Chin Essay, Research Paper
Thesis: The wolf is worthy of reintroduction into nature.
I. The early history of wolves in the United States begins.
A. The Indians involvement with the wolf is minimal.
B. The settlers start the destruction of the wolf.
C. The near elimination of the wolf occurs.
II. The human perception of the wolf is inaccurate.
A. Physical Appearance of wolves is frightening to some people.
B. Fables had an impact on humans beliefs toward wolves.
C. Christian Beliefs affected the way humans treated wolves.
III. Legitimate reasons for killing the wolf are given.
A. Hunters complain that the wolf is taking their prey.
B. The wolves present to be possible menaces and threats to livestock.
IV. Unreasonable justifications for killing the wolf are present.
A. Poisoned food was one way to kill the wolf.
B. Wiring the wolf’s mouth shut was a cruel way to starve the wolf to death.
C. Setting the wolf on fire was another form of killing the wolf.
V. Effects of the diminishing numbers of wolves are not good.
A. The prey of the wolf is growing in numbers.
B. The prey incline leads to shortage of food for these prey.
VI. There are many benefits and troubles of the wolf reintroduction.
A. There are concerns from farmers about the safety of their livestock.
B. The misconception that the wolf is harmful to humans is inaccurate.
C. The cost of the reintroduction is one of the troubles with the reintroduction.
D. A reintroduction program is started.
1. The wolves are released into acclimation pens.
2. Non-captive behaviors are witnesses in the acclimation pens.
a) The wolves are seen mating.
b) The wolves are seen playing with each other.
3. Each wolf in the acclimation pens has a different personality
a) Some wolves appear to be very brave.
b) Cautious wolves are present in the pens.
c) There are timid wolves in the pens.
E. Surveys are conducted about the reintroduction
1. Some people favorable accept the reintroduction project.
2. The surveys show that people like natural reintroduction and not government intervention.
By the Hair of your Chinny Chin Chin
Wolves have been the most persecuted and misunderstood animals in western civilization.1 Having survived this persecution with little help, they have begun to thrive again. Wolves are the toughest, smartest, and most flexible species of animal on earth.2 Since the wolf is so flexible, they have lived in many different habitats around the globe. They survive through very hot weather and through harsh winters. These animals are very noble and should be reintroduced into their natural habitat. This would allow the ecosystem in wolf inhabited areas to return to the way it once was. It is the goal of this paper to show that the wolf is worthy of reintroduction to nature.
When the only human existence in the western United States was the Indians, there was an abundance of wolves roaming the area. They roamed the entire West, free to eat whatever they could kill in order to survive. Their world was in coexistence with the Indians who feared and respected the wolf. To the Indians, the wolf was seen as a symbol of great power. One method to show their reverence for wolves was to put wolf carvings on totem poles. Another means of showing this great power was for a very powerful man, such as a chief, to wear the heads and skins of the wolves.3
This harmony and happiness all changed when the white man began to civilize the West in about 1850.4 These new settlers began by hunting and killing almost all of the bison and many of the elk, two of the wolves’ most popular prey. Once these supplies were reduced, the wolves had to find other food sources. Since big livestock herds became a vital part of many settlers’ livelihood, the wolves sought them out as prey. They were simply forced to feed on the livestock in order to live. Naturally, farmers did not like their livestock being destroyed so they took action. They began an enormous task to hunt and kill the wolves.
In the late 1800’s, the United States government and other agencies thought something needed to be done to eliminate wolves altogether since they were viewed as a menace and a threat. Many programs were started that lasted until about 1965. Some of these programs offered bounties for the skins of wolves. The bounties ranged from $20 to $50 per wolf.5 Many wolves were killed due to this monetary factor; yet, other people simply hunted them for the thrill of it. In Montana alone over five thousand wolves were turned in for the bounty.6 In thirty-nine national forests, 1,018 wolves were killed in 1907 by some biological survey officers.7 In Yellowstone National Park, 122 wolves were killed between 1914 and 1926.8 Wolves were hunted with more passion than any other animal in the history of the United States.9 Most all of the information available at the time about wolves was highly inaccurate and led to mankind’s hating and turning against the animal. The attitudes of people focused on this inaccurate information, resulting in the massacre of this precious animal.
