(Why You Should Reject Re-introducing and Protecting Wolves)
As a retired federal Wildlife Biologist that has worked in many domestic and foreign locations including Washington, DC; as a former employee of a western state wildlife agency; as a whistleblower that testified before Congress about the theft of $45 to 60 Million dollars from state wildlife agencies by federal bureaucrats to introduce wolves; and as someone who has written and spoken across the Lower 48 States for over 20 years (since my retirement) on federal environmental laws used to effect numerous hidden agendas concocted by Non-Government Organizations and bureaucrat’s self-interests: I believe I have an obligation to explain why you should reject any support for purposeful re-introduction and protection of wolves into Colorado.
When wolves were listed as “Endangered” and “Threatened” in the Lower 48 States 50 years ago, there only two States with wolves outside Alaska.
Montana had Canadian wolves roaming in and out of Montana but liberal laws and expansive country contributed to the wolves not re-establishing in Montana after all the time, money and effort expended to eradicate Montana wolf populations like all Lower 48 States had done from the Colonial settlement of the East Coast to the early 20th century. The scarce time, money and effort spent to eradicate wolves was evidence of real and not imagined concerns by so many early Americans throughout the Lower 48 States in the past three centuries.
Minnesota had maintained a scattered wolf population ever since Statehood. Some of the reasons for that included the fact that the Northern part of the State and the wolf-rich Canadian woodlands Minnesota borders always meant that any hard wolf controls in those vegetation-thick and lake-strewn woodlands of Minnesota would always invite a steady influx of Canadian wolves. Therefore, during the last century before federal intrusion, Minnesotans could shoot and trap wolves in the fall and winter, as well as when they were threatening or killing livestock, dogs or even hanging about rural yards, farm areas or school bus stops. The resulting scattered wolf population was tolerated by rural Minnesotans while livestock, dogs and rural residents and wildlife went about their daily business in harmony.
What you are being asked to do (i.e. sign a petition to vote for wolves to be re-introduced into Colorado) will not result in either the Montana or Minnesota model. It will result in the current chaos as seen in Europe where wolves have been re-introduced and protected. It will result in the current model in British Columbia where political protection of grizzly bears (sure to arise in Colorado’s future along with “free-roaming buffalo” in inevitably similar fashions) and decreasing wolf controls (that always are necessary if wolves are to be tolerated at all) have created a “predator pit” or “wildlife desert” where elk, moose, and deer have become as “rare as hen’s teeth”. Ask any Alaskan you know how that works when wolf populations increase and moose disappear.
You should reject the fantasies being weaved nationally (and internationally in places like Scotland and Japan) that wolves solve anything. Wolves create a myriad of problems that are as evident (since the times of Plato) as the inability to count wolves and the failure down through the ages to discover any resolution of wolf problems other than the ones (traps; snares; shooting from various platforms like planes, etc.; hunting in groups or with large dogs, etc.; chemicals; and other such mediums) that are anathema today in the USA. Consider that various groups are asking you to infest (the correct word) rural Colorado with wolves while constantly trying to ban and confiscate guns and ammunition with the canard that the “police will protect you”. Do not buy into the artifice that wolves will do anything but harm all Coloradans, their communities, their government and the fruitful and diverse wildlife ecosystem you have struggled so hard to create and maintain since statehood 143 years ago.
Why should you vote against purposeful re-introduction and protection (other than the sort of laissez faire protection once practiced successfully in Minnesota 60 years ago) of wolves in Colorado?
- Wolves are incompatible with livestock production and animal husbandry. They kill sheep, lambs, calves and cows as much as they can get away with. They drive entire flocks of sheep off steep cliffs, they disable pregnant cows and then tear out their hind end to pull out the fetus that they devour, leaving the cow to die a horrible and often slow death. I could fill pages with more on this aspect but I will simply say the current and historic evidence from Europe and N. Asia could also fill books with examples of this.
- Wolves decimate big game like elk and moose. As “protected” wolves biologically saturated Minnesota under complete protection, moose hunting was at first restricted and finally (10 years ago) closed (per state regulations) for good (my words as long as wolves are kept at densities beyond “scarce”). The N Yellowstone elk herd in Montana crashed from over 20,000 to less than 5,000 ten years after “re-introduction” of wolves just like the Lolo elk herd (and elk hunting) in Idaho and the recurring political fights between Lower 48 environmentalists and rural Alaskan residents over if and how necessary wolf control can be conducted to increase available moose meat as well as to protect dogs, domestic animals and urban (such as they are in Alaskan cities and towns) dog walkers, hikers and others. Coloradans can expect declines in guiding, high-end hunts, taxidermists, meat processors and fall hunters and all they spend.
