers that country folk learn to live with wolves and/or other large predators. The mindset, perhaps enhanced through indoctrination, too often shows us that Ms. Greedy Greenie thinks it’s only right that Shane Shatkicker suffer financial losses, risk of personal injury and loss of private property due to government-sponsored wolf and predator protection. If this is so, then in reciprocity it should be equal comeuppance that Ms. Greedy Greenie learn to live with 60 or 70 truck loads of manure each year dumped on her front steps that’s laced with echinococcus granulosus tapeworms, the result of her cute and cuddly wolf.

If only it were that simple. It’s not really. You see there’s a certain breed of people that thinks as Ms. Greedy Greenie might and if we can better understand what makes her tick, well, we can at least have fun with it because understanding it isn’t going to cause Ms. Greenie to have an epiphany and start shooting and eating wolves.

For sake of this diatribe, I shall refer to all those who want to control my life as an environmentalist. It’s kind of a catch-all word. The only real defining characteristic of the environmentalist is the degree to which they are mired in their radicalism. Some got it so bad they flog themselves believing that trees are in pain. They want to be one with the tree. I got news for them. They didn’t need to flog themselves. Trees are stupid and so is this kind of radical environmentalist.

There are however, the soft core environmentalist. These are, more than likely, the same ones who used to or still do attend National Training Laboratory’s human interaction workshops. This is where you “get in touch with yourself” by touching and feeling the other person’s body. Advanced classes cover such deep subjects that go to the heart and soul of a human. They ask them questions like, “If you were an animal, what kind would you be?” The ultimate therapeutic pinnacle is to achieve complete warm and fuzzy semi-consciousness.

Of course the overwhelming majority of those able to become an environmentalist have done so through educational cultivation. Although still in the data retrieving stages, some scientists believe that there is a direct correlation to the degree in which an environmentalist becomes radicalized and the depth of their education/indoctrination.

History has taught us that the environmentalist is compelled from birth to play out a dual role as the preservationist and the reformer. It is not understood if this is genetics or due to the kind of music the fetus was subjected too while in the womb. Before we can understand the roles of preservationist and reformer, it should be explained that the environmentalists see themselves as the center of everything that is morally right. It actually goes beyond that to them believing that they are the center of the universe. I would never say this to an environmentalist’s face for fear of the demonizing I would receive because I couldn’t produce an academic study to support my claims but I kind of see them as the eye of a category five hurricane. Only they never leave the eye and cannot see the destruction going on around them.

One day an environmentalist wakes up and decides, unknowingly, not to take a shower. Whatever has happened to them they are unable to waste this precious resource. Soon it carries over to every aspect of their life, including thoughts of sterilization so as not to pollute the world with more children. As you might have guessed, there are upsides to environmentalism.

After coming to grips with the fact they are no longer human in this aspect, their quest becomes the total reformation of the planet. We all HAVE to think and eat and live as does the environmentalist.

Being the eye of the hurricane, the environmentalist has to be in control. Feelings are important, especially feeling good. Remember the warm and fuzzy semi-consciousness? I’m referring only to the selfish need of feeling good. If that comes at the cost of another person’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, it won’t matter because the environmentalist believes themselves to be a Moirai.

What puzzles me however is that we know that environmentalists are self-centered and yet their world is a dichotomy of two quintessences – anthropocentricism and biocentricism. Anthropocentric thinking puts man managing our wildlife, our ecosystems and the environment around us. Biocentric thinking believes if left up to “nature” everything becomes another verse of Kumbaya. Being that an environmentalist is on the edge of the universe in all things, one would think they would simply have to control the environment directly. Not so! They want to let Mother Nature do it……….well, sort of. The secret is some believe they can control Mother Nature and others think they are Mother Nature. Odd isn’t it?

The environmentalist is the only one capable of setting all moral standards. You might think you have some morals of your own but trust me, they suck! Morally you, my friend, are no better than a rock, no smarter than a pig and have no more right to use your back yard to plant a garden than a herd of wild pigs just looking for a meal and a chance to be free. Why can’t I get Kumbaya out of my head?

That sage brush that infiltrates the lowlands of Idaho? Sorry, my friend. The environmentalist says you have no more rights than a pile of brush. You cannot bother the plants and animals because they have rights. I always figured if anything can sit down to my kitchen table and drink coffee, smoke a cigarette, fart and talk about football, they have rights.

The environmentalist must preserve everything. If they fail on their mission they simply cannot afford to pay their therapist bill to repair the psychological damage. Yes, preservation is of the utmost and to achieve that we must have diversity. Without diversity there is no stability and if we lose our stability there is nothing left for the children. The poor suffering children will be left with nothing. Cry me a river!

Diversity is often achieved through importation of species. To argue a species is not native is an effort in futility because the environmentalist, if not a “scientist” themselves, knows some that can create subspecies and all sorts of other goodies that all make wonderful sense to the minions of the environmental world.

The twisted thinking of the environmentalist leads them to conjecture that diversity is good, more diversity is better and the most diversity is the best because it makes our ecosystems, which aren’t really a system at all, stable. It’s kind of like reaching a climax where perceived stability achieves crescendo then we graduate from Kumbaya to a few verses of “The Greatest Love of All”. Unfortunately, Michael Jackson is dead.

To actualize diversity, stability, protection of animal’s and plant’s rights and to preserve for our children, may actually require the reduction of the human population. Nothing is beyond the realm of the environmentalist who is in it to win it. We could build one giant city the size of Texas and Oklahoma and move the entire world’s population there, leaving the rest of the world uninhabited but that wouldn’t be enough.

Referring back to the pending study about whether level of education is in direct proportion to the depth of environmental radicalism, if you are fortunate to be a biologist and an environmentalist, then you are the only one qualified to decide who lives and who dies. I think it was Daniel Janzen who once wrote that biologists were the only ones qualified to decide how anyone should use their land and who or what can live on it. Let’s get this straight because this confuses me. The seventh day God rested. So, it must have been somewhere around the 5th or 6th day that God got really tired. He created a biologist and told him he could create the landscape and decide things like where to put a lake, an ocean, a mountain and whether or not polar bears lived on ice or the jungle. Cool! The biologist must have been responsible for Algore. Or maybe I’m thinking engineer?

If you are a PhD, weeeellllllll! If you are a PhD environmentalist then you have told God to get out of your seat. Not only have you knighted the lowly one-degreed biologist to prop up Algore, a PhD scientist determines who is smart and who isn’t. This goes hand in hand with right and wrong, fact and fiction.

The PhD is all knowing and makes no mistakes. What they believe is truth. All other thoughts are wrong. Because of their indoctrination as an environmentalist, they lack common sense and actually believe tofu is one of the food groups.

But here’s the thing that environmentalists have done and they must be like really smart or something to do this. Environmentalists don’t have to live out in the country where they control the lives of those who do and make a mess of everything. It’s kind of like an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. This makes it much easier to fight off any thoughts that the people losing the livestock to wolves are actually real people.

They don’t want anything to do with it actually. Some of what they do, insisting on a preserved wilderness and a natural ecosystem, is because they’ve destroyed the one they live in now. They are riddled with guilt. It’s much better to create this nirvana of pristine wilderness in their minds and it eases all the pain. Somehow it will make up for it all. It’s really much the same as an alcoholic. “There stands the glass that will ease all my pain!” (Webb Pierce, 1950)

The environmentalist has been indoctrinated to live in parallel existences. Their everyday existence enjoys the benefits of a cutthroat lifestyle that provides them money (for their lawsuits) and everything else they should be shameful for, while at the same time can lay claim to owning a pristine wilderness, at the expense of other human beings. If the environmentalist so chooses, they jump in their SUV, drive 8-10 hours and do a quick drive through their favorite park and rush home and tell everyone how great they are and fortunate that they care enough to have such things. There’s more warm and fuzzy feelings had they stayed home and watched reruns of Barney on Sesame Street.

