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Cry Wolf: Wolves to be de-listed...Is that really a good idea? 

Editors note: This is the first in a two-part essay about the proposal to remove wolves from the federal Endangered Species List.

click to enlarge Preparing for life on the De-List?
  • Preparing for life on the De-List?
Preparing for life on the De-List?Well, it sounds like those ranchers in Wyoming who shot and killed the ("misbehaving") wolves that (allegedly) killed their livestock (and immediately posted photos to prove what mighty hunters they are), and others of their ilk are going to get their way. There is a move afoot with the feds to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List before they even get the opportunity to enjoy roaming free in Oregon.

Even with President Obama's call for "good science," it may just be that he picked the wrong guy to run the Dept. of Interior. Secretary Ken Salazar, a rancher turned politician from Colorado, wants to follow the flawed Bush Bunch and keep the "Big Bad Wolf" syndrome alive.

If a "wolf season" follows, it will bring every predator hater and trophy hunter from around the world to the glorious West. Big game guides will follow wolf packs year round, learning their habits and assuring that hunters in their charge will be successful.

With the help of telemetry, baiting, howling, predator calls and winter tracking, killing 500 wolves won't take long. Shucks, ten or so could be wiped out on one elk kill. It will be a sad day if that happens...

Wolves, coyotes, and rattlesnakes occupy the same sad place in the fantasy world of a handful of misinformed humans.

Way back in the early 1800s, people who moved into the wilderness with their sheep had the wool pulled over their eyes and couldn't see anything but the Big Bad Wolf. And why not? They were given free reign to graze their sheep anywhere they wanted.

People who have studied wolves over the years will tell you that wolves cannot just, "get out of here," or move in with people, it's not in their way of doing things. That, Oh Best Beloved, was the beginning of the clash, and with strychnine, steel traps and shooting it didn't take long to exterminate the wolf from its happy home in the lower U.S. of A.

What the shooters, trappers, and poisoners didn't take into consideration (or even have a glimmer of) is that the wolf is the natural controlling agent of coyotes. Once the wolf was gone, coyotes thought they'd died and gone to heaven. All that prey was theirs, including the sheep. Why bother to hunt rabbits, ground squirrels and mice with all those sheep underfoot? It was like Les Schwab's Free Beef promotion but "free lambs" instead.

Every killing tool you can think of was employed to kill coyotes - poison, shooting, snaring, digging out dens and killing pups; people used axes, gasoline, shovels, pitch forks and sledgehammers. The favored tool, however, was poison, it wasn't labor intensive like traps that had to be reset, just put it out and what eats it dies. Oh, if a few eagles died, so what? What's wrong with collateral damages anyway? And those badgers that keep digging holes that my horse falls into? Let's get them too.

In the early '40s, however, it became obvious that coyotes were not going to just go away, they began turning up in places they had never been before, like downtown LA. "What's going on?" A few people asked, but no one knew for sure what was happening, or even cared. Then in the '50s coyotes appeared on the Oregon Coast and the population increased in the Willamette Valley. And guess what they were doing? Why, eating sheep, of course. The government's rat chokers taught them to eat sheep. But that wasn't all... they were headed for Maine too.

Back in the '50s I became a thorn in the side of the rat chokers here in Central Oregon, because one day a coyote died in the Brothers schoolyard. It crept into the schoolyard frothing at the mouth and died biting the flagpole. (Fitting, I think.) The local paper ran a front-page story, "Coyote Dies of Rabies in Brothers School Yard," or something to that effect. But when I followed up on the story, I found the coyote didn't die of rabies, but of 1080 poisoning.

Turns out 1080 is a weapon manufactured by the U.S. military during World War II to poison the enemy's water supply. The problem was the chemists who dreamed up the God-awful stuff apparently didn't have a big enough budget to come up with an antidote. But so what, use it anyway...

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