the wolf – my thoughts

I posted this in 2011. After reading through how I felt then, I still feel the same. We now have trapping, and now in 2021 no quota trapping of the Montana wolves.

I am not uniquely qualified to give an expert opinion on the North American Wolf. I am not a wild life biologist, I don’t work for FWP, I am not a rancher, I don’t work for the park services or a conservation group. I am not a wolf groupie, I don’t howl in the middle of the night, and I don’t have shirts that say ‘Save the Wolf’.

That being said, I am a citizen of the Earth and I take that seriously. I am uniquely qualified to stand up and voice my opinion when I feel that bio-politics is over-riding what nature has intended.

I like to know that everyone cares enough to protect what has been on this planet long before we ever arrived, including and not limited too; earth, air, water, animals, insects, oceans and even the rattle snake (that one is so hard for me to even write…). Mother Nature has done an exceptional job with balance, or what we all call the circle of life. Humans have done an over whelming job at wreaking havoc on this balance, and it has played out historically on pretty much every continent.

I would have to agree with Dr. Roger Fouts that Plato and Socrates had it all wrong. They believed and espoused to the world that man was the center of the universe. They created a mindset that, we as humans were above and superior to all other living animals on the planet. Dr. Fouts wants to see this mind-set up dated to include what we now know about other living beings on this planet, through scientific study and observation.

I believe we are not ‘the’ animal on the planet, we are one of many, and all intangibly linked in one way or another. And if we continue to mess with balance and nature as it was intended, we will eventually screw ourselves. The Earth is not our playground, it is our gift and we need to take care of it.

OK – this brings me to the Wolf. To reintroduce them, to leave it up to nature, to hunt them, to protect them. Why and how did this all come about? The single best source on the actual details, dates, people, and politics involved can be found in the book Wolf Wars by Hank Fischer. I have read pretty much everything by Renee Askins, David Mech & Luigi Boitoni to gain a better understanding on wolves and why things have played out the way that they have. Fischer’s book binds this all together through behind the scene accounts with government agencies, conservation groups and ranchers. You won’t find his information in any newspaper article.

The abounding hatred towards wolves is palpable. From fairy tales, to ranchers chatting about the killing for fun. It wasn’t so long ago that the Park Services, Yellowstone in particular, support predator extermination. Poisoning, trapping, burning, shooting, take them down any way possible, get rid of them. It is believed that mange was introduced into Montana by act of the Montana legislature in about 1910 as a crude form of bio warfare to kill coyotes and wolves. Ethologists and biologists in the 1930’s had documented the need for both prey and predator on the planet, and the balance was essential to the circle of life, one cannot sustain without the other. They warned against predator extermination. Apparently their warning went unheeded until the 1970’s or so.

The movement was slow, politics posed a problem, and public sentiment was wishy-washy at best. Without going into every detail, by the time that Montana/Idaho/Wyoming politicians realized that the wolf was either going to come on their own and migrate from Canada or be introduced, public opinion was heavily in favor of the wolf. There were original arrangements made to compensate ranchers for lost stock, pay ranchers up to $5,000 if they let wolves breed on their property, etc. The Endangered Species Act had a special provision for wolves that were transplanted into the park would be designated as ‘experimental population’. The system was not perfect, but it did get things going and truly was set up to try to be fair to everyone involved. The only glitch that I have read is that with this special designation, ranchers hands were tied, even if they saw a wolf in the act of killing, they were protected and could not be touched. I believe Hank Fischer worked hard to have this changed but the conservation group he worked for would not support killing of a wolf, even one in the act of killing stock.

So it brings us to today. The wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Area have been thriving, a whole generation has grown up watching the beginning, growth and the end of the Druid Pack in the Lamar Valley, the packs wondering and thriving outside of the park, and the wolves that have caused ranchers grief. There have been winters were mange and distemper have killed every wolf pup and greatly reduced the numbers, and other years where the pups have thrived. Documentaries in the 100’s, the wolves have become the sexy animal of Yellowstone Park. Wolf Tours are sold out, workshops with wolf biologists are full the day they open, and wolf trinkets fly off the shelves at all of the concessions. You’ll never see this for the raven or the weasel, sorry guys.

So why the hatred, why the blood thirsty desire to kill the wolf, lower their numbers so drastically? Wolves are familial units, they live and learn from each other, Mother, father, aunts, uncles and siblings. If familial units are severed from the large hunts that are proposed, how will this affect their well being, their ability to be emotional and socially healthy in their environment and survive?

I think a rancher should have the right to shoot a wolf if they are killing stock, I do not believe they should be shot just because they are a wolf and here is why.

Wolves have never posed a threat to humans, they leave them alone. This seems to be a stock issue. Ranchers in the Great Lakes area visit and spend more time with their stock than ranchers here in the West, this is documented and there was a great documentary on PBS highlighting ranches in the Paradise and Madison Valleys, the Sun Ranch being one of them. They came right out and said, “…before wolves we use check on our cattle every two weeks or so, now we have to do it every two days or so, it’s more work…” Seriously, that’s your answer?

Ranchers should be able to kill a problem animal, be it wolf, dog or coyote. Those provisions have been made in the Great Lakes area and there doesn’t seem to be this large controversy. The livestock and hunting organizations have a great deal of political pull in Montana, and they are mono focused, not looking at the long-term scheme of things. Hunting groups want more Elk, Montana’s Sweet Heart, even though we now know that they are the culprits behind spreading brucellosis, not  the bison. I haven’t seen the Elk on anyone’s shit list lately?

Here are some statistics to put things into perspective, and how vilified the wolf has become.