It’s very much like owning a dog. No, really! Remember when chihuahuas were cool? Everyone ran out and bought one for status. Then there were golden retrievers, Newfoundlands, wolf hybrids, etc. Got to have one to look cool but toss it away when the fad is over.

Right now the environmentalist thinks it pretty cool to destroy the lives of others so they can have a “backyard” they can call theirs to play in. And they can do that because they are educated. They once began as assholes, tried a little of that cocaine fix- education – and enhanced what they started out with.

We are all born ignorant but not stupid. What makes us stupid is what we do with the education we have. I can’t help if you are nothing but lettuce.

Share

To Catch A Wolf – Part V

Links to Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV

If we are ever to consider “catching” a wolf, we need first to understand it. This has become a difficult task, especially here in the United States because most who advocate for wolves, seemingly those with all the money and resources to do so, aren’t at all interested in telling the truth about this animal. Why is it that in efforts to discover the truth about this large and sometimes vicious predator, advocates mount bigger campaigns to counter those truths with lies, information designed to mislead the public?

In the West we love our stories about Nikki: Dog of the North and Jack London’s other creation of Call of the Wild. In our romantic fantasies we want to be friends with canines that are portrayed as our best friends, cute and cuddly. The reality is wolves are none of these and there are many other myths that we have been programmed to believe as true.

Most of us will never see a wolf in the wild. Most of us will never have a desire to “catch” a wolf. Some of us are going to be forced to at some point and hopefully we’ll never reach the degree of problems our ancestors faced all around the globe, the result of which was lack of wildlife management and the taking away of the God-given rights of people to self protection.

In the previous four parts in this series (see links above) we have traveled across parts of North American, Russia, France, Italy and made mention of other countries that historically have faced wolf problems. We now are going to travel to Scandinavia where we will take a look at two aspects of the wolves there – attacks on humans and methods used to kill wolves.

No matter where we traveled, we found out that wolves vary in sizes and color. We know that the characteristics of wolves also vary depending on several factors, including habitat, time of year and the influences of climate, to name a few.

One thing that I have discovered in reading the many accounts of wolves and hunting wolves is that often what and how the writer conveyed their message depended a great deal on their own experiences and perceptions of the events at hand. Let me give an example.

Scandinavian Adventures by Llewelyn Lloyd was written in 1854. It contains numerous accounts of wolf/human encounters and detailed descriptions of wolf habits and of course methods on how the people in Scandinavia captured and/or killed the beast they so much hated.

I chuckled at one point and then read on with my jaw agape, when Lloyd wrote that wolves seldom attack people.

Though wolves are so numerous in Scandinavia, and commit such considerable ravages amongst cattle, they do not often molest man.

I will concur here with Lloyd’s statement that wolves were numerous during this time in Scandinavia, having to this point already read what seems an unending accounting of the savage events involving wolves in this country and the destruction of private property.

After stating that wolves “do not often molest man”, Lloyd fills many pages documenting several of at least 20 accounts of wolves killing humans just during one winter. This doesn’t account for the attacks on humans that didn’t result in death.

I would assume we need to conclude that it is all relative as to what we become accustomed to in our everyday lives. That one man can so boldly state that wolves seldom attack man, yet view the deaths of at least 20 people, mostly children, as somehow insignificant, certainly baffles my mind but I’ve never had to live with wolves on a daily basis. In all of North America we struggle to accept the death of one man in Canada a couple years ago.

As with all the other countries we’ve visited, Lloyd tells us that the wolf is despised in Scandinavia too. He states that from the beginning of time, wolves have been hated and that they were the “plague and torment of the land”.

The Scandinavian wolf is characterized as having a “most ravenous appetite” and at times when food is not available to the wolf, he will actually ingest dirt and mud in order to quell the hunger pains. If all goes well, he will regurgitate the mud once he has killed prey to eat. The author tells us of instances when a wolf howls incessantly from the pain caused by eating and puking up the dirt.

“He can suffer hunger and hardships for a long time, which is common for beasts of prey, according to the Creator’s wise institution; for their provision is uncertain, and comes accidentally, and at irregular intervals. When his hunger becomes too great, he’ll eat clay if it is to be had; and this, as it is not to be digested, remains in his belly till he gets flesh, and that works it off violently; and then he is heard to howl most dismally for pain;

One farmer who killed a wolf, opened the animal’s stomach up to see what it had been eating and found it full of moss and the tops of birch trees.

Lloyd tells us that Scandinavia is “exempt from rabies”. I can’t confirm that to actually be the case but he is quite convinced there were never any cases of rabies recorded at least up until this time in history. Part of the reason for bringing this up is that in his list of wolf encounters, all occurred with what appear to be healthy animals. This dispels the myth that only diseased wolves will attack a human.

Like with all the other accounts we’ve examined, wolves in Scandinavia are most dangerous during the long winter months, when food is scare and the animals run in very large packs. People traveled most often by sleigh or horse and during these times some where allowed to have guns for protection as it was common for packs of wolves to attack and follow the travelers.

The author tells readers that when the wolf is hungry and in packs, they seem not afraid of anything, boldly entering barns and enclosed pastures taking whatever they wanted, sometimes barely reacting to the beating by farmers with clubs, sticks and rocks.

The story here gives us an indication of excess killing. In modern times, at least here in North America, we have coined the term “surplus killing” to characterize the act of wolves killing far more prey than they ever intend to eat.

The wolf is amongst the most voracious of beasts. The slaughter he commits in the fold is at times terrible; and he frequently kills ten times more than he can devour. Hence it would appear, he is impelled rather by a mere love of destroying, than by hunger.

I read recently the account of one wildlife biologist who said that surplus killing did occur with wolves and domestic animals but rarely happened with wild animals, particularly large game animals. Even though I have had the opportunity to read accounts of and view pictures of what seem to show surplus killings of deer and elk by wolves, biologists, for whatever their motives, seem quick to come to the rescue of the wolf and state that it may appear the wolves killed needlessly but will return at a later date and clean up the mess. This brings the discussion to one that now becomes quite subjective. If a pack of wolves during one attack session kills 20 elk and then leaves without eating any of them, one can argue that the wolves will return to clean up later, yet we have no way of knowing that.

I find it a tough pill to swallow that wolves will only “surplus kill” domestic animals and not wild ones. The game manager making the statement backed his theory by saying that most livestock have had all sense of fighting back bred out of them. I have never witnessed alive any attack by wolves on deer and elk, but in most of the video I’ve seen, the deer and elk aren’t fighting back. They may run and stand their ground for a time but are soon outnumbered or worn down to defeat.

I can concur that it would appear much easier, if I were a wolf, to enter an enclosed area housing 100 sheep and killing them all, than to run down and kill 100 elk or deer. This doesn’t however dispel the idea that wolves do not “surplus kill” elk and deer. The task may be more difficult but the voraciousness of the wolf is on display no matter what animal it is attempting to kill. If a pack kills any number of game animals they don’t consume or haul away, we can say there was surplus killing.

The landscape of much of Scandinavia provided excellent habitat for wolves and as a result, there were many to contend with. The habitat also prevented hunting the wolf in what is referred to as a common method – using dogs and people to drive wolves out of the thick forests into openings or fields where the wolves could be shot. There were just too many intermingled, dense forests where wolves could essentially hide forever. This brought extra challenges upon the citizenry to protect themselves and devise other means of killing wolves and killing as many as they could all at once.

The presence of wolves was an extreme burden on the people. It is described in some places as being the most difficult thing in life to deal with. Here in the West we think stories like Little Red Riding Hood were created from some fairy tale dreamed up by a fanciful writer.