- Wolves kill and eat dogs; all dogs from pets and herding dogs to retrievers, watchdogs, show dogs, hounds and bird dogs. When a dog is killed the numbers make it impossible to pay compensation so state agencies will issue “Advisories” to keep dogs leashed as Minnesota did recently as the Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock seasons opened. Can you imagine hunting grouse or woodcock in thick woods with a “leashed dog”? Hybridization occurs when a wolf encounters a female dog or coyote in heat he will breed it. Conversely; any domestic dog or coyote encountering a lone wolf in heat will breed it. Actually; wolves, coyotes, dogs, jackals (in Europe, N Africa and the Middle East), and dingoes (despite their being no wolves, jackals or coyotes in Australia) are each capable of interbreeding and producing viable offspring (meaning the puppies are not “mules” and can reproduce within the preceding Canine “ménage a cinq” successfully). In other words, they are increasingly doing this as densities of the wild predators increase in places like the Lower 48 States, Europe and parts of Asia that are saturated with dogs. That is why an enthusiastic retired Canadian wildlife professor colleague is so correct and fond of saying, “Wolves do not belong in settled landscapes”.
- Wolves carry and transmit upwards of 50 deadly, dangerous and debilitating diseases. Some like Mad Cow and Anthrax can be carried on their fur or between their toes. Others are transmitted by and in the ticks and fleas they carry and in the blood and saliva of the wolves themselves. Others like tapeworms (one of which is deadly) are deposited where they drag their anus on the ground or poop (campground, yard, pasture, etc.) and the eggs can last for one or more years waiting to infect dogs, big game, domestic animals, children and adults et al. Some like brucellosis are left in saliva that dries on mouthed objects that dogs often find of interest and lick or mouth themselves before returning to owners or homes. Still others like rabies have long been a fear among native peoples, early settlers and other rural people like trappers, hunters, soldiers, campers, loggers, etc. Note that wolves, more than any other mammal, are the most dangerous vector of newly-arrived invader diseases (i.e. Bourbon Fever and Powasson Fever in ticks) and established infections from Encephalitis and Distemper to Neospora caninum (an abortifacient in livestock) and Chronic Wasting Disease. The main reasons for their danger as vectors of all these maladies is 1) they routinely roam over a wider range daily than other animals plus, 2) they move in groups through all habitats (grass, brush, etc.) from farm yards and schoolyards to woodlands, meadows and pastures thereby exposing themselves to every conceivable infection scenario and 3) since they eat, kill, play, wrestle and sleep in groups – what one gets they all soon get and then spread. Finally, keep in mind that many of these maladies (Anthrax, Smallpox, Mad Cow, Plague) are and remain mediums of great interest to Terrorists and nations that wish us ill.
- Wolves are mortal dangers to children and the elderly. The stories go back to the ancient Greeks and the pictures of wolves chasing Russian sleighs or medieval European dogs with chain link collars with spikes (hopefully to delay a wolf killing the dog by tearing out their throat before a man could reach them and either kill or drive off the wolf) accompanying walkers between villages are validated weekly in modern day Asia as particularly young children and elderly women are killed and eaten while herding animals or walking to neighbor’s homes, etc. Don’t buy into the modern myth that “our wolves don’t do that”. Recently, two elderly ladies were likely attacked and killed by wolves in Idaho and another elderly lady was killed behind her cabin on the Upper Peninsula and in both cases investigations never took place and autopsies were directed to far-off coroners by federal and state officers and the results sealed “at the request of the family”. A young lady teacher/jogger arrived at a remote village on the Alaskan Peninsula and took a jog “out to the airport” about 2 miles away. When she didn’t return, she was found dead and torn apart with wolf tracks everywhere where she had at first run from them on the road and then was pulled down, killed and dragged off into the woods where she was partially consumed. A Canadian college student was killed one afternoon taking a walk outside a mine by wolves but a prolonged Provincial hearing with “expert” arguments denied the existence of any conclusion thanks to the government stake in trying to prevent any responsibility for ignoring necessary wolf control like the Minnesota government that blames a wolf attack on a camper in a government campground on a wolf with a “deformed brain” and disappearance of Minnesota moose and moose hunting on “climate change”. Wolves are very dangerous and unpredictable with motives like hunger, injuries, sickness, behavioral characteristics and opportunity more often than not determining their behavior. Campers, hikers, and even firewood cutters (a Russian sawyer was attacked and bitten by a rabid wolf while running his chain saw!) are not immune.
