Wolves come in a wide variety of sizes and colours.
I’m back to posting on my blog . . . .I hope to post regularly, but also likely infrequently.
Blogging is, or can be, hard work. Still, I’m doing it because it can provide a forum for ideas that hopefully helps more than just me in understanding events that are of concern to a lot of us. Certainly, I am a follower of several blogs and I get some very interesting and useful information from them.
At any rate, the reason(s) I’m going to try this (blogging) again is that I can’t help but be astounded at some of the going-ons in wildlife world. Wolf management, for example.
Let’s look at that one. It’s appropriate, I think, especially given that I’ve always had a photo of a wolf as the ‘signature’ of my blog.
I have used a wolf photo, in part, because wolves evoke a wide range of thoughts and ideas amongst anyone with an interest in wild things. It’s been that way for a long time – as the song says, “it’s been that way since the get-go.”
Historically, wolves were believed to be ‘bad’ by the majority of people, at least in Europe (those North American ‘colonizers’) and getting rid of wolves was ‘good’. It’s not hard to see how those ideas came to be, considering rural folk in Europe, for hundreds and even thousands of years, were mostly poor, didn’t have guns and were often reliant on a farming existence that was quite fragile. Wolves killed and ate livestock and back in those days, probably killed and ate more than a few people. So it made a lot of sense to try and get rid of wolves; which they did, eventually.
While this was going-on, Europeans began colonizing North America, bringing along with them their ideas about what to do about wolves (get rid of them).
Which, again, they did; much of what became the lower 48 along with large swaths of southern Canada became wolf-free zones.
But there were still a lot of wolves in the world and the wolf did not go extinct.
In Eurasia, large numbers of wolves continued to persist, particularly in Russia; in Canada and Alaska, wolves have always ranged far and wide.
With wolves gone across large landscapes, but still abundant elsewhere, the ‘let’s get rid of all the wolves’ meme lost pre-eminence.
It was replaced by the ‘we like wolves a lot!’ meme.
One outcome was a re-classification of the wolf. In the minds of both the public and government, the wolf changed from being a lowly varmint to the more lofty status of a noble game animal. To provide them with love and protection, wolves, in places, were put on endangered species lists, which brought with it money and the implementation of many a wolf recovery program.
Largely a result of the new meme, wolves today are more widespread and abundant than they have been in over a hundred years.
They’re back with a vengeance in the western mountains of the US, much of the mid-western forests and are occasionally reported in New England. Of course, there still abundant over much of Canada and Alaska.
And coyotes are almost everywhere outside the tundra. Then there are wolves that people don’t really know how to classify except to say they’re some sort of wolf . . . Newfoundland, once free of all wild canids, now has coyotes and . . .some other canids.
Over in Europe, wolves have also been on the path to recovery. Hiking their way across and out of Poland, wolves have successfully recolonized Germany, to the point where there is now a growing rumbling that wolf numbers are getting out of control. In late 2017, there were estimated to be 60 packs of wolves in Germany, 13 more than the year before. The total number of wolves is officially estimated to be 150-160, although unofficial estimates say there is more than twice that number. Wolves are also showing up in other European countries, including France and Spain.
With many landscapes now occupied (infested?) with wolves, I think it’s time to move away from ‘we like wolves a lot!’
Unfortunately, that meme is not yet dead, although it has been wounded.
For example, the old mantra that wolves only kill the very old, the very young, the sick and the injured has been thoroughly de-bunked.
Wolves will try and catch and kill and eat whatever they can.
In the mountains of northern Idaho and southern British Columbia, the South Selkirk herd of caribou is down to three animals. What’s the main culprit behind their disappearance, despite decades of effort at maintaining and increasing their numbers? Wolf predation. Even though it is astounding that wolf culls were actually attempted, they weren’t successful in getting rid of the wolves there (maybe it’s a lost art) and so the wolves have been catching, killing and eating all the caribou.
In Canada’s Pukaskwa National Park on the northern shore of Lake Superior, the wolves finally caught and killed and ate every last caribou a few years ago.
This past winter, Ontario did an emergency capture and transfer of caribou off Michipicoten Island. This was done because it was feared wolves there were going to catch and kill and eat all the caribou on the island.
So it’s clear that wolves can drive herds of ungulates, at least locally, to extinction.
It’s also become clear that in addition to killing them all, wolves are capable of killing enough to reduce populations to low levels and then keep them there. It’s called a predator pit – after falling in, there’s no way out. It’s been observed with respect to white-tailed deer in the northern forests of Minnesota and a number of small, scattered herds of woodland caribou wherever they occur.
That’s proof of the pudding that there is no ‘balance’ of nature. Nature is never ‘in balance’. There is a constant struggle for survival that goes on and in the end, most species actually lose out. There are vastly more species that have gone extinct than survive today. And the vast majority of extinctions have had nothing to do with, to use a phrase, humankind.
So knowing what we now know, I think it’s time to get rid of and replace ‘we like wolves a lot!’ with something a bit more reasonable. A lot of people are thinking along those lines.
Something is needed that will result in changes to the present, often absurd, over-protection of wolves way of doing things.
Like here in Ontario, where moose populations have been in decline for years despite severe and increasing restrictions on hunting. The answer seems to be to give wolves even more protection.
Now there’s a proposal in the works to ban wolf harvest completely from a huge swath in the south-central part of the province to protect the ‘eastern’ wolf, something that, with some half-hearted scrutiny, can be shown to be completely bogus, as there is no such animal. The ‘eastern’ wolf, described in part as a rather smallish wolf, occurs sympatrically with gray (timber) wolves. The wolves breed indiscriminately with one another and produce viable offspring of various size and colour. Biology 101 says that makes them the same species. But when you’re hitched to the ‘we like wolves a lot!’ bandwagon, you don’t let sound science get in your way.
It’s worth noting that scientists in the USA, who have analyzed the data, don’t recognize the eastern wolf as a separate species of wolf. They are more along the lines of wolves being Canis soup.
Over in Germany, wolves are still provided with complete protection. With numbers rapidly expanding, there are dire consequences to wild herds of deer and livestock being predicted.
Fighting over how to manage wolves in the US continue to escalate; in some areas,elk herds are taking a pounding from high wolf predation.
With all these conflicts, one would think that reasonable compromises regarding wolf management could be found, but none appear to be anywhere, at least not on the immediate horizon.
So despite all the evidence that shows there is absolutely no doubt that there can be too many wolves and that managing wolves using sound wildlife management should be a no-brainer, the ‘we like wolves a lot!’ continues to rule the day. It can’t last . . .
Meanwhile, over on Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, the wolf population – which arrived naturally – is down to a single animal. The Isle, which got rid of all the wolves naturally, pushed the US Parks Service to produce plans to re-introduce 20-30 wolves to the island over the next three years at a cost of about 2 million dollars.
I really think it’s time to change that meme.
Well, that’s my back to blogging post. Hope you enjoyed it.