We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Saturday, February 23. 2008
This is a reposting from 2006, prompted by a post by Surber about the dramatic resurgence of the wolf populations in the northern Rockies. Also related to the Crichton video posted today.
The ways that ecological interactions take place is always fascinating to me, and unpredictable. The return of wolves to Yellowstone Park is a case study.
Wolves kill more elk, balancing the elk population and driving the elk to safe zones, thus permitting the return of normal willow growth along river edges, thus cooling and stabilizing rivers resulting in bigger trout, and happy songbirds, and generally more biodiversity. And the wolves kill coyotes, thus there are more fox and mice and little critters, and more and happier hawks. Sadly, a parvovirus from domestic dogs threatens the 170 Yellowstone wolves. I guess no-one brought them in for their shots.
"Apex predators" are a key piece of any ecological puzzle. I'd like to see our native Timber Wolf returned to New England, along with the Elk who used to live in the Northeast. It would solve the deer infestation and the coyote infestation, and might reduce the number of cats and dopey little ankle-biter dogs in suburbia, too. Politically, it might be tough - can you imagine running for state office with a campaign promise to return wolves to Pittsfield, MA? But maybe they will come under their own steam, the way the coyotes did - which were never native to the Northeast and which cannot take on a whitetail deer.
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Spent time working there as a volunteer... lovely place! And as a research geologist I got to go on the 'thin crust areas', never knowing if the next step would be firm or a sudden giving way beneath the feet. The wolf re-intro had just begun a couple of years before and I had the experience related to me of two research biology crews, one tracking grizzlies and the other wolves, who converged with their indicators going in the same direction. They approached when it looked like one of the indicators had stopped and , yes, the accusation of 'your grizzly ate my wolf', was heard.
There was a group tracking hawks to see if that population would expand as coyotes got hunted out, but that was very early on in the study.
The National Parks can always use volunteers to clear trails, set up camping areas, do clean-up work, and, if you are lucky, go out with scientists doing all sorts of fun things... not that all of that is *safe*...
A group of coyotes can take down a deer. Theyll keep nipping til it's exhausted, get the job done. Not a nice thought to contemplate.
I have to respectfully disagree with the concept of re-introducing wolves into much of the NE. We fought off an attempt to do so in the Adirondacks for a variety of reasons, but the short story is that the opportunity for negative wolf-human (to the wolf, that is) interaction is too great.
Everybody likes wolves conceptually, but most of the actual interaction will have negative consequences. Pets and livestock killed, frightened parents, deer killed in large numbers in winter yards and villages when they can't escape due to deep snow, etc. The wolf will not remain in the wilderness, but will rather move to areas of more food in the foothills and farmland.
I'm not anti-wolf at all, but after much study and conversation with wolf biologists, we felt it would be bad for both species if they were placed here. I wish we could borrow some to kill off a few coyotes, though.
Funny you mention that on a day we post Pasternak - images from Dr. Zhivago.
I'm sure it was a serious discussion, but they used to be here, did they not? But, I know, people would complain like heck and it would not be politically possible.
The fact that they are no longer with us makes the case, does it not? Modern man has the same attitude to large predators as 17th century man but doesn't realize it until confronted with them. I believe the available habitat acreage for viable wolf population encompasses only the most remote regions in the NE, which at this time might be northern Maine. The Adirondacks are not viable due to population and lack of ungulate prey.
Coyote-deer predation was incorrectly labeled as non-existent in the post. Coyotes are a significant predator of fawns, their scat is full of fawn hair during the summer and you can see this for yourself. They readily kill adult deer during the winter, I have found many such in the woods and on the frozen lakes.
We re-introduced wolves here in Idaho. Took off big time. Biting deep into the Elk herds, and the deer. As predicted. Now the proposals are along the line of special hunts to thin out the wolves. All this activity is great for biologists, and the Fish and Game.
Highly recommended is the great Charles Martin Smith movie, "Never Cry Wolf". When it came out in 1980, wolves were generally considered nothing but a nuisance and were being slaughtered to the point of extinction in places. The movie pointed out the wolf's valuable role in maintaining herd populations and helped turn the attitude of the country around.
Dr. M., Farley Mowat is a good writer but his science and motives are questioned by many. It seems there are actually quite a few books written and published as non-fiction when that is not the case.
The very interesting information on Mowats life and career is on Wiki. It says....
"The Toronto Star has written that Mowat's memoirs are at least partially fictional. In a 1968 interview with CBC Radio, Farley admitted that he doesn't let the facts get in the way of the truth (Canada Reads). Once, when Mowat said that he had spent two summers and a winter studying wolves, the Toronto Star wrote that Mowat had only spent 90 hours studying the wolves. This hurt Mowat's reputation.
An article in the May, 1996 issue of Saturday Night written by John Goddard lays out a somewhat more in-depth criticism of Farley's celebrated works, especially Never Cry Wolf. In an interview during the flap over the article, Mowat admitted that his books are "thinly-veiled fiction". As a result of these persistent and recurring claims, it is difficult to say with authority whether some of Farley's books, billed by many as non-fiction, are just that."
Kentucky has established an elk herd, and a controlled hunt each year (40 animals harvested for 2007, I believe). It takes a dedicated effort to re-establish a large animal species, or to eliminate a small one for that matter. Feral cats, wild dog packs, feral hogs, coyotes, armadillos, walking catfish are a few species that need controlling before they destroy ecosystems they have invaded. Urban sprawl has created disjointed areas of habitat, none of which is suitable for a self-sustaining ecosystem for large ungulates and corresponding predators. Animals are being isolated by development and forced to adapt to the destruction of the nature that previously sustained their kind. A few miles from my home, a deer population in a no-hunting area of public land over-bred and destroyed their food sources. The entire herd was starving, government marksmen were finally brought in to thin the herd. The state government control of harvesting of bucks & does led to such a huge population mismatch that the 2007 deer quota limit was 10 does and 2 bucks. Alaska may be the only place in America left, barring annexation of Canada, where there is sufficient contiguous land for natural large herds of grazing animals, wolf packs, black and brown bear to co-exist with infrequent trespass by man. The best the lower 48 can expect is to expect and tolerate the occasional presence of predator and prey in our space. I find it thrilling to know that the black bear may show up in my yard to feed at the same crib the deer, racoon, squirrels, and birds share. The danger is worth the feeling of being surrounded by life beyond my control. I imagine living with wolves has much the same exciting expectation.
Much of America would starve if forced to feed itself outside of restaurants and grocery stores. Those in my teepee would be warm and well-fed, and a wolf at the door would make a nice rug, but there are no wolf packs within a thousand miles. More's the pity.