Oregon Wolves

The breeding female of the Walla Walla Pack walks through private property in northern Oregon’s Umatilla County in December 2017.

From Little Red Riding Hood’s terrifying encounter with the Big Bad Wolf to Kevin Costner’s balletic romance with a kindred, four-legged spirit in “Dances With Wolves,” Americans have long had a love-hate relationship with the ancestral predecessor of our favorite family pet.

Some want to hunt and kill as many wolves as they can; others want to keep them defended, as they have been ever since the federal government included the gray wolf in the list of protected animals under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. In 2011, Congress voted to remove those protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies, resulting in thousands of wolf kills through trapping or hunting.

Soon the same fate may befall the 5,000 or so gray wolves remaining in the lower 48 states, if a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services proposal to lift protections goes through. The official public comment period on the proposal ended July 15, though comments can still be made and the agency is obligated to review them all.

I confess to being a resolute lover of anything with a heartbeat, excluding a few Homo sapiens here and there. I’m not, however, a Pollyanna about hunting. Though the allure of hunting has eluded me, many friends and family members are outdoorsmen and view hunting as a natural way to put food on the table.

Many hunters are also conservationists, whose dedication to hunting corresponds to a commensurate dedication to preserving wilderness and wetland areas. In many cases, their efforts have led to increased animal and fowl populations.

But the wolf is also highly effective at managing deer and elk populations, which upsets the hunters who prefer the same prey. Do hunters have a greater right to eat elk than wolves do? Perhaps the better question is: Are hunters more effective at balancing fragile ecosystems than are the animals who have evolved to do just that?

If you hunt without poison, traps or from the air with sniper rifles, it is actually extremely difficult to kill a wolf. Randy Newberg, who hosts an online show on hunting, has said that “wolves just might be America’s most challenging big game.” He described hiking through rough mountain terrain for five days carrying heavy packs, 8 to 12 miles per day, and seeing only the tails of a few running wolves. After his partner finally killed a single wolf, Newberg wrote of his great respect for this “beautiful” animal, as well as his hope that more hunters would start killing more wolves soon. For him, it was a childhood dream come true.

For many other Americans, seeing a beautiful, noble animal does not inspire the need to destroy it. This is especially true of elephants, lions, giraffes and other endangered species around the globe that trophy hunters slaughter for body parts. Between 2005 and 2014, 1.26 million such “trophies” were imported into the U.S.

In a 2017 tweet, President Trump, whose sons are big-game hunters, referred to trophy hunting as a “horror show,” suggesting that he would continue the Obama-era ban on trophies being brought into the U.S. Nonetheless, the ban has been lifted on some animals on a nation-by-nation basis.

An American president’s words matter, and Trump, who recently touted his administration’s commitment to conservation, could prove it by speaking up for wolves. There are other ways to manage wolves without killing them, though admittedly they’re more difficult. Thus, the essential question comes down to whether we want to ensure that wild areas remain wild, with limited exceptions — perhaps granted to ranchers when their livestock is under consistent predation by wolves. Surely such accommodations would be preferable to rubber-stamping a massive wolf slaughter.

This isn’t to romanticize the wolf or to diminish the concerns already expressed, but to offer a balance to the pressures being exerted by powerful lobbies. Wolves have no voice and it is too soon to lift protections, which are the only reason we still have wolves at all. Once delisted, it wouldn’t take long to eliminate the wolf altogether — to the detriment of the environment as well as our collective heritage.

Wolves are neither good nor bad. They don’t pretend to be grandma and they don’t dance with disenchanted soldiers. They are much like our dogs, emotionally, and, like the best hunters, kill only for food. If Trump doesn’t speak up soon, the howls we hear in the night won’t belong to the pack but to the last lonely wolf crying out for all that an inhumane world has lost.

© 2019 WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP

Kathleen Parker is a Washington Post syndicated columnist. The views expressed here are solely her own.

Kathleen Parker is a Washington Post syndicated columnist. The views expressed here are solely her own.

