Compassion in conservation: Don’t be cruel to be kind


June 2014 by Marc Bekoff and Daniel Ramp

Killing and harming animals in the name of conservation is not just unethical, it is counterproductive

EARLIER this year, a hunter based in Texas paid $350,000 for the dubious privilege of being allowed to kill a male black rhino in Namibia. The rhino, Ronnie, was past reproductive age and deemed to be a danger to other wild rhinos. Profits from the hunting permit are supposed to be ploughed back into conservation in the country.

A few weeks later, keepers at Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark killed Marius, a healthy young male giraffe, publicly dissected him and fed his remains to the zoo’s carnivores because he didn’t fit into their breeding programme. Several offers to rehouse him were declined on the grounds that the facilities were unsuitable.

The same zoo later killed four healthy lions because a male lion they wanted to introduce to a female may have attacked them. Then Dählhölzli zoo in Bern, Switzerland, killed a bear cub over fears his father would kill him.

These cases made headlines and caused global outrage. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. Zoos often kill healthy animals considered surplus to their needs: around 5000 a year in Europe alone. This isn’t euthanasia, or mercy killing, but “zoothanasia”.

The killing of “surplus” animals is just one example of people making life-and-death decisions on behalf of captive and wild animals. These are difficult decisions and various criteria are used, but almost without exception human interests trump those of the non-human animals.

Often, for example, animals are harmed or killed “in the name of conservation”, or for the “good of their own (or other) species”. The result is unnecessary suffering and, commonly, a failure to achieve sustainable and morally acceptable outcomes.

Increasingly, scientists and non-scientists are looking for more compassionate solutions. Compassionate conservation, a rapidly growing movement with a guiding principle of “first do no harm”, is just such an approach. It is driven by a desire to eliminate unnecessary suffering and to prioritise animals as individuals, not just as species. It is also a route to better conservation.

Although one of us, Marc Bekoff, has been writing about the importance of individual animals in conservation for more than two decades, it took an international meeting at the University of Oxford in September 2010 for compassionate conservation to get a big push. There have since been three more meetings. NGOs are becoming interested and a Centre for Compassionate Conservation has been established at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

One sign that the influence of compassionate conservation is growing is that conservationists are questioning the ethics of producing captive pandas as ambassadors for their species. These animals have no chance of living in the wild and their existence is increasingly seen as indefensible.

Biologists are also re-evaluating the merits of reintroduction projects. The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, for example, resulted in numerous wolves dying or being killed “for the good of other wolves”. The surviving wolves also lack protection, especially when they leave the park. As a result, scientists are concerned that the project is failing.

Other reintroduction projects are being similarly reappraised. A team at the University of Oxford assessed 199 such programmes and found potential welfare issues in two-thirds of them, the most common being mortality, disease and conflict with humans.

Urban animals also get into the mix. Marc was recently asked to apply the principles of compassionate conservation to a project in Bloomington, Indiana, which proposed to kill numerous deer even when no one knew if they were causing a problem. In Cape Peninsula, South Africa, non-lethal paintball guns are being used to reduce conflicts between baboons and humans.

Compassionate conservation is also offering solutions to previously intractable conflicts. Innumerable wolves, coyotes, dogs, foxes and dingoes are killed by livestock farmers, often by trapping or poisoning. A recent study showed that poisoning dingoes by dropping tainted meat from aeroplanes changes the dynamics of the ecosystem and reduces biodiversity.

Management of this problem is being revolutionised by the use of guard animals such as Maremma sheepdogs, donkeys and llamas. These guardians bond with the livestock and protect them, not only reducing losses but also costing considerably less than shooting programmes. Even colonies of little penguins in Australia are now protected from foxes by Maremma sheepdogs.

Compassionate conservation is also changing the way researchers tag animals. This is an integral part of conservation as it enables scientists to identify individuals and estimate population sizes. But it is often harmful or painful and can reduce the animals’ fitness, which compromises the usefulness of the data collected. More researchers are now using methods that don’t stress animals or alter their behaviour, such as unobtrusive tags or remote camera traps.

There is often conflict between those interested in animal welfare and those interested in conservation, with the latter viewing concern for the well-being of individuals as misplaced sentimentalism. It is not.

Compassion for animals isn’t incompatible with preserving biodiversity and doing the best science possible. In fact, it is a must. Mistreatment of animals often produces poor conservation outcomes and bad science. It is also immoral. Only through compassion can we advance global conservation.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Cruel to be kind?”

Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He edited Ignoring Nature No More: The case for compassionate conservation (University of Chicago Press). Daniel Ramp is director of the Centre for Compassionate Conservation at the University of Technology, Sydney

Montana Announces Wolf Conservation Stamp

copyrighted wolf in water

[Good news for those who believe that wolves should be responsibly "managed"...]

May 21, 2014 by 

Zack Strong

Last week, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) announced that it would be proposing a “Wolf Conservation Stamp” at its May 22 meeting that, if approved, would be available for purchase by the public later this year. This is a truly groundbreaking proposal because it creates, for the first time, an opportunity for anyone to contribute funding to FWP that would only be spent on efforts to promote the conservation and responsible management of wolves and other wildlife in the state.

FWP, and wildlife management agencies around the country, are struggling to find ways to increase and diversify their revenue bases. The Wolf Conservation Stamp presents the perfect opportunity for non-hunters, non-trappers, “non-consumptive” wildlife watchers and recreationists to help support FWP while contributing to wolf and wildlife conservation in Montana – and by doing so, to add their voices and perspectives to the development of wildlife policies in our state.

Here’s how it would work. After covering the costs of administering the program, revenue generated by the purchase of wolf stamps would be equally allocated and spent in three ways:

  • One third would be made available to Montana livestock owners to help pay for nonlethal ways to protect their animals from predators like wolves, bears and mountain lions. By keeping both livestock and large carnivores alive, this would be a good deal for ranchers and wolves alike.
  • Another third would be used to pay for studying wolves, educating the public about wolves, and improving or purchasing suitable wolf habitat. This would benefit everyone, by increasing our knowledge about wolves, ensuring the public has access to accurate information about wolves, and securing habitat in which wolves and other wildlife can thrive.
  • The final third would be used to hire additional FWP wardens—essentially, wildlife police—in occupied wolf habitat. This would enhance enforcement of our wildlife management laws as they pertain to wolves and other species, and reduce incidents of poaching, trespassing, wasting animals, unlawful use of or failure to check traps, and other violations. This is something every Montanan and every American—hunters, non-hunters, property owners, public land users, agency officials, recreationists, and wildlife enthusiasts alike—should encourage and support.

And what’s more, the wolf stamp would be available to everyone. Just as FWP allows non-residents to purchase and use hunting and trapping licenses in the state, the wolf stamp would be available to any wildlife or conservation supporter, anywhere in the country.

If you care about wildlife in the northern Rocky Mountains, including wolves, we believe this is truly a chance to make a difference. Please spread the word about this proposal. And please thank FWP for its leadership and willingness to create this unique opportunity to directly support and contribute to conservation and sound wildlife management in Montana.

Bill allowing gun silencers while hunting passes out of committee

By Jim Siegel
The Columbus Dispatch • Wednesday March 12, 2014

Despite opposition from the League of Ohio Sportsmen, which called it a “bad bill with good intentions,” a House committee yesterday passed a bill that would allow Ohio hunters to use silencers.

Larry Mitchell Jr., executive director of the organization, said the goal of allowing hunters to use silencers should be accomplished through the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s rulemaking process. He said that route would be quicker and more flexible than passing legislation and putting it into law.

The bill, he said, “opens the door to the General Assembly to take away the authority of the wildlife professionals to write rules that address both the safety of our angling and hunting community but also address wildlife management principles.”

“With a few calls … this could all be handled in a few weeks,” he said. Asked if talks with the Division of Wildlife about changing the silencer rule could continue if the bill passes, Mitchell said the agency is generally reluctant to take on a new rule if a bill is moving.

Follow @OhioPoliticsNow for more news from the Statehouse

Supporters say the use of silencers will help protect hunters from hearing damage.

Also yesterday, about 50 members of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence marched to the Statehouse to lobby for action on another piece of legislation, House Bill 31, which would set standards for safe storage of firearms. The bill stalled after just two hearings.

Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, sponsor of the bill, said losing one child killed by an unsafely stored gun is unacceptable. “If you don’t trust your child with knives, hot water, lawnmowers and running cars, why would you trust them with a .45?” A violation of the law would be a third-degree misdemeanor.

On the silencer bill, the Buckeye Firearms Association played host to about 20 lawmakers and legislative aides in February at the Black Wing Shooting Center in Delaware to demonstrate the effect of placing a silencer on a .45-caliber pistol and .308-caliber rifle.

