January 11, 2010

Link liberation: scary wolf stories

Ernest Thompson Seton: Wolf Study. Pen and ink with water color (1896).

I first read Seton's Lobo, the King of Currumpaw when I was eight or nine [thanks, Uncle Rudy, for the gift of Wild Animals I Have Known], and I can still recite parts of that story from memory.
A lion shorn of his strength, an eagle robbed of his freedom, or a dove bereft of his mate, all die, it is said, of a broken heart; and who will aver that this grim bandit could bear the three-fold brunt, heart-whole? This only I know, that when the morning dawned, he was lying there still in his position of calm repose, but his spirit was gone—the old king-wolf was dead.

I took the chain from his neck, a cowboy helped me to carry him to the shed where lay the remains of Blanca, and as we laid him beside her, the cattle-man exclaimed: "There, you would come to her, now you are together again."
That account of a great wolf's life and death just killed me. A couple years ago PBS ran a show about Lobo and Seton, called The Wolf that Changed America. [You can watch video selections here.] The website has a collection of related images, and when I saw the photo Seton took of Lobo at the end, the real Lobo, with each leg in a horrible trap, I actually broke down and cried.

Yes, I'm a child of the suburbs. [The very first subdivision to spring up in the midst of Pleasantville's fields and orange groves, but still.]

Like grizzlies, wolves fascinate and frighten me all at once.

These two stories are both hair-raising, and true, and they don't have happy endings.

Gros Ventre wolves kill 3 dogs [this article broke my heart]

Wolf kills hunting hound

Watch out, wolves of Idaho – the Becker dogs are ready to rumble [Edited to add: check out the follow-up post's beautiful photos.]
Dr. L. David Mech's International Wolf Center.
Cat Urbigkit's Wolf Watch.
Off Endangered List, but What Animal Is It Now?


PBurns said...

The things that will kill you in the woods are deer and bees -- far more dangerous than wolves (true fact). That said, there's an interesting political-literature tale about how the last of the wolves went from vermin to heroes at the end of the wolf extermination programs. The tale is told in a book called "Vicious". I have a short review here >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2006/09/vicious-wolves-and-men-in-america.html The book is certainly worth reading if you are intersted in the psychologial and historical history of wolves in North America.


Luisa said...

But deer won't run four miles out of their way just to kill your dogs. [Or your sheep, for that matter.]

A grizzly would make me fear for my own safety. Wolves would make me fear for my dogs.

Anonymous said...

On the morning of 9-11-01 husband and I were hiking along the south shore of Lake Superior with our three dogs (two Leonbergers and an Aussie).

We were hiking single file on a narrow trail. I was in the lead, the dogs were behind me and husband brought up the rear. The walk was fairly uneventful until the Leos suddenly trotted up to stand in front of me, facing about 11 o'clock. Heads up, chests out, ears pricked - but completely quiet - they were completely and utterly alert. I followed their gaze, and my first thought was "why is that husky way out here". Then, of course, I realized it wasn't a husky.

We stood, dogs staring at wolf, wolf staring at dogs for what seemed like eons. Then the wolf began moving in an arc around us. The boys adjusted position to stay between the wolf and I. He stopped again at about 2 o'clock, stared back at us for a few seconds - then evaporated silently into his forest.

The Leos stood for a while, watching to be sure he was gone. Then they shook themselves, smiled up at me and let me know it was safe to move on.

It was a wonderful day to be away from the world.

Heather Houlahan said...

I'm sorry for the hunter who lost his three dogs, but the article in general is agitprop.

They ate our elk! (Deliver in same voice as a South Park redneck screaming They took our jobs!)

What is this, 1890?

I know, I know, Aldo Leopold was a Atheist Muslim Liberal Vegan Al Quaeda operative who hated America.

I'm really not going there with someone who releases his teeny weeny sweet helpless lap-hounds to chase mountain lions miles away, and then is shocked and horrified that they have a run-in with a ... gasp ... predator! That the gubbmit allowed to run loose out in the woods! Who knew?!

You pays your money, you takes your chances.

Heather Houlahan said...

I just made the mistake of looking at the photo of Lobo in the traps.

It immediately evoked Aslan tied to the stone table.

I won't ever lose this image now.

Retrieverman said...

Not all wolves become dog killers. Some become dog playmates:


The real issue with wolves killing dogs is when the hunting hounds come too close to wolf dens when they have pups. The wolves defend their pup as they would defend their young from an invading wolf pack. Wolves are crazy about keeping their territories free of other wolves, and if another wolf shows up alone, it is dead. And that's what usually happens when dogs go walking alone in wolf country.

Now, wolves in some populations learn to hunt dogs for food. They probably learn this from eating the interloping wolves that pop up in their territories, and when they get hungry, they go dog hunting. It's kind of like the chimpanzee cannibal war parties.

But they generally aren't dangerous to people for some odd reason. You can't tell me it's because they have been hunted. The wolves of Ellesmere have never been hunted (at least hunted extensively), and they don't hunt people. They are the most easily approached and filmed wolves in the world.

Luisa said...

When you use words like agitprop, Heather, the terrorists win.

But seriously, I don't think the article was too agitproppy. And if you're a hunting guide who takes clients on elk hunts, and there aren't as many elk as there used to be, there's a measure of justification for pointing at wolves and screaming, "They took our jerbs...!"

I think most livestock owners in areas with wolves accept that eradication isn't an option. [Cat Urbigkit, linked above, could offer a more nuanced perspective.] What I think would make things better for all the parties involved, people and animals both, is turning wolf management over to the states. Ed Bangs thinks so, too.

[I'm crushing a little bit on Ed Bangs. He says stuff like, "Basically if you drop your beagle in a blender and look at the DNA it's pretty indistinguishable from a wild wolf." He mixes up poets, and I like a man who mixes up poets. (It was Jeffers, not Whitman:
“What but the wolf's tooth whittled so fine
The fleet limbs of the antelope?
What but fear winged the birds, and hunger
Jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk's head?”)

His favorite animal is the wolverine. And he brought the wolves back. I'm in wuv.]

EmilyS said...


about 360 livestock deaths attributed to wolves in Montana, but get this: 148 of those deaths were caused by one wolf pack.

So of course the story is about a statewide backlash against wolves in general...

Have the legal wolf hunts, along with the depredation eradication (eliminating about 500 wolves in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana), "solved" the problem that a few ranchers do have with wolves?

Sure, in the same way that BSL "solves" the problems of dog bites.

In other words, not...

BTW, the courts will probably never allow Wyoming to manage our wolves if the state continues to insist on wanting to categorize them as predators (to be shot on sight) rather than game animals, with a specific, number-limited season as Idaho and Montana have.

EmilyS said...

Atheist Muslim Liberal Vegan Al Quaeda operative wrote:
""We reached the old wolf in time to watch the fierce green fire dying in her eyes. . . .There was something new to me in those eyes--- something known only to her and the mountains. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch. I thought that because fewer wolves more deer that no wolves would mean hunter's paradise, but after seeing the green fire dire, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view."

Wasn't he a sentimental old fool...

Retrieverman said...

The reduction of elk herds in the Northern Rockies is far more complex than just saying "the wolves did it." However, it's easier to say "the wolves did it" and build a political movement on that issue than it is to understand what is really going on. (Idaho's Republican Party has used this whole issue to their advantage for years.)

However, it fits a narrative. Obama gonna tek ar guns! And wolves are a form of socialism. Serious. Listen to how these people talk. Wolves place limits on the use of private property, and many of these people go as far as to say the purpose of the wolves is to make it so that ranching becomes unprofitable, simply because it places too many restrictions on private property.

Luisa said...

Eh, it's not that complex ;~)

A key predator — the wolf — was eradicated, elk multiplied like mad, wolves were reintroduced 70 years later, wolves ate lots of elk, the elk that weren't eaten modified their behavior in order to survive, trophic cascades, The End.

Obligatory links for those interested:
Articles by L. David Mech
Lots of good stuff there.

Mech [who favored delisting] has written that increases in livestock depredation by wolves reflect the wolf population's expansion as well as learning by the wolf population. I'm guessing the ranching community would like to see wolf expansion kept in check by hunting, and increased depredation minimized by destroying packs that kill livestock.

I think livestock owners accept that this "new" predator is here to stay, and they know there will be unavoidable losses. They'd just like to keep those losses low.

Here's Sheep Production Forum owner Bill "Kucinich for President" Fosher on the wolf's appearance in New Hampshire.

By Mech et al: Survival of Adult Female Elk in Yellowstone Following Wolf Restoration [pdf]

Hunters and hunting guides in the Rockies probably shudder at the thought of this sort of thing: A 3-decade Dearth of Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in a Wolf (Canis lupus)–dominated Ecosystem [pdf] Another study co-authored by Mech.

I'm glad the wolf has been reintroduced. Heck, I'd love to see the California Grizzly reintroduced. Brave talk from the suburbs, I know.

For some reason this reminds me that when Stephen Colbert interviewed American Indian author Sherman Alexie and asked him about misconceptions and stereotypes, Colbert specified, "Please answer in your spirit wolf voice." Ed Bangs: "Wolves and wolf management have nothing to do with reality. It's all about human values and symbolism."

Oy, I could talk about wolves, values and symbolism all night, but I'll wind this up with three Querencia posts by Cat Urbigkit, who doesn't live in the suburbs:
Nothing good
Quiet night