THE SABLE AND THE WOLF
The forced (by the federal
government) reintroduction of gray wolves
throughout the West and in the upper Midwest is supposed to be a good thing.
But is it? Like the fables told us as children, the moral and the ending
may not be what we expect.
The occasional howl of a wolf or a glimpse of one crossing a road is
thrilling to some people. To others, the loss of their livestock; the loss
of their dogs; the danger of attack to hunters, campers, and rural children;
the decimation of big game animals with it's attendant loss of hunting
opportunities; and the way in which friends and neighbors have been
threatened with large fines and incarceration for bothering a wolf make the
sound of a wolf howl or the glimpse of one crossing a road something to be
feared or cursed. Generally speaking, the first group is primarily made up
of folks that both live far away from where the wolves are located today and
that have not and do not expect to experience any personal harm or loss from
Two myths are given as justification for forcing the wolves back where our
forefathers extirpated them. Each is both true and false. The first myth
is that wolves are "native species" and therefore "belong" where they used
to be. It is true that wolves are what we term "native species". But as to
whether they "belong" in any particular location; they no more "belong"
anywhere other than where they can exist AND where our or any society will
tolerate them than you or I "belong" back in Europe or Asia or Africa.
Why does one plant or animals "belong" anywhere, other than for the fact
that they find all of the conditions necessary for their existence and the
men and women of that area allow them to be there? To exist, plants and
animals need a climate and soil and mix of other plants and animals and an
ability to withstand various competitions and dangers that may not allow
them to exist. In other words they must be competitive in a compatible
ecosystem (including the humans present) that will sustain them.
Human societies tolerate
certain plants and animals for a multitude of
reasons. Domestic plants and animals that provide food and beauty and
companionship are the purposeful products of centuries of improvement and
cultivation favorable to man's existence. Wild plants and animals are
tolerated or eradicated or carefully managed because of the harm they cause,
the benefits they accrue to humans, the beauty they lend to a particular
area, the fact that they go unnoticed, or most often a mix of all these
things. The fact that certain plants and animals occurred somewhere 100,
500, or 2,000 years ago is only indicative of the changes overall since that
time and often it may be an indication of which species are more likely to
exist in that area today. Other than that, the terms "native" or "invasive"
are really only academic observations that may or may not be helpful in
judging what is "best" for any area today.
The second myth used to
justify the forced reintroduction of wolves is that
wolves are "endangered". This, like the first myth, is both true and false.
While it is true that the gray wolf and the red wolf have been "Listed"
under our Endangered Species Act, they are NOT in any sense a "species" in
any danger. Red wolves are a genetic mishmash of wolf, coyote, and domestic
dog genes. The "species" was "invented" by biologists looking for a
wide-ranging animal that could be claimed to need "reintroduction" in the
Southeastern United States much like the gray wolf in the Upper Midwest and
the Rocky Mountain States. Observations of the Federal power and budgets
generated by "endangered " gray wolves in Minnesota during the 1970's led to
claims of a "unique" wolf extirpated from the southeastern states over a
century ago. Comparing the accrued advantages for bureaucrats, professors,
and radical groups generated by forced gray wolf reintroduction in the West;
forced reintroduction of red wolves in the Southeast has been slower and
more problematic. In short, the red wolf is a figment of endangered species
chicanery by government.
Gray wolves are abundant and widespread throughout Canada, Alaska, and Asia
where more than a few local folks would like very much to see them
extirpated with alacrity, native species or not. "Our" gray wolves would do
fine in those foreign places and those folks' wolves (indeed we used
Canadian wolves as a sort of "starter dough" for our wolf implants in the
West) do fine here. It is a fact that the reintroduced gray wolves'
predation on wild and domestic animals is additive to the already high
predation rates from our abundant cougars, bears, and coyotes. This extra
predation impact from gray wolves on elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep and
other big game species is devastating. A current but probably temporary
exception to this wolf impact on big game lies in the Midwest where record
deer numbers in surrounding areas keep back-filling, for now, areas where
wolf diets rely heavily on deer. While domestic animals, from livestock to
pets, are always being killed by wolves; when big game populations drop to
negligible levels, domestic animal losses to wolves rise proportionately.
As wolves continue to multiply along with bears and cougars (all under
increasingly more stringent protection and non-management justified as
"humane treatment" or "animal welfare") the domestic animal losses increase
proportionately and both deadly and injurious human attacks become more
common over wider areas. Yes wolves are "Endangered" (i.e. on "The List")
and no, they are not "in danger".
Given all these very real harms from wolves, ask yourself, why is this
happening? We have acquiesced for 35 years now in the fiction of the
appropriateness, indeed desirability, of the "need" to restore plants and
animals to places and levels alleged to have existed at some arbitrary past
date. Ask yourself what is better about the plant and animal mix of any
previous time? The temperatures were different. The landscape, from
wetlands and farms to prairies and woodlands were different. Fires went
unchecked and streams and rivers covered enormous swaths at certain times of
the year. Humans came and went with population swings and their land use and
animal use varied from benign to positively devastating. Former seas of
grass or trees are now roads and towns. Plants and animals came and went
from today's vast blackbird roosts to yesterday's flocks of passenger
pigeons. America, like nearly all the rest of the world has changed and is
changing dramatically. To assert that an animal like the wolf "belongs"
anywhere despite the harm that they cause is simply foolish, unless there is
some other agenda like shutting down ranching or stopping hunting or getting
the Federal government to buy out ever more private property.
Sables are a large furbearer related to martens and fishers. They live in
the vast woodlands of northern Asia and look like very large mink. Their
fur is very expensive and for centuries it was a favorite of royalty.