Not only do our children’s books relate some of the experiences people had years ago, the angst and outright hatred that grew toward the wolf had people believing the the wolf was an incarnation of Satan himself. As backwards as this may seem to the modern West, we’ve never really had to deal with anything so frightful and controlling, with the dominance of a vicious predator. It was as bad or even worse than any plague.

The people persevered and one way that helped was the creation of devises and methods to catch, trap and kill wolves. In the northern areas of Scandinavia, the Lapps often strapped on their skis, or skidor they were called, armed themselves with a 12-foot long pointed spear and headed into areas thought to have wolves.

The conditions needed to be right so that the snow was such that wolves couldn’t run away and yet the hunters could remain on top of the snow with their skis and navigate to where the wolves were, spearing them to death. A good downhill run seemed a good opportunity.

Sooner or later, however, he is necessitated to quit the ” vantage-ground,” and betake himself once more to the forest or the fjall, as the case may be. Thus the chase may continue for a day or two, until the beast is fairly worn out with hunger and fatigue, when his pursuers are enabled to close with him—generally on the long slope of a hill—and to put an end to his miseries and his life.

Seldom would enough wolves be killed to have any real affect on limiting the wolf kills on the reindeer herds. However, under the right conditions, there is a recorded event of around 70 wolves being killed in one week using this method of skis and spears.

As I mentioned earlier, hunting wolves by foot or horseback in the “traditional” manner was quite ineffective. Lloyd explains it this way.

Little in the shape of wolf-hunting—such at least as accords with our notions of hunting—is practised in Sweden; and that little is, from necessity, always followed on foot. From the difficult nature of the ground, and the peculiar style of fence, it would be quite an impossibility to pursue that beast on horseback.

And thus the most effective means to deal with wolf populations was devised – locate the dens and kill the cubs. Lloyd goes to great lengths offering advice on how best to locate the dens. As a bonus, hunters would set a trap for the she-wolf and kill it when it returned to the den area.

The she-wolf does not, like the fox, litter in deep holes in the ground, where it is difficult to get at the cubs; but under boulders, under the stumps of uprooted trunks, in close thickets, or beneath spruce-pine trees, the branches of which hang to the very ground; and for this reason, when the Lya is found, one can readily take and destroy the cubs.

“One of the number, however, should be retained alive, that by means of its cries the mother may be killed also. The object is best effected by erecting a screen of boughs, near to the lair, where two of the hunting party (the rest retiring to a distance) secrete themselves, and shoot her on her return home. This is hastened by the piteous lament of her offspring, who at some four feet from the ground, is suspended by the hind leg to a neighbouring tree. But the men, at such times, should face in opposite directions, so that one or the other will be sure to see her when she first makes her appearance, as she then comes much nearer to the ambush than afterwards.”

The event of locating wolf lyas (lairs) and destroying the cubs is a community-wide event employing large groups of people. A continued effort each year to do this seemed somewhat effective in keeping wolf populations in check.

Another method used by the Scandinavians, particularly in areas overrun with wolves was called a Skall-platser. Essentially, an area is located in which bait is deposited in great amounts over long periods of time. This often consisted of dead animals.

During the time of year, mostly winter, when the wolves were both hungry and packing together in larger numbers, hunters, numbering as high as 600 hundred would surround the baited area where no wolf could escape. Canine slaughter ensued.

During a period of about 7 years, it is recorded that 35 of these Skalls took place, resulting in the killing of over 200 wolves, including cubs. This may have been the most effective means of killing larger numbers of wolves at one time but I believe the most effective long term was killing the cubs and she-wolves. One of the problems with carrying out the Skalls was the expense and the time commitment in keeping the area baited.

Scandinavia also employed the use of live, squealing pigs on a winter sleigh to lure the wolves out while hunters riding the sleigh shot them. I covered this in more detail in Part I.

In all of the stories covered in this multi-part article, people resorted to the creation and use of traps. Most of them to catch an individual wolf but as we learned earlier, elaborate contraptions were designed to capture many wolves at one time.

While individual traps served the purpose of maybe taking care of one or two problem wolves that were killing livestock, it did virtually nothing to control wolf populations.

What we should have at least learned through all of this is that wolves are most difficult to “catch”. We read here in Scandinavia that the terrain and habitat was such that much of it was impossible to hunt on foot or horseback. In all the stories, the authors made no bones about the fact that wolf population controls had to be done on a consistent basis and the only way to accomplish this was with the use of hunting dogs. There was nothing very scientific about any of it. They knew there were too many wolves and no matter what they did, there were always too many wolves.

I’ve pointed out numerous times that as the United States readies itself for a rapidly expanding population of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes, I have little confidence that we are prepared to handle the problem or at least take care of it in a timely matter.

Idaho, a state that is eager to get the federal government off its back and out of its state, has written up preliminary rules to govern wolf hunts. None of the rules allow for any of the methods I’ve described or provided for you from history past. I’m not advocating for the employment of these methods but we have to use history to teach us that a hunter alone with a gun is no good.

With a wolf population growing at a rate of near 30% in some places, sending a man and his rifle into the woods to kill a wolf will do nothing to stop or slow the rate of growth. With the proper management of wolves, it should be known whether the state wants to reduce, maintain or grow the wolf population in certain wildlife management areas. This is readily accomplished through the issuance of tags or quotas. When the quota is taken the hunt ends. If this be the case, then why put so many restrictions on the hunter? It really makes little sense?

We have areas now where the deer and elk are being killed by wolves at a rate that some fear is approaching or has surpassed recovery. Presently our hands are tied as wildlife managers are at the mercy of the federal government and having to be in compliance with an Endangered Species Act that has morphed into a political activists’ tool.

If the day comes when each state is granted permission to manage the wolf, we have to be ready, knowledgeable about the wolf and its habits and prepared to implement the necessary tools to accomplish the needed tasks.

I hope that this article and the other four parts can serve as a means of gaining a better, more truthful understanding of the wolf. Learning about the truth shouldn’t be something we fear. It is fought against only by those with hidden agendas.

Tom Remington

Share

To Catch A Wolf – Part IV

Links to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part V.

Before we venture into some of the Scandinavian countries to examine how they dealt with wolves and wolf problems, let’s visit for a moment right here in the United States. It is believed that several subspecies of wolves inhabited much of the U.S. at one point in time.

Teddy Roosevelt went to great pains in some of his writings of the late 1800s in describing the different kinds of wolves he encountered all across the nation. He related colors, sizes, characteristics and habitats of any of these predators he came in contact with. One thing Roosevelt tells us is that even though he believed that man’s efforts to get rid of wolves certainly had a significant affect, he was convinced there was something more than man’s effort at hunting, trapping, poisons, etc. that wiped out wolf populations.

What is different about Americans dealing with wolves and many of the other European and Asian countries we have looked at, was the fact that Americans were readily armed with guns and could not only protect themselves from large predators but they actively hunted and trapped the animal as it was part of the heritage.

In areas of France and Russia, most guns were banned and only wealthy and governmental connected people could posses a gun. In cases where the peasant population could own a gun seldom could they afford to buy one or the ammunition to put in it.

As settlers in America moved into the forests and prairies of the west, they encountered wolves. Not unlike those in Russia, France, Italy, India and any other country that had wolves, it didn’t take long for people to grow to dislike the wolf, especially when it began killing off livestock and threatening the children and other settlers.

Having the weapons to do so, these settlers, turned hunters and trappers, began to kill off the wolves in many parts of the country.

In parts I, II and III of “To Catch a Wolf”, we’ve looked at some of the different methods employed by the government, wealthy hunters and peasant trappers to kill wolves. We’ve established that the wolf was clearly despised by the people and often times their lives were controlled by the fear of getting attacked by wolves or having their livestock destroyed. People risked their lives with wolves in order to avoid starvation.

