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