The Watering Hole, Tuesday March 1, 2016 – Super Tuesday

We interrupt our regular programs to bring you up to the minute commentary by posters of this blog on the Super Tuesday primary event. As a way of introduction and background, here is a snippet from Raw Story:

Democrat Hillary Clinton aims to build an impregnable lead on “Super Tuesday,” the most consequential day of the presidential nominations calendar, while Republicans struggle to derail their insurgent and controversial front-runner Donald Trump.

With barely 24 hours before the big day, Clinton and Trump are well positioned to secure the lion’s share of the delegate bonanza in the 11 states voting in each party’s primaries.

Trump and Hillary? Let the voters decide.

Follow the money (per NBC News):




The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 14th, 2015: Intelligence

happy_valentines_day_by_plusonedead cupid

And with that tribute to Saint Valentine out of the way, let’s move on…

Last night on Bill Maher, David Duchovny was the second interview guest, promoting his new novel, “Holy Cow!” The book, according to USA Today, is “…about a talking cow, pig and turkey that go on the lam when they discover they’re destined for the dinner table.” During the interview, Duchovny discussed (in part) animal rights, and briefly mentioned that cases were being brought to court regarding captive chimpanzees.

His mention of the chimpanzee cases coincided with an article from BuzzFeed that I was in the middle of reading just before Real Time started. The article, “People Are Animals, Too” by Peter Aldhous, opens with a couple of paragraphs about the Nonhuman Rights Project’s Steven Wise, who is arguing for “personhood” under New York State law for a chimpanzee called ‘Tommy.’ Here’s an excerpt:

“Central to Wise’s arguments in Tommy’s case, and to similar suits his organization has filed on behalf of other captive chimpanzees, is the assertion that apes are highly intelligent and self-aware beings with complex emotional lives. “The uncontroverted facts demonstrate that chimpanzees possess the autonomy and self-determination that are supreme common law values,” Wise told the five judges hearing the case.”

The article discusses aspects of various studies on animal intelligence, touching on crows, scrub jays, wolves, even octopi and cuttlefish. And, of course, no article on animal intelligence would be complete without a mention, however brief, of my co-worker’s friends’ son, Josh Plotnik, whose college studies and subsequent career I have been made aware of, and have been jealous of because he gets to study elephants. From the article:

“Some researchers working on vertebrate cognition, meanwhile, are starting to reject the field’s anthropocentric biases. In Thailand’s Golden Triangle, Josh Plotnik of the University of Cambridge works at a luxury resort that is home to a group of elephants, which, when not giving rides to tourists, take part in his research. Plotnik started with the usual roster of experiments tried on young children and chimps, including the mirror test. But he now realizes that he needs to better understand the elephants’ sensory world — dominated by odors and low-frequency sounds — before he can work out how to explore the full scope of their cognitive abilities.

“It would be very unethical of me to take all of the chimp experiments and just run them on the elephants,” Plotnik says. “I’d be publishing all these negative results, saying: ‘Elephants can’t do this. Elephants can’t do that.’ When in fact, they probably could, if we asked the questions the right way.”

Speaking of elephants, it was on a Valentine’s Day, maybe 35 years ago, when an Indian elephant wrapped its trunk around my arm to pull me closer, and a tiger thoroughly washed my hand – certainly the most unusual Valentine’s Day I’ve ever experienced. So I guess this turned out to be a sort of Valentine’s Day thread after all. Oh, well!
Happy Valentines Day Wallpaper

This is our daily Open Thread, so, open up!

The Watering Hole; Friday December 12 2014; Action Request


The following is a recent communication courtesy of the Center For Biological Diversity, a request mirrored by (among others) Defenders of Wildlife and the Wilderness Society. It’s a simple request for action, an effort to STOP in its tracks the latest irrational attempt to eradicate wolf populations in Idaho’s back country. Note that the BLM has already acted appropriately, and that now the wolf-kill enterprise has shifted its focus “to national forest lands (along with private and state) instead of BLM” with intent still the same: the irrational eradication of all timber wolf populations therein and thereupon.

In November, following an onslaught of letters and a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the Bureau of Land Management cancelled its permit to a hunting group trying to hold a wildlife-killing contest on Idaho’s public lands.

