The First Word

Chase Davis’ “Humans and Wolves: A Vitriolic Relationship Built Upon Misconceptions” is kicking off 2019’s First Word column. It was nominated by Dr. Patti Marchesi.

Dr. Marchesi said the following about Chase’s essay:

Chase’s essay is polished and well-organized. It introduces us to the history of wolf-human interaction and the current state of wolf recovery, and argues for the protection of the species. It does all of this within the scope of a 2-3 page paper!

Humans and Wolves: A Vitriolic Relationship Built Upon Misconceptions

Throughout all of history, wolves have been regarded as sinister and dangerous creatures, destined to pose a threat to the nature of humanity. However, in recent years, it has become clear that quite the opposite is true. As a result of human malpractices, wolf species across the world have started to decline at an exponential rate. As someone who thoroughly enjoys studying the psychology of human nature and how it impacts the surrounding environment, I found this topic particularly interesting. Fear has bred unwarranted hatred against the wolf population, and has led to a sense of ecological disregard for this rapidly declining  keystone species. The only way to reverse this trend of declination is to properly educate the public on the truth about wolves, and to advocate against their mistreatment.

The history of our species’ hatred against wolves goes back to approximately 8,000 BC, when humans first began to develop agricultural communities through the domestication of animals (Lamplugh). No longer did humans move with the land in a nomadic lifestyle, but rather they opted to settle down, maintaining small plots of pasture. Those parcels of land were often in wolf territory, and gave wolves the opportunity to do what they do best: hunt the easiest prey possible. Suddenly, wolves became competitors with humans. As both species moved into the Middle Ages, human folk stories and myths began to portray wolves as undeniably savage creatures, often preying on children or the elderly (Lamplugh). A spark of fear was lit, lighting a flame that has persisted through the centuries.

Today, populations of wolves in certain areas of the world are unstable as a result of human interference and anti-wolf government policies. In America specifically, the gray wolf population was decimated in the 1930’s as a result of bounties and sport killings. In 1974, after several years of advocating and battling with the federal government, wolves were listed as a protected species under the Endanger Species Act (ESA). Wolves were reintroduced to areas in which they had previously been exterminated, and several hunting restrictions were put into place for their protection. The population finally started to regrow and stabilized. However, in the past two years, federal and state governments have worked to weaken the ESA, and so far, are succeeding. In late 2018, Congress passed the Manage our Wolves Act, H.R. 6784, which called for the “removal of the gray wolf in the contiguous 48 States from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife published under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (U.S. Congress).” This act poses a massive threat to the gray wolf population, especially in states such as Wyoming, were state legislature has already promoted an unlimited killing of wolves across 80% of the state (Presso). A species, not fully recovered from a 70 year old genocide, is once again in the crosshairs of anti-environmental policy, and without intervention, may never stablize.

Many people may argue that the current situation with the wolves is not as dire as it can be made out to be. Some say that the gray wolf population has far exceeded recovery goals, and, by the scientific standards of the ESA, wolves have no reason to remain listed as endangered (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). While it may be true that the wolf population has made great strides in its recovery, it is not fully stable. According to John Mellgren, attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, “ it is almost laughable for the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine that (wolves) are successfully recovered, given that grey wolves in the Lower 48 states occupy such a small percentage of their historical habitat.” Furthermore, by removing the protections and restrictions on the wolf population, the doors once again open for hunting for sport and for government incentives for the killing of wolves.

It is going to be up to everyday citizens to change how society perceives wolves, and advocate for their protection. People need to learn not to view wolves as monstrous creatures, but rather as a unique keystone species, with many complex, yet vital connections to the environment. Furthermore, citizens need to advocate to their local representatives to fight upcoming bills designed to change the ESA for political gain, and to reinstate unstable species such as the gray wolf. Lorretta Lynch put it best when she said “We all have a responsibility to protect endangered species, both for their sake and for the sake of our own future generations (Lynch).” I know that I want my children to still be able to see the majestic beauty of wolves. The question is, do you?

Works Cited

Lamplugh, Rick. “Creating a World of Wolf Haters.” Oregon Wild, 12 Dec. 2013, https://oregonwild.org/creating-world-wolf-haters.

Mellgren, John. “Trump Admin Announces Intent to Strip Wolves of Endangered Species Protections in Lower 48.” Western Environmental Law Center, 6 Mar. 2019, https://westernlaw.org/trump-admin-announces-intent-strip-wolves-endangered-species-protections-lower-48/.

Presso, Tim. “Timeline: Wolves in Danger.” Earthjustice, 20 July 2019, https://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/wolves-in-danger-timeline-milestones.

United States Congress, “Manage Our Wolves Act.” H.R. 6784. https://www.congress.gov/115/bills/hr6784/BILLS-115hr6784ih.pdf.

 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus).” Fish and Wildlife Service, 11 June 2019, https://www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery/.

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