Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No end to spin

Copyright © 2009 C R Edmunds

Oh, it hurts to have to admit that for once I agree with the words of Enviros. Fortunately that pain is somewhat mitigated by the fact that even when they try to get it right, the Enviros get it wrong - no doubt on purpose methinks - and so while I agree with the words, I don’t agree with the premises.

“Conservation groups” (they used to be “environmental groups” but that name is getting a deservedly bad flavor) have written to the US Fish & Wildlife Service to stop the agency’s using the image of a Mexican wolf that died in captivity. The female wolf was one of the original 11 released into the wild as part of the Mexican wolf recovery program back in 1998 (she was a captive-bred wolf, not a wild wolf).

“Conservation Groups” (the usual suspects, headed this time by the Center for Biological Diversity, a group known for twisting the facts, see Chilton v Center for Biological Diversity, Inc.) claim it’s important for people to know the “truth” (and isn’t that a joke, coming from them) about the poster wolf: they are upset that it died of stress and overheating after being captured by US FWS in 2005.

These “Conservation Groups” are using the death of an aged wolf more than three years ago to complain about the management of the “wolf predator control program” - a term they have dreamed up that apparently refers to the capture or killing of wolves after three confirmed livestock kills in a year. The Enviros would have us believe the problem is with the pesky ranchers, who keep whining about all the cows that wolves eat (not to mention the horses, dogs, cats, etc.) instead of the elk and deer that the wolves are supposed to be dining on. The Enviros want to stop this silly policy of removing (and relocating) problem wolves.

You know what? (I’m getting shivers just writing these words). I agree. A major flaw with the Mexican wolf program is this business of capturing wolves.

But then, here’s where I disagree (my relief is huge). What Enviros really want is for ranchers and everyone else to just suck it up and let wolves eat what they will, so that the bad, cow-eating wolves will not have to be captured or killed for all that repeated destruction. The implication is that it’s because of this wanton protection of ranchers and resulting removal of wolves that the wolf program isn’t successful.

Not so!

The program isn’t successful because the wolves aren’t wild to begin with. Pay attention here, children - this is a very important point! Real wild wolves wouldn’t be eating dogs, cats, horses and cows because real wild wolves are afraid of humans and don’t come near humans unless they’re desperate. The Mexican wolf program's “tame” wolves (habituated wolves) are so fearless of humans that they’ll hang out near houses, getting their meals from pets and domestic livestock because it’s much easier than chasing all over the forest after elk and deer.

Female Mexican wolf 511, the poster wolf, was born in captivity, where she was routinely handled for veterinary exams and vaccinations. After release “into the wild” (actually near or in the middle of ranching areas), like other wolves in the program 511 was recaptured to replace batteries in her collar, to be revaccinated and be brought to captive facilities for breeding purposes; she additionally was captured and “translocated” (moved to another area where supposedly she’d forget all about being habituated and having a taste for cows) because she was a problem wolf. Wolf 511 was eight years old when she died. Eight is quite old for a wild wolf, and therefore like any old animal, she would have been vulnerable to the effects of stress. I’m guessing she would not have lived that long if she had really been a wild wolf, without all that extra health care from the Mexican wolf program.

And now we have come to my rambling point of disagreement with the Enviros. “Conservation Groups” want the poster wolf to show some other wolf than poster wolf 511, because she died in captivity. The Enviros want the poster wolf to show the “”truth”. Well, wouldn’t it be more the truth to show a wolf with a collar on (to show that it’s been captured, vaccinated, examined and fed by humans), and to also show the wolf’s veterinary charts, pedigrees, the human names given to them like any domestic animal (511’s name was Brunhilda, her parents were Parkeyes and Rio). Wouldn’t it be more the truth to show the wolf snacking on puppies and calves - or lurking near school playgrounds as habituated wolves tend to do? Isn’t it a travesty of the truth to imply that 511 or any Mexican wolf poster wolves are really wild at all?

Fact is, no wild wolf has ever been released by the Mexican wolf program. Every wolf released has been the result of a captive breeding program, and most released wolves have been captured and released over and over again. Where is a wild wolf supposed to come from that can pose for a photo?

Ah, but what’s truth got to do with anything when you’re busy spinning away…