The Wolf was Better off Endangered

Paradoxical as it may seem, wolves were better off endangered.  Not as a species perhaps, but to the individual wolf stuck for days in a steel-jawed leg-hold trap, or to the pack forced to dodge a hail of gunfire from cammo-clad snipers and a volley of arrows from a phalanx of archers, it must feel like the misguided war on wolves has begun anew.

Now that they have been declared “recovered” here, wolves are again under threat of the trap and rifle just as they were during the environmentally reckless Nineteenth Century.

By 1872, the year President Grant created Yellowstone National Park (in part to protect “game” species like elk from wanton destruction by overeager hunters), 100,000 wolves were being annihilated annually. 5450 were killed in 1884 in Montana alone, after a wolf bounty was initiated there. Wyoming enacted their bounty in 1875 and in 1913 set a penalty of $300 for freeing a wolf from a trap.

Though the federal Endangered Species Act safeguarded wolves from overzealous state hunting and trapping laws, as the director of the USFWS pointed out, the ESA is “not an animal protection act.”

The right of an American species not to be hunted to extinction is a relatively new advancement. At present, it‘s about the only right extended to the nonhumans in this, the land of the free. Alas, the river of speciesism still runs deeper than the Potomac at spring breakup.

Founding father and second US president, John Adams, may, or may not, have believed that all men were created equal, but he clearly took a dim view of the wildlife native to our formerly pristine land. In 1756 he openly expressed his scorn for the world his ancestors had strived to transform: “Then, the whole continent was one continued dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men…Then our rivers flowed through gloomy deserts and offensive swamps.“

Unfortunately for any animal not blessed enough to be born human, our unalienable rights to life and liberty were specific initially only to white males, next, to all males and then to all human animals regardless of gender or sexual orientation but as yet do not extend to the nonhuman animals with whom we share this planet.

Our lawmakers have had a sad history of turning a blind eye to the most basic rights of those who differ from us primarily in that all four of their limbs are used for walking and they don‘t wax the hair off their backs. This seems a little biased when you consider that in terms of social skills, devotion to family and intellect relevant to survival animals, like wolves, are every bit our equals.

Why is this happening? So that “sportsmen” can claim all the “game” species for themselves. The return to full-scale wolf hunting gives today‘s anti-wolf bigots their chance to drive this misunderstood embodiment of wilderness back to the brink of oblivion.


Portions of this post were excerpted from the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

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24 thoughts on “The Wolf was Better off Endangered

  1. I ended up on a Facebook page, Anti wolf north west, and i was appalled by the comments these people were making. a lot of people were stating that these wolves are now killing animals for fun. i have never heard of such a thing up until now. Is this even possible? and there was a pic from the fish and game, a map that depicted wolf populations in idaho in 2009. there “estimated” numbers were unreal, almost unbelievable really. I was just wondering if you came across this info and if you did, whats your take on this? Im going to do some research today about it, I want real answers, and not from some guy from some anti wolf page whining HE should be bagging the big buck elks instead of the wolves.

    • Hi, As you correctly assumed, anti-wolf sites, whether on facebook or elsewhere, are not the place to get factual info on wolves. Try Howling for Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC or Defenders of Wildlife’s sites.

    • Barry Lopez, in his outstanding book “Of Wolves and Men” writes about the interaction of wolves and their wild prey. There is some kind of conversation between them. He suggests that when wolves encounter livestock, the domesticated animals do not know the language, and sometimes wolves kill more than what they need, likely out of confusion because of the livestock’s reaction, or lack of one.

  2. Eloquently written. Still having great expectations that the “study” regarding expenditures of wildlife watchers will begin a new and much needed trend in a pro-wildlife direction.

    • Except that the federal Fish and Wildlife, no doubt under pressure from the hunters after the 2006 economic impact reports showed that wildlife watchers are an economic juggernaut growing at 8% a year over the past year and bringing 10-40 times the revenue directly to state tax coffers of hunters – and that even if you add in the destroy them all killing licenses of the hunters taking out both habitat and wildlife for their own personal ego pump, even in the most avid hunting states – still they fall short on economic impact. Now they are showing a rebound of killing interest and economic impact. Skewed to hunter advantage. Either way, we need to go to our legislators, state by state, and demand that our money be directed to fair representation and replace killing licenses wtih general public funding to get fair pay/fair say.

  3. This on Howling for Justice blog ,,, wanted to share if you haven’t seen it. Let the sadness be brief and hope this will further renew and strengthen our determination to fight the good fight for all wildlife.

    What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

    What’s the time Mr Wolf?

    ‘Late morning,’ says the Wolf
    as he runs and hides

    What’s the time Mr Wolf?

    ‘Midday,’ says he
    as shots ring out and
    his pack scatters

    What’s the time Mr Wolf?

    ‘Evening,’ says he sadly,
    as he looks at the carnage
    about him, metal teeth drawing

    What’s the time Mr Wolf?

    ‘Too late,’ says the wolf
    with tears in his eyes, now
    the last of his kind as the
    hunter takes aim…

    What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

    No more howls
    Time has run out…


    By Darren Greenidge

    Posted on December 23, 2012

    Darren’s Website – Caliburnus Rises

      • Sandy, you may want to check out Darren’s website and contact him to get permission. I’d think he’d be flattered….but just in case.

  4. That is why wolves must be relisted.. Even though they were still being shot and persecuted by Wildlife Services and poachers while federally protected, at least they didn’t have to dodge bullets and traps from hunters and the feds. Wolves cannot survive in any meaningful way in the lower 48 without federal protection.

    And to think it was a Democrat President who caused this carnage, Obama and his cowboy Interior Secretary delisted the NRM wolves not once but twice in three years. Harry Reid and his gang of sellout Democrats merrily passed the wolf delisting rider without blinking an eye.

      • No, but we can. And write and call and WRITE again until someone hears us. I can just envision Jim, Nabeki, or one of our other articulate bloggers meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill (or wherever they meet)….giving the specifics…showing trapping videos….lots of photos. Who among them could then turn a blind eye? Who among them would dare? I really believe there are a few hearts that can be tapped into.

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