Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Living With Predators

Suzanne Goldenberg writes approvingly of the scheme to bring back the wolf in the mid-west.

But then, as a Guardian environmental correspondent based in Washington DC, she can afford to be:
There have been mornings when Jim Stone has woken up to the sight of wolves within 100 yards of his front door. And there have been afternoons, many of them, when the wolves have prowled along the thin electrified cable that delineates the southern boundaries of his cattle ranch, just watching and waiting.

Stone says he can live with that: "They are a part of the chain of life. They were here before we came so it probably makes sense that they are here [now]."
If you hadn't gained the upper hand with modern firearms and organisation, you wouldn't be here now, idiot!
Locals say that the wolves are threatening elk and other wildlife, and harassing their cattle, and they want to declare open season on the predators.
But Stone and other landowners involved in the Blackfoot Challenge, a conservation alliance of ranchers, environmentalists and government officials, want to make up for the first white settlers, who drove the animals almost to extinction, by finding a way to live with wolves.
Whether you like it or not...
"When ranchers and miners first came into the area we were kings. If we wanted to get rid of wolves, we did," Stone says. But, he adds: "This isn't the 1880s any more. We have to figure out a way of co-existence."
Have you negotiated a peace treaty with the wolves? Do they know they are required to 'co-exist'?
"We have had fairly rapid growth in the wolf population since they were re-introduced in the 1990s," says Seth Wilson, the wildlife co-ordinator for the Blackfoot Challenge. "The big challenge is can we co-exist? Can we live with large carnivores? That is the next chapter that we are writing."
Unfortunately, in Alaska, that next chapter is turning out to be a bit of a horror story:
Mayor Scott Anderson doesn't travel around his small town of Port Heiden unarmed. Neither do his neighbors.

That's because hungry wolves have been wandering into town in search of food, sneaking into yards and snatching dogs and cats.
It puts some of our complaints into stark perspective, doesn't it?
It is hunger that is bringing the wolves to this town of about 100 people. While wolves have sneaked into Port Heiden for food before, it is usually just one or two of the animals, and they arrive at night.

This is different. These wolves are bold and hard to scare off. Sometimes they just sit and stare.

Now, the wolves are showing up during the day.
Because hunger has meant they've lost their fear of man. This is the other side of living amongst 'noble predators' that the tourist guides and conservationists don't tell you...

After all, all fears about wolves were calmed with the fact that 'historical accounts' showed that wolves rarely attacked man.

Except, of course, when hungry:
Wolves coming into Port Heiden have residents thinking about what occurred in the village of Chignik Lake last March: A teacher out jogging was killed by two hungry wolves.
This is what all the Disneyfied nature documentaries and approving conservation schemes would like to brush under the carpet. Yes, they usually are more scared of you than you are of them, yes, they usually won't attack unless provoked, yes, they are the 'noble spirit of the wild', and we really would be worse off if they were no longer around.

But when the chips are down, they aren't going to reciprocate that respect and admiration. We are just meat to them.


James Higham said...

Wolves, wargs, whatever. We still have the guns, except in the UK.

Woman on a Raft said...

sneaking into yards and snatching dogs and cats.

Any reports of wolves taking pigeons? I've got a job for them.

WV: shooever.

How on earth did it know before I wrote anything?

Peter Risdon said...

Hmmm. When I lived in Alaska, the prob was wild dogs - but wolves were often blamed. The Chignik Lake teacher was mauled by wild animals and they *think* they were wolves.


"It was the first fatal wolf attack in Alaska, and only the second documented case of a wild wolf killing a human in North America. There are an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 wolves in North America, including 7,700 to 11,200 in Alaska."

I'll live with that.

Mark Wadsworth said...

It's tricky, and it's up to them I suppose.

If Peter is going to play the statistics card, I ought to point out that there are about thirty cow-related human deaths in the USA each year (or something like that). So wolves ain't such a big deal.

WV: cowdeath

Peter Risdon said...

Oh, I'm much less relaxed about cows.

David Gillies said...

It's right not to get too exercised about the level of wolf attacks, but in a shall-issue state like Alaska, in the vanishingly unlikely event I were out jogging, I'd be carrying (after all, a .45ACP works on the two-legged variety of predator, too.) The folks in the town where the dogs have been killed seem to be well-armed.

blueknight said...

150 people a year are killed by falling coconuts....

Anonymous said...

It seems from the comments that you have to have a quota killed before doing much anything.
cows and coconuts don't even qualify.

JuliaM said...

"Any reports of wolves taking pigeons? I've got a job for them. "

It'd resolve the urban fox 'problem' quite handily too!

"The Chignik Lake teacher was mauled by wild animals and they *think* they were wolves."

They found definite wolf tracks, followed them back to actual pure-bred wolves, and I think I remember reading they recovered DNA evidence too...

"I'll live with that."

So would I, give the allowance to be armed. But I wouldn't want to make that choice for anyone else.

JuliaM said...

"...there are about thirty cow-related human deaths in the USA each year..."

True, but there's a reason for the numbers game. I don't know about you, but I don't much fancy a boned, rolled loin of wolf with my Yorkshire pudding and mashed potatoes...

"150 people a year are killed by falling coconuts...."

Yes, and they're delicious too! :)

And at least the trees are stationary...