Some lawmakers were unfamiliar with the impact of a silencer and were concerned their use would make it difficult to know if someone is hunting nearby, or illegally hunting on private lands.

An audiologist from Ohio State University recorded a 15 percent or more reduction in volume with a silencer. It was enough, he said, to protect ears from damage but still loud enough to be heard from several hundred yards away.

Asked by Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, whether the bill addresses what happens if silencer technology improves, Mitchell said approving silencers by rule would allow for more flexibility to deal with such changes. Scherer voted no on the bill.

Knox Williams, president of the American Silencer Association, said the equipment will never be able to suppress the sound a bullet makes when it breaks the sound barrier.

Williams said 29 states allow game hunting with a silencer, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana.

Mitchell said the bill would affect fewer than 1 percent of hunters, but Williams argued that once silencers are approved, that number will rise. Silencer sales in recent years have been booming, he said, and Ohio is now the fourth-largest silencer market in the country.


Idaho game management killing elk after killing wolves

by Justin King

 Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

Boise – Ranchers in Idaho are asking the state government to help eliminate some of the state’s elk population. The state is halfway through the wolf season, which was said to have been introduced to stop the wolves from attacking elk.

A group from Mayfield claims that Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game has been unable to protect their livelihoods from elk herds which they say are trampling their fences, crops, and causing other problems. The department currently allows a small group of hunters to participate in “depredation hunts,” in which the hunters are allowed to kill animals while hoping to drive the herds away.
Elk hunters have actively encouraged thinning the wolf population. Some have established co-ops to shoulder the cost of trapping wolves that are eating the prized trophy animals. Wolf trappers are paid up to $500 per kill.

Conservationists unsuccessfully attempted to stop the wolf hunts and predicted an explosion in the elk population if the wolf, an apex predator, was hunted. Tim Preso, an attorney representing the conservationists said of the wolf hunting efforts last week:

There is every reason to believe that this is not going to be a one-off, they have set a goal of inflating the elk population by removing wolves. According to their own plan that’s a multi-year undertaking. So I see every reason to believe that this is going to be a recurring activity.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, almost 900 wolves have been killed since they lost federal protection.
One of the proposed solutions to Mayfield’s problem is to move the herds closer to the areas where wolves roam.

Read more:

Interview on EXPOSED: The U.S. Secret War on Wildlife with Brooks Fahy

February 24, 2014

Hosted by Eli Weiss

Wildlife Services-a barbaric, wasteful and misnamed agency within the US Department of Agriculture, has been having their way for almost a century, our government’s secret war on wildlife has been killing millions of native predators and birds as well as maiming, poisoning, and brutalizing countless non-targeted and endangered species, along with quite a few pets and seriously injuring people. Brooks Fahy, the man behind Predator Defense and the landmark film, “EXPOSED”, brings three former federal agents and a Congressman who blow the whistle on the atrocities committed under the guise of problem animal control, and proving Wildlife Services for what it really is: A barbaric, unaccountable, government sanctioned, out-of-control wildlife killing machine funded on our dime, which apparently thinks they will continue getting away with it. But, we can tell Congress to defund Wildlife Services, and after this program, you will.

coyote contest kill

Healthy Giraffe Is Killed at Zoo Despite Offer to Save Him

By Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. on February, 09, 2014 in Animal Emotions

Yesterday I wrote about the plight of Marius, a young giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo who was to be killed because he didn’t fit into the zoo’s breeding program. Today I learned he was killed despite another zoo offering to save him. To quote from a BBC article: The director of a wildlife park in the Netherlands said, “Zoos need to change the way they do business.”

Read More:




Meanwhile in CA, Gray wolf doesn’t warrant endangered status, official says

by Melody Gutierrez Wednesday, February 5, 2014copyrighted wolf in water

Sacramento —

The gray wolf should not be listed as an endangered species in California, according to staff at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, much to the chagrin of wildlife conservation advocates who petitioned for the designation.

Following a yearlong review, the department’s director, Chuck Bonham, told the California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday that there is scientific evidence to support some protections for the gray wolf, but not for listing the animal on the endangered species list. The commission will consider his recommendation and may act on it this spring.

“Look, this decision has been weighing on me for weeks,” Bonham said. “It’s possible I may lose friends over this, which is why I ask everyone to read the documents before passing judgment.”

