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Wild Wolf Encounters
Songs for a Beloved Friend
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in its comment period on their proposal to remove the wolf from the Endangered Species Act in the lower 48. Hearings are being held throughout the country. If you can go, please do. If that’s not possible, please write or call. They need to hear from people who want the wolf protected, not only from those who don’t.
Here are additional/alternative ways to comment on the wolf de-listing, provided courtesy of Amelia at Mungai and the Goa Constrictor and Carmen Mandel. Thank you!!
photo from “Wolves Cross the Road” in Wild Wolf Encounters, True Stories of Wolves in the Wild
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed to de-list the gray wolf in the lower 48 United States. USFWS thinks wolves are fully recovered as a healthy population and can withstand anything thrown their way. If this proposed regulation is enacted, the wolf would lose the protections of the Endangered Species Act in the states where such protections still exist. We have seen what has happened when wolves were de-listed in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. These states submitted management plans to the USFWS which permitted hunting of hundreds of wolves, down to a population of approximately 100 a state. USFWS approved these plans, and the frenzied slaughter continues. Most of our country’s wolves existed in those three states and in the national parks which adjoin them. You have heard me talk about this here before – many times.
Comments on this proposed de-listing can be made to USFWS electronically through December 17, 2013 by following this link: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service electronic comments (The link www.regulations.gov is not functioning at the time of posting; hopefully it will soon work. Please don’t give up.) Update: link is now functioning. Docket ID number is
FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073-30560 You need this number to enter a comment; number is sometimes but not always available on the link (!).
USFWS is coming to Colorado and will hold a public hearing on November 19. I will be there to give my comments in person. On October 16, Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation organizations hosted a public comment meeting to replace one cancelled by USFWS when the federal government shut down. I also made comments at this hearing. What follows is some version of the comments I intend to give November 19 and something like the comments I did give on October 16.
Please, inform yourselves about what is happening and is about to happen to wolves in this country. If you care, communicate with USFWS. They need to hear from more people who have a stake in ongoing wolf recovery and protection in the U.S.
And thank you, Mungai and the Goa Constrictor, for spreading the word on this and other issues and for encouraging me to do the same.
November 19, 2013 Proposed Remarks to US Fish and Wildlife Service:
Hello U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
So happy to have you here, so you can see and hear firsthand how concerned the speakers tonight are about the continued viability on the land, the continued flourishing, the long-term good health of the gray wolf. As they go, so do we go.
Some of us attended and spoke at the meeting held October 16 at the University of Denver College of Law. Just to be sure you got my remarks from that meeting, I have submitted them as a comment. This comment tonight is more of a plea from the heart. Perhaps you might call it a scream from the heart.
What is happening to the gray wolf in the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming is nothing short of a nightmare. I wish it were only a nightmare, but it’s a living truth. Those states have submitted, and you have approved, management plans which called for and successfully carried out the killing of most of the wolves in those states. Numbers don’t lie. They don’t even exaggerate. The small population that survives can’t, without being shot, migrate outside limited national park boundaries to insure reproductive health of the species; may not be able to sustain themselves through cycles of disease; may not continue to thrive in the face of climate change which affects the habitat, health and numbers of their prey populations.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t seem to understand that Americans want wolves on the land. We want their beauty, we need their wildness, we value the benefits they bring to the ecosystems they inhabit. We crave a connection to wolves. Thousands flock to the national parks in the hope of seeing them. And when we are indeed lucky enough to see them, we realize that the fairy tales we were weaned on have nothing at all to do with their reality.
Wolves are not ferocious creatures eager to slash and kill. They are glorious wild things, not subject to our control but still very curious about us, willing to stop and take a good look. Those encounters are moments to cherish for a lifetime.
When wolves were protected by the Endangered Species Act throughout the country, I got up every morning and thought to myself, today is a good day. Wolves are safe. You can imagine what it’s like to get up today and be forced to confront the slaughter that passes for an approved management plan.
The mission statement of the USFWS, as set forth in the June 13 bulletin initiating the comment period for proposed regulations concerning gray and Mexican wolves, requires you to:
work… with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people (emphasis added).
It also requires you to:
actively engage… with conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species
[F]or the continuing benefit of the American people – not just for a few people, not just for the ones who live near wolf populations; not just for people who are privileged to graze cattle on public land near wolf populations – land that belongs to every one of us in this room and in this country; but for all Americans, for me, for my children, for all of us and all our children, for our land, for our ideas about ourselves as decent people, for us. That is your mission and your duty.
And working with others in improved and innovative ways to conserve, enhance, protect, recover is also part of your mission. You need to listen to more people. You need to broaden the scope of your collaborators. You need to listen to us tonight. We are sickened by this killing and it has got to stop.
We learned in the civil rights movement that when the states can’t get the job done, the federal government has to step in. That’s why we have a federal government. And the states are not getting the job of preservation done. They’re getting their own agenda done far too well. We need the Fish and Wildlife to act, to take up once again a rather shredded mantle of protection.
Comments in more or less this form given at October 16 hearing organized by Defenders of Wildlife and others:
Thank you, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for being willing to listen to the remarks of those who have a stake in wolf re-introduction in the lower 48 states.
My name is Monica Glickman. I live in Denver and have communicated with the Fish and Wildlife service many times, by letter and email. I hope you think my communications have been civil. I believe utterly that people who disagree, or believe they disagree, can speak and listen to each other in a civil way. It’s the foundation of our democratic system, and without that ability, we do not function as a society.
I have encountered wolves in the wild a few times. Not many but a very special few. These encounters have been in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Some of these encounters have been for extended periods. For example, one encounter at Grebe Lake in Yellowstone permitted us to watch throughout the day a wolf coming and going to his kill at the lake. He knew we were there and permitted us to watch quietly from a distance. When hikers came by, he retreated into the forest. There was never a hint of a threat.