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(43) comments

Jay Westemeier

I think it's time to dispel the common claim by some of the hunters who frequent this site that hunters are this country's greatest conservationists and wildlife managers. According to the latest 5-year report from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 101.6 million Americans—40 percent of the U.S. population 16 years old and older—participated in wildlife-related activities in 2016, such as hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching. These activities are drivers behind an economic powerhouse, where participants spent $156 billion—the most in the last 25 years, adjusted for inflation. The report shows that the most substantial increases in participation involve wildlife-watching—observing and photographing wildlife. The report indicates these activities surged 20 percent from 2011 to 2016, from 71.8 million to 86 million participants during that time. Expenditures by wildlife watchers also rose sharply—28 percent—between 2011 and 2016, from $59.1 billion to $75.9 billion. More Americans also went fishing. The report indicates an 8 percent increase in angling participation since 2011, from 33.1 million anglers to 35.8 million in 2016. Total expenditures by anglers nationwide rose 2 percent from 2011 to 2016, from $45 billion to $46.1 billion. Hunting participation dropped by about 2 million participants. Total expenditures by hunters declined 29 percent from 2011 to 2016, from $36.3 billion to $25.6 billion. Based on this report, hunters can no longer claim that they are the backbone of American conservation. Government reliance on hunting's revenue stream is drying up, so other sources will have to be found.

Comment deleted.
Jay Westemeier

The information I provided didn't come from so-called experts, opinions or polls. It came directly from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. I wish it would be easy to conclude that every book I've read contained absolute truth. Might be why I generally avoid books at this stage of my life.

William Addeo

I guess you are not up to speed. Saying U.S. fish and wildlife is just like saying the FBI, CIA, NSA or IRS. Corrupt, self serving and owned by special interest groups. The spotted owl comes to mind. The Cara Cara and the Piping plover are migrating birds. When they fly to far north, the environmental wackos call them endangered species. I have caught Tarpon and Sailfish out of Cape Cod. They just got caught in the Gulf Stream and the wackos wanted to shut down the fisheries. Yes, it was Fish and Games idea. But, like all groups, if they parrot your chirps, you believe them. I have rescued, tagged, collared and legally transported wild animals all over the world. I have sponsored and sank two hundred fifty foot ships for fishing wrecks. You mean well but are not experienced or well informed. No harm meant, I just been doing this a long time. Peter Beard's book is a pictorial history of the Elephant in Kenya. Just the facts, that's all.

Chad guenter

These are deceptive numbers Mr. Westemeier. You are comparing apples to oranges. You are talking general revenue, be it hotels, gas, food, you name it. Government isn't getting a dollar of the revenue you state. Pittman Robertson brought in 1.1 billion in 2018, THAT is the number you should be citing when talking about government revenue "drying up", which it isn't. It has more than doubled since 2011. Your numbers are BS.

Jay Westemeier

The numbers are NOT BS. If you can show any proof that hunting participation is increasing in this country, please do. Denying facts won't change the downward trend in hunter participation and expenditure. It's true that hunting still provides the lion's share of funding for nationwide conservation work thanks to excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment that garner more than $1.6 billion annually. But the steep decline in participation and expenditure is very troubling to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The results of this study and report prompted U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to announce a proposal to expand hunting and fishing opportunities at 10 national wildlife refuges, and he announced the initial stages of a plan to acquire land to make the Bureau of Land Management Sabinoso Wilderness Area accessible for the first time ever to hunters, hikers, and wildlife watchers. Zinke stated that the impetus behind this move is to encourage increased hunter participation and expenditure. Keep in mind that non-hunting sportsman like myself (I fish and shoot) also contribute through our expenditures. Maybe we should start patting ourselves on the back and proclaiming that we are the new stewards of conservation and wildlife management.

William Addeo

Ducks Unlimited, Safari Club International and the NRA should be mentioned as huge conservations networks. The NRA being the first in the country. The decline in hunting is due to propaganda and victimization. When some lunatic in Parkland shoots a bunch of kids, the solution is to take guns away from anyone under 21 years of age? Talk about punishing the innocent? That effects young kids ability to go hunting. Let's face it, the goal is to wipe out hunting and let the wolves eat everything because it is good for tourism and the photo bums who talk about wildlife control like they know what they are talking about. It makes me laugh when someone calls themselves an environmentalist or a conservationist. The Holy Grail of labels gives them authority? Jay, I think you are on the right track, we just are talking about two different things. I'm not arguing the money issue. I'm talking about hunters wanting to preserve wildlife for tomorrow.

Jay Westemeier

Bill, we are in agreement about some hunters wanting to preserve wildlife for tomorrow. I say "some" because unfortunately, there are many who don't give a hoot about it. Hunting to many is nothing more than a club that provides them attention, good or bad.