The recommendation was in response to a petition filed by conservationists in 2012 seeking protections for the species after a gray wolf from Oregon, known as OR-7, entered California. It was the first wild gray wolf in the state in almost 90 years. The wolf has since gone back to Oregon but has made some short excursions to the Golden State.

Bonham said his department’s recommendation is to designate the gray wolf as a species of special concern, prohibit the killing of OR-7 or other gray wolves and consider recommendations for placing the gray wolf on the state’s endangered species list at a later date.

Bonham said the recommendation documents will be posted on the department’s website by Thursday. Bonham’s announcement comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the gray wolf from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.

Nearly all of the public comments at Wednesday’s meeting in Sacramento on the gray wolf petition favored listing the animal as endangered.

“Wolves deserve a chance to recover in California, so it’s disappointing to see the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recommendation against protections,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that petitioned the state to have the gray wolf listed as an endangered.

In other developments at the Fish and Game Commission meeting, commissioners agreed to take up a possible ban on killing contests, a response to a controversial annual coyote killing contest held in Modoc County.

The annual event, scheduled for this weekend, triggered outrage last year after Project Coyote and several other conservation groups started a statewide campaign to stop the killings.

Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, said wildlife killing contests are more common than the public realizes. Organizers of the event have attempted to hide the contest from public view due to criticism and media attention.

One supporter of the event, Perry St. John, said the coyote hunt is held this time of year to help reduce the coyote population before spring calf births.

“It’s not killing for fun,” St. John told the commission during public comments. “It’s a chance for people to come together.”

Please Don’t Let Pedophiles Run the PTA

Things have been the way they are for so long that most people just accept them. But when you stop and think about it, having hunters be in charge of the wildlife departments is like appointing pedophiles to run the PTA. We must never lose sight of the fact that hunters have ulterior motives for our precious wildlife.

When hunters say they “care” about animals, well, they mean it in a lustful, self-serving sort of way. And when they use words like “love” and “respect,” they sound about as sincere as a spousal abuser, rapist or pedophile referring to the objects of their obsession.

Hunters have no business “managing” wildlife. They can’t seem to understand that the objects of their obsession are sentient beings with needs, wants and life experiences of their own. And every time game departments disrespect Mother Nature by calling for another “management action,” they are renouncing her healing ability and cheating her out of one more chance to restore her time-tested balance.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2014.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2014.

To Save Threatened Owl, Another Species Is Shot

[Typical FWS reaction to any species situation (always the result of human actions)--KILL, kill, kill!]

In desperation to save the rare northern spotted owl, biologists are doing something that goes against their core — shooting another owl that’s rapidly taking over spotted owl territory across the northwest.

“If we don’t do it, what we’re essentially doing, in my view, is dooming the spotted owl to extinction,” says Lowell Diller, senior biologist for Green Diamond, a timber company.

The decision to shoot the more aggressive barred owls has been wrenching for biologists and the federal government. But one of the biologists says the consequence of not stepping in would be so dire that it justifies what he calls this Sophie’s Choice.

hide captionThis barred owl was removed in October from California’s Hoopa Valley reservation. The barred owl is a species that threatens spotted owl recovery.

       Courtesy of Lowell V. Diller

This barred owl was removed in October from California's Hoopa Valley reservation. The barred owl is a species that threatens spotted owl recovery.

This barred owl was removed in October from California’s Hoopa Valley reservation. The barred owl is a species that threatens spotted owl recovery.

Courtesy of Lowell V. Diller

A few decades ago, the plight of the spotted owl sparked an epic struggle between environmentalists and the timber industry. In 1990, the federal government put the spotted owl on the endangered species list, giving it a “threatened” designation. Protecting the bird, and the old growth forests where they nest, accelerated the decline of the logging industry in the northwest.

At the time, small numbers of the bigger barred owls, which are native to the east, had already made their way across the continent and into historic spotted owl turf. Now, they are outcompeting spotted owls — disrupting their nesting and eating their food.

During the 1990s, a few barred owls showed up in an area of forest along Redwood Creek that was prime spotted owl territory. Barred owls, which reproduce much faster than spotted owls, now claim nearly all this territory. No spotted owls have nested in this stretch of forest in recent years.

“It’s very upsetting and there’s nothing that’s going to stop this expansion of barred owls from continuing,” says Diller, who has studied spotted owls for 25 years. The only feasible solution, Diller says, forces him to go against his nature.

