WHY DO WE NEED WOLVES?
Why do we need wolves? As a fiction writer, my first response is that wolves are important, for fairy tales and fantasy, so we have a ready-made antagonist. Kidding aside, why are wolves so important? What made me think about wolves in the first place?
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
I read a news article about Wisconsin hunters and the DNR, that’s why!
Gray wolves (canis lupus) were removed from Endangered Species Act protections in January, 2021.
So what does the Wisconsin DNR do? They decide that this is clear sign of recovery, and point to declines in game animals due to wolf predation. They carefully dole out hunting tags. Three days later, it all backfires.
Kill wolves so hunters can kill more deer. What?
Before I get myself more rattled about the WI DNR’s decision, let’s back it up and look at these highly intelligent, social animals, starting with their mystique!
Plus, it’s World Wildlife Day! We don’t need a better reason than that!
MYTHOLOGY OF WOLVES
Because of my fiction writing, I’m intrigued by psychology and mythology. Wolves have a rich history, intertwined with humans.
Wolves have a central place in the folklore of cultures from the North American Arctic to the Indian jungle to the Chinese tropics. The roles of wolves in mythology are diverse, ranging from wise hunter to wild animal.
Maybe I ought to stop here, before I venture into werewolf territory!
Hm….I can’t resist. Just one, I promise!
WOLVES: THE ANCESTORS OF LOUIE! And your dogs, too!
Here’s another answer to the question, ‘why do we need wolves.’
The origins of dogs dates back thousands of years. Dogs evolved as domesticated descendants of the wolf. (I know, you knew this but it’s cool.)
The dog diverged from a now-extinct population of wolves 27,000-40,000 years ago. The modern grey wolf is the dog’s nearest living relative.
In 2017, a study showed that 9,000 years ago the domestic dog was present at what is Zhokhov Island in Siberia. The dogs were selectively bred as either sled dogs or as hunting dogs. (Photo on right of cave art clearly depicts hunting dogs.).
DOGS! DOGS! DOGS!
Today dogs are the most variable mammal on our planet, with 450 separate breeds!
Wolves first appeared in the early Pleistocene period, which was about a million years ago. Wolves adapted to the entire planet…until we decided otherwise.
Why, you ask?
WOLVES AND NATURE'S COMPLEX CONNECTIONS
We need wolves.
Wolves are a classic example of nature’s complex connections.
I’ll cite a documented horror story below. (NOT a fairy tale.)
YELLOWSTONE GOES HAYWIRE
This folly continued until 1995! Finally, someone figured it out and released wolves captured from Canada back into Yellowstone.
Flash forward to now.
The US still allows the killing of wolves, on the grounds that this can help conservation.
DOES CULLING WORK?
Culling is the reduction the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter.
Kill to conserve? Does that work?
I don’t want to admit this, but a study done in 2016 by the University of Wisconsin showed that culling a wolf population slowed population growth by 92%. Technically culling works. Populations decline.
Culling works. The science backs this up. That said, ecosystems are more complicated than that!
It is interesting to note that this paradoxical finding is not just found in wolf populations.
Lethal control of cougars (aka puma or mountain lions) results in younger, inexperienced cougars more likely to attack livestock.
There are other options!
NON-LETHAL OPTIONS TO CULLING!
YET THE CULLING CONTINUES
Back to the news article.
At the end of February, 2021, the Wisconsin DNR dispensed the wolf tags.
Wisconsin wolf hunters blew past the state’s quota in just three days, exceeding the quota by more than 50%.
The area Native Americans disagreed with this decision. They said in a statement:
Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission
“…Hunting in late February, a time when fur quality is poor and wolves are in their breeding season, is regarded as especially wasteful and disrespectful.”
WOLVES ARE IMPORTANT TO OUR ECOSYSTEM!
Louie isn’t the only one who thinks that wolves are important. Many people are wolf advocates!
Check out the map on the right!
I know, I sound as if I’m up on a soapbox, but we are the penultimate apex predator. We must preserve nature for future generations of all life on Earth. As human populations continue to grow and expand further into wilderness areas, we need find better alternatives to coexist with wildlife.
WORLD WILDLIFE DAY!
WHY DO WE NEED WOLVES?
You know what Louie thinks. What are your thoughts?