Here in America, we don’t have the long and storied history of wolves like our friends across the ocean. Our experiences were somewhat different and short lived in comparison. Our access to the tools used to kill wolves, in comparison, seems so much easier but the creativity of devising ways to mass kill wolves wasn’t lacking.

In 1854, Hurst and Blackett published Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s book, “The Americans at Home: Or, Byeways, Backwoods, and Prairies”. In that book is a chapter titled, “Wolf-Hunting on the Turkisag“. This is one account of a seemingly bizarre, daring, if not ignorant, rough and tumble wolf hunt, one that takes place under the full of the moon and putting every participant in danger of their lives.

I tried and failed to find out where the Turkisag was. Assuming it was a mapped out place or location, I searched and found nothing. I began then to look more closely at the word itself and with knowledge that this book was written in the mid-1800s, I wondered if the Turkisag was a created word of local origin.

Turk or turki relates to either the country of Turkey or the bird animal turkey. Sag used as a description could mean a depression, a valley, maybe even a hollow or some such. It is only a guess on my part but I thought maybe Turkisag came literally from the turkey sag. I might be completely wrong and would welcome any explanations.

Regardless of what or where Turkisag was, the author Haliburton, gives us a bit of a description of the area.

It was broad moonlight when we arrived at the place selected as the scene of operations. The Turkisag possesses a different aspect from the Blue Ridge. The latter is of a noble and magnificent description, but the scenery of the former is of a different order: there was an air of desolation hovering about it that produced feelings of awe, and you gazed around you as if in expectation of beholding something instinct with horror. Dark and gloomy caves or holes met your sight on every side; but where a level spot presented itself, it was thickly covered with trees, short, and of monstrous bulk, so that they nearly shut out the light of the moon in various places.

The stage is set for the hunt. There are around 50 men all armed with guns and ammunition and lots of it. Haliburton tells us that many times hunters/shooters can’t leave their posts for several days. This is after all the time of year when “wolves are the most ravenous, mustered in great numbers“.

This kind of wolf hunt is referred to as a “skirl“, being defined as a shrill and piercing sound. That name and description alone would be enough to send shivers up and down the spine.

One party locates a place where they will build a scaffolding, where shooters can lie in wait for the wolves. Read Haliburton’s depiction of the place and the construction.

The spot where we purposed to erect our scaffolding was in the dreariest place we could select, and, as it proved, where wolves were the most numerous. First, we all set to work with our axes, and cleared a space of about fifty feet in extent, by cutting down the smaller trees, leaving, of course, the larger ones standing. At the extreme west of this clear space, two scaffolds were erected after this wise: branches of trees were driven into the earth, six or eight inches apart, rising above the ground about eight feet; then a great quantity of brushwood was wove around them from the bottom to the top, presenting a strong basket or net-work; across the top were laid large branches, affording a tolerably firm flooring; and around the works props were placed, giving sufficient strength to the whole capable of bearing the weight of the party; a rude ladder was also made to enable us to ascend, but more particularly for the runner, whose share of the dangers of wolf- shooting was not inconsiderable. These scaffolds were built nearly on the edge of a precipice of about sixty feet in height; on the north-east, and about one hundred feet from us, arose a peak, stretching far above our heads, overhanging a gap in the mountain about twelve feet wide. The opposite point was somewhat lower than that on which we stood, making a considerable descent, leading round to the place where we were encamped. Before us appeared an interminable forest, with here and there a cave, the uncertain moonlight only adding to its repulsive appearance.

Did you pick up on the term “runner”? Frighteningly so, it is exactly as you might imagine. Two men are “selected”. God knows what process that is actually used to pick who will be the runners aside from the fact that they should be young, fit and able to run fast.

Their task is to head out into the forest to find the wolves. Then the runner has to get the wolves to chase him. Utilizing only the available moonlight and a few dimly lit torches, the runner must use his blazing speed to stay just ahead of the wolves while hopefully successfully negotiating the landscape in the darkness of night. One mistake and it’s toast.

The runner then must enter the scaffolding area in time to climb the ladder to safety and before the wolves catch him or the bullets hit him from when guns begin blasting at the wolves.

The author at one point writes that the runners take some kind of drug with them. Little is said about it so we can only guess as to whether it was something they thought would enhance their speed or awareness or maybe it was to quell the fear. Maybe it was even used for something else.

Then, taking from his pouch a drug, a piece of which they placed in their moccasins, and holding the remainder between their fingers,

Picture if you can how a shooter must be feeling. It is dark and you are stationed on a platform above an area set for ambush. You know that two men are being used as decoys and they are depending on you to kill the wolves before they get killed. Here’s how it began to unfold.

Presently a faint howl was heard, that caused the blood to rush to my heart. Nothing but actual experience can enable any one to form a correct estimate of the intense anxiety that a person labours under on such occasions. Again, another howl, more loud, then another—another, from every direction of the wood ; then simultaneously, a burst, as if from myriads, resounded through the wild, echoing from mount to mount, followed up by cries still more awful and terrific.

“Be ready!” said an old hunter beside me, in a tone that betrayed the excitement he felt, ” for we shall have work to do presently; ” and at that instant a wolf emerged from the wood into the open space, the torches revealing him plainly to our view. A dozen rifle balls in an instant pierced him. Another followed, glancing first at the torches, and then at us, as if uncertain what course to take.

” Be chary of your ammunition,” said the same hunter, “for we may need all we’ve got;” and he raised his rifle, as the wolf was turning back, and instantly brought him to the ground.

The terror and the stress is building. The air is filled with blood-curdling howls, shooters are unloading on one wolf and you are reminded not to waste your ammunition. With that all dancing in your mind, along with the fact two human beings are out there streaking through the forest and running in fear for their lives, you hope you won’t miss.

The first runner appears.

We could not discover the least sign of their proximity, and the awful howls now came thick upon our startled senses, borne upon the breeze that whistled past us. Suddenly we heard footsteps, and could detect the quick breathings of a person, followed close by the rush of multitudes of those ravenous beasts, and presently the form of Ralph was seen, darting like a winged bird towards the goal. Close upon his track are seen the wolves—they press upon him, their eyes gloating at the prospect of his becoming their victim—lie looks not behind—he gains the open space—already they clutch at his legs—he eludes their fangs, and with a spring reaches the ladder—the next moment he falls breathless upon the scaffold—he is Safe !

As the guns crack and the dead wolves begin to pile up, Haliburton’s description of what is taking place sheds some light on what the runners used the drugs they took with them for.

The gleam of the torches threw a fitful light on their protruding tongues and glaring eyeballs, as they ran to and fro, rendered frantic by the unnatural appearance of the flames, and the exciting nature of the drug used by the runners, so that they fell easy victims to our murderous fire, which, however, in no way appeared to check their onward rush.

Did the runners use some kind of bait or food laced with this drug to first feed the wolves? Obviously it appears as though the drug was used to alter their behavior.

But what of the second runner?

Appearing from the dark, through the midst of the chaos and frantic behaviors of both men and beast, the second runner appears, surrounded by wolves on both sides and from behind. He cannot make the ladder to safety.

Hunters open fire on the wolves and the runner is yelled at and told to try to jump the ravine ahead, knowing the odds of him making it were slim but doing nothing would result in being eaten alive by ravaging wolves.

The shooters continue to kill massive numbers of wolves until they run out of ammunition. The runner is left to his own desire and willpower to live. He opts for the ravine, jumps and doesn’t make it.

What possesses men that they would be driven to such extremes in order to kill wolves? Was this only about the hunt or was this something that had to be done to protect the people and their property?

