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ROOM FOR WOLVES?

In mid-March, consistent reports of a number of wolves in the far northeastern corner of the Uintas were issued. We have known or heard these and other reports in various places of the Uintas for some time.

Wolves by M. PettisJust a bit later in March came the long un-awaited announcement by the Fish and Wildlife Service that the northern Rocky Mountain distinct population segment (DPS) of the gray wolf would be de-listed (see HUPC LYNX 2/07) from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This includes all of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and a tiny segment of northern Utah east of I-84 and north of I-80. Elsewhere in Utah (e.g. the Uintas), wolves are still fully protected by the ESA.

Of course, if you are a wolf, getting here has been made considerably more troubling since you are now classified as a varmint in much of southern Wyoming. Idahoans are not quite as rude, but just about. And if you are a wolf in Utah and pass back and forth into Wyoming, you go from ESA-protected to varmint-hood.

It is an utterly ridiculous scenario from any meaningful perspective. And the de-listing proposal has been greeted with at least two court actions-- one from humane and animal welfare organizations, one from conservationists-- both arguing, in essence, the present number of wolves and wolf packs in the Northern Rocky Mountains is simply not high enough to assure survival over a long time frame and that state management plans simply focused on allowing the absolute minimum number of wolves and wolf packs. The Governor of Idaho has actually called for a “gray wolf kill” and promised to bid for the first ticket to shoot a wolf. In northwest Wyoming, outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, wolves are subject to a trophy hunt and in the rest of Wyoming are simple varmints to be shot on site.

The anti-wolf rhetoric is hitting a peak in Idaho with bumper sticker reading, Smoke a Pack a Day. One can only wonder if we are really ready to share a world with wolves or grizzly bear, cougar or black bear, lynx or wolverines. That is what this issue is really all about. Elk hunters are worried about elk being eaten by wolves--after all, it is their elk and we’ll only share this world with elk if we can have them and certainly not wolves.

It is wolf and grizz and wolverine that challenge our sense of the world being ours. If it is our world, they will succumb regardless of the ESA or our conservation politics. There is no disputation here; the issue is profound and deep.

Maybe it plays out as clearly as it can be played out, not on the slopes of the Uintas, where we strain to hear a wolf howl, but on the diminishing ice flows of the Arctic where the polar bear has finally been designated threatened under the ESA with a special rule built in to prevent the listing from having an impact on global warming! Spin it any way you want, the polar bear is listed because we have made the world ours. We have even altered the fundamental climatic cycles!

The depth we have to look into our hearts to make room for wolf or grizz is scary and looking right smack back at us-- is US, as Pogo warned way back in 1970!


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