Let Nature Live Its Own Life

Canyon Pack Alpha Male Wolf of 2009

Everybody here in Jackson Hole, Wyoming loves the scenery. They love much of the wildlife as well. As long as it’s simply eating grass from a field, they can’t get enough of it. On many occasions, these people even feed many of the more docile wildlife that wander around town: moose; deer; elk; even foxes. Why? Maybe the general population thinks it’s cute to feed a deer. Maybe they feel sorry for it in the winter. It’s even government policy to artificially feed the elk in the National Elk Refuge every winter. Whatever the case, people are overjoyed at having non-aggressive mammals show up to their house, as if they’ve adopted a wild pet. Yet their actions have a consequence that they apparently haven’t bridged a connection to yet. With a growing population of deer and other herbivores around their property, they attract predatory species since there is practically a buffet for these animals to choose from. Once one of these predator species steps foot onto someone’s property, complaints pour in almost as quickly as the deer they continue to feed. In the most recent instance, it’s even just innocent predators scoping out new territory that overstay their three-day welcome in the eyes of some residents.

I can’t help but wonder why anyone would live in a location where wildlife has more right to roam than they have to put up a house, yet insist on kicking out the animals that they don’t approve of. I suppose it’s been the American way since 1492 – take over as much land as you can and only allow back in those you approve of. Every year, black bears are called to be removed from more rural neighborhoods. Earlier this winter, a mountain lion and her three kittens were (almost unsuccessfully) moved because deer were (are still?) habitually fed. Now people aren’t happy with just removing curious wolves from a neighborhood – they’re to be exterminated like cockroaches. None of these instances have had any consequences, yet people just don’t like seeing animals in their property that have more right to be there than they do. They don’t like having to take any more responsibility for their actions than is absolutely necessary. It’s like nature’s trying to remind them of what it means to really be in touch with nature, but their self-defense mechanism kicks in and does everything it can to silence the critics before they can realize what their critics are even trying to tell them. Nevermind that just about every one of these people will go driving, hiking, and in some cases, hunting, into wolves’ and bears’ homes. The thought of a predator visiting their home, however, is unthinkable, or to quote the Wyoming Game and Fish, “inappropriate,” as if these wolves should know better. It’s hypocrisy like this that makes me want to fight even harder for wolves to have more protection; to give nature the chance it deserves to live harmoniously with humans and vice versa. Yet as long as there are people who are trying to exterminate everything about Jackson Hole that makes it wild while trying to cope with the nature that they blindly claim to love, the balance of nature will remain upset.

You either love all of nature or you don’t love any of it, and until people learn this, nature will always remain unbalanced because you can’t play favorites with something you claim to love. It’s like saying you love your child, but don’t really care for the head or legs. You can’t love deer and moose and then hate wolves. Living with wolves, or even just accepting them as a part of the landscape goes a long way in living in such abundant nature as Jackson Hole has to offer. You don’t have to completely love wolves and nature, but learning to live with it properly and taking necessary precautions will work tremendously even in other wild places, or places such as Jackson Hole that are still clinging to the last bit of wild it has left. If that’s too much to ask, then you should consider moving to a big city because you’re only hurting the wilderness you think you love. You can then come back and take a wildlife tour and see predators safely from the car window as you drive into their home.

0 thoughts on “Let Nature Live Its Own Life

  1. I would love to be able to see wolves and photograph them in their natural element. This is happening more and more because as humans we have to find our own private Idaho. When this happens other species always face the inevitable.

  2. I would love to be able to see wolves and photograph them in their natural element. This is happening more and more because as humans we have to find our own private Idaho. When this happens other species always face the inevitable.

  3. Mike, thanks for speaking up for the wolves.

    I think it’s fairly clear that in the past 17 years, since wolves were reintroduced to the Yellowstone area, their presence has benefited the entire ecosystem. There’s ample scientific data to support this, with stabilized numbers of deer & particularly elk and recovering flora. The boost to tourism and such is an entirely separate issue, and a nice bonus for doing the right thing.

    Sadly, it’s also starkly clear that the special interest groups – the ranchers, hunters and others – have not accepted the change one iota, and that their voices continue to be disproportionately loud in Washington and in the state capitals. As long as their voices are the only ones being heard, the wolves will be slaughtered.