Thus, the wolf population began to diminish in 1850. The natural killing of these animals caused by the settling humans lasted for quite a while. Then, in 1915, a wolf control program started to help eliminate the threat of wolves. By 1925, the Western wolf population was practically eliminated. In Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho there were no packs to be found.10 The last reported killing of wolves in Yellowstone National Park was documented in 1944. The destruction of the wolf is still believed to be a good thing. In May of 1992 in the Yellowstone monthly report, the superintendent of Yellowstone National Park stated, “It is evident that the work of controlling these animals must be vigorously prosecuted by the most effective means available whether or not this meets with the approval of certain game conservationists.”11
People have always had some fear of wolves due to their looks and behaviors. They will attack other large animals; then wolves might, in some situations, attack humans. They have a very vicious appearance when angry or put on the defense; their long fangs are a characteristic nearly everyone finds threatening. Since the 1800’s, wolves have been the center of hatred for many reasons. One man said, “We humans fear the beast within the wolf because we do not understand the beast within ourselves.”12 Many old paintings show wolves as very mean and fierce animals. Some Christian beliefs demonstrate hatred for wolves. An example would be stories in which God’s followers are described as sheep. Since the wolf is known for eating sheep, the devil’s work is compared to being the wolf.13 Another place from which this fear and hatred developed was early European fairy tales such as “The Three Pigs,” “Peter and the Wolf,” and “Little Red Riding Hood.”14 These stories told of wolves eating innocent pigs, tricking a little boy into being eaten by a wolf, and seducing little girls. Along with these fairy tales came tall tales about of wedding parties of several hundred people being eaten by very large numbers of wolves. There were no books or research about wolves when these fairy and tall tales were being created, so people did not question the tales.15
Various reasons to justify killing wolves do exist. Since the wolf is generally seen as being dangerous, they were removed to make tourists more attracted to a safe place to visit. In Alaska, people wanted to get rid of wolves so humans could have more caribou and moose. With the wolves gone, the people thought that the remaining caribou and moose would give the people more animals to hunt and eat. They also encouraged killing wolves as a tourist attraction, with the tourists as both hunters and spectators. Hunters were attracted when award money was given to people that brought the skins of wolves to the rangers. To attract even more people, the killing of wolves using airplanes was to be allowed. This is not done very often due to the danger involved.16
Some of the methods used to destroy the wolves are considered cruel and inhumane by today’s standards. The most common method was to put food out for the animals that was laced with poison. Humans put not only poison in the meat but also ground glass, which would be very painful and would kill the animals slowly because of internal hemorrhage. Using glass was cheaper than purchasing the poisons. Another cruel and brutal way to kill the animal was to capture the wolf, wire its mouth shut, and then release it back into the wild. The wolf would eventually starve to death. Some found this to be a fun sport. The worst thing done was to set wolves on fire. This is a very cruel way to kill any animal.17
A prodigious number of animals feed on wolf kills. Most of the time, a pack of wolves will kill an animal that is bigger than they can eat. This provides food for other animals such as ravens, foxes, wolverines, vultures, bears, and eagles. The eagle’s most important food source is the wolf kill. However, since these animals depended on the wolves’ kills, the poisoned food that was put out for the wolves was also often eaten by the other animals.18
Other effects of the killing of the wolf had an impact also. Since the wolf was not around to eat the bison and elk, their numbers increased. This increase led to overgrazing, which allowed fewer plants, to grow. This decrease in the number of plants led to the decrease in the numbers of other smaller herbivores. This chain reaction keeps going on and on. It affects just about every living creature on the face of the planet.19
After all this killing, in 1973, the Endangered Species Act [ESA] was passed. The wolf was immediately put on this list. This act was designed to protect any animal whose numbers fall below a suggested limit. If an animal is on this list, then it can not be hunted, disturbed, or killed for any reason. Between the years 1973 and 1978, the law was upholded and the number of wolves increased. In 1978, the increased population of wolves allowed a classification change from endangered to threatened.20
Should wolves be reintroduced into the wild? This is a common question that is being asked frequently in the late 20th century.
The biggest reason for not reintroducing wolves is the livestock predication. Ranchers are very upset that they are losing their livestock because the government wants to add another predator near their territory. Since a wolf reintroduction plan was started in May 1994, the livestock loss has been minimal.21 The number of animals killed by the wolf is lower than the numbers lost because of disease or other predators.22 To help the farmers with the problem, a fund has been set up that allows for compensation of livestock loss. If an animal is killed, an inspector goes to the site of the kill. There must be evidence of wolf involvement before the farmer is compensated. Many farmers are, for other reasons, losing animals to other predators and diseases, but are trying to blame the wolf for the loss. If the kill is identified as a wolf kill, then the farmer is paid the animal’s worth. A limit of approximately $400 was set for each compensation.23 A team of hunters then goes out and tries to kill the wolf responsible.24 The team does not necessarily have to kill the animal, but they will at least harass it so that it might not return.25 The number of wolves captured and eliminated for bothering, or killing livestock is approximately thirty-six per year. This number is very encouraging, considering wolf populations live near about seventy-two thousand farms. There have been about seventy cattle, ninety sheep, and three hundred twenty sheep killed on only twenty-one of these farms.26
Wolves are known to be very intelligent animals that learn very quickly. As the generations pass, the animals will learn that the livestock are very easy targets. Since the livestock is trapped within fences and cannot defend itself, the wolves see them as very easy targets. Once the wolves learn that they can get food easily, they will not be stopped.27
In some areas, such as Minnesota, the number of wolves has drastically increased over the past years. The farmers believe that the number of wolves is too high and threatens the number of wild animals that they can hunt. The deer are the most important of these animals and they seem to be keeping up with the growing numbers. This possible problem is very unlikely because last year’s deer harvest yield was the fourth largest in history.28 Therefore, the increased number of wolves has had no effect on the number of wild animals that are available for hunting.