Sables, like their relatives in the weasel family are fearless and eat other
animals that are often larger than the sable themselves. They coexist with
wolves and bears in Siberia and they provide fur pelts of enormous beauty to
those willing to pay and significant value to rural Russians. Russians run
them with dogs and shoot them as well as trap them like fishers and marten
are trapped in many of our northern States. Sables cause little or no
damage and would be a pleasure to see crossing a road or meadow for many of
us. They could probably live in Alaska and perhaps in some northern states.
They would be a source of income for many rural residents; they would be a
source of revenue to states (from licensing and permits); they would be a
profitable addition to the US fur industry; and they would make available
garments and fashion items of great beauty in addition to the thrill of
crossing their track as wolf advocates are wont to tout about the presence
Setting aside the actual availability of sables from Russia for
transplanting, what would be wrong with investigating the potential for
transplanting sables to the northern US? Ah, you say, they aren't'
"native". Why should or does that matter? What is "sacred" about some
previous plant and animal mix? If sables can exist here why not attempt to
predict the pros and cons of introducing them here? Don't tell me they may
harm "native species" unless you have been squawking about how the wolves
are decimating big game herds of elk and moose and bighorn sheep. Don't
tell me sables may kill cats unless you have been concerned about all of the
domestic animals that wolves are killing. Don't tell me it would cost
millions to introduce them and protect them for the benefit of a few rural
folks or fur customers unless you have been objecting to all the cost and
overbearing law enforcement expended on wolves for urban folks mostly far
away from the wolves. In short, why don't we look into such things? If we
can unleash Federal powers to wreak the harm and havoc of the Endangered
Species Act, what is wrong about proposing a positive addition to the
I don't go into this to tout the introduction of sables though I must admit
that after writing this, it does sound intriguing. I suggest this to try
and get you to think beyond the emotional appeal of "native species" and
consider the straightforward reasoning that WE can and should decide what
sort of plants and animals are best in our nation or State today. Given the
cities and industries and roads and transportation and recreation and grass
and trees, what should we have, where? The environmentalists and animal
rights radicals have had their way about these matters for almost 40 years.
The professors and bureaucrats and teachers and many politicians have
promoted the notion of only "one" desirable environment or "ecosystem".
Like assertions about the "endangered" status of a plant or animal or the
"critical habitat" necessary for the survival of some stand of flowers or
local population of some animal; assertions about the animals or plants of
some bygone environment being "best" or the only alternative for today are
merely self-serving in most cases and only one of many factors worthy of our
The Federal government is planning for the reintroduction or probable spread
of jaguars back into Arizona. Areas are being "designated" as jaguar
habitat and historical records are being examined to draw areas on the map
as reserved sites for the future of jaguars returning someday. There were
good reasons 100 years ago to remove jaguars from lands that were being
converted to ranches and towns and cities. Today, the jaguar is even less
appropriate to Arizona. Yet we all accept meekly the proposed return of
this animal to a State that won't even allow mountain lions to be trapped on
public lands and witnesses protests when a mountain lion in the midst of an
urban community is killed to protect families and property. The return of
jaguars is championed by the Federal agencies wielding the Endangered
Species Act and legal threats much like the wolf scenario being enacted
The Endangered Species Act is justified as implementing the UN Convention on
Threatened and Endangered Species. Do you see Britain and Ireland
reintroducing wolves? Do you see Germany and France reintroducing wisent
(the European bison)? Is China loosing predators in agricultural or other
areas? Are any North African countries reintroducing leopards where sheep
and goats are raised? The answer to all these questions is, of course, NO.
Why aren't there any UN sanctions if these things "must" be done? Why is
only the US doing these things?
The answer to these last two is that while the UN (really the European
nations, the US, Canada, and Australia that "steer" UN environmental things)
forces the third world nations to not use or manage their wild plant and
animal species, they have yet to begin telling nations what they must
restore. They are moving in that direction by working surreptitiously with
the bureaucrats of the developed nations to get legislation or a treaty to
eradicate "Invasive Species". The US is doing these things because ONLY the
US has a government system (despised by other more dictatorial central
governments and UN bureaucrats) that has strong State governments
responsible for plants and animals, both wild and domestic, and therefore
responsible for the "environment" that the UN and it's bureaucrat
cooperators covet for their own purposes. By reintroducing predators,
listing more and more animal and plant groupings, and "taking" more and more
property without compensation, the US Federal government accumulates the
power of other central governments and diminishes the State governments.
The UN is both complicit with US Federal bureaucrats and shares in this
power flowing to the US Federal government.
So, what is the point? The point is that assertions about "natives" being
the only species appropriate to a given locale are hokey science. The only
reason we accept this business about "natives" is that it profits the
professors, bureaucrats, politicians, and extremist groups that are
radically changing our nation. The reintroduction of wolves, like the
planned reintroduction of jaguars, masks agendas that should be opposed.
They are in place only because of the ruthless application of political
power. Wolves are no more biologically or socially appropriate in the US
than sables or kudus for that matter. While considerations like disease or
biological impacts are important, dismissing these species out-of-hand while
condoning purposely-reintroduced wolf and unmanaged mountain lion impacts is
Raw political power put these harmful programs in place and it will take raw
political power to stop this spreading abuse of harmful environmental
tinkering and surreptitious government overhaul. We need to not only
support politicians advocating significant reforms of laws like the
Endangered Species Act but we also need to advocate new laws that restore
sound environmental management, friendly rural landscapes, and natural
resource uses that benefit the resource, rural communities, and the nation.
12 December 2004
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