    Things are not hopeless: I’ve seen articles talking about the ranchers’ intransigence and the wolves’ plight in the media on both sides of the Atlantic, and there are conservationists and scientists working to counter the biased, dangerous rhetoric about wolf predations. It’s up to us to support the conservation efforts, those of us who shoot only with cameras and those of us who love to see the images and indeed the live animals. We need to help get the word out by any means possible: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, G+ and all the rest, but also by writing letters and signing petitions to congress at both the state and federal level. If they don’t hear from us, we can’t really blame them for listening to the ranchers.

    There are probably a large number of organizations involved in the conservation efforts; I mainly interact with Defenders of Wildlife:

    http://www.defenders.org/

    But they’re not the only ones out there and people should support whichever organization most closely suits their interests. Whether it’s retweeting news, signing petitions, emailing a member of congress, sending in a check now and then, or taking a more active role as a volunteer, people who love the natural world need to get involved. We’re not going to win the war on wolves without first winning hearts and minds.

    1. Very well said, Moira. Despite the strong opposition as you’ve pointed out, I have seen signs of recovery. There are ranchers willing to learn to live with them, as well as riding with their herd daily to trigger natural instincts to protect their young. In addition, as bad as it might seem, they do have momentum behind them and as long as it keeps moving in that direction, I feel hopeful. While their numbers aren’t ideal, it’s certainly growing and I believe it will continue to until the evidence for the benefit of having them around is too great to ignore. Doing the right thing is contagious and eventually the efforts will pay off.

  4. Mike, thanks for speaking up for the wolves.

    I think it’s fairly clear that in the past 17 years, since wolves were reintroduced to the Yellowstone area, their presence has benefited the entire ecosystem. There’s ample scientific data to support this, with stabilized numbers of deer & particularly elk and recovering flora. The boost to tourism and such is an entirely separate issue, and a nice bonus for doing the right thing.

    Sadly, it’s also starkly clear that the special interest groups – the ranchers, hunters and others – have not accepted the change one iota, and that their voices continue to be disproportionately loud in Washington and in the state capitals. As long as their voices are the only ones being heard, the wolves will be slaughtered.

    Things are not hopeless: I’ve seen articles talking about the ranchers’ intransigence and the wolves’ plight in the media on both sides of the Atlantic, and there are conservationists and scientists working to counter the biased, dangerous rhetoric about wolf predations. It’s up to us to support the conservation efforts, those of us who shoot only with cameras and those of us who love to see the images and indeed the live animals. We need to help get the word out by any means possible: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, G+ and all the rest, but also by writing letters and signing petitions to congress at both the state and federal level. If they don’t hear from us, we can’t really blame them for listening to the ranchers.

    There are probably a large number of organizations involved in the conservation efforts; I mainly interact with Defenders of Wildlife:

    http://www.defenders.org/

    But they’re not the only ones out there and people should support whichever organization most closely suits their interests. Whether it’s retweeting news, signing petitions, emailing a member of congress, sending in a check now and then, or taking a more active role as a volunteer, people who love the natural world need to get involved. We’re not going to win the war on wolves without first winning hearts and minds.

    1. Very well said, Moira. Despite the strong opposition as you’ve pointed out, I have seen signs of recovery. There are ranchers willing to learn to live with them, as well as riding with their herd daily to trigger natural instincts to protect their young. In addition, as bad as it might seem, they do have momentum behind them and as long as it keeps moving in that direction, I feel hopeful. While their numbers aren’t ideal, it’s certainly growing and I believe it will continue to until the evidence for the benefit of having them around is too great to ignore. Doing the right thing is contagious and eventually the efforts will pay off.

  5. Thanks for posting this Mike, it’s one of those issues that absolutely makes my blood boil over in a split second. I just can’t believe that the opinion of wolves hasn’t change one iota since the 1800’s, God what is wrong with people?!! See what I mean, can’t even finish a sentence without getting hot.