Another belief is that wolves are possibly harmful to humans. This belief is another reason why the farmers fear the wolf. The ranchers only see the wolf as a predator. Since wolves have been known to kill household pets such as dogs, the humans believe that they might be in danger.29 This is not a fact though; just like a lot of animals, the wolf is more afraid of humans than they are aggressive toward them. There has never been a report of a healthy wolf attacking a human in history.30
Another reason that people are against the reintroduction of wolves is the cost.31 Approximately six million dollars have been spent over the past twenty-one years on the reintroduction of wolves. Most of this money was used to educate the public about the truths and lies about wolves. There were public meetings, brochures, and other printed material distributed in 1987 in this education which continues today.32 Some money was spent on surveys. The surveys of Yellowstone National Park cost about a million dollars alone. Also, the environmental impact statement that took two and a half years formulate and cost approximately 1.2 million dollars.33 Not all of this money came from the federal government though. Private organizations donated the majority of the money to the reintroduction plan, which openly accepts charity.34
There have been several attempts to stop wolf reintroduction from happening. The Wyoming Farm Bureau and several other agencies tried to stop the reintroduction in 1994 by claiming that it would have adverse effects.35 In the winter of 1995, some groups tried to stop the reintroduction, but were all unsuccessful.36 The third try was rejected in January of 1995.37
Since there is not enough evidence to stop the reintroduction of wolves, there must be some very good reasons to reintroduce them. Some people think that since the wolf is primarily the only natural thing that does not currently exist in national parks such as Yellowstone National Park, it should be reintroduced to complete the ecosystem.38 In addition, people think that because we were responsible for tragedy, we should correct the problem.39 There has been enough support by the people and enough donations to the reintroduction fund that a reintroduction program has been started.
The reintroduction started in May 1994. A plan was devised that would reintroduce fifteen wolves into Yellowstone National Park by 1995.40 Wolves in this reintroduction plan are labeled experimental which allows them to be shot if they kill or harass any livestock.41 Eight of these wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park and four were released in central Idaho. The wolves that were being released into Yellowstone National Park had to be put in acclimation pens first, the first eight arrived on January, 13, 1995. Six more wolves were placed in the pens on January 20.42
These pens were erected in October, November, and December of 1994, in the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park.43 Once placed into the pens, they grew hostile to the caging. They tried to escape by biting the fences, jumping over, and digging under them. The wolves also paced along the edges of their perimeter, which created cement-like paths. This non-acceptance lasted briefly, but the wolves became accustomed to their surroundings, they behaved naturally. This acceptance typically took about one week. Some of the normal activities that were observed included howling, breeding, and playing. The howling caused an unexpected increase in the amount of howling done by the coyotes.44 Breeding was never observed during the time when the wolves were in the acclimation pens but several times during mating season, the wolves would disappear for a while into the trees and brush. Mating probably occurred during these absences.45
Playing was the most interesting part of the wolf observations. Since there was no wildlife in the pens, the wolves were fed road kill, elk, and deer. The remains of these carcasses were good sources of food for ravens. When a raven would swoop down to feed, the wolves chased them. In the acclimation pens, no ravens were caught, but in the wild, wolves were able to freely hunt the birds. Another wolf activity, younger wolves would parade around with bones in their mouth, effected other wolves to chase it in hopes of becoming the mightiest wolf.46 Since wolves associated the gate with humans, they would not approach it. A hole was then cut in the fence on the opposite side of the gate. It took the wolves a while but they eventually figured out that they could leave.
Each wolf had a different personality. When they were fed, some of them would approach the humans with aggressiveness, but never attacked because of their fear of humans. It is believed that these wolves were the leaders and had to show the others that they were brave enough to protect their territory. Other wolves would not venture near the humans but would not flee either. These wolves seemed interested to view what was happening, but had reservations toward humans. Last but not least, there were the wolves that stayed as far as possible from the humans. In the pens, there were doghouse-like structures made for the wolves. Only one wolf ever entered the houses, however. He entered it in fear immediately after a human entered the pen.
Several surveys revealed that most Americans think the reintroduction program is good for wolves and humans.47 A survey was also done with the farmers, the majority of them strongly approve of the reintroduction. These farmers included those who would have to deal with the wolves.48 To prove that most people wanted the reintroduction to continue, they threatened the state of Alaska that they would boycott the state if anything was done to stop the reintroduction.49
In a survey, there are always people in the middle of the subject. This is no exception to that fact. These people, however, believed that the reintroduction was a good idea as long as it was a natural process. They believed that there should not be any human intervention in the matter. They also fought for the fact that the farmers own the property that is possibly being affected.50
The natural movement of wolves was under way before the government became involved. Movement of wolves was first noticed in 1966.51 Currently, wolves are moving from Canada to the northern regions of Montana and Yellowstone National Park. They had already established seven packs of their own, but the government did not think that their movement was fast enough. The government then started the reintroduction project to help eliminate their threatened status.52
The wolves are a very important part of the food chain and ecosystem. Many myths and legends about wolves led people to believe that they are savage animals. However, the evidence in this paper suggests merely just the opposite: that wolves are necessary and should be reintroduced into their natural habitat.
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2 Grooms 19.
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