The hunt was neither in the public interest nor consistent with the agency’s mission. But now the misnamed “Idaho for Wildlife” is trying to peddle its wolf-hating elsewhere — switching its family-friendly carnagefest to national forest lands (along with private and state) instead of BLM.

According to the group, up to 500 participants — including kids as young as 10 years old — will compete to kill as many wolves, coyotes and other animals as they can.

The competition will take place in January — unless we demand a stop to it now.

The Forest Service has effectively escaped any public review of the competition by not requiring a permit for this event. But the public must have a say in how our lands are used and managed, and an event of this magnitude must be preceded by an environmental review.

Act now to demand that the Forest Service bring a stop to this barbaric hunt on our public lands or, at the very least, conduct a review in the clear light of day.

Click here to take action and get more information.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome years ago, Alaska resident and outdoor enthusiast Jill Missal wrote the following (my underline):

“The precise origins of man’s unusual fear of the wolf are obscure. The wolf is human’s most feared animal, even though there has never been a verified account of a healthy wild wolf attacking and killing a human in North America. There have been many maulings caused by bears, and many a diver has experienced a shark attack, but never a wild wolf attack. So why are wolves so feared and hated?

Why indeed. Actually, Canadian environmentalist and author Farley Mowat answered her question in his 1963 masterpiece Never Cry Wolf where he wrote a most able summary of today’s wolf-hating idiots:

“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be: the mythologized epitome of a savage, ruthless killer — which is, in reality, no more than the reflected image of ourself.”

There is no reason — other than the irrational attitudes of the unenlightened and poorly educated masses — for ANY state or federal governmental agency to allow the wanton slaughter of recently reintroduced (endangered) species which are of NO RISK to any human anywhere. Irrational hatred and fear have become a defining hallmark of a substantial portion of Americans these days, but is that fair reason to allow wanton slaughter?


I hope all who read this will access the petition linked above and sign it. With luck, someone with authority to act will listen. And then ACT. Appropriately.



The Watering Hole; Thursday August 14 2014; Edward Abbey: “Be True To The Earth”

Edward Abbey (1927-1989) was, at least in my experience, the first genuine and outspoken environmentalist I ever had the pleasure of discovering. I was a college student in Arizona in the early sixties when the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River above the Grand Canyon was under construction. Popular opinion on the matter was pretty much unanimous in the state that the dam was going to be an immense benefit in virtually every imaginable fashion. Edward Abbey, on the other hand, was the near singular voice of opposition. He opposed the project because of the damage it was doing and would continue to do to the terrain and the ecology that had long defined Glen Canyon. He thought the dam and its future impact(s) were nothing other than environmental atrocities of undefinable magnitude. It took several years before I finally came to agree with him — mainly, I suppose, because his grand little masterpiece Desert Solitaire wasn’t published until 1968, and it wasn’t until the early seventies that I finally snagged a copy and read it for the first time (but not the last by any stretch).

Following are a dozen or so Edward Abbey quotes, most of which I snagged and recorded during that first read of Desert Solitaire. Each of them amply demonstrates his passion for the natural world as well as his distaste for humans and what they are (and have long been) doing to it.

Edward Abbey

“Wilderness. The Word itself is music. Wilderness, wilderness . . . We scarcely know what we mean by the term, though the sound of it draws all whose nerves and emotions have not yet been irreparably stunned, deadened, numbed by the caterwauling of commerce, the sweating scramble for profit and domination. . . . [for] the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us — if only we were worthy of it.”

“If a man’s imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder not so limited, he would abandon forever such fantasies of the supernal. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves and silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of the ancient dreams.”

“God? … who the hell is He? . . . Why confuse the issue by dragging in a superfluous entity? Occam’s razor. Beyond atheism, nontheism. I am not an atheist but an eartheist. Be true to the earth.”

“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear — the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break. Turning Plato and Hegel on their heads I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, though an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”

“I discovered that I was not opposed to mankind but only to man-centeredness, anthropocentricity, the opinion that the world exists solely for the sake of man; not to science, which means simply knowledge, but to science misapplied, to the worship of technique and technology, and to that perversion of science properly called scientism; and not to civilization but to culture.”

“[W]hen a man must be afraid to drink freely from his country’s rivers and streams that country is no longer fit to live in. Time then, to move on, to find another country or — in the name of Jefferson — to make another country. ‘The tree of liberty is nourished by the blood of tyrants.'”

