Midwest Wolves Fall Prey to PR Scam

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in late January that there are now enough gray wolves in the wilds of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan to warrant taking the wolf off the federal roster of endangered and threatened species in the upper Midwest.

About 4,000 wolves now roam across the three states, according to the agency.

Real conservationists see another Endangered Species Act success story. But slob hunters and apologists for land-abusing industries–including those who’d rather let Safari Club International chapters do their talking–are salivating over their gun sights.

The Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, in cahoots with SCI and an outfit called the Wisconsin Bear Hunters’ Association, needed only a day or two to roll out a 30-second “Little Red Riding Hood” TV ad it plans to air through the rest of this year.

“People used to believe that wolves lived in remote forests, but the reality is that the wolf population has exploded to the point where they are now wreaking havoc on cows, sheep, dogs and property,” SCI’s Bob Welch said in a news release which the Madison Capital Times newspaper quoted Jan. 30.

I checked the Web site of the Capital Times and could find no archived stories there about this alleged “wreaking of havoc” by big bad wolves. A Google search turned up Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources data detailing a whopping 54 cases of wolf depredation in Wisconsin over 23 years (1976-1998). Do the arithmetic. That’s slightly more than two depredation cases a year for 23 years.

So much for the “wreaking of havoc.”

Put it into perspective. More cows and sheep–far more, in fact–perish from disease and weather.

But SCI and its fellow fear-mongers (did they read Karl Rove’s political campaign playbook?) see attacks on calves, sheep, turkeys, and hunting dogs as just the first step toward more horrific tales.

“[T]he danger may be closer than you think,” the spot’s announcer says over video of children on a playground.

Wolf haters like SCI’s advertising reps keep trying to document wild canid attacks on humans, but with scant success. That’s because the alleged attacks are hearsay.

“It’s really playing on the fear factor,” Pam Troxell of the Timber Wolf Alliance told the newspaper about the TV spot.

It’s conceivable that a rabid or healthy wolf attacked and/or killed a human somewhere sometime since Columbus stepped ashore. The closely-related coyote has occasionally been known to attack people, but in most of those cases the animal was rabid.

If SCI is going to issue these public safety advisories, it should also warn us about the much greater danger of poodle attacks and man-eating garter snakes while encouraging the public to don hardhats for protection against meteors.

Keep in mind that pro-wolf groups don’t resort to children’s fables like the three little piggies to make their point.

But, hey, it’s the shark-bite syndrome again.

Anyone who watches cable “news” programs knows the scenario:

A hammerhead bites a young, vivacious teenager in the surf off a hotel-studded beach somewhere in the South.

The media–print, electronic, Internet–subsequently go crazy to the point of colliding satellite trucks.

Soon, reporters (most wearing windbreakers emblazoned with their stations’ fancy logos; even though it’s 90F under beach umbrellas) show up, interviewing anyone who remembers talking to someone who talked to someone who talked to someone about the alleged “shark incident.”

The story grows new legs for longevity when Bill O’Reilly and Rush accuse “enviro-Nazis” of overturning regulations that would have saved the “victim.”

Yes, we should all begin wearing hardhats for protection against rocks falling from the sky.

Oh, but what about other threats, like ticks and Lyme disease?

Check this PDF file. Then look in vain for mention somewhere of SCI alerting the gnome-like public to be careful in tick country.

Oh, and what about those pythons squirming across Florida swamps?

Where was SCI’s leadership in informing the public of that threat?

No doubt there are similar sets of data for poodle attacks.

Some of the best remaining big game habitat in the lower 48 is also home to wolves. And these wild places offer the best fair-chase hunting opportunities.

But then slob hunters and their kin don’t care about the fair-chase aspect. They only want the trophy. And they can’t stand the thought of wolves doing what God told them to–eat deer and elk.

ALAN GREGORY writes from the wolf-free state of Pennsylvania, where he crafts conservation columns for a daily newspaper. Retired from the Air Force, Alan grew up in Idaho — alas, before wolves returned to the mountains.

This article originally appeared on Lowbagger.org, the best website for environmental news with an edge.