“I Hate It Every Time I Go Out And Do It”

In the forest along Redwood Creek, Diller plays a recording of a barred owl, and soon a pair of real barred owls starts hooting. Barred owls are aggressively territorial — the birds are trying to intimidate what they think is another owl intruding on their turf.

The female buzzes past. Then she perches in plain view, a tactic meant to ward off interlopers that puts the birds in shooting range.

“I think you can appreciate, standing here, how easy it would be — and when I say easy, I mean technically easy or simple — to lethally remove that bird,” Diller says.

Diller’s a hunter, but he was taught never to kill a bird of prey or anything you didn’t plan to eat. At first, someone else did the shooting. But, he says, this felt hypocritical, so he started doing it himself.

Diller recalls the first time he took a shot. “I was so nervous about what I was doing, and emotional, that I had to steady myself against a tree.”

Over the past five years, Diller has killed more than 70 barred owls with a shotgun. Each time, he says, it felt “totally wrong.”

“I hate it every time I go out and do it,” he says.

Removing barred owls without killing them is not feasible, he says. He calculates it takes more than 40 hours to catch a live barred owl — compared to about two hours to shoot and collect one. Finding new homes for the barred owl would also be time-consuming and traumatic for the birds.

hide captionGuns, dogs and owl-calling decoys are used in efforts to remove barred owls. The dogs are valuable in recovering fallen owls, especially at night.

       Courtesy of Lowell V. Diller

Guns, dogs and owl-calling decoys are used in efforts to remove barred owls. The dogs are valuable in recovering fallen owls, especially at night.

Guns, dogs and owl-calling decoys are used in efforts to remove barred owls. The dogs are valuable in recovering fallen owls, especially at night.

Courtesy of Lowell V. Diller

Shoot To Save, Or Leave It To Nature?

Barred owls are not rare. Still, shooting them has presented such a quandary to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it has taken more than seven years come to this solution.

Although the agency made an exception for Diller, it’s illegal to shoot barred owls, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

On the other hand, the Fish and Wildlife Service can’t ignore the invasion because it’s legally required to help rare species under the Endangered Species Act. The agency even hired an ethicist, Clark University’s Bill Lynn, to help wildlife experts resolve the dilemma.

“People recognized there’s a crisis for the spotted owl, that barred owls are part of the cause of that crisis and, so, they reluctantly, essentially justified the experimental removal of barred owls,” Lynn says.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is starting a four-year experiment to kill up to 3,600 barred owls in the northwest.

The birds will be removed from four different forests, two in Northern California, one in Oregon and one in Washington. Some birds will be captured but not killed.

The federal government says if spotted owls come back after barred owls are removed, it may decide to kill barred owls over a broader area.

An advocacy group, Friends of Animals, is suing to stop the experiment.

The group doesn’t believe the government can make a moral argument for shooting an animal, even if it would benefit another animal.

“To go in and say we’re going to kill thousands and thousands of barred owls, literally forever, I don’t see that as being a solution. At some point you have to allow these species to either figure out a way to coexist or for nature to run its course,” says Michael Harris, legal director of Friends of Animals.

hide captionLowell Diller holds a fledgling spotted owl that he banded at a site where barred owls had been removed. “This owlet would almost certainly not be alive today without active intervention,” he says.

       Courtesy of Lowell V. Diller

Lowell Diller holds a fledgling spotted owl that he banded at a site where barred owls had been removed. "This owlet would almost certainly not be alive today without active intervention," he says.

Lowell Diller holds a fledgling spotted owl that he banded at a site where barred owls had been removed. “This owlet would almost certainly not be alive today without active intervention,” he says.

Courtesy of Lowell V. Diller

But Diller argues this is an “absurd thing to say” after all the ways humans have altered nature. People cut down most of the forests that used to host barred owls. They made lots of changes to the Great Plains, which he believes helped the barred owl move across the continent.

So, he says, people should at least try to save the spotted owl. And nearly everywhere he shot barred owls, he says, spotted owls came back — and had owlets too.

The Reward

Along the Mad River, Diller scrambles through a young redwood forest to track down a pair of spotted owls. He feeds them mice so he can see the bands on their legs. The polka dot markings tells him the owl settled here in 2009, after he shot barred owls nearby.

For Diller, seeing rare spotted owls thrive in this forest is success worth the agony of shooting barred owls.