“The developers . . . the politicians, businessmen, bankers, administrators, engineers … cannot see that growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness … They would never understand that an economic system which can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human.” 

“No wonder the Authorities are so anxious to smother the wilderness under asphalt and reservoirs. They know what they’re doing; their lives depend on it, and all their rotten institutions.”

“The rancher strings barbed wire across the range, drills wells and bulldozes stock ponds everywhere, drives off the elk and antelope and bighorn sheep, poisons coyotes and prairie dogs, shoots eagle and bear and cougar on sight, supplants the native bluestem and grama grass with tumbleweed, cow shit, cheat grass, snakeweed, anthills, poverty weed, mud and dust and flies–and then leans back and smiles broadly at the Tee Vee cameras and tells us how much he loves the West.”

“The sheepmen complain that coyotes eat some of their lambs. This is true but do they eat enough? … enough lambs to keep the coyotes sleek, healthy and well fed? That is my concern.”

“They [the animals] do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins . . . “

Next up, a quick peek at the other side of the Abbey coin, the side upon which is displayed the abject stupidity, the vapid cloak of hatred and fear worn by far too many “sportsmen” these days. The following quotes were included in a recent communication by the Center For Biological Diversity (Tucson AZ) which, in the Center’s words, is “targeted every day by the rabid haters of predator species. It’s hard to even express how poisonous these sentiments are . . .”  Here is their list of “the 10 worst anti-wolf quotes” their organizers have received in recent weeks. 

10.Wolves are wildlife terrorists.” — Ron Gillett of the Central Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition

9. “Shoot, shovel and shut up!” — Zachery H. via Facebook

8. “They need to send these Mexican wolves back to Mexico!” — Unknown, screamed at our Southwest Conservation Advocate

7. “We think they should be shot on sight.” — Marcia Armstrong, chair of the Siskiyou County, Calif., Board of Supervisors

6. “Whatever liberal idiots did this to us should be tarred and feathered. Dead wolves are good wolves.” — Wiley S. via Facebook

5. “Last week Hondurans, this week wolves.” — Michael A. in response to a story about the expansion of the Mexican gray wolf habitat

4. “I LOVE wolves. I try to smoke a pack a day.” — Jason D. via Facebook

3. “I’d put the tanned hide right on the wall nest [sic] to my bobcat, coyote, skunk, red fox, gray fox, beaver, deer, alligator, prairie dog, brown trout and field mouse.” — Ty B. via email

2. “Your wake-up call just got a donation from me… to the National Rifle Assocation [sic]” — Joe C. via email

1. “The introduction of Canadian wolves into the Northwest was a criminal conspiracy by a bunch of pot-smoking, wine-sucking, vegetarian lawyers to end blood sports and ranching on public land… I want to see these people in prison for the rest of their lives.” — Montana gubernatorial candidate Bob Fanning

And a bonus: “I hope the plane goes down.” — Doug S. responding to a story about orphaned Alaskan wolf pups being adopted by the Minnesota Zoo.

Personally, I find myself in total and complete agreement with Edward Abbey’s 1968 summation of each and all such idiots. He wrote, in Desert Solitaire,

“Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and aesthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one.”

Amen and yea verily. 

“Be true to the earth.”




The Watering Hole; Friday April 25 2014; A Win for Biological Diversity

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
an’ foolish notion
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
an’ ev’n devotion!
(Robert Burns from “To a Louse”)

Yesterday, I received this uplifting note from the Center for Biological Diversity (an environmental-and-wildlife-activist organization HQ’d in Tucson, Arizona):

Public Opposition Helps Defeat Arizona Wolf-kill Bills — Thank You

Mexican gray wolf After an outpouring of public opposition from Center  activists and others, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer this  week vetoed two anti-wolf bills, including one that  would have allowed ranchers to kill endangered  Mexican gray wolves on federal land, contrary to  federal law.

Thank you to all who answered our call to action against these bills, especially those who flooded Brewer’s office with phone calls this week.

There are just 37 Mexican gray wolves in the Arizona wild. This struggling population desperately needs protection to survive — and some state lawmakers are intent on making sure it doesn’t get that protection. We’re happy to see Brewer veto these disastrous bills, but we also know that wolf-haters in Arizona remain a potent force. We won’t relax our vigilance.