  6. Thanks for posting this Mike, it’s one of those issues that absolutely makes my blood boil over in a split second. I just can’t believe that the opinion of wolves hasn’t change one iota since the 1800’s, God what is wrong with people?!! See what I mean, can’t even finish a sentence without getting hot.

  7. Are you folks nutz? The science says it is past time to manage them0 It has always been known they would beed to be managed- Half of what I rad in here I have data to support- you folks are smikin’ sumpin’ to screw the truth- Do you realize coyote shave not been shot out of Wyo. or any other state for a reason? Its impossible besides the FACT that the pup numbers go up- You got the wolves they are staying we have 3 times the agreed number What will it take to satisfy you? Fir crying ou load all you seem to want is to fight an divide You give a bad name to conservationist– death is as much a part o life for them as it is for us! I’m wasting my time we will never agree so I wont bother you again— Just know as long as you keep fighting the plan Good men will  be in the hills doing the right thing— Not until extinct until controlled— God Bless 

    1. Mr. Sence,

      My personal belief is that nature knows how to manage itself much more than any human, or even any “scientist.” It was doing so well before recorded history was kept up with and before Europeans came and completely disrupted the balance. Nature has never needed to be managed. Other animals always keep other animal populations in check, otherwise there would have been records of hundreds of other species going extinct on this continent before our ancestors arrived here. Yet the records show that just about every animal that is currently present was here and thriving centuries, and in some cases, millenia, before Manifest Destiny took hold. If anything, humans are the ones for completely throwing off the balance by insisting that they need to be managed.

      Feeding elk on one end of the valley during one season only so they can be hunted on the other end during another season is hardly my idea of proper wildlife management. That resembles more of an elk factory than elk conservation. Wolves are a natural answer to proper elk “management,” and they will do it better and more accurately than anyone grabbing arbitrary numbers from their spreadsheets.

      I am certainly not against death. I am completely aware that it’s a natural part of nature, since I am clearly advocating the reestablishment of natural predators.

      I do agree with you though that we probably won’t agree, but nevertheless, I do appreciate hearing from the other side, so thank you for taking the time to comment.

  8. Are you folks nutz? The science says it is past time to manage them0 It has always been known they would beed to be managed- Half of what I rad in here I have data to support- you folks are smikin’ sumpin’ to screw the truth- Do you realize coyote shave not been shot out of Wyo. or any other state for a reason? Its impossible besides the FACT that the pup numbers go up- You got the wolves they are staying we have 3 times the agreed number What will it take to satisfy you? Fir crying ou load all you seem to want is to fight an divide You give a bad name to conservationist– death is as much a part o life for them as it is for us! I’m wasting my time we will never agree so I wont bother you again— Just know as long as you keep fighting the plan Good men will  be in the hills doing the right thing— Not until extinct until controlled— God Bless 

  9. Are you folks nutz? The science says it is past time to manage them0 It has always been known they would beed to be managed- Half of what I rad in here I have data to support- you folks are smikin’ sumpin’ to screw the truth- Do you realize coyote shave not been shot out of Wyo. or any other state for a reason? Its impossible besides the FACT that the pup numbers go up- You got the wolves they are staying we have 3 times the agreed number What will it take to satisfy you? Fir crying ou load all you seem to want is to fight an divide You give a bad name to conservationist– death is as much a part o life for them as it is for us! I’m wasting my time we will never agree so I wont bother you again— Just know as long as you keep fighting the plan Good men will  be in the hills doing the right thing— Not until extinct until controlled— God Bless 

    1. Mr. Sence,

      My personal belief is that nature knows how to manage itself much more than any human, or even any “scientist.” It was doing so well before recorded history was kept up with and before Europeans came and completely disrupted the balance. Nature has never needed to be managed. Other animals always keep other animal populations in check, otherwise there would have been records of hundreds of other species going extinct on this continent before our ancestors arrived here. Yet the records show that just about every animal that is currently present was here and thriving centuries, and in some cases, millenia, before Manifest Destiny took hold. If anything, humans are the ones for completely throwing off the balance by insisting that they need to be managed.

      Feeding elk on one end of the valley during one season only so they can be hunted on the other end during another season is hardly my idea of proper wildlife management. That resembles more of an elk factory than elk conservation. Wolves are a natural answer to proper elk “management,” and they will do it better and more accurately than anyone grabbing arbitrary numbers from their spreadsheets.

