Of Wolves and Men

Hunt Will Foster New Relationship With the Predators

BY RON MOODY

Wolf, the hunter, once again will become the hunted in Montana and Idaho this fall.
Denial of a federal court injunction to stop wolf hunts in those states means that a fundamental change of relationship between people and the lupine predator can now get underway.

I urge Americans of all cultural tribes to allow this predatory drama/biologic adventure to play out to its logical conclusion in peace over the next three months. Then, let us discuss the reality of actual experience rather than continue with ongoing conjecture-based rhetorical clashes.

This change of relationship between wolves and men must result in healthy, sustainable wolf populations and a secure future for the wolf in the Northern Rockies. The American people will accept no other outcome.
No such positive outcome is possible, however, if the wolf’s current expansion into its historic natural ranges is not disciplined to limit the damage done to the legitimate interests of humans who now occupy most of that same original wolf habitat.

The word most commonly used to describe this discipline is ‘management.’ And management means that some wolves will be killed in the process of fitting the new/old species into the fragmented and biologically compromised wild spaces remaining in the Northern Rockies.

In a human dominated world, wildlife can no longer exist as widespread, free-roaming populations in their natural habitats unless a human constituency wills it so. And having it so means that humans and wild things must co-exist on a shared landscape in an existential embrace of interactive give-and-take.
With this imperative in mind, I voted to institute a wolf hunt as a Montana FWP Com-missioner. 

I opt for regulated hunting as the preferred method of managing a game animal population in virtually all cases because I’ve observed the alternatives and studied the history and results of hunting as a conservation tool.  Hunting, when well regulated and ethically conducted, is not a liability to wildlife welfare. Indeed, biologically responsible hunting is an experience-proven path to a wolf future both permanent and wild that is also tolerable to lobo’s human neighbors.

A sharp cultural divide polarizes Americans over the morality of a human hunter taking the life of a wild game animal. Both hunters and non-hunters feed this polarization. I submit that the human squabbling itself, not actual lethal management, does the greater harm to wildlife by weakening the human constituency.

The wolf also is poorly served by the persistent urban legend that “somewhere out there” a vast, pristine wilderness still exists where wolves can roam free of human interference.
Yellowstone Park, the Selway-Bitterroot or the Bob Marshall Wilderness may look limitless to urban eyes. But they are only fragments of the living space needed by wolves, bears and mountain lions in order to play out a completely natural, human-free, relationship with elk, deer, moose, sheep, etc. 

Human intercession (management) is continuously required to keep these quasi-natural animal relationships from collapsing into a repeat of our 19th Century near-extinction. Thus we ‘manage,’ and management should mean conservation, wise use of nature, as different from a perpetual ‘zoo-without-walls’ strategy of preservation some would codify within the Endan-gered Species Act. ESA is a morally valid and effective tool for casting a safety net under a failing specie. It is a terrible tool, however, for maintaining recovered species in our aforementioned human-dominated world.
People are famously perverse in their relationships among themselves. I believe, however, that wild animals and wild places deserve better from all their human ‘friends’ who say they care about saving some wildness in the Earth.

Historically, North American hunters have achieved a conservation miracle in bringing back and sustaining large, wild populations of huntable prey species such as elk and deer. Their record on conserving predator species such as the wolf, on the other hand, is gray at its brightest point and mostly black. For this reason alone, hunters are still required to earn credibility in the eyes of non-hunters as good stewards of predator wildlife. Hunters should conduct the forthcoming wolf hunt with this standard in mind.

Among non-hunting wildlife advocates, on the other hand, a bit less ideology and a bit more open-mindedness is in order. They would better serve the true welfare of the wolf and all other wild, native species by learning the real reasons and history of why we still have so many wild animals in North America.
It’s quite a story.

And, knowing this story makes it’s much easier to envision a secure future for all wild things and wild places in America by following the conservation path pioneered by wildlife-loving recreational hunters.

Ron Moody is a member of the five-person Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission. He lives in Lewistown, MT. Email: [email protected].

For more on Wolves and Men, see page 15.

 

 

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