September 19, 2018

A question of “Science”?

The following question was sent to a colleague recently”

Question: “Was the Arctic Gray Wolf EVER native to Washington State?”

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The following response to that question comes from another colleague who is coincidentally a retired University professor in Canada for whom I have the greatest respect.

The gray wolves are all one species, and the subspecies game is highly questionable. There are indications that a very few local wolves did exist in the west before the release of wolves from Alberta. I only saw one picture of a wolf in Yellowstone before the release, and it was simply a large, black wolf, no different from what I had seen in Canada. Size is not a taxonomic criterion, because wolves increase in size markedly with good nutrition and shrink in size with poor food availability. The large wolves from Alberta released in Yellowstone merely came from a good wolf habitat.”

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Though in no way dissatisfied with that response, this old bureaucrat (me) added the following government-science perspective: 

The last political-correctness-free treatise on the Wolves of North America is oddly enough the name of the 1944 book by Stanley Young.  He was a Bureau of Biological Survey/USFWS (the modern name) trapper, control agent and finally a bigwig in Washington over the old Predator & Rodent Control Division going back to WWI and he was all over the place doing all manner of things.

In his 650-page tome full of pictures (the one of the red wolf/hound dog cross on a chain in Missouri is priceless) he treats the wolf as a species.  He pictures many coyote/dog/wolf crosses and innocently explains that they interbreed freely and the pups are all viable and completely capable of transferring their genes to either wild or domestic “cousins” for posterity.

That said I always hear echoes of that high school/college/biological historic definition of an animal Species when I am discussing Species, i.e. “animals with similar characteristics capable of interbreeding and producing viable offspring.”.  By that definition, a horse is a separate species from a donkey because the mule is not viable.  Ergo, a dog is a wolf is a coyote is a dingo, in fact all one “species”.  I mention this to provide what they call “full disclosure” of my belief. 

Mr. Young, whom I never met but have always held in high regard treats the wolf “species” Canis Lupus as having 23 “subspecies” on a map on page 414.  Each subspecies name credits some long-gone biologist as their discoverer (i.e. given the privilege of “naming” their “discovery”).  The North America map is covered exception for Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Florida(?) from Southern Mexico to Greenland and all the Islands between Greenland and Canada with 23 “subspecies”.  There is no “Arctic” wolf mentioned.  The closest is those wolves Canis lupus tundrarum found in the “tundra region of NW Alaska; south to the Noatak Valley.  Intergrading to the south with pambasileus, and east along the along the arctic coast with mackenzii.”

I mention all this to show how our biological perceptions have changed with scientific advancements driven in this case all too much by political opportunism and the hidden agendas of rich environmental/animal rights extremism.  This is so distorted because the government bureaucrats and radicals came up with the ESA claims and regulations that (insert any animal here) implement the Endangered Species Act.   

So, the erstwhile bureaucrat writing regulations and staging faux court cases for “precedents” finds the “Beers’ Grass Mouse”Peromyscus Beersii to be “endangered”.  As our bureaucrat toils at his computer and while at coffee he decides and shares with fellow bureaucrats that, “We are really “saving habitat” (i.e. people-free zones infinitely expanding) and not just animals, so we “must save not only:

  • The Species Beers’ Grass Mouse Peromyscus Beersii found throughout the Great Plains but more specifically;
  • The Subspecies Beers’ Big-Eyed Grass Mouse Peromyscus Beersii magna luscus found in the Eastern Prairies and more specifically;
  • The Race Black Beers’ Big-Eyed Grass Mouse Peromyscus Beersii magna luscus negris found “only” in the Eastern Woodlands/Prairie interface and more specifically;
  • The Population Indiana Black Beers’ Big-Eyed Grass Mouse Peromyscus Beersii magna luscus negris indianus) AND EVEN – drumroll please;
  • The Distinct Population Southern Indiana Black Beers’ Big-Eyed Grass Mouse Peromyscus Beersii magna luscus negris indianus meridionalis) AND EVEN;
  • (Full band roll here) The Distinct Population Segment Larry Bird County Southern Indiana Black Beers’ Big-Eyed Grass MousePeromyscus Beersii magna luscus negris indianus meridionalis larrybbirduscountyii found “only” in Larry Bird County, Indiana! 

All such nonsense has come to mean access to billions of dollars, millions of acres of private property and unquestioned, unconstitutional and unlimited power for the central government and radicals over a once free Nation.  You see there is probably a dam or pipeline permit application somewhere in Larry Bird County, Indiana that would benefit taxpayers, the economy, rural communities, rural families and could, if anyone cared to try anymore, benefit the human ecosystem and the natural aspects of that system but it will never happen: The Critical Habitat Declaration for the Larry Bird County Southern Indiana Black Beers’ Big-Eared Grass Mouse kills the project and they are cheering in Washington Offices and on the North Shore patios of environmental radicals in Chicago.  Welcome to the world of government “science” “saving” “species”.

Val (the retired professor quoted in the first answer) hits the nail right on the head about those “large wolves from Alberta”.  Concern about the “red” or “Mexican” et al wolves is disguised in the imaginary aura of somehow involving sacred and unseen biological material and factors hidden in the Sp./Sub. Sp./Race/Pop. /Dist. Pop. /Dist. Pop. Segment. du jour.  We have sold our kids and soccer Moms that a red wolf or “Arctic” Wolf is like the rhinoceros, unique, distinct and in “need” of severe intervention by government saviors; people, property, families, rural communities, expense and Constitution be damned!

I would submit that this environmental/animal rights hysteria of the moment is, hopefully, a passing phenomenon because the subject of scientific inquiry is so distorted now that, like Diogenes with his lantern looking for an honest man; looking for an honest biologist/veterinarian today is on a par with seeking an honest bureaucrat/politician.

Jim Beers

26 June 2018

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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.

You can receive future articles by sending a request with your e-mail address to:   jimbeers7@comcast.net

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