Monday, July 21, 2008

Wolves in Russia (Updated)

While the wolf-loving responses in the comments are predictable, it is worth reading a little about the experiences with wolves in Russia. Hint -- there's not the same sentimental love affair with wolves there that environmentalists have here. Wolves eat lots of livestock, have been known to attack humans in rural Russia (something that is said never to have happened in America,) and spread diseases. Who'da thunk it?

While most of us have come to terms with wolf re-introduction, it is more than high time for active control to begin, including a hunting season. It is too bad that those in favor of wolf re-introduction haven't kept their end of the bargain, and have instead chosen to use the courts to stop the active process of de-listing. One wonders how successful they would have been in pushing through re-introduction if they had told us that they wouldn't hold to the recovery benchmarks that they themselves set?



Ed Kemmick asks the question about documentation of wolf attacks in Russia. A simple internet search reveals a few links -- consider the source on each. For instance, while this is a very interesting article, the inclusion of attacks by domesticated or confined wolves seems like unhelpful piling on. What does seem clear is that wolves have historically been much more aggressive toward humans in the Old World than here in the New, at least during the time of documented history.

The thesis that the peasantry was unarmed throughout history in the Old World whereas Americans have been armed is a reasonable one, and is a good argument for a hunting season plus expanded ability of ranchers to eliminate predators on sight. The more wolves fear humans, the more they will stay away from us and our food.

There is no quick way to summarize the historical evidence other than to say that when humans are not seen as an active threat to them, wolves can become aggressive, especially if they are hungry. The Wikipedia article and list of documented attacks is pretty extensive and worth reading in its entirety.

I seem to remember reading a modern wolf advocate stating that all of the "big, bad, wolf" stories of Europe were based solely in the fact that man is a competing predator, and therefore wants to demonize and eliminate his competition. The more I read, the more it is clear that the big, bad, wolf of Europe was feared -- at least in part -- because of very real human experience of being its prey.

As our wolf population expands in numbers and range, to scoff at the European and Asian experience with the intermingling of wolves and humans appears to amount to willful ignorance based in ideology.


Oh, and the Russians have a great, environmentally friendly, all-natural solution to excess wolves...


Wulfgar said...

For the sake of truth, just once, admit your error, MH. Those who pushed for wolf reintroduction weren't the ones who 'set the recovery benchmarks', as you so deceivingly claim.

Montana Headlines said...

Allow me to restate it in a way that you can perhaps accept.

Back when wolf reintroduction was in its early days, wolf defenders pointed to the benchmarks, saying that wolf opponents needed to accept them and wait until those benchmarks were met. I don't recall arguments from the pro-wolf forces back then saying that the benchmarks weren't reasonable. I don't remember anything other than all parties accepting the benchmarks for recovery.

Suffice it to say that the benchmarks for recovery were at the very least far closer to what wolf proponents wanted than they were to what reintroduction opponents wanted.

But once it was clear that the benchmarks were going to be met, only then were they suddenly inadequate. It's sort of like changing the rules or moving the goal-line in the middle of the game. It's dishonest. And environmentalists wonder why stockgrowers don't trust them.

Wulfgar said...

If you don't remember that there were those (on the extreme) claiming full unregulated reintroduction, than you are willfully 'misremembering'. But those were not the ones who set policy, were they? What you have done here is to set anyone in favor of wolf reintroduction at odds with those who were not. That is unrealistic on either end.

What you have done is quite simply create a political strawman for a situation that demands better (as you yourself seem to recognize). Why do that? Do you think you will dissuade the dreaded 'environmentalists'? Not likely. What you will do is create a false dichotomy, where rational persons such as myself will have to 'choose sides'. I, for one, won't choose yours simply because you've attempted to coerce me into doing so. The Northern Rockies Ecosystem is better with the gray wolf in it. You've no reason to think I will change my mind just because some enviro-wackos disagree with you. In this case, the truth really is somewhere in the middle. And little red Russian riding hoodie notwithstanding, you don't seem to want to admit that.

Montana Headlines said...

Hard as it may be to believe, this post was not written with the intent of attempting to coerce Wulfgar into "joining my side."

Be that as it may, what part of "most of us have come to terms with wolf re-introduction" is so hard to understand? I personally like the fact that wolves are back in the U.S. Rockies, but I would also want to have the freedom to shoot them at will on land where they were eating or harrassing my livestock.

The point to my post, such as there was one, is that those who have filed suit, successfully, to stop the delisting process, are not keeping up their end of the government-brokered bargain. Stockmen and others negatively affected by reintroduction have lived with having to wait for the benchmarks to be met. Those who like having wolves around now need to live with the delisting process that was built into the reintroduction.

Unless you are claiming that those supporting these lawsuits are only those "on the extreme," you are yourself making a strawman argument.

But I think you know that.

Anonymous said...

Hell, the easiest way to handle a wolf is the three "s-es" - shoot, shovel and shut-up. It's amazing how easily the system works.

Doug said...

Not really relevant to your discussion, but if you missed the following comment over at 4&20, you missed some priceless entertainment:

"To have these trigger happy morons go out and start killing them and paying bounty hunters is just WRONG….."

It's giving me the urge head up to Alaska with a video camera and a 22-250.

Ed Kemmick said...

Not for the purpose of making a point, political or otherwise, but only out of curiosity, what more can you tell us about these supposed wolf-on-human attacks in Russia? Over the years, I've read many times that there have been no documented attacks on human beings, except by an occasional mad wolf. But then, even deer have attacked people.

Montana Headlines said...

Doug -- thanks for pointing out the 4&20 comments. I had seen the post, but not the comments from "MistyBlueWolf" or whoever it was. Just as good was the next sentence where she says that "people all over the US" are happy with Judge Malloy's temporary injunction. "People all over the US" are obviously not having to deal with livestock losses.

And as we have discussed in these pages before, the "save the wolves" crowd never did make good on their promises to use private funds to compensate ranchers for their losses.

Ed, I haven't been an expert on wolves in Russia, but wolf attacks do figure in at least one novel set in Russia that I recall, and I have heard it here and there -- but haven't done any systematic study.

In response to your question, I turned to the font of all internet knowledge, Wikipedia, and there is actually a long and interesting entry there. Since links don't work well in the comments section, I will add it as an update to the post.

Anonymous said...

There could be unanticipated negative consequences that result from environmentalists' unwillingness to keep up their end of the wolf bargain.

If I were a rancher and I had to deal with the headaches of wolves chewing on my livestock, I'd be thinking seriously of selling my spread to developers. Most likely I'd make a ton of money and could retire in style.

This latest court ruling would be telling me that there's no end in sight to my wolf problem, and that things are only going to get worse. Someone here suggested the shoot, shovel and shut up approach, but why take that chance? Why not just sell out, get the big check, and let someone else deal with the headaches.

If I were cynical, I'd also have some satisfaction in knowing that I was sticking it to the groups that thought they were sticking it to me.

Montana Headlines said...

You make a good point. More and more enlightened conservationists understand that ranches are protective of the environment, especially when compared to the alternative of development and subdivision.

Of course, the wolf people could sue to prevent development, too. There's just no end to the possibilities for lawsuits once you start going down the road of telling people what they can and cannot do to protect or use their property.