I recently watched a livestream of the anti-wolf bills that passed through the Montana Legislature. The scene was of a chairman or moderator calling on individuals to speak. These individuals were divided into pro-wolf and anti-wolf camps. It is predictable what each said.
In attendance was a state wildlife biologist. But in this hearing chamber — where the lives of these animals, which at this moment were living their lives unaware that their fates were being decided on thin sheets of paper by old men in suits — the biologist did not speak. He did not provide numbers and charts and the years upon years of data his state has compiled on these animals.
Instead he was allotted a time to answer questions by the members of the Montana Legislature in the room. And the single question he was asked, by some politician seated in a cushy chair behind a formica table, was this: In regards to the actual price of wolf pelts, didn’t they fetch a bit more than the earlier speaker had suggested?
This was the question. Not questions on elk herd numbers or livestock predation. Not of pack movement and prey dispersion, and the health of herds. Of how wolves target the weak, sick and injured of a herd, therefore strengthening it over time. Not of numbers on livestock predation or on the effectiveness of non-lethal measures. Of all the obvious damn things science has already plainly shown.
In this hearing the biologist did not speak. Instead we heard anecdotes from anti-wolf people and then we heard the sentiments of those who wish to save them. Like the back and forth political comments on Facebook. The fates of these animals in balance. And the biologist did not speak.
That’s the thing, though: The numbers tell a wildly different story than the narrative put forward by those who wish to see these animals killed. Their narrative is one of voracious out-of-control unnatural killers that are decimating elk herds and livestock, without any natural checks, who kill for fun, and who through their monstrous behavior are savagely destroying the Western way of life.
There are too many of them! We are being overrun! This is the narrative they sell, peppered with anecdotes of helpless hunters being surrounded by voracious wolf packs and empty forests that used to be brimming with elk and other animals but now are silent.
And oh! How that story of unnatural, insatiable killers imposed on a region by a tyrannical federal government sells. And like all good lies it holds the smallest grains of truth.
But fear sells. You know that don’t you?
Idaho’s SB1211, which has been signed into law, and Montana’s SB314, which has been signed but awaits final approval, bypass state fish and wildlife biologists to follow language written by ranching lobbyists, hunting organizations and politicians in order to kill more wolves. These laws are motivated by false narratives that directly contradict data and decades of study by wildlife biologists.
They seek to kill all the wolves in their states, down to the number of 150, which is a number below which Federal Endangered Species act protections will kick back in, thus removing their ability to kill. This will be a slaughter of thousands of animals by any means necessary. Killing by airplane, snowmobile, snare — they seek to kill pups in their den. Many wolves will die and many will suffer.
The proponents of these bills use the word sustainable, which is a word that has origins in conservation, but these days is a mockery of itself and often used as a way to perpetuate wildlife and habitat exploitation. To ignore for a moment the moral question of massacring one of the most intelligent and social animals on this planet to satisfy our own greed, killing a keystone species like the wolf does not in fact improve an ecosystem.
Wildlife professionals and biologists, both those active and retired, have spoken against about what is about to happen. What should be patently obvious is that these states cannot be trusted with this responsibility. This is not responsible management of wildlife; this is politically motivated killing. It is unbridled greed, disguised as wildlife management, with the illusion of moral justice draped over it all.
If you live in Idaho or Montana, call and email those in power. For those of you elsewhere, reach out to the White House and ask them to remove management powers from the states. They cannot be trusted or allowed to hold the lives of these animals in their hands.