Pat Cuviello

Cattle ranchers are a scourge on Earth and the sooner we kill this industry the better the planet and all life on it, including humans. Sport hunting needs to be banned immediately. The article highlights the psycho psychology of sport hunters: "After his partner finally killed a single wolf, Newberg wrote of his great respect for this “beautiful” animal, as well as his hope that more hunters would start killing more wolves soon. For him, it was a childhood dream come true." Killing an animal for fun, and hoping more people do so, is devoid of respect. It is in fact the opposite of respect. Sport hunters aren't known for their intelligence.

TERRENCE MILAN

Not sure how you connect cattle ranchers to sport hunters, and then the vague line to relative intellects.... Let's guess that you need another drink too pass out completely.

Diane Henry

Very much agree with Jay's assessment. And while the ranchers are crying they are being devastated by predators, they are reimbursed for predator-caused losses and have access to BLM lands for grazing their livestock, only paying about $1.33 per animal month...Sounds like a pretty good deal.

William Addeo

The lack of experience in these matters only leads to opinions based on emotions. Read Peter Beard's book and you will see what years of hands on experience and photographs has established as fact. You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own set of facts. Respectively, it would do the animals a great service if everyone got educated in the animal control world of existing with humans. Yes, it it up to us to control the animal population, not the wolves.

Diane Henry

But...." Beard entered Yale as a pre-med student and in a class on population dynamics he formed his enduring hypothesis that humans are, in fact, the main disease." His book is about the man made destruction of the animal kingdom in Africa. Read some of Darwin's 'natural selection' theories pertaining to survival of species.

William Addeo

Peter and I are life long friends and I know well the animal kingdom in Kenya and all of Africa. My point was the value of the animal was taken away when they outlawed hunting. Poachers killed for tusks as is very well known. Today, when you hunt in Africa, you pay a community fee to offset poaching and build schools and hospitals etc. Since the fees went into place the locals turn in poachers because they want the hunting money to keep things going. Not enough space but definitely, people can destroy anything and everything if guided wrongly. WWII was a prime example of that! Yes, Diane, you are correct. Putting the animals in Starvo National Park, almost wiped out the Elephant herd in Kenya. People did that!

Diane Henry

William, I get your point, thank you

Chad guenter

Ms. Parker needs to refer to thousands of years of recorded human history. Human Beings and wolves have always been adversaries. They are not cute cuddly pets, they are a direct competitor for the same food sources in the NATURAL world. Want to see a wolf, go to a zoo or a National Park where they are protected, everywhere else the wolves should be hunted to control their numbers to a minimum.

Terry Milan

This is an article written from pure ignorance. "Who eats wolves" and professions to love anything that breaths. She must believe that wolves are grass fed grazing animals. The crux of the issue is; What do wolves eat?

Chad guenter

Kathleen Parker, who grew up in Florida and resides in South Carolina. Has no relevant opinion on the wolf question. We in Wyoming wont go down to the SE and tell them not to hunt deer with dogs because it disgusts us, We simply don't understand it. Keep your opinion to yourself.

Terry Milan

Ask her write an article to save the sharks.

Comment deleted.
William Addeo

Deborah, why do we need to import wolves from Canada? Was there a need for pack killers? Did we have too many Elk? Did Canada have too many wolves? Check your facts, wolves and sharks kill for fun. Hunters kill for food. Just because you call an animal a trophy, doesn't mean you don't eat it. Hunters are conservationists.

Marion Dickinson

The key is moderation, wolves have no real enemies except each other and humans who suffer from their predation. Going out in the morning and finding a few thousand dollars worth of livestock dead or severely injured is not a "how beautiful" moment....at least not to those who have to deal with it. The wolves will be "studied" forever and protected as long as there are gullible people and millions of tax free dollars for "non profit" researchers. Devastated food producing families don't matter.

William Addeo

Read Peter Beards book "The End Of the Game" about outlawing hunting in Kenya. In 1974 Kenya had 150,000 Elephants when they outlawed hunting. Today less than 5,000 exist. They put the Elephants in "Starvo" National park where they proceeded to eat everything and the rains washed the soils after they ate all the plants and the Elephants died of starvation. That's the facts! The book photographs the entire event. Even Richard Leakey admitted banning hunting was a mistake. Hunters are the best conservationists on earth. The wolf is an emotional animal connected to the tears of women. Tell me when, just when do you think killing wolves is okay? How many wolves do you want? When a wolf kills a kid, will everybody come to their senses? Bears and wolves are destroying the entire debate when emotions rule the day. Let the hunters decide the rules and we will be okay.

