They’re driving me nuts!!
Actually, it’s not so much the wolves as it is wolf people.
Specifically those who want to have assloads of them to romp in the daisies with and to hell with how the locals feel about it; and those who come up with utter bullshit stories about ravening 250-pound Canadian werebeasts being released willy-nilly around Washington.
As a hunter, I’m more worried about the latter camp, however.
As wolf populations continue to grow, our rabidly howling fringe has the potential to drag the reputation of sportsmen as a whole down with it and break bridges with wildlife-oriented groups that we otherwise share common goals with, namely protecting habitat and having lots of critters in the woods.
Since reading it in the preface to E. Donnall Thomas’ fantastic book, How Sportsmen Saved The World, my motto has become, “When wildlife advocates work together, wildlife wins; when they bicker, they lose.”
If we let those of us who spout lies about wolves, threaten to shoot legislators because the state can’t do anything about federal protections, or allegedly poach elk while preaching that Canis lupus is the enemy, control the campfire, it’s going to go out in the future for want of company.
AND NOW FOR THE OBLIGATORY I-ain’t-a-wolf-lover/hugger/apologist statement to assure the foaming folks that, although I’m a defender of wildlife, I am most definitely not a member of Defenders of Wildlife.
I am not a wolf lover, wolf hugger or wolf apologist.
I wish wolves had remained north of the 49th Parallel.
I wish they weren’t in the same valley that I’ve hunted deer in for the past decade and a half.
But they are, and that’s how it is.
Just like moose showing up all over Eastern Washington and Northeast Oregon from their Idaho strongholds, mountain goats wandering from the Beaver State’s Elkhorns clear across the Columbia to the Mt. Adams area, wolves have legs too and they like to wander, and what the hell can you do to stop them from crossing lines on a map?
And since I am a law-abiding sportsman — as are the vast majority of us — you won’t even hear me telling the very stale joke, “Those aren’t wolves, boys, those are just real big coyotes, and coyote season’s open, yuck, yuck, yuck.”
FOR WHATEVER REASON, we in the media gravitate like flies to poop to the loudest, shrillest voices in the tiniest of minorities, overlooking the quiet, moderate middle ground.
Guilty. As. Charged.
Some of it is to “stand up for the little guy” — a good idea in many instances — but how long before guys like “Wolfbait” at a popular hunting board pop up as “Concerned Local Hunter” on the evening news spewing their factless stories?
Because it really is only a matter of time that one of the reporters from the revolving door that is KOMO News drives over the pass and knocks on Wolfbait’s door and sticks a mic in his face and thinks he/she has the scoop of his/her life — and then all of us hunters suddenly look like kooks?
This week Wolfbait is continuing to peddle his illicit Twisp wolf release tale.
(You can replace the word “malamute” with “wolves” below because someone in the thread above Wolfbait’s post suggested that canids seen in cages elsewhere in the state might actually have been, say, sled dogs.)
In 09 when the WDFW released malamutes in the Methow Valley, less than a mile from down town Twisp I might add, we had malamutes sightings and malamute problems all summer long. The malamutes were killing chickens and a cow and her calf, we even have pictures of these malamutes in town. Funny after winter came the malamutes disappeared, and we haven’t seen any malamutes around town since. Some who know wolves, er malamutes say that after these critters were released they didn’t know where to go so they hung around where they were released and then when winter came they dispersed.
Wolfbait and his story first began to pop up in May 2009, which wasn’t too long after a dead cow was discovered on the Golden Doe Wildlife Area above Twisp. A local rancher says he saw two wolves by the carcass. Tracks of coyotes, ravens and dogs were also around it, but a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agent couldn’t tell what had killed it. Then, by July, someone going by the name of Longshot — who may or may not be Wolfbait by a different name — was spreading the wolf-release story on a Methow Valley community bulletin board.
Wolfy made his latest malamute/wolf allegations in a thread asking about releases near Mt. St. Helens.
Since a June 2010 article in a Lewis County paper about WDFW’s wolf management plan and one man’s comments in that piece that, if it’s ever approved, wolves could theoretically be translocated to the flanks of the volcano, the land of Bigfoot has apparently also become the land of sneaky state biologists trucking in wolves to reduce the elk herd.
Never mind that we hunters have been providing that service for free to the cash-strapped agency the past several years since WDFW began giving us more opportunities to help trim the St. Helens herd to better match the available habitat.
And the agency’s been working with Weyerhaueser to open up hundreds of thousands of acres of their woods to us.
AND making money off of us through general and permit hunting license fees.
Talk about crafty bastards!
As the St. Helens wolf story goes, a guy’s buddy heard something on a local talk radio station a few days before and … well, pretty soon someone with “credible” sources inside WDFW reported that the agency is indeed gonna turn loose hordes of packs inside Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to eat up the elk.
Of … course.
As if there is some sort of holding facility somewhere stocked with wolves that Harriett Allen or Ed Bangs can call up and place an order any ol’ time.
“And will you be paying for your two large Canadian wolf packs, one medium-sized pack plus four loners with a credit or debit card?”
Never mind all that red tape that actually keeps government from doing anything that fast.
Like doing a study to make sure that the habitat is suitable for wolves and they’re not compounding one wildlife problem with another.
Or holding public meetings in the area.
Or writing up a draft management plan.
And then having a public comment period on the plan.
And then rewriting it.
