Through Different Eyes

Wolves have always inspired passion in humans, whether in the
form of fear or wonder. In the US, those passions have brought
great tension between those who see the wolf as a sheep-eating
menace and those who would defend the animal as a misunderstood
friend.

Thomas R. Petersen examines the ‘real’ wolf for Orion
Online
and how history, myth, and the reintroduction of
the species into the West has colored our relationship with the big
bad, good little wolf.

Europeans arrived in America with a medieval fear of wolves
straight out of Little Red Riding Hood. As settlers moved
west and railroad hunters picked off buffalo herds, wolves were
forced to indulge the devil-incarnate perception of their species
by turning to livestock for food. Ranchers and the government bit
back by hiring wolf killers, who used strychnine-laced meat to
exterminate an estimated one million wolves between 1850 and 1900,
along with ranch dogs, eagles, and children who ate the meat.

In the fifty years that followed, folks who migrated from
ranches to cities formed a culture less empathetic with livestock
and therefore less hateful toward wolves. The environmentalism of
the ’60s and ’70s added to this mix, and Congress passed the
Endangered Species Act, which would eventually protect wolves, in
1973.

But those close to the land still feared wolves’ beefy
appetites, and packs of pro- and anti-wolf activists bristled over
the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone and central Idaho in
the ’90s. Petersen remembers an anti-wolf parade with signs
reading, ‘The wolf is the next Saddam Hussein.’

A decade later, the success of the reintroduction program has
reined in extreme views of wolves. Environmentalists are heartened
by a population that’s grown from 31 to 301, and ranchers have
begun to trust the US Fish and Wildlife Service to deal quickly
with problem wolves.

Petersen hopes we continue to inch closer together and make room
for wolves as the dialogue continues. He calls on our ability as
humans, concerned for the welfare of other species, to take one
another’s attitudes and values into consideration in our collective
decision-making.
Morgon Mae Schultz

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Through Different Eyes

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