Diane Henry

This article is very beautifully written. Please, President Trump, we need your help to protect our wolves from eradication.

William Addeo

Diane, I'm very sure President Trump will read your reply. I'll make sure he sees it when I have dinner with him Sunday.

Diane Henry

Very good William. You know we had to get wolves from Canada because the last ones were killed in Yellowstone in 1926. I can also discuss the wolf situation with President Trump during our golf round at Mar a Lago on Sunday.

William Addeo

Diane, The President will be at my house on Sunday and you are very welcome to attend. Just bring an open mind and you will be welcome!

Terry Milan

Far from eradication. Need to remove the trouble makers and those that stray on to private property.

William Addeo

Animals have no rights under the constitution. We control animals. Animals have no right to eat as much Elk and deer as they want, especially when they kill for sport like the wolf. Hunters are the biggest conservationists on earth. Environmentalists have an agenda that puts animals above humans and everybody knows it. Transporting and relocating wolves to suit your photographic needs is sheer stupidity. This article is total propaganda and it is typical of the tree hugging agenda of animals first and people last. Animals can't reason. Is that news for you? Animals will eat everything in sight and then move on to kill anything they want to kill with no conservation in mind. Does that surprise you? The bears in Alaska ate all the deer then the boars ate the bear cubs then the boars ate the sows and then the boars ate each other. That is the animal way of surviving. Get educated and leave the animals to the hunters because we want to have something to eat in the future.

Grant Spellerberg

William, I don't generally like to put people down but you are clearly the one who is uneducated on the topic of animal predation. Predators , whether it be wolves, bears sharks, etc. do NOT kill for fun. All of these animals are really not going to expend more energy than necessary to eat, much less just for fun. The animal world is designed to take care of itself. It balances itself when left alone. Modern humans are the reason that nature is out of balance. That being said, there is a place for hunting and fishing. I am not a hunter but don't begrudge anybody the right to hunt as long as it is for food. There is no reason to kill animals for sport. Surely you must realize that without apex predators in the wild those precious elk and deer that you so love would suffer due to the natural selection of survival of the fittest. Wolves generally take the sick and weak. Killing the "trophy" animal weakens the gene pool each time it happens,. These animals have survived through thick and thin and pass these traits to there offspring. As far as having something to eat in the future, go to the grocery store.

Chad guenter

Mr. Spellerberg: What would you call these kills? Saving for later??? https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/25/us/wyoming-wolf-pack-elk-slaughter/index.html https://missoulian.com/news/local/wolves-kill-sheep-at-ranch-near-dillon/article_5ff01772-938f-11de-9aca-001cc4c03286.html https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/2019/03/07/wolves-oregon-coast-accused-kill-21-sheep/3093417002/ https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/newshound/2013/08/two-wolves-kill-176-sheep-1-night-near-idaho-falls/

Grant Spellerberg

Chad, as I am not a wolf biologist I cant give a rational explanation for these rare occurrences. That being said each of these had one thing in common. All of these animals were in large groups and with the exception of the elk were livestock with no natural ability to defend themselves. As for the elk they would not have been in that situation if not for the un-natural feeding in feed lots. Regardless I stand by my statement and so do wildlife biologists.

Chad guenter

Mr. Spellerberg: As you are not a wolf biologist, you cant give a rational explanation for the mass slaughters that wolves commit..... YET you somehow get the insight that they "do NOT kill for fun". Please elaborate.

William Addeo

Grant, You are entitled to your opinion. You are not entitled to your own set of facts. If this isn't killing for fun, what is? Read the article and try to justify why your pets kill in huge numbers that can't possible be eaten. Your call?

Grant Spellerberg

https://www.outsideonline.com/2066881/truth-about-wolf-surplus-killing-survival-not-sport Check this out and you will see that indeed it is "saving for later"

Chad guenter

Citing Outside Magazine about the wolf issue is about as unbiased as citing Pravda about Soviet human rights violations during the Coldwar.

