Here is a letter e-mailed to Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Mr. Ashe is considering plans to permit wolf hunting in Wyoming. I post this letter in the continuing hope that words have meaning and effect. The letter includes my poem “Weapons of War” and asks some questions I would love to have answered. If it encourages anyone to become more involved, that would be wonderful. A list of those who received the e-mail, in modified form as appropriate, follows. If there is someone else to add to the conversation, please let me know.
Dear Director Ashe:
Here is a poem on a much-discussed subject. Sometimes I find that, when prose fails, poetry can bridge the gap.
Weapons of War
The mighty rage
ready their weapons
steel their hearts
polish their hate
having nothing to polish,
avoid the fray
armed only with craft, skill
and a survivor’s will
I also have some questions about wolf de-listing and the authorization to hunt in Montana, Idaho, and possibly now Wyoming.
1. What has been the problem/inadequacy with the federal compensation program when wolves attack livestock?
2. Can any inadequacies be fixed?
3. Can a hunting program be fashioned which is designed specifically to limit livestock losses? That is, can wolf hunting be permitted solely on an as-needed basis, rather than for sport?
4. What other means exist, besides hunting, to protect livestock? How can these means be promoted?
5. What can be done to encourage and support those ranchers who do use means other than hunting to protect their livestock – i.e. dogs, electrified fences, etc.
6. If hunting must be for sport, then let it be sport – i.e. no trapping, no air searches, no calling or baiting. Idaho permits trapping with a 72-hour trap check. 72 hours! That’s torture before death.
7. How can we justify a full-scale hunt when we collar wolves, encourage them to approach and be observed? In my experience, wolves who permit themselves to be viewed up close have all been collared. Instead of increasing their fear of humans, this seems to acclimate them to a human presence. Are we now to shoot them?
8. How can a “plan”, such as Idaho’s, which envisions the killing of 850 out of ˜1,000 wolves be called management?
Above all, hunting and management decisions must be based on facts, not fear, and science rather than myth. In sum, before permitting hunting in Wyoming or continuing approvals for hunting elsewhere, can you help to fashion a limited, controlled, factually-based management program which meets legitimate needs? Until this can happen, wolf hunting can wait.