A Rural Viewpoint On Wolf Reintroduction And Protection
Where Wolves Walk Danger Stalks.
While concentrating on climbing over downed trees left by a recent forest fire J.C. looked up to find three Mexican wolves stalking him. The young man instinctively, positioned himself with his back against a large nearby ponderosa pine tree. The first wolf moved in front of him and stood about 30 feet away. It was black and wore a radio collar, the other two wolves split up, one went right, the other left. They circled around behind him and the big tree he stood against. Because the area he was in was covered in downed trees where a forest fire had burned and the timber had been left to waste, there was no where for him to go so he loaded his rifle and waited.
J.C. says the wolf in front just stared at him and stayed where it was for a full six to ten minutes. He said the two that circled behind him paced back and forth and that he could only see them from time to time with his back to the tree. After a while, the wolf in front of him began pacing too then it slowly walked towards the dark tree line, the others followed it. The entire close encounter lasted between five to ten minutes.
It appeared to be over after the wolves walked into the trees, so J.C. eased away from the tree he had used for cover. Keeping an eye on the retreating wolves, he moved slowly to a nearby open area where he could see the surrounding country better. There were cattle nearby, so he stayed with them thinking that the cows would alert him if the wolves began following him again. Knowing his dad was close J.C. began yelling for him, then stopped because he began to be afraid the wolves might locate him again. Instead, he walked at a fast pace to the road, and once there, he ran back to the pickup truck.
Joe Nelson was nearby, and though he had not heard J.C. yell, Joe described his son as shaking and visibly upset when he found him at the truck.
J.C. Nelson was raised in the woods and lived on ranches all his life. He has worked alongside his father on the familys cattle ranch. He says he felt threatened when he was surrounded by the wolves.
I didnt know if I could
shoot them since they are endangered, and I didnt want my dad to go to jail.
Joe Nelson did not report the incident to the Fish and Wildlife Service
and instead called Jess Carey the
Joe said, Why bother with them, they wont do anything anyway.
This was not the most recent Mexican wolf encounter in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area but it is by far one of the most serious. Had J.C. Nelson not been armed, had he been a boy with no background in wildlife, had he tried to run from the wolves, this incident could have been a tragedy.
Depending on who you speak to about habituated Mexican wolves, you will hear different attitudes about why their behavior is hardly ever the same as what passes for public education programs have described. One biologist even described a similar encounter with wolves as simple curiosity. But biologists on the outskirts of this program find the encounters with the wolves used in the program troubling when they learn of them. One even bucked common wolf education theories and described such incidents as prey testing and described J.C. as having saved his own life by not panicking.
Fish and Wildlife Service employees involved in the Mexican wolf program often just ignore the problems and hope they go away.
Carolyn Nelson, J.Cs mother, was shaken herself after the story was relayed to her by her husband. I cant stop thinking about what could have happened to him, he had to climb over so many downed trees to get back to the truck. There was really no way he could have gotten away if they had decided not to leave him alone, She says.
She also thinks about a Canadian family who lost their son to a wolf pack a year ago. That young man died and my son walked away from this encounter.
more people are dealing with wolves as recovery efforts become more successful and Carolyn
pays attention to the recovery, she knows what is happening in other areas where wolves
reside. There are people who have been attacked by their own pet wolves and
even killed. Our Fish and Wildlife are releasing wolves that are used to people and
have already killed livestock. Wild wolves have attacked people in
not been the first rural child that has encountered a wolf pack while living their day to
day lives. Fourteen year old Ivy Schneberger had a similar experience with a pair of
wolves on her familys ranch in
Ty Gatlin knows all about wolves, the nine year old lost his pet hound and the families valued hunting hound to a wolf attack last July. When the dog was found, it was barely alive its wounds so horrendous, that Tys dad, Don Gatlin put it down.
I dont feel like cooperating with them works, says Don when talking about dealing with the Fish and Wildlife Service. I told them for eight months there is a wolf coming in to our house and they take the information and do nothing. If I had just shot it and not said anything, I would have spared my three little kids and my wife from having to deal with this. Don too feels like the agency in charge of the program treats his family like second class citizens. While he is still angry, Don has been cooperating and the agency has made some limited attempts to trap and collar the lone wolf that haunts their home and has attacked two more dogs.
Tys mother Carlie has allowed him to carry a pocket knife so he feels better about being in wolf country. She keeps all of the children close to the house knowing she cant just lock them up all the time. She knows Ty has to have some idea he can protect himself. She is sad that her children are confined, and troubled that the agency seems to care little about them. Don and Carlie and their kids arent new to the wolf scene, they have had wolf packs on the ranch for at least six years, nearly all of Tys young life. A few years ago, Carlie wrecked her pickup on an icy road at night and walked home carrying her three year old. Then six years old, Ty walked with a bleeding gash on his head. A phone call from a friend in town alerted Don that something was wrong and he found them walking home after the wreck. The next morning Carlie was taken to the hospital with a concussion. On the way the family discovered a disturbing scene. There were wolf tracks in the snow following the familys footprints down the road.
is certain, Mexican wolves are making a comeback and the official reports of thirty to
forty animals are misleading in the eyes of those who live in the region and encounter the
wolves in the wild. They have even become a common sight along the highway
between the small towns of Glenwood, Reserve, Cruzeville and
A brief synopsis of an interim but still confidential psychological assessment was released at a County meeting held on October 26. The preliminary result of the affect of near constant wolf encounters and depredations includes the following. Insomnia in both adults and children- Nightmares in adults and children- Daily life changes and stressors -Feelings about the potential loss of livelihoods and financial insolvency -Varying degrees of psychological trauma -Varying degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Varying degrees of Clinical depression - Chronic fear for the welfare & safety of their family members - Chronic feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
These are only a few of the many Mexican wolf encounters. Terry Johnson, Mexican Wolf reintroduction team leader for the Arizona Game and Fish feels that parents are teaching their children to fear wolves. John Oakleaf, team leader for the Fish and Wildlife Service had this to say about J.C.s encounter.
The management approach for Nuisance Behavior and wolf-human interactions is laid out within SOP 13.0. None of the preceding events would suggest removal or a consistent pattern of nuisance behavior per SOP 13.0. He is referring not to the Rule governing the 8 year old program but to policies written in recent years to assist the agency in making management decisions. SOP 13 defines a set of protocol used by the agency to decide on whether to act on problem wolf behavior.
Apparently accosting children is not on that list of protocol to be concerned about.
The program releases human raised wolves in the blue range wolf recovery area, it is only a small step from the wild to habituated behavior. The wolves have both livestock as easy prey and to people as a perceived food source.
expects these hand raised wolves to become wild, eventually. Habituated wolves are
often destroyed in any other part of