- Reducing wolf densities, like keeping wolves at low levels, or in certain areas (an impossibility), or counting wolves with any semblance of accuracy is prohibitively expensive. History shows that pro-wolf organizations will block any and all controls as “inhumane”, “unnecessary”, “biologically disruptive”, or simply “illegal”. They will also tell you that “electric fences”, “night riders”, “horns and lights”, “Fladry” (rags on fence wires used judiciously by Russian hunters to funnel driven wolves to shooting lanes), etc. etc. will work. They lie. They do not work other that for a short term initially until the wolves (just like dogs and most other mammals) either just figure them out or ignore them. There are no silver bullets. While shooting will drive them off from say a pasture at first glance, wolves will simply turn more nocturnal since a dense wolf population limits food and food opportunity so they must take the available “easier” food when big game, dogs and garbage are in short supply. Wolves frequent roads and residences at night and visit every human habitation they encounter unless they have been heavily harassed –this is called “habituation” and it is very dangerous and deadly when say wolves get used to feeding in a certain place or in a certain way and are then surprised or disappointed by family members.
- The COSTS of hosting wolves will stun you. There is the cost to owners, residents and Local communities’ tax base when livestock production and working operators are reduced by wolf predation and economic revenue, jobs and tax revenue decline. This sort of one-two punch in turn reduces both the ability of Local government to function at current levels and it reduces the authority of Local Government and thereby the power of Local communities to affect what faces them in the future.
The economic losses of dogs not only affect owners, it affects trainers, breeders, families, hunters and those in need of nighttime security around their homes. Businesses no longer have a healthy canine feed market and veterinarian needs decline proportionately. What the US Constitution calls, “domestic Tranquility” as a primary purpose for establishing “this Constitution for the United States of America.” begins declining for everyone.
Maintaining wolves will ramp up demands for Compensation for Predation. Investigations are never timely and that combined with exorbitant price tags on dead and disappearing livestock and dogs means while early compensation will be promised it will soon prove impractical as wolves start popping up where they weren’t supposed to be and you were told they would “never” be allowed. Soon enough livestock and dog owners will be told to use “non-lethal” practices and devices otherwise nothing will be done for them if they don’t “cooperate”. When that soon peters out because the ranchers and others see that none of it has been working elsewhere the rural population will see that they can’t shoot, trap, chase (to kill), poison or otherwise reduce wolves either in the long run of ASAP all the urban and rich folks that voted for the fantasy that they thought would never affect them will be long gone to different jobs or different rich enclave locations elsewhere. Locally born and bred Coloradans will know they were sucker-punched and gullible. Only the third and fourth generation Coloradans that didn’t move away to Denver or LA and urban refugees from lawlessness and crime will be left outside the Front Range Urban Corridor. Also, don’t be fooled by the myths that wolves “don’t cross mountains” or they don’t inhabit “open country”. Wolves prosper wherever they can find food and cover to raise their young from a hole in the ground to an upturned stump of a burned or blown-over tree. There are wolves on the tundra above the Arctic Circle clear down to and in the deserts of Mexico and jungles of India. Like coyotes, as they expand their territory, they become habituated to urban areas (and urban people) and start using paths and parks at night as they seek food, poop, spread disease and grow comfortable with the routines and goings on. Their only limitations are purposeful man-made impediments for purposes of safety and human welfare. Urban inhabitants are only fooling themselves thinking the wolves will always be “out there”.
Finally, if wolves are brought into Colorado and protected, the very nature of rural life in Colorado will change inexorably. No longer will a robust and highly sought-after elk season distinguish the state. Colorado moose will, like Yellowstone moose, all but disappear in the marginal moose habitat of the mountains. Elk in prime Colorado elk habitat like Minnesota moose in prime moose habitat will be significantly reduced and recovery, if ever, will be long, expensive and impractical both initially and ad infinitum once the wolves are established and the big game food source is exhausted. Hunting will be ever more tenuous as wolves attack a young bow hunter over a downed animal or a grandma is attacked walking to a rural mailbox. Teenagers hunting either with bow or gun will be less likely to go alone or to get permission from folks to hunt alone for big game or birds with a dog.