      I am certainly not against death. I am completely aware that it’s a natural part of nature, since I am clearly advocating the reestablishment of natural predators.

      I do agree with you though that we probably won’t agree, but nevertheless, I do appreciate hearing from the other side, so thank you for taking the time to comment.

      1. I imagine you assimilate that a pig is a rat is a kid— Too bad your extremism will fore folks to illegally control this animal caught between your ego and science– I’ll pray for you–

        1. I’m not sure if I understand your first sentence.

          At any rate, I wouldn’t consider allowing nature to take its own course to be extremism. On the contrary, I’d say that the urge to manage nature is in itself more of an extremist view overall since left untouched, nature would accomplish it to a much finer degree over time.

          I would also argue that this animal isn’t actually caught anywhere. It’s making a rather miraculous comeback all over the American West, despite legislation and efforts to keep it contained. In fact it’s the one factor that keeps me optimistic about the revival of the species in its rightful home. I have a feeling that within a few more years, many ranchers and politicians will eventually begin to see its benefit on the landscape and will begin to accept it as a necessary part of the food chain.

          1. Jut so all cards are o the table I do have cattle and I hunt and you feel that nether should be done– kum by ya— You cannot will not stop hunting nor the use fullness of our management as a tool- and in the meantime all wildlife suffers because you folks keep moving the goal post— what you have described is not what was asked for and agreed to so why should we even consider your opinions?

          2. I’m not asking anyone to consider my opinions. I’ve put up no petition to send to government. I’m simply portraying my thoughts and the way I wish it to be. Some people agree, some don’t. I simply say what I’m feeling and how I’m reacting to a specific event, and hope that eventually a mutual agreement can be reached.

            I understand the argument about cattle. However, if you don’t mind me asking, have you made any attempts to try to thwart wolves from attacking your stock? Granted these are things that I’ve only read, but one method suggests that riding regularly with the cattle will trigger the behavior for the adults to protect the young, so the next time a wolf tries to pick one off, it has a much harder time doing so. I’ve Googled a number of suggestions and many ranchers have claimed to have success with one, or a number of them. There’s even a ranch here with cattle where wolves den practically right next door that has never lost one cow to a wolf.

            It is true that I would prefer to not have hunting in general, but I’m not out to abolish it, nor do I expect you to understand my point of view on it, just as I won’t understand yours. I am merely voicing my opinion on how I’d like to see things handled. If it happens tomorrow, great. If it doesn’t happen for another 50 years, no big deal. We’re all welcome to our own opinions and beliefs. This is simply mine.

  10. I studied this stuff in University – and have a BSc. in Biological Science (Ecology).  While I do not work as a scientist – I take exception to this policy and the initial comment at the top suggesting “the science” suggests a cull is long overdue.  Often the science that is listened to in this sort of situation is heavily influenced by politics and other pre$$ures.  Is objective science being used in this case?  So often these situations are managed in a way that believes nature is a one variable equation.  There are many many inter-species interactions in nature – and all have a bit of an effect on the others.  So lets say there ARE too many wolves…  well, if that were the case their population would regulate itself as the food sources would decrease quickly.  Ultimately these things balance out.  If you hijack some of the variables though (ie. feeding the deer) and cull the resulting wolves (yes, they are likely a result) then you will never get a balance and one population or another will be out of whack.  In most cases this sort of policy has little to do with science and mostly is about what species people find inconvenient. This sort of stuff drives me nuts.

    1. Thank you, Michael! I suppose in studying the science behind it, you’re able to put into words what I’ve always “felt” is a natural fact of nature, so to speak. Very insightfully worded.

