Busting Wolf Myths One More Time

I’ve been addressing wolf myths one by one. You know, wolves have tapeworms, wolves are eating all the elk, wolves are non-native Canadians.  The anti wolfers think if they repeat these stories often enough they’ll become truth.  We have to continue to knock the fiction down with those pesky little details called facts.

Here’s more help on dispelling wolf  fairy tales by Jeff  Welsch of  The Greater Yellowstone Coalition. 

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From New West:

With Wolves, It’s Time to Separate Fact From Fiction

By Jeff Welsch,

Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Guest Writer, 4-13-10

 
 

Never let facts get in the way of some good hysteria.

That seems to be the mantra of the fringe anti-wolf crowd as it once again seizes on the iconic animal’s imagined evils in yet another attempt to revisit the futile notion of a second extermination.

Pick up a newspaper in any part of Montana, Idaho or Wyoming these days and there’s a fair chance you’ll read a screed about the latest reasons why the big, bad wolf should be banished:

& They’re eating all the elk.

 & They’ve got tapeworms.

 & They’re Canadian.

It’s obvious that this is an orchestrated backlash. It’s just as obvious that these are recycled arguments grasping at the same old straws.

Let’s start the myth-busting from the top:

They’re eating all the elk: Yes, it’s true, wolves eat elk. It’s just as true that elk are doing just fine in Greater Yellowstone and beyond. 

Hunter success rates are high. For instance, in Wyoming’s prized Jackson herd, in the heart of prime wolf and grizzly country, an average of 36 percent of hunters have harvested an elk over the past 10 years. Compare that to a 20 percent success rate in neighboring Colorado, where there are essentially no wolves and the elk population is triple the size.

Populations are still above wildlife-agency objectives in some places, leveling off in others, and lower elsewhere. Where elk numbers are lower, wolf predation is just one of many factors. In most cases, suppression of wildfire and corresponding reduction of elk habitat is a prime culprit.

Hunter complaints about not seeing as many elk are more about wolves changing ungulate behavior than population declines. Elk simply aren’t lingering where they once did.

Moreover, keeping elk wary has had an extraordinary impact on habitat, especially in Yellowstone National Park. Willows, cottonwoods and aspen are regenerating after seven decades of elk over-browsing, re-opening areas to other wildlife.

This “trophic cascade” phenomenon moved one northwest Colorado rancher to shift his thinking on wolves after they moved into his lands. At first wary of the wolf’s impacts on cattle and elk herds, he now welcomes their presence after seeing how they apparently helped restore his dying aspen stands.

They’ve got tapeworms. Yes, but Echinococcus — like many common parasites — is also shared by coyotes, foxes, deer, moose, elk and our best friend Fido. 

The Montana Department of Health says that while transmission of the tapeworm to humans is “theoretically possible, it is highly unlikely.” Renowned wolf scientist Dr. David Mech dismisses the Echinococcus argument as “a tempest in a teapot” and notes that the humans at greatest risk — wolf biologists — have never contracted the parasite despite “having handled thousands of wolves, coyotes and scats.”

They’re Canadian. It’s déjà vu all over again on this one — Greater Yellowstone wolves are an exotic species because they were imported from Alberta and British Columbia, where they’re reputedly bigger, badder and more voracious.

Truth is, wolves trapped in Canada were selected because of similarities in habitat and prey. They are the same species that has traditionally crossed the Montana border. Science and common sense tell us this is one species: Canis lupus.

Bigger? An Idaho Department of Fish & Game wolf expert says the average weight of the 188 wolves shot by hunters in Idaho averaged less than 100 pounds. 

There’s no denying wolves have had an impact on game and livestock. People whose livings are tied to ranching or outfitting are understandably anxious.

But hysteria and hyperbole in pursuit of an unattainable goal isn’t an answer. Just as it’s unreasonable to insist that not a single hair on the hide of a wolf ever be harmed, it’s just as unreasonable to expect that wolves will again be exterminated or banished to parks.

Wolves are here to stay, and the sooner those of us between the fringe elements talk constructively about maintaining viable populations, the sooner we’ll move past the polarization — and realize that most of us have the same values about protecting open spaces, wildlife and our unique quality of life.