Similarly, the Colorado Wildlife Agency role in rural Colorado will be unrecognizable in a decade. Lawsuits, “scientific” assertions will be made about the “necessity” of letting Mother Nature (or Gaia) take her course and pressure for stopping any sustainable use of the wildlife renewable natural resources of the state will increase because of the species declines not only from wolves but in concert with predators like coyotes and foxes no longer trapped or shot, and declining hunters.
Colorado State Wildlife employees will increasingly be anti-hunters and anti-animal management/control philosophically. This change will accelerate as money and personnel are increasingly diverted from Big Game or Waterfowl or Upland Game or Fisheries to babysitting wolves. Not only will hunting license Revenue decrease: Federal Excise Tax distributions from Arms and Ammo (hundreds of millions annually) will decrease proportionate to the loss of license sales (a formulaic requirement of the law) but also due to the gun control and the strict ammunition requirements, licensing and reporting being hawked in every election cycle. State Wildlife Agency funding will be in for an even bigger hit as Colorado bureaucrats do what Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have done and are doing. Wolves require more lawyers to answer lawsuits. They require diverting game wardens, biologists, land managers, administrators, clerical staff, top management, vehicles, travel funds, equipment, training and retirement obligations from the game-oriented priorities for which they were founded to game and rural life-destroying predators. They will all work on censuses, public relations for schools, compensation reporting. Meetings with Local governments, live-trapping wolves (worthless), transporting (reputedly to some “wilderness but realistically to a deserted rural road in the dead of night) “court-designated” “bad” wolves will now take up their time. “Outreach” to make landowners jump through worthless “non-lethal” control training and waste the owner’s time and money will all need paid and equipped state personnel. Even the Director and his sub-Directors will be spending greater amounts of their day and efforts revolving around wolves and preparing for the next wave, i.e. grizzlies and “free-roaming” buffalo. Declining revenue, declining hunters as a political bloc and enormous outside pressure to ban hunting and trapping since wolves are going to do everything “naturally means barring enormous state funds to replace all the lost revenue spells layoffs and cuts for older and less “modern” wildlife personnel.
Put it all together:
- Decreasing Livestock Industry.
- Increased economic stress on Local communities and Local government.
- Loss of Local and State Tax Revenue.
- Decreased Big Game herds and Big Game hunting.
- Increased Dangers for young hunters, small children and elderly rural people.
- Increased dog deaths and injuries, even in rural yards as small children watch.
- Increased exposure to maladies and infections transmitted by wolf vectors that remain unstudied, denied and covered-up.
- Increasing losses in hunting license revenue to Colorado Wildlife
- Increasing loss of Federal Arms and Ammo Excise Tax (Pittman Robertson) funding for Wildlife Programs.
- Accelerated evolution of Wildlife Agency from a Wildlife Management for people orientation to a no-use/no-management animal worship orientation more religious than “scientific”.
And Balance it against:
- “Increasing streambank willows” (something achievable by simply killing more animals during hunting season that graze the willows down).
- “Hearing the ’iconic’ howl of a wolf”.
- Going to sleep each night knowing “wolves have been returned”.
- Decreasing hunting by showing what Mother Nature does “naturally”.
- Reducing guns, gun supporters, and private use of animal grazing fodder on public lands.
- “Balancing the ecosystem” (whatever that means)
- “Restoring a Native species” (wolves are barely a subspecies in all honesty and what possible sense there is in placing an undesirable – for many reasons – subspecies where its ancestors once lived centuries ago and which bears NO similarity to the habitat and human populations and human activities of today is a question that is in need of a thorough vetting).
In summary. Restoring wolves anywhere in the Lower 48 States is always a political dilemma resolvable ultimately only by government force brought down on the heads of rural Americans or by, when possible, denying wolves entry into your State. Coloradans in urban settings and rich rural communities are being asked to disadvantage your rural working neighbors for an imagined fantasy that will cause great harm to them, the wildlife that they live with and the wildlife all of you and indeed all Americans cherish and enjoy. Do not let strangers and outsiders convince you to harm others and your descendants like this. Study the issue, discuss it with others and then stand up and help keep Colorado the place we all know and love: don’t sign the Petition and if it is on the ballot, Vote NO!
28 October 2019
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Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC. He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority. He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.
Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting.