Wolves, people donít mix
Wally Sykes’ letter attacking my suggestion that Oregon’s wolf “experiment” is just too costly deserves a rebuttal.
I’m pleased that Mr. Sykes appreciates wolves as I do and I enjoy a good debate on wildlife. However, it appears Wally Sykes got his wildlife education off the Disney channel. His suggestion that wolves take only the sick and old suggests he doesn’t have a clue about simple wolf and ungulate biology.
I’ve spent a lifetime of hardcore elk watching --- in Canada, Wyoming and Oregon. I live on a prominent elk range. In those 50 plus years, I can honestly say I’ve never observed a sick elk or one disabled by old age. Elk are a very robust species. Most certainly, a wolf pack would starve if they could only feed on the very rare individuals that were sick or old.
Idaho just released a study that suggests wolves have depleted their elk herds by 20 percent in many areas. Is Mr. Sykes suggesting that 20 percent of those herds were sick or old? One noted Utah scientist predicts that Oregon’s elk herds could shrink to 10 percent of what they are now due to the wolf.
Is Mr. Sykes suggesting this state’s elk herd is comprised of 90 percent sick and old animals?
Elk are more prone to get sick and weak when they get old. His suggestions might have had some validity 500 years ago, but modern wildlife management simply doesn’t allow that many elk to get old.
Yellowstone’s Druid Peak wolf pack once contained 36 members. Is anyone suggesting there were enough sick and old animals in their neighborhood to keep that many wolves alive and fit? A pack of four or five can take down pretty much what they want. A pack of 36 can dispatch any living creature on the planet. Along with the rare sick and weak, those animals were taking healthy bull elk and even tank-like bison.
Healthy wolves simply take what comes in their path –--- the weak, the old, the young and the vigorous. I don’t have a problem with that, but Mr. Sykes must be ashamed at those facts as he hides them with a sugar coating.
Sykes suggests hunters take only trophy animals. This state’s hunters harvest about 14,000 elk annually. A very tiny fraction make the “trophy” books. The other 99 percent consists of cows and under-aged bulls –-- hardly trophies.
I’ve never understood why so many folks won’t allow Homo sapiens to be part of the forest food chain. Like so many Oregon families, I’ve raised mine on clean, un-adulterated venison. I feel good knowing it’s one of the most eco-friendly and renewable resources in the country.
Another very misleading suggestion from Mr. Sykes is that most Oregonians welcome the wolf. In truth, that is simply a not-in-my-backyard scenario.
Release a few packs in the rural areas of Multnomah and Washington counties, let them poke a few fangs in their puppies and ponies, and then watch attitudes swing dramatically.
I’m very glad wolves are doing so well in their strongholds of Canada, Alaska and, now, Yellowstone.
But I honestly believe that in the end we’re going to spend a zillion dollars on this grand experiment. Will this effort truly be worth the suffering many will endure from wolf depredation and the sacrifices many species will make due to the rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul funding trade-offs?
I salute the wolf. Most certainly, this animal, along with the Native Americans and many other species of wildlife, has suffered dearly from the European settlement of this country.
Has Mr. Sykes a desire to go back ---- sleeping under animal skins, dodging grizzlies and eating camas roots?
Quite frankly, and disappointingly, wolves weren’t designed like their coyote and fox cousins to fit in well with human settlements.
It’s no one’s fault. The wolf is a finely-tuned predator with ample skills to kill anything. And arguably, ill wishes or not, wolves have every right to be in our neighborhood.
But then, so does T-Rex.
Jim Ward photographs and writes about the wildlife of Northeast Oregon.