Read more about the Center’s long battle to save Mexican gray wolves from extinction.

Much as I detest AZ Governor Jan Brewer’s politics, I do give her credit for occasionally making the right and proper decision. I also maintain the hope, no matter how faint, that SOMEONE, or some agency, will act NOW to stymie the idiots in the state of Idaho (and elsewhere, of course) and thus prevent the entire wild wolf population there (and anywhere else, for that matter) from being completely wiped out . . . by idiots.

I know, I know, common sense is an alien notion amongst both idiots and wingnuts (assuming there’s any difference), but still, we of un-shriveled mind can dare to hope, right?

In that vein, remember the words spoken by Mitt Romney in advance of the 2012 elections? “Corporations are people, my friend,” he said in all seriousness. Gives me an idea: if corporations which are in no way definable as “people” can be legally designated as people, then why not also so-designate wolves, polar bears, eagles, dolphins, whales, coyotes, owls, puma, tortoises, butterflies . . . etc., et al., as “people”? Why can’t we insist the SCOTUS also legally grant wildlife all the protections that both idiots and corporations now enjoy?

Time for a vote. Choose A or B (in order of presentation below) as either “people” or “non-people” — I’ll forward your votes to the SCOTUS (If I can find their email somewhere).



Oh, and in the process of deciding said issue, maybe the Scotussians could also agree to define wingnuts as non-people, and then let the chips fall where they may? Now THAT would be a definite job-creator, one that prolly even the NRA might support!

I know. My bad (on rare occasion). Oh well. Clearly some critters deserve protection, some don’t. It’s so simple.


The Watering Hole; Thursday February 13 2014; Hope Springs??

Amidst the rampant political insanity running loose “out there” one occasionally runs across an item or two where the insanity is actually challenged, sometimes with hints of possible success built into said challenge(s). Ran across one just the other day courtesy of an article entitled Panel says federal wolf plan used unproven science. Here are some enlightening excerpts from the article, plus a few (potentially snarky) comments and observations (highlights added).

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A proposal to lift federal protections for gray wolves across most of the U.S. suffered a significant setback Friday [Feb 7 2014] as an independent review panel said the government is relying on unsettled science to make its case.

Federal wildlife officials want to remove the animals from the endangered species list across the Lower 48 states, except for a small population in the Southwest.

The five-member U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service peer-review panel was tasked with reviewing the government’s claim that the Northeast and Midwest were home to a separate species, the eastern wolf.

If the government were right, that would make gray wolf recovery unnecessary in those areas.

But the peer reviewers concluded unanimously that the scientific research cited by the government was insufficient.

Imagine it: something cited by the government was insufficient. First time for everything, I suppose.

That could make it difficult for federal officials to stick with their proposal as it now stands, further protracting the emotionally charged debate over what parts of the U.S. are suitable for the predators.

Now wait a minute. Exactly what parts of the U.S. are suitable for the predators?? In a country wherein the most dastardly and devastating ‘predator’ on the loose virtually EVERYWHERE is the idiot human armed with a loaded gun, perhaps the answer to that question is obvious: to control and reduce the numbers of dastardly predators, REPEAL OR REWRITE THE SECOND AMENDMENT!! 

“The [peer review] process was clean and the results were unequivocal,” said panel member Steven Courtney, a scientist at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California in Santa Barbara. “The science used by the Fish and wildlife service concerning genetics and taxonomy of wolves was preliminary and currently not the best available science.”

So maybe the government’s claim that the Northeast and Midwest were home to a separate species, the eastern wolf was a wee bit off, that it was the endangered Canis lupus after all rather than some formerly undefined but obviously not endangered . . . ?? Sometimes the faux-science that drives major segments of this country’s politic begins to impose itself never as a good thing, but always as just one more untenable burden. Why is that? The article continues:

Wolves were added to the endangered species list in 1975 after being exterminated last century across most of the Lower 48 states under government-sponsored trapping and poisoning programs.

Hunting for wolves already is allowed for roughly 5,000 wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes, where protections were lifted in 2011. More than 900 of the animals have been shot or caught by trappers in the two regions during this winter’s hunting season.

. . .  The release of the peer review findings opens another round of public input on a proposal that has received more one million comments. . . . Carlos Carroll, a wolf researcher at the Klamath Center for Conservation Research in Orleans, Calif., said the problems highlighted by the peer-review panel had been raised previously by others. He said he hoped they would now get more attention from wildlife officials.