Wherever the Turkisag was, make no mistake there seemed to be an endless population of wolves that night. How many got killed we know not but several and it cost one young man his life.

For several reasons, wolves in the United States where nearly wiped out. Efforts to get them back have led to great controversy and there is no end in sight to the bickering. Our knowledge and reality in dealing of wolves is so limited that some fear that the wolf populations here are growing at a disturbingly fast rate. With endless lawsuits blocking efforts to remove the wolf from federal protection, we may someday be forced into finding ways to mass kill wolves. Proper management can prevent that from happening.

My efforts here in bringing you these historic documents of how people have dealt with wolf problems worldwide, isn’t to advocate for the construction of wolf ambush slaughtering sites but only to educate people that protecting the wolf isn’t the same as protecting a non-predator. History shows us the devastation wolves can cause. We should have no desire for any of that.

If ever the day arrives that we can properly manage wolves, it will be a learning process to determine what tools will be required to control wolf populations. Sending one licensed hunter into the woods with one rifle believing this will be a viable tool to control populations is foolhardy and born of ignorance. Initially there might be some success but it won’t take long before the wolf figures this out. This is why Teddy Roosevelt said that the only way to hunt wolves was with a pack of well-trained hunting dogs.

Tom Remington

Share

To Catch A Wolf – Part III

Links to Part I and Part II and Part IV and Part V.

We have learned greatly from the previous writings that wolves were not only a real problem for people in many parts of the world but also the animal was despised and feared, mostly for justifiable reasons. We’ve discovered that often it was only the wealthy barons owning the resources to take up the hunt for the wolf, while the peasants were left to their own devices, sometimes their lives ending in death from wolf attacks against them.

They say necessity is the mother of invention and often out of the desperate act of survival the peasants created some ingenious contraptions to capture and kill wolves.

In Part II, we spent most of our time taking a look at how France dealt with wolves, from an outing with a local baron and teaming up with peasants to lure wolves into a makeshift but very effective palisade, to the design of a self-attending wolf trap.

Before we leave France and travel further north, I would like to also share from “Saint Pauls Magazine” as edited by Anthony Trollope (1868); specifically one chapter called “Wolves and Wolf-Hunting in France“.

Trollope’s accounting of how locals dealt with wolves very closely follows those I shared with you in Part II, however the author seems to show a bit of disgust, perhaps at times pity on the despised wolf, while offering up some humor as well. What is clear is that the wolf is no one’s friend, despised and abused.

In this account and several others I have read, it is often mentioned that the dogs that hunt the wolf will not touch a dead wolf after they have killed it. During the chase, as part of the hunt, the dogs will fight and bite and hold, doing whatever is necessary in order to take down and dispatch the wolf. Once the feat is accomplished the dogs will not touch a dead wolf.

Trollope describes for us certain aspects of the wolf.

“Ah! the unclean beast.” ” Peuh, the son of a polecat, how he stinks ! ” This last compliment alludes to the wolf’s offensive odour, which, as Buffon remarks, is truly disgusting, and which issues with overpowering strength from any place he may have occupied for several successive days.

We see that people are yelling their abuses toward the wolf as they “beat” through the forest in an attempt to chase the wolf from his cover. Trollope tells us the wolf “stinks”, has an “offensive odor”, is “truly disgusting” and whose smell “issues with overpowering strength”.

Later on, we are given a glimpse at how the hunting dogs react after the wolf is dead.

The conduct of the dogs is peculiar; the small ones howl strangely, hiding their tails and trembling with convulsion. The large ones appear transported with a kind of rabid ecstasy, their jaws grind and chop, their eyes become wild and bloodshot, and their hair bristles on all their limbs. When once, however, the dogs have fairly killed the wolf, they refuse to touch his dead body.

What is interesting about this aversion to a dead wolf by the hunting dogs, doesn’t seem to be the same in the reverse. Often I have read that wolves like the taste of dogs and in this book, the author claims that wolves will pass up an easy chance at a sheep in order to sink his chops into a dog.

Imagine if you can, which I realize may be difficult to do, after reading what you have, what wolf meat must be like. I would suppose that growing up in a time and place where encounters with wolves consumed a fair amount of your time, it wouldn’t take long to build up a dislike for the animal. The wolf caused death and destruction and clearly was hated to no end. The descriptions of the wolf being “the son of a polecat”, “stinks”, having an “offensive odor” and the “rankest carrion in creation”, among others I’ve shared above, leave us little hope that wolf meat would be good to eat. Combine that with the actions and reactions of the dogs who refused to touch the wolf after it was dead. All of this and the built-up resentment, fear and hatred over the years, real or imagined, how could anybody bring themselves to eat wolf meat. (rational thinking)

Even Trollope alludes to the fact that most of this aversion to wolf meat was, “less fact than imagination”. Yet through all of this, we find that people still, well at least some anyway, were able to retain a good sense of humor.

The flesh of the wolf may be taken certainly to be about the rankest carrion in creation, not even excepting that of the common vulture and the turkey-buzzard. Yet all this in reality is less, fact than imagination. M. Charles Gauthey, a well-known sportsman in the Cote-d’Or, relates that the landlord of a country inn, himself a sportsman, and wishing to play the brethren a confraternal trick—or as it is called in French, leur jouer un tour de chasseur,—had a piece of wolf’s flesh cut into small square morsels, and stewed up with veal and mutton cut into pieces of a different shape. The landlord helped the ragout himself, and being careful to serve each guest with one of the square morsels, was enabled to inform them after dinner that they had all been eating wolf. Two of the guests were thereupon seized with horror, and one to such a degree that he was compelled to retire from the table with precipitation. The others took the joke in good part, and one an all declared they had detected nothing in the dish to excite suspicion in the least degree.

Once again, in this quest to discover the true character of the wolf, I want to make it clear I am not advocating that we Americans need to learn how to massacre wolves. We do however need to learn about them because the depth of that knowledge runs shallow. In future times as the wolf continues to expand and grow, it is most certain that we will have to deal more and more with similar wolf confrontations as those in Russia, India, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Alaska and Canada have come to know.

It is unclear whether the imported Canadian gray wolf or any other wolf for that matter, will ever be removed from federal protection. States such as Idaho have preliminary rules that will govern a wolf hunt (found in Part I) should the time present itself. Unfortunately the rules strip the hunter of most tools needed to successfully hunt and kill a wolf. He essentially is allowed to go into the woods with only his rifle.

If you have been reading Parts I and II, you have learned through several accounts that it is impossible to hunt the wolf by any means other than with “powerful and well-appointed” hounds, as Teddy Roosevelt attested. It is believed that initially there will be some success but as the wolf adapts and learns that humans want to kill him, his avoidance skills will out last that of a lone hunter.

Hunting is and has been a readily accepted tool for population control in wildlife management. When the time comes that we need to control wolf populations (which is now), hunters will need the proper tools to accomplish that task. We have learned that no management of the wolf over the years in other countries, often where guns are outlawed and only the wealthy can hunt, wolf populations were always a problem. We can’t let that happen here in America.

Gaining further knowledge from these historical accounts of wolves, wolf hunting and the tactics used against them, can help to further our understanding of this creature. With better knowledge we are better equipped to properly manage this beast.

Tom Remington

Share

To Catch A Wolf – Part II

If you missed part one of “To Catch a Wolf” you can find that at this link. This link for Part III and Part IV and Part V.

As I mentioned in Part I of “To Catch a Wolf”, wolves are not easy game to hunt. As I surmised also, had Russia been interested enough or financially capable to employ a steady dose of decent wolf management, perhaps some of the tactics used by wolf hunters wouldn’t have become necessary. I’m referring to tactics that resulted in mass killings of wolves.