23 million dog bites to humans in 2009 – and yet we still continue to let them live in our homes, and spend BILLIONS on fun things for them every year.

32-35 human deaths from domestic dog attacks in 2009

16-25 human deaths from Mountain Lions in the US between 1995-2001

0-5 human deaths from Wolves in the US in recent history. I did find records indicating that between 1580-1830 in Central Europe they have record of 3,000 wolf attacks. I couldn’t verify the accuracy on this.

Could ranchers spend more time with their stock, have true stock guardian animals full-time, and be more diligent about grazing areas? I think so. Should they be able to protect their stock? Absolutely.

Photos taken by Nancy Tanner in West Yellowstone in 2010, mother’s day.

Originally posted by Nancy Tanner at 7/15/2011

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Kim says:

    A topic very near and dear to my heart Nancy. I can not understand the hatred of any animal, be it domestic or wild, 4-footed, 2-footed, winged or scaled. I can understand a lack of knowledge that creates a fear, I can understand discomfort because of that fear…but true hatred? I just can’t wrap my brain around it. Too many people in this lovely state have “drank the cool-aid” regarding wolves and wolf politics. I wish I could say more, but…

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Kim, I wish I could have saved your reply when I originally posted this last year, it was awesome, straight forward, and realistic. In Bozeman there are people who advocate for wolves to run free, and people who want to kill those people and the wolves they love. Ranchers who hate wolves, yet never have had a problem, and ranchers who want to turn their livestock out and not have to go check on them, so the wolves are an inconvenience. Hate is so real here, and I too, don’t understand it.

  2. Eileen says:

    Thank you, Nancy. You and I seem to be befuddled and angered by the same irrational opinions and behaviors of ranchers and commercial hunters, who seem to care only about earning that dollar with no hassle – and at public expense. Of course, I am most unhappy with the politicians who pander to that niche in their constituency. Interestingly, I hear very little support for the anti-wolf perspective among the rest of Montana’s citizens. How do you suppose we get their perspective to be heard?

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      I think it takes voicing educated opinions, and often, and having the time to sit in on endless meetings that are mostly inhabited by retiree’s and FWP employees.

      1. Kim says:

        I really wish the silent majority would stop being so silent! FWP, politicians, etc hear primarily from the vocal minority…the “kill all wolves” side, or the “save all wolves” side. However, even though they are the minority opinion, they are still the most vocal. So, lets hear from all silent majority out there! Go to an FWP meeting and speak up, comment on the hunting season regulations, call your representative, call your commissioner…anything to let the majority voice begin to be heard. FWP asks for opinions all the time, but they typically ONLY hear from those that hold the minority view. So what is FWP to do? Ignore the only comments and opinions they receive just because they are probably the minority viewpoint?

      2. Nancy Tanner says:

        Kim I agree. If the silent majority doesn’t learn to speak up, then there is implied consensus. Over the years I have gone to meetings on the city and state levels; on the spraying of malathion when we lived in Lander, burning tires along the Jefferson in Montana, safety and nutrition in school lunches, etc. What I have found is that the system is so ‘in place’, that it takes a virtual ‘perfect storm’ of people coming together, at the same time, to bring change.

  3. Steve Kimme-Hea says:

    “Mother Nature has done an exceptional job with balance, or what we all call the circle of life. Humans have done an over whelming job at wreaking havoc on this balance, and it has played out historically on pretty much every continent.”

    Isn’t it amazing that most people believe that wildlife needs our management in order to survive? Thinning out deer populations, relocating wolves, seeding clouds (okay, that last one is interfering on another level but pretty much the same thing). We just don’t get the fact that most of these animals have been here long before us and would adapt just fine w/o our help.

    A very well-written, informative article! Great job!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Steve I don’t understand why humans feel they need to change and manage things when if we look at it historically, we kind of suck at the job… I believe we should respect the bigger picture, have less impact, and nurture instead of manage.

      1. Steve Kimme-Hea says:


      2. Kim says:

        Easier said than done when a large portion of people want to harvest or extract natural resourses in one way or another…hunting, timber harvest, grazing, mining, etc. It is in that way that we manage wildlife and nature, et al…of course managing wildlife usually means managing more the people and less of the actual wildlife. However, for example, if we allow the humans to harvest ungulates, than there needs to be room for both types of predators (2-legged and 4-legged) to do so, so that the ungulate population can handle it. The problem is that our MT statutes clearly state that game WILL be managed so that people can harvest them…so if predators are thinning down the ungulate herds, they will start thinning down the predators…humans win and ultimately wolves (bears, lions, coyotes) lose. It has nothing to do with hate or even nurture instead of manage…the state agencies are mandated to manage what is listed as game so that they can be harvested by the public, if the ublic chooses to do so. If people want that changed, they’ll have to change part of the MT constitution.

      3. Nancy Tanner says:

        I hope that in my life time, that we come to a place where crimes against nature, that threaten; air, water, earth, and populations of animals, carry a heavier sentence than smoking pot … and that they are enforced.

  4. susan weaver says:

    Great article, Nancy!! I’m not educated in a lot of the history or events about the wolf, and I live on the West Coast, not in Montana. I like wolves, and wildlife. I feel in my bones that they have more right than we do to live on Earth. I like to believe that certain entities get to be “free” in our world. That wildlife should have protection. Especially when it comes to human greed and irrational thoughts and actions. I am dismayed with our government wildlife departments. And I feel that, in a nutshell, (my cynical outlook is that), humans need absolute control….over everything. And hate comes easily to humans. That said, I’m able and willing to fight for a better world.

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