This gives them a chance to re-evaluate their strategy and say it’s time to listen to the science,” Carroll said.

Hope springs eternal, someone once said. Of course, the topic at the time was probably not the implicit and inborn NEED of the human idiot to somehow sate his totally irrational fear of a creature which is clearly and obviously superior to the barrage of two-legged pale skinned freaks that wandered to this continent some 300 years ago. (see below for more detailed description)

Many Republican lawmakers, agricultural interests and hunting groups [exempli gratia] have pushed equally hard for jurisdiction over wolves to be passed to states so they could manage the population through annual harvests.

Those efforts have been motivated in large part by wolf attacks on livestock and big game herds in areas where the predators have recovered.

David Allen, with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, said that after several years of hunting, it’s clear the harvests are not driving down the wolf population too aggressively.

All perfect nonsense. Cattle depredation by wolves typically runs at an annual rate of around 0.2%. Stated another way, if 10,000 cattle were to die each year out on the range from ‘natural’ causes, only 20 of those deaths would be attributable to wolves. And insofar as reduction of game herds is concerned, wolves are not the predator most interested in trophy animals; their sole interest is in the weak, the old, the infirm. If game herds are suffering from lack of “trophy animals,” guess which species is responsible. *Hint* — it is NOT Canis lupus. Try Homo idiotica instead (that’s Latin for ‘human hunters’).

The entire controversy is simple: wolves are not and never have been the problem. The problem is, always and invariably, humans. Mostly Republicans, Wingnuts, Tea Baggers, the marginally intelligent . . . choose your epithet, all are appropriate and equally accurate.

There is hope, however. On Feb. 10th, three days after the peer review noted above was released, I received a letter from the Center For Biological Diversity. It was brief, but informative.

Today the Obama administration opened a second public comment period on its proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves across the lower 48.

We need you to speak out for wolf protections. 

During the previous round of comments, more than 1 million Americans spoke out against gutting protections for wolves — the most comments ever submitted on any endangered species issue.

You’d think the right thing to do would be obvious — but apparently politicians need to hear from us again.

The Fish and Wildlife Service just released the results of a scientific peer review of its delisting proposal, concluding what we’ve been saying all along: Wolves aren’t recovered yet. These iconic animals occupy a mere 5 percent of their former range in the lower 48 and eke out a living at only 1 percent of the numbers they had before Europeans arrived.

Anyone who cares to act, to tell the Fish and Wildlife Service to rescind its plan to strip protections from wolves, and instead help wolves recover across more of their former home, simply Click Here. It only takes a few seconds to send the message.



The Watering Hole; Friday January 31 2014; Wolves and Wildlife

On January 26, 2014 we visited a Colorado (privately owned and operated) facility called the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains — almost in the shadow of Pikes Peak — at an elevation just above 9000 ft, near the small town of Divide. The Center’s stated mission is to:

Educate the public through tours and programs about the importance of Wolves, Coyotes, and Foxes to our eco-system.

Educate the public about the importance of Preservation and Conservation of the forests, land, and water that supports wildlife, flora, and fauna for future generations to enjoy.

Provide natural habitats and exceptional lives for the animals entrusted to our care since they cannot live in the wild.

Inhabitants at the Center include foxes, coyotes, and wolves, each and all of which have been rescued from one or another type of captivity, some brutal. At the Center the animals are confined, but still are able to run free within large fenced areas, each an acre or more on the floor of a mixed conifer forest. They’re fed appropriately to suit their natural diet. Local road kill (in winter) is routinely delivered to the Center. If it’s not sufficient, flesh, bones, hides, and intestinal tract contents from any available source are either purchased or donated, and serve to maintain a healthy critter population.

The personnel at the Center work diligently to educate people about wolves and other wild canine predators. There are typically at least five (2 hour) guided tours per day, led mostly by volunteers who are both knowledgeable and passionate about the work they do; they speak with authority, are able to accurately answer questions, and clearly enjoy immensely their work, their contribution to both education (of people) AND to the well-being of the Center’s on-site critter population. School visits by youngsters are also quite common, and numerous handwritten responses by the children to questions concerning what they learned are on proud display, and are fascinating to read, to explore.