Needless to say, some day into the future, I’m sure that one way or another, the United States is going to be faced with a dilemma on what to do about too many wolves. Initial plans are being made in some states (I mentioned Idaho in Part I) as to what rules will govern the wolf hunts if they are ever removed from protection. As in Idaho’s case, the rules essentially ban every means of hunting except for a man and his rifle. Historic documents tell us that this will not work. Initial wolf hunts may see some results but once the crafty canine discovers he is being hunted, one man and one rifle will not be any challenge to the wolf.

Previously, we discovered that in Russia, the wealthy (barons) people undertook wolf hunts utilizing pigs in canvas bags as decoys. We also read in great detail how the barons teamed up with the peasants, who had crafted a great palisade (elaborate trap) in order to kill several wolves at one time.

Let’s move our journey westward into France. In 1814 the state granted the Louvetiers permission to hunt wolves. Louvetiers were public officers appointed as superintendents in the “wolf districts”. Their job was to “encourage” the destruction of the wolf.

Roderic O’Connor writes in “An Introduction to the Field Sports of France” that the most difficulty realized by wolf hunters was finding a way to get them out in the open so they could be killed.

I should remind readers that in writings about wolves and wolf dogs of Teddy Roosevelt’s he says the only way to hunt wolves is with the use of hunting dogs.

The wolf is one of the animals which can only be hunted successfully with dogs. Most dogs however do not take at all kindly to the pursuit. A wolf is a terrible fighter. He will decimate a pack of hounds by rabid snaps with his giant jaws while suffering little damage himself; nor are the ordinary big dogs, supposed to be fighting dogs, able to tackle him without special training.

O’Connor says that the only way to get wolves out of the thickets is with a “powerful and well-appointed pack of hounds”. As a matter of fact, it is suggested that no fewer than 100 – 120 hunting hounds are necessary. Still the challenge is daunting.

In wolf hunting, they enter the forest as quietly as possible, and thus endeavour to get near the wolf before he starts, which is a matter of considerable difficulty , as he is always on the alert, and has so quick a perception of their approach that he generally steals off before they come up with him. If the forest is large and sufficiently dense to afford him protection, he can seldom be forced to quit it: he then twists and doubles through all its intricacies with which he is thoroughly acquainted, and exerts all his subtlety to baffle his enemies. The hunters have no remedy but to press on the hounds, and thus endeavour to overpower him and compel him to bolt, or to hunt him down in the forest: but if he is found in a less extensive forest, or one which does not afford him sufficient scope to play off his cunning dodges, he saves them all trouble on that score, at once decides on starting for some distant forest, perhaps some 15 or 20 miles off, where he knows he will find ample protection, and dashes away like lightning ; they then come in for a splendid run,

We learn that having 100-120 “powerful and well-appointed” hounds is rare and so other methods are employed. For instance, the hunters may gather as many hounds as they can get and head into the forest to find the wolves much in the same manner as is described above. The hunters set themselves up in ambush.

They are obliged to observe the strictest silence, and to conceal themselves with the utmost caution, for the wolf, who is peculiarly quick sighted, proceeds with great circumspection, and carefully examines every object before him.

If hunting dogs are not available and the louvetiers need to rid the community of the wolves, they commandeers as many “chasseurs” (chasers) as possible and head for the woods.

When it is ascertained that a wolf is lurking in a particular locality, the louvetier of the district assembles as many chasseurs as possible, and, assuming the command of the party , proceeds to the cover, stations his chasseurs in the best positions he can select, and then enters the wood with a few beaters.

As soon as the wolf perceives them advancing, he endeavours to steal off unobserved , finds all the passes guarded, and meets with a warm reception from his concealed enemies. They generally aim at his shoulder, but if there is any bungling, and he returns into the wood, it is quite hopeless to think of forcing him out a second time. It would be easier to hunt a rabbit out of an acre of furze, (which is no easy matter, I can assure you), than to compel him to break cover again : he must then be dealt with in some other manner , and the difficulty of getting at him, is considerably increased.

As you can now well see, when wolves became a problem in certain communities, depending upon the urgency of the situation, depended somewhat on what methods were used to kill the wolf or wolves. When too many wolves became a real problem, serious tactics where used. This one is called the wolf battue.

The most effectual method of destroying these detestable animals, when a neighbourhood is infested with them, is the general wolf battue: it is called traque in many parts of the country, from the word traqueur; the synonyme-of our word beater. This wolf battue- is conducted by the louvetier of the district, and is a very formidable and curious proceeding. He assembles several hundred persons armed with guns , staves , pitchforks, swords and all manner of destructive weapons; and, after disposing a long train of shooters and placing them so that nothing can escape without coming under their fire; he then forms his traqueurs into lines, placing them sufficiently near to each other to preclude the possibility of any wolves passing between them. When they are thus arranged, he gives the signal, and they immediately commence striking the trees and bushes with their sticks and pitchforks, firing oil guns and pistols, blowing horns , beating drums, and making all manner of hideous noises, advancing at the same time in a slow and regular manner, so that nothing can get through their line, and thus driving all before them. The wolves thus frightened by the din of war, lay aside their repugnance to the open country, and break cover in all directions. The slaughter then commences, and they are shot while endeavouring to make their escape.

Not always are communities so overrun with wolves but make no mistake about it, wolves are always present and looking for a quick and easy meal – goat or sheep, poultry, pet or most anything that will stave of hunger.

It was often left up to the individual farmer to devise ways to capture and/or kill problem wolves on his own. To watch a flock of sheep or protect the barn all night required a lot of man power and time, seriously putting a cramp on anyone’s lifestyle.

The following ingenious description of an unattended live trap, I found quite fascinating.

When wolves are not sufficiently numerous to demand such tumultuous proceedings; or when the forests are too extensive for the adoption of the battue system , various contrivances are set on foot to entrap them. Of these, the tour a loup which is considered very destructive, is worthy of notice: it is constructed as follows: some convenient spot is selected in the vicinity of a farm house, or in some locality where they are in the habit of committing nocturnal depredations: a circle is described, of from 8 to 10 feet in diameter; good strong stakes of, at least, 10 feet in length, are then procured; they are pointed at one end and driven firmly into the ground in the circumference of the circle, at a distance of 5 inches apart from each other, leaving one open space of 18 inches only for an entrance.

A second circle is then described with the same centre, so that its circumference may lie within 16 inches of the outer circle. Similar stakes are then firmly driven down in the circumference of the inner circle, at a like distance from each other, and without leaving any aperture for an entrance: the circular path lying between the two rows of stakes is well trodden down to represent a beaten path: the door, which should be made of good strong timber, is then hung on easy iron hinges, and so contrived that when shut from the inside , it will remain fast, by means of a latch falling into its proper place. A goose, or a sheep, is then placed in the central space, from whence it cannot escape, and the door, (which opens inwards), is left open, and stops up the passage on one side.

The wolf, attracted by the animal within, approaches with his usual caution : and, at length, seeing the door open, and the beaten path before him, enters. Once in, he cannot turn in the narrow path, and goes round until he comes behind the door which he pushes on and closes upon himself.

Not only do we learn of the cleverness of the farmer or whoever it was that designed this trap, we also see things that give us hints as to the intelligence of the wolf being trapped. They had to actually make the ground between the two circles look like a well worn path otherwise the wolf might become too suspicious and not enter.

The author also offers up an interesting observation, one of which I have never heard before this reading.

When wolves once taste human flesh they become perfectly ferocious and will ever afterwards attack a man when they meet him alone. They pass by the flock and fly at the shepherd.

I have read about quite a few wolf attacks on humans in several parts of the world and this is the first reference I can recall exclaiming that wolves like the taste of human flesh.

As I pointed out at the conclusion of Part I, I am not advocating for people in America to take up their staves and pitchforks and become part of a wolf drive that will force wolves into an ambush with the intent of killing every wolf possible. The point I’m making is that it has always been a very difficult task for wolves and human to live together in peace and harmony.