And then getting the Fish & Wildlife Commission to sign off on it.
Hell, WDFW’s been working on their wolf plan since 2007, and it’s STILL three-quarters of a year away before the commission looks at it.
And even then state environmental policy act, or SEPA, studies will have to be done before any wolves are loaded into crates and actually released.
Never mind all that, because it just doesn’t fit into the narrative of sneaky/greenie biologists hell-bent on killing hunting as we know it.
BUT TWO MORE LUDICROUS STORIES of the big bad wolf being loosed in Southwest Washington sure do.
One has it that 25 were parachuted into Weyerhaueser lands west of I-5 “to help eliminate elk and deer which were feeding on young trees the timber companies planted.”
Never mind that liberalizing deer and elk seasons would have accomplished the same thing for the timber company.
And Weyco wouldn’t have had to pay a penny for chopper pilot time.
Another story, related to me via email last year, is of 10 wolves spotted in the woods outside Pe Ell in 1995.
I don’t know what the emailer really saw, but I don’t think that two wolves somehow managed to find their way to the Willapa Hills, discovered true love, raised a litter and then completely disappeared off the face of the earth without being seen by anyone else except the emailer. It just doesn’t pass the smell test.
The Willapa Hills are not deepest darkest Central Idaho.
They are not close to the Canadian border whatsoever.
They are a low mountain range shot through with logging roads on the other side of a major metropolitan area as well as at least two interstates and several U.S. highways.
A story that fantastic would surely have caught the attention of even the laziest reporter at the Aberdeen, Centralia or Longview papers, and then made it into the Seattle Times where it could be dredged out of its much-searched-for-wolf-news archives as proof that the Lookout Pack wasn’t the first pack in the state in 70 years.
When I tried to jar the longtime Willapa Hills wildlife biologist’s memory about the episode, he hadn’t the foggiest idea of what the hell I was talking about.
He probably now has my work number on call block.
His counterpart to the east of I-5 did have a very cloudy recollection that at some point in the 1990s there was a group of animals that were hanging out in the Mt. Adams area one fall and winter. Two or three were shot, one or two died. He figures they were dog-wolf hybrids because of the way they hung around a campground.
Do wild wolves hang around campgrounds?
I’m no expert, but maybe if they did, Idaho hunters would have had a better wolf hunt last winter instead of failing to meet the quota by a couple dozen animals.
And did wild wolves hang around Twisp hassling chickens in summer 2009, like Wolfbait asserts?
I’m no expert, but if they did, maybe a search of the Methow Valley News‘ Web site for “chickens Twisp wolf” would have turned up more than one result — a dead-of-winter 2010 interview with the owner of the Red Cedar Bar whose grandparents lived up Wolf Creek and had a mess of hens.
I was once a weekly news reporter and for the life of me, I cannot imagine that the folks at the paper — which is based in Twisp — would not have been all over the story of a clandestine wolf release gone horribly awry …
“TWISP–The bloody mauling of a Rhode Island red nicknamed ‘Henny’ behind the Antlers Tavern at Twisp and Glover last Tuesday evening has revealed a state plot to seed Okanogan County with hundreds — maybe even thousands — of gray wolves.
“Bloody paw prints from the scene of the attack lead straight back to the headquarters of the Methow Wildlife Area, where reporters for this newspaper surprised a half-dozen WDFW employees bottle-feeding wolf cubs …”
SOME SPORTSMEN HAVE HAD ENOUGH of Wolfbait’s claim that he has proof wolves have been released all over the state. They’ve been demanding factual evidence, but Wolfy hasn’t produced any so far.
He instead promises some sort of documentary that’s coming out sometime soon and we’ll all just have to wait to see the mountain of evidence that’s been amassed.
Since it apparently will talk about the Methow Valley, where I hunt deer and obsessively report on, I’ll watch it.
Will it gel with what the biologists tell me?
I doubt it, because the biologists aren’t to be trusted, after all.
That’s because in the back of many hunters’ minds is Lynxgate.
As the first act of the story goes, in the late 1990s WDFW, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Forest Service folks hell bent on locking up the woods for the little kitties slipped some bobcat and tame lynx hair into samples sent to a lab for DNA tests. An alert reporter at the Washington Times caught wind and the rascals were caught red-handed.
However, Act two, which hardly anyone sticks around for, shows that the bios actually were suspicious that lab workers couldn’t tell lynx fur from Lulu-Belle hair, and they were right.
End. Of. Story.
But never mind that, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.
Nor will coming news that WDFW actually wasn’t trying to block the return of Nevada antelope to Washington.
UNASKED FOR, I GOT SOME ADVICE earlier this week from someone who has read almost everything that’s been reported on wolves the past few years.
“What I see is a lot of time spent debating wolves as a surrogate for states’ rights and animal rights (fringe issues). There is a lot of survey data that suggests most people are happy to have wolves managed like other species; the problem is that the folks in the middle are silent on the issue while those on the extremes of the debate drive the rhetoric, polarizing what should be a non-issue. From a practical standpoint, wolves have been extremely divisive in the West, which doesn’t serve conservation well at all.
I hope you folks in Washington have a better go of it than your friends to the East.”
I also hope that.
And as hunters, I hope that we continue to pay attention, inform ourselves and participate in all things wolfish. We have a lot of valid concerns that need to be addressed.
But wild tales of wolves illicitly released at the doorstep is not one of them.