Following are a handful of snapshots that I was lucky enough to capture. Each of the critters is a wolf — Canis lupus (the foxes and coyotes weren’t at all patient with me when I asked them to pose). At least two are subspecies arctos, or Arctic (tundra, white) wolves; the others are the somewhat more common and wide-spread Gray (timber) wolves. Note their faces, how fierce, contorted, savage and hateful they clearly are (trying to sound stupid here; it ain’t always easy).





OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScary scary, right? “Cuz them wolves is KILLERS!” (Words spoken by an unidentified New Mexico Wingnut when the Mexican Gray was about to be reintroduced in the Southwest some 15-20 years ago). Actually, as our guide at the Center pointed out, there have been only two recorded wolf “attacks” on humans in North America in the last 100 YEARS, and both are suspect, may never have happened at all. But in this world, no matter, because FEAR rules. By demand.

Demand. It worked. By 1930 nearly every wolf in the lower 48 had been killed, all for no reason other than the irrational hatred, by humans, of a natural and valuable predator. Wherefrom the hatred? Why? Barry Holstun Lopez, in his 1978 masterwork Of Wolves and Men reflects on what he refers to as an “idea born in Europe” which “bears on the propriety of wolf killing, and that is to be found in the work of René Descartes. Descartes articulated the belief that not only were animals put on earth for man’s use but they were distinctly lowborn; they were without souls and therefore man incurred no mortal guilt in killing them.”  Descartes’ premise found immediate favor because, as Lopez notes, “the Church” had long ‘known’ that the very “idea” that animals — other than human — were at all important in any way was “abhorrent to the Roman Church at the time . . .”, and that the Church maintained the premise “that man could kill without moral restraint, without responsibility . . .”

Sadly, not much has changed over the course of the last few centuries. Today widespread assassination/murder/wanton killing of even recently reintroduced wolf populations continues, unabated, with more than 2000 wolves in the northern Rockies dead — shot, trapped, poisoned, killed by any possible means — in less than three years. Why? Because, as we all ‘know,’ wolves kill cows — bad for ranchers — and greatly reduce elk and deer populations — bad for hunters . . . a pair of premises which are demonstrably and patently untrue. The facts are that the estimated wolf depredation impact on cattle occurs at an annual rate of about two-tenths of one percent. Stated another way, if 10,000 cattle were to die each year out on the range from ‘natural’ causes, only 20 of those deaths would be attributable to wolves. And in most cases, ranchers are fully compensated when death is clearly/conclusively caused by wolves. Further, it’s a scientifically proven fact that natural herbivore (elk and deer, e.g..) populations are STRENGTHENED when wolf predation is part of the equation. Wolves do NOT kill the ‘trophy’ animals; rather they prey on the old, the sickly, the weak, and in the process both wolf and herbivore populations become stronger. Still, the oft-spoken epithet persists: “If all the wolves is dead there’ll be more elk for us hunters.”

What an amazingly non-salient (read: stupid) argument, one reiterated in late August of 2012, in Montana, when a reality TV show broadcast an episode on the killing of a wolf in Montana. “It’s the funnest thing I’ve done in years,” the gleeful host [crowed] after shooting the wolf with a high-powered rifle. “The funnest thing” pretty much describes the mentality implicit in those who . . . never mind.

Lopez also speaks, at some length, of the ‘other’ side of that cultural coin. He writes, “One of the problems that comes with trying to take a wider view of animals is that most of us have cut ourselves off from them conceptually. We do not think of ourselves as part of the animal kingdom. Indians did. They thought of themselves as The People (that is the translation from the native tongue of most tribal names) and of animals as The Wolves. The Bears. The Mice, and so forth.  . . . the line between Indians and wolves may fade, not because Indians did not perceive the differences but because they were preoccupied with the similarities.”

And so it is with each and all of The People at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center. They, too, take that “wider view of animals,” and do all they can do to advance the cause. For that, and for everything else they do and have done, I applaud them.

Meanwhile, an encouraging PostScript, courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity, dated January 30 2014. It reads as follows:

Idaho Wolf Hunt Ends, Hired Gunman Halted

Faced with a looming court deadline to defend its actions against a suit by the Center for Biological Diversity and our allies, Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game on Monday halted its wolf-extermination program in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Nine wolves had already fallen to a hired hunter-trapper who began killing wolves in December; it’s unknown how many animals remain alive in the two targeted packs.

