We humans like to be top dog. We feel threatened by other predators, especially wolves. Though they are the forebears of the domesticated dog – and we’re in their debt for this contribution to civilization, family life and to countless human hobbies and enterprises – we’re still threatened by the wild, non-domesticated canids who’ve managed to survive our sustained onslaughts. Like us, they are powerful, wide-ranging, and leave much in their wake. Wolves also travel in packs, and that form of social organization, which we admire as an example of loyalty and cooperation, is also all the more forbidding because it is mobile and it concentrates their power.
Wherever you live in the United States, there’s a good chance gray wolves once roamed your state. But year-round killing allowances and bounty programs, combined with an army of government hunters who killed wolves by land and air with an array of poisons, traps, and firearms, put an end to that, except in a fraction of their original range.
But a greater understanding of the value of apex predators, along with the federal Endangered Species Act, put them on the road to recovery in certain parts. But intolerance runs high, and federal and state officials have withdrawn protections in the last few years and unleashed an orgy of wolf killing, concentrated in the northern Rockies and the upper Great Lakes. Just this week, the public comment period closed on another proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove federal protections in just about every other part of the country.
We know what will happen if wolves are de-listed nationally, because we’ve seen how we as a species have behaved in the West and Upper Midwest. In Wisconsin, hunters chase down wolves with packs of dogs. In Michigan, they bait the animals and use predator callers to lure them into the open. In Minnesota and other wolf-killing states, most wolves die in the vise grip of a trap, freezing in sub-zero temperatures as their legs are crushed within the unforgiving jaws of a steel trap or a noose tightens around their neck as they vainly try to escape.
The cruelty of the wolf killers knows no bounds. This week, in the small, remote town of Salmon, Idaho, some ruthless people are hosting a “wolf derby.” The contest, which runs Dec. 28-29, will reward teams of two with cash prizes and trophies for shooting the largest wolf or killing the most coyotes. Children as young as 10 years old are encouraged to participate in the killing, and even have their own prize categories. Fur buyers will be at the event to purchase pelts.
This is a wolf massacre. Rewarding shooters (including young children) with prizes takes us back to an earlier era of wanton killing that so many of us thought was an ugly, ignorant and closed chapter in our history.
There is no law or regulation on the books in Idaho that prohibits contest kills like this one. Idahoans can contact the Idaho Fish and Game commissioners and ask that they pass regulations that prohibit events like this one. If you live outside of Idaho, please contact the sponsors of this event and politely ask them to pull their sponsorship.
Whether in Idaho or elsewhere, it will take the collective voices of all of us to shame people who have irrational fears of wolves and who act with malice toward these noble creatures.