“Probably what makes spotted owls so special is the fact that as you just witnessed, they fly right up to you,” Diller says. “You get to interact with them. It’s almost impossible as a biologist not to fall in love with these birds — they’re just the neatest animal.”

Diller hopes the public also will see the value in saving this beautiful creature.

Why the states have wolf management wrong

January 6, 2014
Cathy Taibbi|

copyrighted wolf in riverIn this Powell Tribune post, Wolf hunt ends with 24 taken, written by Gib Mathers, the big, glaring error in state wolf management is revealed.

The states, eager for revenue (gotten through the selling of hunting and trapping licenses), have gotten basic principles of wolf ‘management’ all wrong.

With wolves, ‘management’ is not as simple as removing individual bucks from a breeding population of deer – Wolves live in FAMILIES. Everything they do revolves around the well-being of their families – Including teaching their pups (who stay ‘children’, to be taught and protected, for three years), just as we teach our own children.

Wolves pass down learned information (for instance, to stay away from livestock) to their family, to their impressionable pups, in essence passing down a unique ‘culture’ of conduct and survival tools specific to each pack.

That includes respect for Man and his livestock.

Break the chain of knowledge by decimating family continuity, and you actually create problems where there hadn’t been any before.

Through hunting and trapping seasons, we rob wolves of their hard-won, hard-learned family-knowledge of how to co-exist with us.

Wolves LEARN. We don’t have to kill them. In truth, documented livestock depredation by wolves is exceedingly rare – Way behind other, routine, causes of livestock mortality such as weather and poor husbandry, for instance. Ranchers are compensated monetarily for even suspected kills by wolves, so ranchers are by no means financially harmed if a rare instance of a wolf killing livestock actually does occur.

The other lame argument is that wolves are jeopardizing herds of game (which human hunters wish to kill for fun.) Wolves will not eliminate all the game, either. If man has created enough challenges for wilderness systems that herd numbers actually do decline too much (as opposed to herd behavior changing to become more elusive targets), then the correct answer is to reduce the number of permits granted to sport hunters, for a season or two, or even three – Not to kill vital native species who have no choice but to hunt to live.

The best way to revitalize and rejuvenate a herd is to allow it to be under the management of their natural, original custodians – The wild predators, like wolves, who do not target the big, healthy and showy, with the biggest racks or heaviest pelt, in an effort to show off trophies and shore-up their fragile egos.

Wolves just want to eat. They catch what they can – the weak, the young, the old, the lame, the sick, the scrawny.

Leaving the biggest, healthiest, prettiest and best to spawn the next healthy, vital, resilient, magnificent generation.

And the carcasses they nibble on for the next few days or weeks, also feed a mind-boggling array of other creatures, from crows to beetles to foxes, and fertilize the forests and keep steams clean and fresh, and salmon populations thriving, and . . .Well, you can see how everything in nature travels in lock-step with everything else.

Human hunters don’t give much of anything back to the forest – A steaming gut-pile, perhaps. But humans do take. We take and take and leave the forest impoverished for our presence, unlike wolves, who enrich the wilderness and increase biological diversity – And beauty.

Even if wolves did pose a legitimate occasional threat, we don’t need to resort to the kind of wholesale slaughter we’re now indulging in (which is the main justification for these severe hunts – hunts which don’t afford wolves even the most basic humane considerations granted to species such as deer), including the hunting and massacre of innocent puppies still in the den, pregnant mothers, and utterly harmless (to humans and human endeavors) wolves; animals who are completely innocent and way out in the wilderness – even in protected wild lands and national parks and refuges, where wildlife is supposed to be able to exist without human interference.

Why send a lynch mob out into a national refuge to exterminate a naturally-occurring wild carnivore who, by all rights, needs to be there, fulfilling his age-old role?

Wolves are smart – We can teach them, using non-lethal means, to respect and avoid us, and our livestock.

But that doesn’t mean we will never SEE them. Just because you see a wolf doesn’t mean you, or your livestock, are even on her mind. She travels. She patrols. He explores. He hunts. He warns off rival wolves and coyotes – He has other things on his mind than harming you or your stuff.

Things like, making sure the kids are safe, or that ‘Auntie’, left in charge of the babies, is due a break.

You see, again, it’s all about family.