We’ve sued the department — and the U.S. Forest Service, which was assisting it — arguing that the wolf-killing program prioritized elk numbers for human hunters over wilderness values. After a federal judge rejected our request to stop the program on Jan. 17, we took our fight to the court of appeals, filing an emergency request for an injunction Jan. 23.

“It’s a tragedy that nine wolves had to die before the state of Idaho finally pulled the plug on its needless effort to eradicate two whole wolf packs from one of America’s largest wilderness areas,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “The wolves were only playing the role they play in nature and should never have been killed. It shouldn’t take court action to stop such cruel, unnecessary and wasteful killing — but I’m glad it has stopped.”

I expect the ‘stop’ is temporary; there has never been a sustainable letup in the “human” urge to exterminate wolves. Still, every respite is at least useful, and maybe one day the principles implicit in those expressed and applied by the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center will prevail.

Dare WE hope?


The Watering Hole, Friday Feb. 8 2013; “Of Man, Of Wolf”

Of Man, Of Wolf

of man of wolf

As mountain throws its livid purple haze 
As waning sunlight strays across the skies
And skims a craggy ridge, Man’s towers rise
From valley’s darkened floor as if ablaze
In ego – soaring – bluster unconstrained
By reason – or by feigned humilities.

Beyond the morrow’s sunrise where the trees
Stand tall, the lone wolf’s paw print, water-stained,
Impales his visage on a sandy trail.
Instinctive stealth, the weapon of his choice,
And fearsome howl – man’s bête noir in voice –
Expound on reasons men, themselves, must fail:

“My birthright is to live!  Run wild!  Run free                
Of shackled chains! . . . No wonder YOU fear hate ME!”

Man’s completely irrational fear and hatred of wolves is obviously boundless, as evidenced in a most disheartening letter I received a few days ago from Defenders of Wildlife. It read, in part:

We’ve reached a heartbreaking milestone:

The 1,000th wolf has died from hunting and trapping in the Northern Rockies since Congress stripped gray wolves of their Endangered Species Act protection in 2011. 

Mothers, pups and packs have fallen to hunters’ bullets and traps – 1,001 at last count in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. It’s a tragic, unsustainable toll, and it cannot be allowed to go on.

Among the most recent victims of this reckless killing was OR16, an Oregon-born male wearing a radio collar. He was shot on January 19th in Idaho.

OR16 was a remarkable wolf. His wanderings took him through three states and he even swam the Snake River. Yet, after his astonishing journey, he made the tragic mistake of crossing into Idaho. He lasted only 33 days there, and was the second Oregon wolf to be killed in Idaho.

Now we’re looking at the loss of over 1,000 wolves in just two years. This accelerated killing is an example of how states like Wyoming are managing wolves as vermin to be eliminated, not as wildlife to be managed responsibly. There is no basis for allowing this many wolves to be killed this quickly. It’s 100% politics that is driving state management.

The restoration of wolves in the Lower 48 is one of the greatest success stories of the Endangered Species Act. It’s tragic that in this day and age we are still fighting myths, misconceptions and old hatreds toward these magnificent animals.

Let me be frank: I am an environmentalist. A RADICAL environmentalist, at least in the perception of a great many of the intellectually unwashed who see no virtue in any concept that might somehow define the realm which lies just beyond the narrowness of their own existence. I’ve been called a tree hugger, an eagle freak, a wolfer, a greenie, a screwball, nutcase, communist, socialist . . . you get the drift. Oddly enough, in said context all those epithets might well be reasonably accurate. Sort of, more-or-less, generally speaking, etc.

In any case, because my sympathies generally lie within the wild and natural world and NOT within that realm imposed upon this planet by my own species, I pay attention to and am a member of various ‘environmentalist’ organizations.  included are Defenders of Wildlife, the Wilderness Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, plus a variety of other organizations which dedicate their efforts to preserving (and restoring) that which is natural, that which we humans have diminished or destroyed for no good reason other than our all-too-common notion that we are . . . ummm . . . created in the image of some sort of ‘god’ who granted us “dominion” over . . . well, over everything. The old “It is written” ploy.

