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“Wolfer”

I’ve just finished a great read.  Carter Niemeyer’s new memoir Wolfer.  I’d say its a must for anyone living in the West, or anyone interested in the conflicts around wolves.

Niemeyer tells his story of growing up in Iowa, learning how to trap.  He trapped for a living, got his masters in biology, then took a job in Montana where he spent the rest of his life.  He worked for over 25 years with Animal Damage Control  (that changed its name once wolves were on the scene to the more innocuous ‘Wildlife Services’), then was chosen to be a key player in the wolf re-introduction in the mid-90’s.  He’s an engaging and honest writer, weaving his personal story from a ‘killer’ of animals to a staunch and courageous supporter of wolves in the lower 48.

One of the things I love about the book is his descriptions of going out to investigate livestock damage.  Several years before re-introduction in 1995, wolves were beginning to come into the U.S. by the Montana-Canadian border.  Talk of the re-introduction stirred the rumor pot as well.  Carter was the most experienced trapper for Animal Control, and at that time he was a supervisor. So he was the one sent out on almost all of these calls.  Neimeyer describes how time after time after time, the rancher swore his cow, or sheep, or horse, or goat, was killed by wolves.  Neimeyer skinned every dead carcass to determine what killed it.  It was a rare case when wolves actually brought the animal down, although wolves might have been around feasting on the dead animal.  Many ranchers were incensed at Carter, calling him a ‘wolf lover’, because without his signature they weren’t reimbursed the $7000 from Defenders of Wildlife.  Neimeyer tells stories about how Animal Damage Control investigators, sent out to determine cause of death, just kicked the carcass and said ‘Wolf’, or even worse, identified coyote tracks as wolf tracks.  Most of the animals investigated died by disease, dehydration, neglect–yet all these deaths were blamed on wolves.

If you want to get a feeling for where your tax dollars go in support of what Wildlife Services does, listen to this statistic from the 1980’s from Neimeyer’s book:

Animal Damage Control had been putting out more than 2,000 1080 bait stations in Montana every fall, winter, and spring to kill coyotes.  Throughout the state, about 100,000 pounds of horsemeat was injected with 1080 every year and placed at these stations, resulting in 18,000 to 20,000 dead coyotes annually….Then there was strychnine.  Trappers in Montana put out 50,000 to 60,000 tablets yearly to kill coyotes.”

When helicopter killing became the norm in the late 80’s, trappers were killing around 100 coyotes a day aerially.  When wolves came along on the ESL, poison bait stations became an issue and ADC, feeling that its mission would be thwarted, was staunchly anti-wolf.

Carter was officially hired by U.S. Fish and Wildlife to work on the wolf program.  His stories of finding, darting, literally wrestling with wolves are fascinating and informative.  After working so closely with wolves for so long, he has these things to say in his book about them:

“In my simple mind, wolves weren’t anything but another majestic predator to behold and I believed they belonged back with us.”

“The problem, ultimately, is not with wolves, but with those who believe that the only good wolf is a dead one.  Inept government investigations and outright lies about the nature of these animals result in bogus statistics and ultimately, more dead wolves.  After all the time I’ve spent dealing with them in my career, I’ve come to the same kind of thinking that Betty Baker expressed:  Why did we bring wolves back if all we’re going to do is kill them?”

“Wolves, for whatever great strides they’ve made in the modern mind as well as the modern West, continue to be persecuted, and there’s truly no basis for it.”

This is an important book, written by a man who knows wolves intimately and has integrity and the courage to speak the truth.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Our problem is that someone jumps to a conclusion, then everyone else jumps on board and chaos ensues. If we could do as this man has done and just take the time to thoroughly examine a situation, we could live with ourselves and nature.

    Like

  2. Yes, we see what we want to see. I’ve had that lesson many times and its humbling.

    Like

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