The Backward Truth About Wolves and Grizzlies

March 27, 2012
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A gray wolf walks along a ridge in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
A gray wolf walks along a ridge in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Most people nowadays are well aware that wolves and grizzly bears are controversial species. Regular readers of this blog know that I am passionate about the well-being of these predatory animals. Most people think that all the controversy stems from them potentially eating ranchers’ cattle stock. The truth is, that’s just a scapegoat. The real motive is money that goes beyond ranching.

While wolves may in fact get into ranchers’ stocks and feed on a cow or calf every now and then, the claims are widely overblown thanks to fear and hatred perpetuated by corrupted politicians holding office in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, three states who rely heavily on hunting for valuable revenue. The simple fact is hunting brings in money to the states that they feel is much more important than the well-being of animals that are proven to be beneficial for regions found all over each of these states. If you can foster a feeling of hate and fear against an animal, it makes hunting them that much easier. Besides, there’s no money in conservation, is there? Let’s look closer.

One of the biggest animals hunted in these three states is elk. Without a doubt, it’s a huge market. It’s even so big in Wyoming that Grand Teton National Park allows elk hunting within its borders every fall season. Tourists admire the scenery of Schwabacher Landing as they confusingly see an orange-clad hunter carrying firearms walking right by them. It comes as quite the surprise for people who never imagined a national park would allow hunting animals within its boundaries to have hunters walking right by them while they’re trying to escape to a "pristine" natural landscape.

The Jackson Elk Herd migrates into the National Elk Refuge every winter where they are artificially fed, having been diverted off of their natural migration route from a location that is now dominated by the oil and gas industry and currently threatening pronghorn, who still use that route. While it may appear on the surface that they’re simply trying to take care of a species that can’t handle the cruelties of a winter in Jackson Hole, the fact is they have done just that for millenia, since some had always stuck around before the establishment of the town of Jackson. The more underlying fact, however, is that the National Elk Refuge is nothing more than an elk factory of sorts, created to fuel a successful hunting season each and every year in Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Complications arose once wolves were reintroduced and grizzlies began to repopulate the region. Both predators began to naturally manage elk herds, as they had done for millenia prior to human intervention. Landscapes became healthier and wildlife everywhere began to flourish thanks to their assistance in doing a maintenance job better than any human bureaucrat or even scientist could conclude. Realizing money would be lost from valuable hunting licenses, the states began to push wolves off of the endangered species list disguising it as a victory for the animal so they could open them up to hunting. Backed by false illusions of anger and fear, as well as propaganda movies like The Grey, it became open season in the Northern Rockies.

Now, as if hunting elk within Grand Teton National Park isn’t bad enough, wolves are to be targeted within the John D. Rockefeller Preserve, a subsection of the park, that would catastrophically cut off a connection between wolves of Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Since the area lies right in between the two, this is a solid, back-stabbing move on wolves to cause more damage to them than any open hunt in wilderness.

Many anti-wolf advocates will say that if left unchecked, wolves will virtually drive elk to the point of extinction. It’s evident on bumper stickers that say things like "Save 100 elk. Kill a wolf." This is so ridiculously false that it barely even warrants an explanation. If there were any truth to that at all, elk would have been extinct long before any European settlers even sailed to America. Assuming there were any truth to that scenario, bison as well would have been extinct with elk. Yet before the west was "discovered," all animals were thriving wonderfully in perfect balance with each other. Humans were the ones that killed bison nearly to extinction and thanks to killing off wolves in the lower 48, elk became sick all over the west because there weren’t enough natural predators to keep their numbers under control, causing widespread overpopulation illnesses. Thus, the annual elk hunt went into effect, and while wolves attacked weak, sick, and young elk, hunters attack the biggest and strongest of the elk, thus making the herd weaker than wolves or grizzlies would.

What about ranchers and their stock? Over and over again in past blog posts, I’ve linked to proven and simple methods that ranchers can adopt that keep wolves from attacking their stock. A simple Google search will yield all kinds of results. I don’t ask ranchers to care about wolves, I simply ask them to educate themselves in simple and safe ways to live with them, rather than letting politicians get into their head, convincing them that they’re an evil animal. Put simply, there is no such thing as an evil animal in nature. Each animal has its own rightful place in helping other aspects of nature thrive.

So, the big question remains, how do the states keep money coming in that would be lost from hunting if they were to let wolves roam freely and do their job that they’re passionately trying to remind humans that they’re here to do? It’s simple. Yellowstone National Park has been doing it successfully for over 140 years now. People want to see wildlife. People from cities all over the world want to escape their stresses and daily lives to see the ease and delicately complex simplicity of nature. The opportunity to come face-to-face with a predatory animal, such as a wolf, is a draw that’s been proven to lure people in from any location around the world. The money that the states could make from tourism to protected lands would vastly and practically instantly outweigh any money that hunters could produce. The combined revenue made from hunting, even over an entire decade, would seem like a complete joke in a matter of years compared to proper marketing of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and beyond. Protected lands with wildlife of all varieties flourishing around each and every corner of this area and more would attract not just wildlife enthusiasts and those wanting to escape the daily grind, but also outdoor enthusiasts such as hikers, backpackers, campers, general road trippers, and many more. It all starts with just a bit of education, and right now, we have people in power of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho that both aren’t educated, and have no desire to be. Get in touch with them and let them know your thoughts on where the real money waits.

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