Jeff Welsch is communications director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in Bozeman, Mont

http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/with_wolves_its_time_to_separate_fact_from_fiction/C559/L559/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+newwest%2Fmain+New+West+Network+Front+Page&utm_content=Yahoo%21+Mail

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Posted:  wolf myths, wolf education, gray wolf/canis lupus

Tags: wolves in the crossfire, wolf intolerance 

 

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Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 11:30 am  Comments (9)  
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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I once found a link on Wolf Crossing asking for donations to pay for ‘wolf proof bus shelters’. That and advertisements for a video called ‘Undue Burden’ – the truth about the unimaginable terror people suffer from savage introduced wolves.

    And anti-wolf folk think pro-wolf people are bunging it on… yeesh…

    • John….I wouldn’t expect anything less from them. These are adults running around cowering in fear of wolves that hardly ever kill people. Deer kill more people then wolves. Dogs kill 20 people a year and bite another 4.5 million. These people are clueless.

      N.

      • Of course, they show photos of wolf killed cattle. What they don´t show are hunter-killed elk gut piles. When hunters do it, it is no biggy,but when wolves do it, it´s like the world is going to end.
        Of course, they don’t look at disease or food scarcity or other things that have to do with the small decline of some elk populations. They like to blame the wolves of it all, like they where doing a criminal act.
        Yeah, deer kill hundreds of people every year, dogs bite millions, toasters too…and lighting, and hurricanes…
        But when it’s about wolves, they like to look at them as a “public menace” as a “threat to human life”. Ya, sure. Go to an open meadow under a tree in the middle of a storm in wolf country, and let’s see who kills you first.

      • Yes Loua they don’t want to show the horrible things hunters do to animals every year in the name of “sport”. This isn’t a sport, it’s killing for fun. Otherwise why would you film an animals horrible death?

        N.

  2. Of course, that wolf attacks are rare doesn’t mean they don’t happen. They DO happen but it doesn’t mean that we must start saying that every single wolf kills or attacks humans. We must not think that we can go out into wolf country very calm just because they are wolves. No. Wolves are wild animals. They hunt, kill and eat their prey. If they can take down a moose, they can kill a human, just like coyotes and grizzlies and cougars can. That’s what reality is, and we must accept it. This incident in Alaska is just a lesson that teaches us 2 things:
    1. Wolves are wild animals, they are shy of humans but they are still animals. If they become aggressive towards a human, it is just because that is what they think. We cannot enter a wolf’s mind to see why they attacked that person, but it doesn’t mean that we must go nuts with it and start saying that wolves are bloodthirsty man-eaters.
    2. Being humans will NEVER keep us from being attacked from a wild animal. I’m sorry for what the Bible says about being the ruler of the plants and animals, but wolves don’t read the Bible. I even doubt they think of us as “superior” in comparison to other animals. Of course, we have hunted and persecuted them for years so they have a natural fear to us, but still, this will never keep them from attacking us.
    We must just take all the cautions possible to avoid an attack, and soon or late it’ll be like brushing your teeth.

    • Loua wolves are the least likely predator to kill a human. Grizzlies on the other hand do kill people. Everytime I go out in the woods I carry bear spray because I know I could run up against a bear. Bear spray is more effective then guns, contrary to what many hunters think. Mountain lions can also kill people, although not very often. Any wild animal has the ability to kill a human, as you said. But the deadliest predator on the planet, bar none, is man. The things humans do to animals and then have the nerve to whine and complain about wolves. It’s unbelievable to me.

      N.

      • I am with you 100% Nabeki. Man is truly the worst predator. Anyone with common sense should understand that wild animals can be dangerous, but that doesn’t mean they should be killed just because they have the potential to kill people. Animals and their lives are equally important as people. Animals also do far less damage to the planet than people. Most of the animal attacks on humans are caused by human error.

      • Jon….We both agree the dealiest predator is man. We don’t have to look very far to find proof of it.

        N.

  3. Yes, I agree that humans are the most deadliest creatures on the earth. I don’t know why people ever want to kill animals just for fun. This just makes me sick. When will all of this worthless slaughter end?


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