Eradicating the Wolf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History of Wolf Eradication

Wolves and Native Americans

Pacific Coast Wolf

 

When studying Native American cultures one finds as a whole a positive attitude toward wolves. Many tribes had wolf clans including the Creek, Cherokee, Chippeway, Lenape, Menominee, Huron, Lenape, Shawnee, Caddo, Osage, Chickasaw, Pueblo, and Kwakiutl just to name a few. The Quileute and the Kwakiutl viewed their ancestors as wolves. For the Shoshone it was the creator. It wa viewed by others as a guardian. Many saw wolves as teachers, endowed with courage and loyalty. They were even believed to have taught man how to have a happy family life. (Interestingly, some scientist now think we learned many social behaviors from canines.) Theirs was a view of the wolf as respectful.

The European View of Wolves

 

The Europeans arriving in the New World carried a very different view of wolves. The Gray Wolf ranged through much of North America. It is estimated that over 200,000 wolves roamed the lower 48 states. Map of wolf range before European settlement

Red Wolf Range before European Settlement

Red Wolf Range Before European Settlement

Christians viewed wolves not only as a predator but as an evil presence. They carried with them the British view of good animals vs. evil animals. They saw wolves as ravenous and cruel creatures. They lamented the loss of their valuable cattle to wolf attack. In 1669 the Virginia House of Burgesses passed a law that demanded the Indians in the colony kill wolves as part of their yearly tribute. This early view of the wolf also included the Indians themselves. Massachusetts governor, John Winthrop, said of the land that it was overrun by wild beasts and beast-like men. A clergy man said the natives acted like wolves and should be dealt with like wolves.

Wolf Hunt in Ohio

The Great Hinckley Hunt of 1818 in Ohio, 21 bears, 17 wolves, 300 deer and untold numbers of turkeys, foxes and raccoons were killed

Both humans and animal were hunted to point of extinction in the European attempt to civilize the new land.Murdered Native Americans

Native Americans killed by soldiers

The Government Joins the Fray

Just ten years after Massachusetts was settled a bounty was placed on the head of wolves. By 1640 the bounty had risen to 40 shillings for a wolf killed by dogs and 10 shillings for other means. This equaled twenty-seven days of labor for an average wage earner. Virginia paid in tobacco. One lawgiver suggested a bill which would declare wolves an enemy of the Republic.Hunting Wolves on the Mississippi River

Hunting Wolves on the Mississippi River

As settlers moved westward, their attitudes toward wolves moved with them. Wyoming paid out over $65,000 in bounties between 1897 and 1907.Slaughtered Wolves Beginning in 1905 the U.S. government began hiring trappers to eliminate predators on grazing lands, with 1800 wolves being killed in national forests. What became the Fish and Wildlife Department was one of the principle instruments used in the eradication of the wolf.

Slaughtered female wolf

And the war continued until by 1947, the wolf had all but disappeared in the lower 48 states.Map of eliminated wolf populations

Negative Attitudes About the Reintroduction of Wolves

Only Good Wolf is a Dead Wolf

 

When wolves were reintroduced into the wolf-free areas in the lower 48 states attitudes varied from love to fear. One study from Norway may explain some of the negative attitudes about wolf restoration.“Our studies have demonstrated that conflicts over wolves are social conflicts (c.f. Skogen, 2001; Skogen & Krange 2003; Figari & Skogen, 2011; Krange & Skogen, 2011) . 3 People who oppose wolf protection are often much angrier with their human adversaries than with the animals, and the conflicts reach beyond controversies over management practices. Antiwolf attitudes predominantly prevail among people who are firmly rooted in traditional land use practices and in a rural working-class culture. These attitudes are not always – or even predominantly – related to adverse material effects of wolf presence at the individual level. Granted, wolves are seen as a threat to rural lifestyles because they kill hunting dogs, reduce local moose and roe deer stocks, and cause some fear among locals. But few people have ever encountered wolves or had their dog attacked, and the effects wolves have on game populations vary a good deal (Gervasi, et al., 2012). Evidently, there are aspects of these conflicts that are not directly related to the wolves, and general development trends in rural areas constitute a key factor. Government efforts to maintain rural settlement are not as effective (or as extensive) as they once were; even rural Norway is exposed to the forces of economic modernization and globalization. The dominant narrative among people with cultural ties to the resource-based economy is one of economic decline, leading to depopulation and dismantling of private and public services (Skogen, Mauz et al. 2008; Krange & Skogen, 2011). Importantly, this happens in a time when a conservation ethos has achieved a prominent position in the public discourse, and manifests itself in practical land management. Some social groups interpret these changes in the valuation of nature as driving forces behind the decline in resource industries, and as a threat to a traditional rural lifestyle that rests on a resource economy and entails forms of outdoor recreation based on harvesting (Krange & Skogen, 2011). “ In other words some individuals and groups fear their way of life is threatened.

