We are the victims of our inheritance. We carry with us the fears and prejudices and buckshot of those who slept lightly and stood watch for thieves, for things lurking wild in the dark forest and around the next bend. Perhaps Indians. Perhaps wolves.
Now, there’s a hair-raising thought: wolves. They stir the imagination, don’t they?
In a recent piece by Spokesman Review’s Eli Francovich, he perceptively wrote, “Wolves incite passions usually reserved for war and infidelity.”
In that sense, wolves are a part of our collective legacy as well — as much as the intrepid white pioneers who circled their wagons and put their families at risk to settle the vast western frontier of North America. Most of those migrants were deeply inspired by a belief in Manifest Destiny, which is an America, as historian Conrad Cherry puts it, “called to a special destiny by God.”
Those passions, those beliefs and resulting fears, continue to froth over the West, spreading their unique charms. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken note of our legacy to subdue what is wild and now intends to delist gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act. Our fearmonger-in-chief will see to it that those razor-sharp teeth don’t carry away our blameless brood.
Delisting the wolf is sure to put a smile on the face of ranchers and big game hunters. When a wolf pack gets a taste for cattle and sheep (who graze upon millions of acres at public expense), wolves not only pose an economic threat, but they threaten a culture that gives humans dominion over nature. Need I say the obvious: that Adam was the first cowboy.
“We’re fighting for a way of life,” says Washington state rancher and hunter, Jay Holzmiller. “There’s a huge concern whether our hunting culture is going to come to an end, and there’s lots of us rednecks that love to do it.”
The entire state has an estimated gray wolf population of 126; only God knows how you get by each day, Mr. Holzmiller.
On a more sober note though, I had a personal encounter with a related predator — pit bulls. Two of them had made their way into our backyard chicken coop and it was a massacre; nothing left but blood and hen feathers, and a couple very bewildered, bulging canines.
I wasn’t inclined to have the snipers from the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services unit put those dogs in their crosshairs though — as they routinely do with wolves, from helicopters no less!
There is a bit of irony and lots of heme iron in all this. Wolves are at the top of their food chain, apex predators custom-built for a carnivorous diet – mainly deer, moose and elk. They have roamed earth’s forests longer than Little Red Riding Hood — for at least 300,000 years.
Us human critters are also apex predators, yet unlike our canis lupus neighbor, we’ve been fashioned a flexible palate. One that can subsist quite well on a plant-based diet. American consumers though, prefer the texture of muscle along with that satisfying mix of blood and fat churning around the salivary glands. Ranchers are on the front-end of our fast food epicurean culture — earning around $1.50 a pound for their efforts.
Sheep farmer, Jill Swannack, touches upon the irony: “wolves are here to stay, but we can’t let them eat people’s livelihoods.” Apparently, wolves recently dined upon four of her ewes before her customers could whip out their cutlery and credit cards.
There may close to a couple of thousand wolves remaining in the Pacific Northwest. That there is even an ongoing feud as to whether they are worth saving, is, well … mind-numbing.
But then again, I’m willing to concede a total lack of appreciation for that judicious environment vs. economy “balance” thing. And though I never had much of a stomach for committees, I promise to suck it up and attend one — that is, as long its chaired by a sockeye salmon, a northern spotted owl and a gray wolf.
After years of globetrotting, Todd J. Broadman finds himself writing from his perch on the Palouse and loving the view. His policy briefs can be found at US Resist News: https://www.usresistnews.org/