I have been randomly calling the Wyoming Mortality Hot Line or going to the online link to find out how many wolves have been killed (let’s not call it by the euphemism ‘harvested’). I am especially interested in my Area (area 1). As of today, 3 of the quota of 8 have been taken.
Today, I just found out that one of those wolves was the yearling pup I’ve seen many times over the last year.
He was born a year ago spring. I first saw him with his mom last fall. She is a black alpha female (not sure if she’s still around) and she was harassing a cow as her pup tried to help. The cow didn’t run, but just kept turning around and chasing her down. Finally she gave up. If prey don’t give chase, wolves usually get confused. They can too easily get kicked and hurt by confronting large prey from in front.
The pair seemed inseparable and the next time I saw the pup was around January. He was with his mom loping up a nearby ridgeline. Mom turned, looked, and sprinted off. But the yearling was curious and watched me for awhile. We shared a moment from afar on that cold winter early morning.
The last time I saw him was this spring. I was hiking down a draw, following a cougar track. Koda lagged behind. I was above a creek on a thin deer trail when I spied something odd behind a tree about 20′ ahead. I stopped and his grey head peeked out. He’d been curious, watching Koda and I. When he saw that I noticed him, he ran off to join his mom in the meadow a few hundred yards away. I sprinted up beyond the trees to catch a glimpse again of the Alpha female. (I was able to snap the photo below of her). She eyed me warily for a bit then took off with her pup.
Last spring I went to a WY G&F information meeting about the hunt. It was clear that it would go through, starting this October 1. The quotas were already set, with my area having the largest. Immediately I knew that this curious youngster would be amongst the first to die. Wolves have been hunted by helicopters around here for years, but not by hunters on foot. Although these wolves were wary, they were not yet scared of humans. The opportunity I’ve had over these last seven years to see wolves over and over again fairly close (I’ve had at least three occasions where I’ve seen wolves 25′ away, eye to eye, both of us curious about one another), has come to a close. It will be better that way for the wolves. Within a year or two of these hunts, wolves will not be seen casually in these parts.
Predators by nature and design must be smart. They need to think and strategize. Wolves cooperate when they hunt and that takes smarts. Prey are given the gift of speed. They look, listen and run. But predators must be more cunning than that.
If you share a moment with one of these magnificent creatures, you realize how intelligent, how full of Life they are. They embody everything that is wild and free. When they look you in the eye, they see right through you, much deeper than you see into them. In the end, though I am saddened by the loss of these wolves in Sunlight, the hot button issues surrounding wolves is not really about wolves at all.
I am reading ‘Shadow Mountain’ by Renee Askins, one of the spearheaders of bringing wolves back to Yellowstone National Park. I highly recommend this engaging, personal and well-written book. I end this entry with a quote from Askins book and a fond farewell to that magnificent and curious pup who shared with me not only his inquisitive nature, but his wild and free spirit.
“It soon became clear that in most discussions wolves merely provided a pretext to talk about much deeper and more personal political views, invariably those having to do with control–control of land and control of animals. Who controlled the “rights” to the animals, who could kill the elk that the wolves would prey upon, who could kill the wolves that killed “too many” elk, who could control which prey species and which predators and where and when and how. In truth, all of it was a discussion about killing and control veiled in the professional shibboleth of “wildlife management.” Wildlife management is, of course, an oxymoron. Animals that are truly “wild” are, by definition, not managed. Yet I would discover…over the next several years a troubling trend toward complete control or manipulation of many “wildlife” populations even within national parks.