Historic documents from Russia, Italy, India, France, Scandinavia, America and Canada should tell us that a steady dose of good wolf management, which includes strict controls on populations will go a long way in avoiding what people had to go through years ago in order to protect their communities and personal property.

The wolf is an intelligent and highly adaptable creature. When the time comes to hunt them, I’m afraid we will learn that setting a man with only his rifle afoot to catch a wolf will make for a tedious effort with little result.

Tom Remington

Share

To Catch A Wolf – Part I

Link to Part II
Link to Part III
Link to Part IV
Link to Part V

To be frank, there exists today very few people who have first hand knowledge on how to hunt a wolf. Wolf hunting many years ago became quite popular for a myriad of reasons, from the thrill of the adrenaline pumping danger to a matter of survival.

Today in America we talk of when the day comes, if ever, that the wolf we be taken off the list of protected species and man will once again be able to hunt this animal. We, including myself, often speak of the “Disneyesque” perception people today have of the wolf. I think the same can be said, at least to some degree, about how sportsmen are going to “hunt” the wolf when the time comes.

As a game management tool, specifically a population control measure, hunting has been a socially acceptable and scientifically viable means of accomplishing that task, however, I’m not so sure that we understand the difficulties we will be presented with in hunting this intelligent and highly adaptable beast.

I have been spending a considerable amount of time lately reading many accounts of methods used to hunt and kill wolves. Some of those I have already shared with you and other I’ve not. In a multi-part series I would like to take a little time and share with you some of the ingenious methods and sometimes comical tactics (you have to have a sense of humor) employed by hunters and trappers over the years.

In a book written by Will N. Graves, “Wolves in Russia: Anxiety Through the Ages“, the author shares with readers an entire chapter on successful and not so successful methods used in Russia for centuries to hunt and or capture wolves. In an article I wrote last month, I told of those methods and how they might compare to the rules the state of Idaho has laid out for wolf hunting as being effective.

In short, Idaho will prohibit using any method to trap a wolf. There are restrictions on weapons that will be allowed, no electronic calls, no baiting and no use of hounds. In other words, it is man against beast.

Teddy Roosevelt wrote quite extensively about his experiences with wolves in the U.S. during the late 1800s. He tells of the difficulties in being able to hunt the wolf. He also sheds light on the fact that the Indians and the old hunters bred dogs, often with wolves, in order to create a mean wolf fighting/hunting machine.

The true way to kill wolves, however, is to hunt them with greyhounds on the great plains. Nothing more exciting than this sport can possibly be imagined. It is not always necessary that the greyhounds should be of absolutely pure blood. Prize-winning dogs of high pedigree often prove useless for the purposes. If by careful choice, however, a ranchman can get together a pack composed both of the smooth-haired greyhound and the rough-haired Scotch deer-hound, he can have excellent sport. The greyhounds sometimes do best if they have a slight cross of bulldog in their veins; but this is not necessary. If once a greyhound can be fairly entered to the sport and acquires confidence, then its wonderful agility, its sinewy strength and speed, and the terrible snap with which its jaws come together, render it a most formidable assailant. Nothing can possibly exceed the gallantry with which good greyhounds, when their blood is up, fling themselves on a wolf or any other foe. There does not exist, and there never has existed on the wide earth, a more perfect type of dauntless courage than such a hound. Not Cushing when he steered his little launch through the black night against the great ram Albemarle, not Custer dashing into the valley of the Rosebud to die with all his men, not Farragut himself lashed in the rigging of the Hartford as she forged past the forts to encounter her iron-clad foe, can stand as a more perfect type of dauntless valor.

I have written more about Teddy Roosevelt’s experiences with wolves. You can follow this link to read. However, if you would like to read Roosevelt’s accounts in “Wolves and Wolf-Hounds“, this link will take you there. I will warn you though that some of his accounts of hunts with these dogs might be a bit gruesome, however factual.

In Russia, as well as many other places in Europe, I am discovering, for centuries they have had to learn to deal with wolves. The peasants, or common folk, couldn’t hunt for wolves because either guns were prohibited or they couldn’t afford a gun or the ammunition to use in it. Centuries of wolf encounters gave the Russians ample time to devise ways of controlling the animal.

I would like to point out however that even though I am going to share accounts of some of these methods, Russia for the most part did a lousy job of controlling wolves. In places there were too many causing the ungodly loss of life and property as historic documents now available from that country are more readily available, point out.

Sketches of Russian Life Before and During the Emancipation of the Serfs” By Henry Morley, gives us a couple accounts of how Russians dealt with wolves. Take note that in these writings, the “barons” end up utilizing the crafty ingenuity of the peasants in order to bag their “trophies”.

The first method utilizes a pig as a decoy. What I have discovered is that this was common across much of Europe as well, as I will relate in later articles. In this case, the hunters took a pig and transported it in a “strong canvas sack” on a horse drawn sleigh.

Upon reaching their hunting destination, the pig, kept in the canvas bag, was made to squeal hoping to attract the attention of wolves. Hunters would wait at a distance to shoot the wolves when they came out after the pig. (I assume that using the “strong canvas sack” not only prohibited the pig from running away, it also protected the pig from the hungry wolves. The wolves approached the bag with a squealing pig in it but didn’t know quite what to make of it.)

Two wolves emerged from the forest and after having both been killed by the hunters, the remainder of the entire pack – about 15 wolves – came out of the woods. Dragging the two dead wolves behind the sleigh and retrieving the pig and canvas bag, the hunters took off down the road luring the wolves behind.

Much as one might suspect how the aerial shooting of wolves today is done, the horses, driver and hunters coordinated their efforts and managed kill a few more of the pack.

As you can see in this case there were few restrictions placed on the hunters.

But the ingenuity gets quite interesting. Being the idea of the sleigh driver, it is decided to send the hunters ahead to a filthy retreat of many crusty trappers, where a palisade has been built to trap wolves. The palisade is a construction of poles, staves and whatever of quite large size. If wolves, or any other animal for that matter, can be lured or tricked into entering the palisade, it is then trapped. The method is almost laughable.

In a short time all was quiet and every necessary preparation made. Then came the howling of wolves and the screaming as of a pig (the driver of the sleigh, Mattvic, now riding the horse and being chased by wolves, is howling like a pig), the gallop of a horse over the hard crisp snow, the rush of many small feet. The outer door in the palisade was dashed open, and Mattvic, followed in half a minute by the whole pack, rushed in. The half-minute was just sufficient to enable Mattvic to vanish through the outer door into the trap. Then, as the last pressure on the door was removed, it closed with a loud sharp sound, and some five-and-twenty wolves were snared in a space not larger than twelve feet by twenty. We did not at first close the inner gateway, but, levelling our pieces at the mass of wolves now huddling themselves up in a corner, poured in two volleys in rapid succession, then closed the gate, and reloaded for another charge. The change from the air of ferocious savage daring which the wolves had displayed in pursuit of a single horseman, to abject terror when they found themselves caught in the narrow trap, was instantaneous. They were like sheep in a pen, crushing up in a corner, riding on the top of one another, lying down on their bellies, crouching and shivering with fear. It is not necessary to describe the scene of mere slaughter. Two staves were chopped out of the gateway, that -we might fire through. The drop-panels were opened, and two or three were admitted at a time to the next division; there dogs were let in on them through the adjoining trap, or they were killed by men with great hars of wood or axes; and at length, when only six or seven remained, three of the men went in amongst them, and with perfect safety despatched them. They say that a worm will turn on the heel that treads on it, but wolves caught in a trap like this, from which there is no escape, have less courage than a worm. They crouch, shiver, and die, as I saw, without one effort at self-defence or one snap of retaliation.