But other things, too, have been “written,” and in words which make far more sense to me, the Radical Environmentalist, than virtually any that pretend to bless the presence of humans here on this speck of galactic dust we like to call “Earth.” So I shall, for the moment, defer to some of those others who have proven far more able than I to pen the words that most accurately describe and enhance recognition of environmental realities and concerns. Following are a few quotes selected from the sizable handful I’ve accumulated over the years, specific source(s) attributed when available.

First, the Idiot shouts:

“It’s the funnest thing I’ve done in years!”
So spoke a gleeful Montana TV ‘Reality Show’ host after shooting and killing a wolf with a high-powered rifle (his idiotic comment was forwarded to the world by the Center for Biological Diversity on August 21, 2012)

Next, Intelligence adds its soft-spoken but ever-varied voice:

“One of the problems that comes with trying to take a wider view of animals is that most of us have cut ourselves off from them conceptually. We do not think of ourselves as part of the animal kingdom. Indians did . . . not because [they] did not perceive the differences but because they were preoccupied with the similarities.” ~Barry Holstun Lopez, in Of Wolves and Men, 1978

[To the Lakota]  “The animals had rights — the right of man’s protection, the right to live, the right to multiply, the right to freedom, and the right to man’s indebtedness — and in recognition of these rights the Lakota never enslaved an animal, and spared all life that was not needed for food and clothing.  This concept of life and its relations was humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love . . . The Lakota could despise no creature, for all were of one blood.”  ~Lakota Tribal Chief Luther Standing Bear

“What monstrous folly, think you, ever led Nature to create her one great enemy — man . . . And how instinctively she taught the fear of him to the rest of her children!”  ~John C. Van Dyke, in The Desert, 1903

[When European colonists first arrived in America]  “The whole continent was one continued dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men.  Now the forests are removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.”  ~John Adams, 1756 (as quoted by Barry Holstun Lopez, in Of Wolves and Men, 1978)

“[Man] was born and equipped as an excellent animal, but he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage called culture and took on fear and a whimper as a part of the bargain.” ~John C. Van Dyke, in The Desert, 1903

“Wilderness . . . the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see.  Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us.”  ~Edward Abbey, in Desert Solitaire, A Season in the Wilderness, 1968

“The precise origins of man’s unusual fear of the wolf are obscure. The wolf is human’s most feared animal, even though there has never been a verified account of a healthy wild wolf attacking and killing a human in North America. There have been many maulings caused by bears, and many a diver has experienced a shark attack, but never a wild wolf attack. So why are wolves so feared and hated?”  ~Jill Missal, in Wolves, Humans, and the Myth

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.  I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes — something known only to her and the mountain.  I was young then and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, then no wolves would mean a hunter’s paradise.  But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”  ~Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac, 1949

“Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.”  ~Aldo Leopold, in A Sand County Almanac, 1949

And finally, one of Universal Truth’s most abject pinnacles:

“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be: the mythologized epitome of a savage, ruthless killer — which is, in reality, no more than the reflected image of ourself.”
~Farley Mowat, in Never Cry Wolf, 1963

Indeed. The essence of “We the people” was most ably summed — some fifty years ago — by Canadian environmentalist and wildlife biologist Farley Mowat. Consider, if you dare, only today’s murderous iceberg tips, the ones in view right now as we speak: in the United States, within just the last two years, more than 1000 wolves have been slaughtered in the northern Rockies, most by gunfire, and not a single one of them for any good reason; less than two months ago twenty children, ages 5 and 6, plus six educators were murdered — by gunfire — in Newtown, Connecticut; and nationwide, assuming gruesome averages continue to hold true, at least 1000 people will die every month in the United States. From gunfire . . . gunfire which can no longer even be heard over the screams(!) of anguish emanating from those for whom gun possession is the only ‘sacred’ adherence.

We are a nation with a shriveled soul. We are a nation OF shriveled souls. I realize it’s far too late to overturn the Second Amendment, to confiscate and destroy all guns in the land and thereby save tens upon hundreds of thousands of human lives and millions more in the wild kingdom, but perhaps we could at least rewrite the Second Amendment to make it a bit more accurate, more palatable? How about this:

A non regulated Militia, being unnecessary to the security of a free State, the right of Shriveled Souls to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Wolf Cubs, photo credit ©ODFW (from Defenders of Wildlife)

Wolf Pups, photo credit ©ODFW (from Defenders of Wildlife)

This is today’s open thread; go for it!