Grant Spellerberg

I'm not surprised by your reaction. It is pretty much as expected. If you research the topic you will find many more articles corroborating these findings. Clearly you and others like you do not want to hear the truth; you just want to go on believing that man not nature is the better custodian of the wild. As long as there are massive ranching operations there will be some predation, but there is greater loss to lightning strikes and other causes than to wolves. Don't worry the wolves will save some deer and elk for you so that you too can survive. Have a nice day.

William Addeo

Grant, Isn't it unbelievable that if you take the egg of and eagle or a turtle you will be fined thousands of dollars and spend time in jail. But it is legal to take a baby out of the womb at eight months old and kill it? Talk about priorities? The wolf is nothing more than a transplanted predator so you should think about why we brought it here. Wolves kill for fun and to train the young. If you don't accept that, ask your biologist friends and they will educate you since I can't. The predator zone will be getting bigger and it's about time. The sooner we humans balance the beasts the better.

Jay Westemeier

I can't disagree that our social priorities are skewed, but I believe certain hunters' priorities are also badly skewed. And I know that you can't honestly say that you don't hunt for fun or that you weren't trained to do so by your elders. That places you and your elders at the same level as a few twisted wolves.

Grant Spellerberg

You are correct in your first two sentences. Sadly the rest of your comment is incorrect. Here is an article from a wolf biologist that should help to educate you. https://www.outsideonline.com/2066881/truth-about-wolf-surplus-killing-survival-not-sport

Deidre Adams

I am in total agreement with this article and the points she makes are so very true. I always speak on behalf of these endangered species, whether they be wolves, elephants, whales = all of them. We humans share this planet - we do not own it, nor do we have the right to arbitrarily kill or hunt these creatures to extinction. We have to protect them, as this is their world as much as it is ours.

William Addeo

The wolf is not an endangered species. We imported them from Canada.

Jay Westemeier

Where exactly did we import you from? Some hunters just can't accept even a tiny infringement on their perceived right to kill anything they deem as a nuisance. They continue to ignore the fact that the environments available to support fully diverse ecosystems are becoming increasingly scarce, and refuse to do their part in preserving all components of these dwindling wild ecosystems. Do they dream about a future environment full of massive ungulate herds starving because of a lack of forage and natural predators? Wolves and Grizzly Bears are actually two of the hunter's best friends. Beside all of the ecological and biological reasons, these two predators help in keeping a dwindling sport/pastime a relevant talking point in the 21st century and beyond.

William Addeo

Jay, Sometimes you can reason. That's the difference between animals and humans. If you can have a reasonable debate, like sometimes you can, we will be able to discuss the wolf intelligently. Hunting for wolves by humans is the same as culling Elephants, lions, leopards and Buffalo in Africa. Culling by hunters is and has been used forever to kill animals that over graze the habitat and will die if not culled to proper numbers to be able to survive. Yes, human populations cause animals to flee. Africa is a perfect example of this. I have spent a lot of time all over the world studying, hunting, culling and moving animals so that they can survive. None of these animals are as emotional as Americans make them out to be. Naming wild animals is a tactic of the liberal to make them human and give them human equalities which they are not entitled to unless we choose to do so. 97% of Teton county is forever wild so we are not worried about encroaching on "Their" territory. Closing the Bridger Teton National Forest to humans borders on stupid liberal insanity. The sign says, "Closed so we do not disturb the animals." I find that unbelievable. Tell me Jay, when do we have enough wolves and we can start culling them? Or do we let them multiply forever? This is a reasonable topic?

Jay Westemeier

As long as humans retain some desire for their ancient hunting hobby and the country continues to rely on license revenue to maintain government jobs, I'm afraid that these predators will have to remain at the mercy of a politically corrupted system. These predators have and can perform better than human hunters when it comes to balancing wildlife populations, as long as human development is limited in our remaining wild places. Would this put a big dent in the hunting industry and the government's bloated department of the interior? Of course. This country's taxpayers have been indirectly subsidising both entities for ages while being duped into believing that hunters are wildlife management's guiding light and savior. Are there currently too many bears and wolves in the lower 48 that are disrupting the hunting and ranching industries? Not even close, but just the thought of any such disruption is enough for some hunters and ranchers to proclaim armageddon. And as long as there is even a tiny group of ranchers kissing the feet of predator hunters as their Robin Hoods, these hunters will continue to believe they're doing what's best for the ecosystem while being nothing more than a pawn.

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