On another very special occasion in the Tetons, we encountered 2 wolves, I believe a mating pair, who may have been concerned about pups in a den. There was never a close approach, never a threat, simply a watchful interest.
Other encounters were quicker. Wolves crossing the road on their way to another kill, where 200 people waited for them. We got our own show, as they stopped at the top of the road cut to look at us. One melted into the trees. The other stopped for a long time. Curious, he stared, before going on about his important business.
On another occasion at Shoshone Lake in Yellowstone, the encounter was of a different kind. We hiked to the lake. My husband decided to take a nap while I explored the lakeshore. I returned about an hour later, and we packed up to go. On the trail, impossible to miss, was an enormous black pile of wolf scat. And disappearing into the grasses across the meadow was a large black canine. My husband was asleep on the ground. Again, no threat. Only a message – “I was here”.
The connection between wolves and humans is palpable. We seek them out, and the fascination is mutual. They always stop to look, and when a wolf looks you in the eyes, you will never forget it. Those days are among the most special of my life.
So I take it personally when wolves are shot. I take it personally when fear and myth govern their management. Management decisions, particularly at the state level, are being based upon the idea of an evil, mythical creature who kills for pleasure. I have heard people say this, and they believe it in good faith.
But you know better. So I am asking you, Fish and Wildlife Service, to take care, to take very good care that decisions regarding wolf re-introduction and continued protection are based upon fact and science, and not upon fear, hate, or myth. Those who have the power to manage wolves, whether they act for federal or state governments, must not base their decisions upon fear. This cannot be permitted.
Others will talk to you about the benefits wolves bring to the ecosystem and the ways their effect on livestock can be minimized. The science is there for you to consider.
Wolves, like other animals, including their prey, are subject to cycles of disease. And we don’t know the effect global warming will have on their ability to find food and to sustain their numbers. We can’t let those numbers get to a bare minimum and then find out we have mis-judged.
Wolves have a right to be here, and we have to find a way to live with them.
You, Fish and Wildlife, can help find another way. The day of large predator eradication is over. The day of government accountability has dawned. As concerned citizens, we ask this of you. We demand this of you. Find another way! You can do it!
I didn’t tell the full truth in my last post. Probably to protect the … well, not exactly innocent.
To tell the full story, I have to go back a dozen years to one of our earliest semi-annual spring and fall trips to Yellowstone. That fall day we had been hiking without seeing any animals. This wasn’t unusual for those early visits. We seemed to see more animals from the road than in the backcountry, and sometimes that is still true.
As we reach the car, two men on trail crew stop us to say that down another nearby trail, a grizzly is at his kill. I’m sure they mean to keep us away, and who would want to go running toward a grizzly defending his meal ticket through the long Yellowstone winter? As soon as I hear their words, I know the answer.
My husband would want to go down that trail. Running. I try a few dissuasive phrases that sound like “blah, blah, blah” to his ears. I give up and settle in the car, as he grabs his camera and binoculars and starts to rush back into the woods. “It’s been nice knowing ya’,” I offer. Not knowing whether I would see him again, or in what form, I add, “Toss me the car keys.” I am very proud of my presence of mind.
Then I wait. And wait. Eventually, my husband returns. He has indeed come upon the grizzly, who rises up and growls at him while he takes some photos and a very shaky video. He is breathing hard but is still in one piece. Some might describe this behavior in unflattering terms, but others would call this person an optimist.
This same optimist is the one who decided, without much consultation, to plunge ahead into last post’s buffalo herd. I would have been content to find a way around them – there was plenty of daylight and the weather was cooperative. But I had no chance, as the plunger turned his back on me, increasing the distance between us with every step. I had the choice to find my own way around the buffalo, leaving him to his luck with the herd; continue what was proving to be an increasingly loud discussion which might have irritated the animals; or follow along. I followed.
So there you have it! Optimist, realist? It’s been nice knowing ya’!
Over the River and Through the Wood – Oh, and Through the Buffalo Herd – We Go
We didn’t really go over the river, but we did have to go through a large buffalo herd. On our hike into Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley, buffalo were on the move far from the trail.
On our return trip, however, they were close by, on and around the trail, too many to skirt without hiking extra miles. So in we plunged, cows with calves giving us the eye, large individuals picking their heads up to look, expressions of indeterminate intent on their faces.We reached a clump of trees and waited quietly, hoping to accustom them to our presence. Some, not close by, were making a deep lowing, almost a growling sound. We had heard this sound from afar earlier in the day and prayed it was not directed our way. When they began to graze again, we continued to walk. My steps were slow and deliberate, accompanied by a soothing Sanskrit chant. At least it calmed me down. The buffalo seemed mildly interested. They kept chewing and did not get up. Please don’t get up!
Almost through the herd, I turned around to see someone in ranger’s uniform close behind me. He was almost running, his two walking poles moving at race speed. So much for slow and deliberate. My first thought was that he was hurrying to give me a ticket. But he thanked us for showing him the way! Oh, and thank you for not stampeding them!
You talk the talk
and we walk the walk
but when nose goes to sniff
and tail begs to wag
Where are you?
In Yellowstone, no doubt
where we can’t follow
not having the bona-fides
and not caring to lounge around all day
while you work up an appetite
on the trail
and not knowing why in the world you
would want to leave home,
Red tail feathers
spread in gliding flight
riding currents up and back
tightening circles over arms stretched wide
taking time to ponder me
Red-Tailed Hawk courtesy of U.S. National Park Service
public domain photo
Sleek lines lift
through onrushing air
gleams strength absent will