January 25, 2007
Fear can be an ugly thing. In its simplest form, it is an indicator to the system that one is under attack and all defensive procedures necessary for the preservation of life should be undertaken. Being human, however, has allowed us to expand on the concept to include a feeling of huge dislike toward certain things, up to and including extreme phobias and paranoias. Mass hysteria cannot be far behind. But also, certain misguided individuals have been known to use fear in manipulating political outcomes. Lately, some Idaho ranchers exemplify fear.The sounds of ensuing panic can be hard to discern, but not always. Listen to Lloyd Knight of the Idaho Cattlemen’s Association going on about wolves in a Western Livestock Journal report: “They’re all over. It’s not fair for our producers to lose so much money to these predators so that people who live in town can hear a wolf howl.” There are other livestock producers who have something to say, such as Ron Shirts, another Idaho rancher, who claims he lost 170 sheep to wolves and now has turned up with 87 missing domestic cows.The same article reports that, according to Stan Boyd, chief of the Idaho Wool Growers Association (IWGA) ” … wolves break all of the carcasses up and scatter them everywhere. We’ll never find them all.” And others have claimed wolves mostly kill adult cows, although without being able to find the carcasses, I’m not sure how they can make such expansive claims.Uneducated ranchers don’t appear to be aware of their own fearful emanations, but erroneous statements like those above, and others, such as the claim there are at least “a hundred” wolf packs in Idaho make it difficult for honest citizens to piece the puzzle together. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are 61 documented wolf packs in the state of Idaho (2007 Idaho Fish & Game publication), hardly “a hundred.” Also, in 2005, wolves killed 20 head of cattle (documented) and in 2006, the year the wolves became “very aggressive,” a verifiable 24 head of cattle were killed.According to revised rule 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (pertaining to Idaho’s de-listing of wolves), it is legal to shoot wolves who are “attacking, chasing, molesting, or harassing livestock and livestock herding and guarding animals on public federal lands.” These wolves can be shot by “grazing permittees and guide/outfitters that use livestock as part of their federal land-use permit, on their active livestock allotments, and on public ceded lands by tribal members, without prior written authorization.” What other measures could ranchers need to quell their fears?Livestock producers in different articles have claimed wolves are hard to hunt and shooting them is very difficult – obviously making a plea for the use of traps and poison. Don’t be fooled – these boys are playing for real and are relying on our ignorance of the situation to spread an aura of fear, which, they hope, will encourage the government to once again allow attempts to eradicate wolves. If you recall, we made similar, pathetic attempts in the 1800s which were almost successful. Maybe this time we could “git’er done, eh pardner?”As for the droning whine of big-game outfitters, claiming wolves will decimate elk herds, it must be said numerous studies have demonstrated the presence of wolf packs only serves to increase health and vitality in wild game herds. As wolf populations increase, so do hunter harvest rates. According to Idaho’s Fish and Game, wolf kills are responsible for less than 10 percent of all mortalities in the state’s elk herds, not including elk killed by hunting.My guess is many Idaho, Montana and Wyoming (Colorado?) ranchers and outfitters need to get out from behind the skirts of fear and tune in to the real world.Tony Vagneur thinks fear of wolves is almost congenital. Read him here every Saturday and send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.