Wolf pups and pack members also need the option to safely disperse – Just like your son gets to date girls, move out, learn to manage his own household and find someone to fall in love with and raise his own family with – and your cousin, who finds a good job in another city, can now vacate your spare bedroom (where he’s been staying until he can get back on his feet) and move out, giving you back your space.

You all stay in touch with everyone through email and voice mail. (In the case of wolves, through scent marking and howling.) But if no one could ever move out of the family home, the family itself would wither,

Wolves need enough room and prey, enough of their own estate, to establish their own households, where they and their children can thrive, without bumping elbows with other wolves.

Is it all a ‘numbers game’? Well, think about it this way: Your third child deserves to live, grow and some day move out and find her own digs, not get shot because you’re at your family quota of two adults and 2 children.


For all these things, wolves need safe corridors bridging their family homes with other lands, other safe, wild habitats, and other wolf neighborhoods, in which to travel, to explore, test their mettle in their own territories, and find that special, genetically-unrelated someone to go through life with in a loving, mutually-supportive marriage.

That, by the way, is not a romanticized, anthropomorphic statement.

Wolves mate for life. They bond with each other, they are affectionate with each other, they protect each other and cooperate with each other. They LOVE each other, just as we love our own spouses. parents, and children.

They show altruism and tenderness, protectiveness and cooperation, just like human families.

They grieve – For weeks – when a pack member is lost.

In many ways, wolf families put human families to shame.

Is that why the very existence of wolves is seen as so threatening by some people?

‘Manage’ (shoot/trap) wolves ‘by the numbers’ and you cause disintegration of their most important social support systems, leaving grieving relatives and dependent babies behind; we (often intentionally) widow wolf parents and leave them to try to keep their families alive without help – As for single moms everywhere, it is very hard trying to raise your kids without both parents around.

That’s when many resort to less-than-ideal methods, out of desperation to survive and feed the family.

That’s when confused and frightened orphans, ill-equipped to survive without the protection and guidance of their wiser elders, can turn into the equivalent of street-gangs or vandals.

They need their families – Just as human children do – to become proper citizens.

Ethical wildlife management isn’t just ‘by the numbers’. It can’t be. Would you would want your own family arbitrarily ‘thinned’ (lethally) by an outside party, based on nothing but a heartless quota system?

With all their unique qualities, wolves can not be treated like other ‘game’ animals. Top-tier predators, whose numbers are naturally regulated by the availability and vigor of their prey, don’t need redundant management by humans. Wolves, in fact, should NOT be game animals, at all. They are not pests; They are not vermin or infestations.

They are essential and precious keystone/apex species who belong in, evolved with, and invigorate our living wilderness landscape just by being a part of it.

Wolves are, in truth, the original, supreme game and ecosystem managers of the wilderness

State wildlife management should not be about running a feedlot for the benefit of hunters, or ensuring safe and secure cattle-grazing on public lands for privately-owned livestock.

National parks and public lands are to be intact, unmarred oasis’s of authentic wilderness, lovingly protected and guarded against meddling or exploitation, for perpetuity.

Wolves and other species keeping a toehold in their rightful places in suitable areas need to be granted the right to BE and exist, as nature intended. Having shaped our herds, our biodiversity, the forests, plains and deserts, rivers and tundras, in the first place, for millenia, it should be obvious that wolves don’t just belong – They are needed.

Humans are not owners of the planet – We are fellow citizens in a tapestry of interdependent and interconnected Nations, all working in harmony to keep our precious Earth vital and alive.

But humans seem to be on a giant ego-trip, and we’re tipping the balance of everything out of whack, to where the very survival of our planet might be at stake.

It’s time for wildlife officials, and wildlife management science, to rise to the demands of integrated, holistic ecosystem management, (not ‘game ranch management’, not public lands ranching, not pandering to special interests), using our increased understanding of the emotional and psychological needs of the beings we’ve decided to preside over, to guide us – to create fully biologically diverse, functional and dynamic ecosystems that are allowed to thrive without human meddling.

One final thought: Nature does not NEED us. In fact, we all might benefit from adopting a ‘hands-off’ management style for our wild and open places. Case in point: The wolves and ecosystems that have rebounded – breathtakingly – after the old Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Here, in that abandoned kingdom, wolves, herds, even endangered species, coexist in a humbling harmony and splendor, with no people attempting to micro-manage things.

Take this message to heart – Nature can function just fine without us. All we have to do is leave her alone, and ALLOW.