calf attacked by wolves

Calf attacked by Wolf

“Which common threats are faced by the groups that make up the anti-carnivore alliance? In a sense they find themselves in the same boat, albeit in very different ways, as people who stand to loose from urban expansion and related economic and cultural changes. We also see here an example of cultural commonality between the working class and the proper bourgeoisie; the defence of material production – and associated values – against the cultural expansion of the modern middle class, entailing, among other undesirable things, extensive nature protection based on a romantic view of nature; nature seen as delicate and vulnerable, always threatened by human activities (i.e. the activities pursued by the working class, farmers and landowners) (Skogen, 1998; 1999). Also, the new middle class may be seen as the culprit behind the mass of regulations interfering with every conceivable aspect of human existence, not least private enterprise, and here elements of working-class and ‘bourgeois’ culture tend to converge. Landowners, farmers and working-class hunters all talk about ‘our’ way of life as threatened by current carnivore management and maintain that the presence of wolves in particular is seriously disturbing the ways ‘we’ use the land. This is clearly not a simple reflection of common lifestyles and land use practices, as these are rather different. Furthermore, the ways these groups use the land may indeed come in conflict with each other, and to some extent even reflect antagonistic economic interests – as is the case with landowners who want to maximise their profits from hunting, and the local working-class hunters who have to pay for it. There are similar conflicting interests criss-crossing the social landscape between all three groups. However, cultivation of rusticity as a defence against urban expansion (physical and cultural) appears to be a common identity factor, despite cultural and economic differences. “ 1

Slaughtered wolves

Another factor effecting conservation of wolves is the hunting.
The Fish and Wildlife department credits recreational hunters with the drive to for wildlife cnservation. This leaves them open to the influence of the hunting public is the ungulate population declines. Rather than looking at what is in the best interest of the ecosystem politics may take into consideration keeping their hunters (voters) happy. "In one Minnesota study, over 70 percent of the white-tailed deer killed by wolves were males, primarily older males, the type most prized by game hunters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that if wolf populations overwhelm big game herds, it will allow wolf control." 2

"With few exceptions, big-game guides and outfitters remain in business only if they can locate old-age male ungulates (i.e., trophy elk, trophy deer, etc.) for their paying clientele. Many local sports hunters also seek trophy animals. Fish and game departments in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are already under intense public pressure to improve the “quality” of big-game herds by managing for older-age males (Wildlife Division 1985; Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks 1986). The departments have all instituted regulations that reduce male mortality so that their game herds will contain a greater proportion of older-age males. That hunters favor male ungulates is no secret. Even when either-sex permits are issued, hunters take an overwhelming preponderance of males.
Although it is commonly acknowledged that wolves and other carnivores normally kill a disproportionate number of young-of-the-year and old animals, few people realize that predators also take a disproportionate number of males. In one Minnesota study, over 70 percent of wolf-killed white-tailed deer were males, primarily older males (Mech and Frenzel 1971:41). Thus, there is little question that wolves and sport hunters would compete for many of the same animals. With a large population of wolves, fewer old-age male ungulates will be available to sports hunters. As in the case of Wood Buffalo National Park, wolves alone can completely eliminate any “surplus” ungulates that would otherwise be available for human consumption." 3

The wolf recovery plan has formidable opponents. Only time will tell if wolves will permanently return to the lower 48 states.

slaughtered wolf

1. Wolf conference of the NABU in Wolfsburg, Dr. Ketil Skogen from the Norwegian Insitute of Nature Research

2. Wolf Recovery, Political Ecology and Endangered Species
By Charles E. Kay

3. Wolf Recovery, Political Ecology and Endangered Species
By Charles E. Kay