Imagine living in a world or time when the authorities condoned the random killing of your family members and relatives. They called it a "recreational sport" and made money selling licenses to kill. Number-crunching experts called it a "sustainable harvest" that was a "science-based decision."
Consider how you would you feel, unable to defend your family from an annual slaughter by those who know nothing about how you grieve over the loss of loved ones. Nor do they know or care that you might barely survive the hardships of shattered family and community ties when members are crippled and killed and all who survive begin to live in fear.
This is how it is for the gray wolf residents of the United States, whose annual shooting, trapping and snaring amounts to a kind of death tax for the privilege of being allowed to exist rather than being exterminated, which many people have devoutly wished and sought to accomplish for centuries. Now the U.S. government is proposing to remove all legal protection of these wolves by removing them from the endangered species list.
Those people who are not incapable of putting themselves in the wolf's place, along with those wolf biologists and other scientists who value the wolf primarily as a species playing a vital role in maintaining and restoring healthy ecosystems, sought to put an end to this extermination by having the federal government add the gray wolf to the endangered species list in 1974. But the government is now bowing to pressure from various states and vested interest groups (such as cattle ranchers and deer hunters) and is being swayed by state and federal number-crunching wolf biologists and trappers like Minnesota's David Mech, who speaks the distancing and sentience-denying language of "harvesting" sustainably managed wolf populations. These authorities contend that the gray wolf has "recovered," with an estimated population of some 6,100, and no longer needs to be protected as an endangered species.
The numbers game plays into the outmoded and unscientific federal and state wildlife management paradigm of favored species such as white-tailed deer, elk, turkey and fur-bearers such as the wolf and bobcat for recreational and commercial purposes. This is a form of wildlife farming, rather than seeking to maximize species diversity for optimal ecosystem integrity and health. Wildlife agencies contend that the best way to protect the wolf is to manage it as a trophy species with strictly enforced annual kill quotas. But there is no scientifically valid reason for not continuing to prohibit all such killing for the good of the ecosystems where wolves once flourished across much of the country and now are in dire need of CPR -- conservation, protection and restoration. From this latter perspective, the western and eastern gray wolf populations in North America have certainly not recovered, a far greater number being needed to help maximize species diversity and the restoration and recovery of ecosystem integrity and health.
Laid bare of the prejudices generated by folktales and mythology imbued with fear and ignorance, the wolf is more akin to the human species, emotionally, socially and ecologically, than the human species is to its closest genetic cousin, the chimpanzee. Some anthropologists believe that wolves helped make us human, a view shared by Native Americans through their lessons of pack loyalty, strategic cooperation in hunting, food-sharing, communal care of young, documented care of injured family members and living in balance under the constraints of natural law.
Our humanity is as endangered today as the wolf. Selective killing as a money-making and job-creating management tool, and killing wolves as a recreational "sporting challenge" must become things of the past if we are to evolve as a species and put compassion and ethics, along with sound science and governance, in place of continued harm and destruction of all that is wild and free.
There will be a 90-day comment period on the American government's intention to remove all protection for the gray wolf. Information and notices will be posted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services website (fws.gov) this week. Make your concerns known and go through the motions regardless of the evident resistance to democratic process and environmental justice that prevails in this society today.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
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