I am not suggesting in this article or any of the others that will follow, that I am advocating for this kind of wolf slaughter in Idaho or any other state that may in the future hunt wolves. But please don’t miss the point that I’m trying to make.

We don’t know how to hunt wolves. Even the experiences Americans have had in dealing with wolves dates back several decades now and it seems the only talk of these wolves involves only the fact that the wolf was driven to near extinction for several reasons, the biggest finger being pointed at man. We have been taught that the wolf is “misunderstood” and needs protecting.

With wolves growing at a rate of as high as 30% a year in some places and no indications that wolves will be removed from protection anytime soon, should that day come, we may need at our disposal more methods of hunting wolves other than one man and one rifle, lest we be forced into mass killings.

Using Russia as an example, there appeared to never be any consistency in wolf population control measures. Efforts would go out to reduce wolves in some areas and then left alone only to allow the regrowth of wolves to overgrown numbers again. When culling was needed, maybe that is what triggered the creation of ways to mass kill wolves. Better management might have prohibited this kind of action.

In future parts, I will examine other methods used in the U.S., France and Scandinavia.

Tom Remington

Share

When Do Wolves Become Dangerous To Humans?

Wolf Feeding on DeerMany of you have probably read several times or perhaps even heard me on my radio show talk about George Dovel and his ongoing efforts to reach people and educate them with facts about wildlife, etc. through his print publication, “The Outdoorsman”. (If you would like to subscribe to Mr. Dovel’s publication, you can write to this address: The Outdoorsman, P.O. Box 155, Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, 83629)

In the latest issue of the Outdoorsman, Dovel presents to his readers some background history on how our media, often times influenced by fish and game personnel and wildlife biologists, react to and present written information about human and wolf encounters. As part of Dovel’s presentation, he includes a great deal of information that he received from one of our very renowned wolf experts.

Dr. Valerius Geist, a Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science at the University of Calgary, has years of studies in wildlife, including wolves and personal encounters with them. He is recognized by many as one of the leading authorities on wolves and wolf habits.

If you will recall back in November, I reported that a coroner’s inquest had made a determination that Kenton Carnegie, a 22-year old college student had been attacked and killed by wolves in a remote area of Northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Dr. Geist and retired Alaska wolf expert Mark McNay, were asked to represent the family of Kenton Carnegie during the inquest.

Dr. Geist points out that there is an obvious reason why wolf attacks on humans go unreported or are declared to be inconclusive as to the cause of death. Those attacks that result in death occur almost entirely when a person is alone, no one to assist in fighting off the wolves and nobody to witness what happens.

Even in Carnegie’s situation, investigators readily agreed that there were wolf tracks all around what was left of the body. I even think I recall reading that witnesses who found Carnegie, reported seeing wolves or a wolf at or near the body. The disagreements come from whether or not Carnegie was dead before the wolves appeared on the scene.

This is the biggest reason why it goes on being reported that wolf kills on humans “never” happen in North America yet most people know this is simply not true.

Dr. Geist sent to George Dovel of the Outdoorsman, part of the 61-page recording of testimony at the inquest of Kenton Carnegie in hopes that people will read expert testimony and heed the information that comes from the best in the business rather than from the media which is nothing more than an echo chamber of environmentalists who would dare never to badmouth a wolf.

Below comes from The Outdoorsman article and is part of the information provided by Dr. Valerius Geist. It is the seven stages that lead to a wolf attack on people. There is more information that goes with these seven steps. I highly recommend contacting The Outdoorsman so you can get your copy sent to you.

These Are The Seven Stages Leading To An Attack On People By Wolves

1) Within the pack’s territory prey is becoming scarce not only due to increased predation on native prey animals, but also by the prey evacuating home ranges en mass, leading to a virtual absence of prey. Or wolves increasingly visit garbage dumps at night. We observed the former on Vancouver Island in summer and fall 1999.

Deer left the meadow systems occupied by wolves and entered boldly into suburbs and farms, causing – for the first time – much damage to gardens. At night they slept close to barns and houses, which they had not done in the previous four years.

The wintering grounds of trumpeter swans, Canada geese and flocks of several species of ducks were vacated. The virtual absence of wildlife in the landscape was striking.

2) Wolves in search of food began to approach human habitations – at night! Their presence was announced by frequent and loud barking of farm dogs. A pack of sheep-guarding dogs raced out each evening to confront the wolf pack, resulting in extended barking duels at night, and the wolves were heard howling even during the day.

3) The wolves appear in daylight and observe people doing their daily chores at some distance. Wolves excel at learning by close, steady observation [1]. They approach buildings during daylight.

4) Small bodied livestock and pets are attacked close to buildings even during the day. The wolves act distinctly bolder in the actions.

They preferentially pick on dogs and follow them right up to the verandas. People out with dogs find themselves defending their dogs against a wolf or several wolves. Such attacks are still hesitant and people save some dogs.

At this stage wolves do not focus on humans, but attack pets and some livestock with determination. However, they may threaten humans with teeth exposed and growling when the humans are defending dogs, or show up close to a female dog in heat, or close to a kill or carrion defended by wolves. The wolves are still establishing territory.

5) The wolves explore large livestock, leading to docked tails, slit ears and hocks. Livestock may bolt through fences running for the safety of barns. When the first seriously wounded cattle are found they tend to have severe injuries to the udders, groin and sexual organs and need to be put down. The actions of wolves become more brazen and cattle or horses may be killed close to houses and barns where the cattle or horses were trying to find refuge. Wolves may follow riders and surround them. They may mount verandas and look into windows.

6) Wolves turn their attention to people and approach them closely, initially merely examining them closely for several minutes on end. This is a switch from establishing territory to targeting people as prey. The wolves may make hesitant, almost playful attacks biting and tearing clothing, nipping at limbs and torso. They withdraw when confronted. They defend kills by moving toward people and growling and barking at them from 10 – 20 paces away.

7) Wolves attack people. These initial attacks are clumsy, as the wolves have not yet learned how to take down the new prey efficiently. Persons attacked can often escape because of the clumsiness of the attacks.

A mature courageous man may beat off or strangulate an attacking wolf. However, against a wolf pack there is no defense and even two able and armed men may be killed. Wolves as pack hunters are so capable a predator that they may take down black bears, even grizzly bears [2]. Wolves may defend kills.

The attack may not be motivated by predation, but be a matter of more detailed exploration unmotivated by hunger. This explains why wolves on occasion carry away living, resisting children, why they do not invariably feed on the humans they killed, but may abandon such just as they may kill foxes and just leave them, and why injuries to an attacked person may at times be surprisingly light, granted the strength of a wolf’s jaw and its potential shearing power [3].

[1] – It is important to recognize here that wolves learn in a manner different from dogs, and that they excel at learning by closely observing what is going on. They are insight learners, and they solve problems, such as unlatching gates, for instance, almost at once!

Some dogs may solve this, but over a very long time, and usually not at all. Captive wolves or coyotes not only learn to open their cage, but quickly open all the others as well! And they achieve this by sitting and just watching attentively – an activity wild wolves indulge in continually.

From an elevated position they rest or sit and watch, watch, watch. Many times wolves followed me and on some occasions sat beside my cabin at night, orientated towards the cabin, apparently watching what was going on.

Wolves have large heads relative to the body and at comparable skull sizes have about ten percent more brain mass than dogs. See Ray and Lorna Coppinger 2001 Dogs, pp. 42-47, 54-55.

[2] – Personal communication by Dr. Paul Paquet from research on coastal wolves in British Columbia. Wolf scat contained fur and claws of both black bears and grizzly bears.

[3] – I am grateful to Prof. Harry Frank drawing my attention to multiple motivations of wolves attacking people.

Share