  11. I studied this stuff in University – and have a BSc. in Biological Science (Ecology).  While I do not work as a scientist – I take exception to this policy and the initial comment at the top suggesting “the science” suggests a cull is long overdue.  Often the science that is listened to in this sort of situation is heavily influenced by politics and other pre$$ures.  Is objective science being used in this case?  So often these situations are managed in a way that believes nature is a one variable equation.  There are many many inter-species interactions in nature – and all have a bit of an effect on the others.  So lets say there ARE too many wolves…  well, if that were the case their population would regulate itself as the food sources would decrease quickly.  Ultimately these things balance out.  If you hijack some of the variables though (ie. feeding the deer) and cull the resulting wolves (yes, they are likely a result) then you will never get a balance and one population or another will be out of whack.  In most cases this sort of policy has little to do with science and mostly is about what species people find inconvenient. This sort of stuff drives me nuts.

    1. Thank you, Michael! I suppose in studying the science behind it, you’re able to put into words what I’ve always “felt” is a natural fact of nature, so to speak. Very insightfully worded.

  12. I studied this stuff in University – and have a BSc. in Biological Science (Ecology).  While I do not work as a scientist – I take exception to this policy and the initial comment at the top suggesting “the science” suggests a cull is long overdue.  Often the science that is listened to in this sort of situation is heavily influenced by politics and other pre$$ures.  Is objective science being used in this case?  So often these situations are managed in a way that believes nature is a one variable equation.  There are many many inter-species interactions in nature – and all have a bit of an effect on the others.  So lets say there ARE too many wolves…  well, if that were the case their population would regulate itself as the food sources would decrease quickly.  Ultimately these things balance out.  If you hijack some of the variables though (ie. feeding the deer) and cull the resulting wolves (yes, they are likely a result) then you will never get a balance and one population or another will be out of whack.  In most cases this sort of policy has little to do with science and mostly is about what species people find inconvenient. This sort of stuff drives me nuts.

    1. Thank you, Michael! I suppose in studying the science behind it, you’re able to put into words what I’ve always “felt” is a natural fact of nature, so to speak. Very insightfully worded.

  13. I think the idea that we can control and regulate nature is laughable. Life finds a way. It always does.

    I think I understand the point of view of ranchers and property owners and would agree they need to take steps to protect their own property.

    That being said, shooting wolves from helicopters and trying to do a blanket reduction in numbers is a policy that I just don’t understand, nor agree with.

  14. I think the idea that we can control and regulate nature is laughable. Life finds a way. It always does.

    I think I understand the point of view of ranchers and property owners and would agree they need to take steps to protect their own property.

    That being said, shooting wolves from helicopters and trying to do a blanket reduction in numbers is a policy that I just don’t understand, nor agree with.

  15. Great post, Mike.  There’s a mindset out there that I equate to the phrase “Eminent Domain.”  The thought that if you have enough money you can damn well live where you please and if some fuzzy woodland creature who lived there for years picks off your Yorkie when you’re not looking it needs to be removed is the issue.  It’s similar to the folks here in Colorado build gigantic homes in the woods and then scream to high heaven when a fire comes close.  I believe that’s one of the main reasons we have such devastation from pine beetles here.  I can’t describe the feeling that came over me when I heard my first wolf howl in the Lamar Valley a few years ago.  It depresses me every time I read or hear about wolves being hunted.  I would like to hope that we will come to our senses and realize we can’t control Nature but I doubt it will happen.  Mankind has come too far to stop now.  I guess the best we can hope for is that eventually the light bulb will go on for someone in a position to do something worthwhile.

    1. Don’t lose hope yet, Bill! I see the conservation movement growing and with it will come more victories. It’s a great analogy you bring up with the forest fires too. It’s a shame, but I feel it is a changing trend.

  16. Great post, Mike.  There’s a mindset out there that I equate to the phrase “Eminent Domain.”  The thought that if you have enough money you can damn well live where you please and if some fuzzy woodland creature who lived there for years picks off your Yorkie when you’re not looking it needs to be removed is the issue.  It’s similar to the folks here in Colorado build gigantic homes in the woods and then scream to high heaven when a fire comes close.  I believe that’s one of the main reasons we have such devastation from pine beetles here.  I can’t describe the feeling that came over me when I heard my first wolf howl in the Lamar Valley a few years ago.  It depresses me every time I read or hear about wolves being hunted.  I would like to hope that we will come to our senses and realize we can’t control Nature but I doubt it will happen.  Mankind has come too far to stop now.  I guess the best we can hope for is that eventually the light bulb will go on for someone in a position to do something worthwhile.

    1. Don’t lose hope yet, Bill! I see the conservation movement growing and with it will come more victories. It’s a great analogy you bring up with the forest fires too. It’s a shame, but I feel it is a changing trend.

  17. Great post, Mike.  There’s a mindset out there that I equate to the phrase “Eminent Domain.”  The thought that if you have enough money you can damn well live where you please and if some fuzzy woodland creature who lived there for years picks off your Yorkie when you’re not looking it needs to be removed is the issue.  It’s similar to the folks here in Colorado build gigantic homes in the woods and then scream to high heaven when a fire comes close.  I believe that’s one of the main reasons we have such devastation from pine beetles here.  I can’t describe the feeling that came over me when I heard my first wolf howl in the Lamar Valley a few years ago.  It depresses me every time I read or hear about wolves being hunted.  I would like to hope that we will come to our senses and realize we can’t control Nature but I doubt it will happen.  Mankind has come too far to stop now.  I guess the best we can hope for is that eventually the light bulb will go on for someone in a position to do something worthwhile.

    1. Don’t lose hope yet, Bill! I see the conservation movement growing and with it will come more victories. It’s a great analogy you bring up with the forest fires too. It’s a shame, but I feel it is a changing trend.

  18. I Love the Thought that your wild america doesnt invole the correct managment plan… Wolves will Be Managed.. both lawfully and unlawfully.. you must not have kids? what if they were outside playing perhaps building a snowman and a wolf happend bye and hurt or killed one think about that before you start your depressing mood about how wolves just dont get a fair chance…

    1. Mr. and not safe..,

      Simply because people have kids is not a reason to wipe out wolves again. I have nephews, and I care about them deeply. I have had pets and probably will again at some point in the future and would feel the same about them. It is simply a consequence of living in a place with such abundant wildlife that people will need to take a little more responsibility. If that’s too much to ask, then perhaps they should live in a place with less wildlife. That was my point. The same goes with ranchers. They’ll either need to learn to live with wolves and adopt a few simple, extra practices, or just continue to live their lives stressing themselves out over an animal that is here to stay whether they like it or not.

      Interestingly enough though, there have only been a handful of human/wolf encounters that have been recorded throughout history. For the most part, wolves are not interested in humans and the vast majority of the time, pose no threat. People are in just as much danger from being trampled by a moose, but no one’s calling for their extermination.

      If you’re aware that a wolf or a mountain lion is in the area, then it’s probably not very good parenting to let your kids wander around outside unsupervised to begin with. Otherwise, as with ranchers, a little more responsibility will keep everyone and everything safe and no issues will arise if everyone cooperates. Sadly, I understand that that’s too much to ask from everyone.

  19. I Love the Thought that your wild america doesnt invole the correct managment plan… Wolves will Be Managed.. both lawfully and unlawfully.. you must not have kids? what if they were outside playing perhaps building a snowman and a wolf happend bye and hurt or killed one think about that before you start your depressing mood about how wolves just dont get a fair chance…

    1. Mr. and not safe..,

      Simply because people have kids is not a reason to wipe out wolves again. I have nephews, and I care about them deeply. I have had pets and probably will again at some point in the future and would feel the same about them. It is simply a consequence of living in a place with such abundant wildlife that people will need to take a little more responsibility. If that’s too much to ask, then perhaps they should live in a place with less wildlife. That was my point. The same goes with ranchers. They’ll either need to learn to live with wolves and adopt a few simple, extra practices, or just continue to live their lives stressing themselves out over an animal that is here to stay whether they like it or not.

      Interestingly enough though, there have only been a handful of human/wolf encounters that have been recorded throughout history. For the most part, wolves are not interested in humans and the vast majority of the time, pose no threat. People are in just as much danger from being trampled by a moose, but no one’s calling for their extermination.

      If you’re aware that a wolf or a mountain lion is in the area, then it’s probably not very good parenting to let your kids wander around outside unsupervised to begin with. Otherwise, as with ranchers, a little more responsibility will keep everyone and everything safe and no issues will arise if everyone cooperates. Sadly, I understand that that’s too much to ask from everyone.

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