What Does Coexistence with Large Carnivores Actually Mean?

Mexican wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

1to exist together or at the same time
2to live in peace with each other especially as a matter of policy

Coexistence is not –notably – existing together only until it becomes inconvenient or burdensome and then calling in Wildlife Services to kill or remove your neighbors. I’m sick to death of these ranchers in Mexican wolf habitat who claim to practice coexistence but always, always, have the trump card of killing, capturing, or removing wolves in hand. Maybe we need to review the definition of “exist” as well?

It isn’t just that they claim to practice it either. It’s that they take a metric ton of money premised on their willingness to reduce conflicts, both from federal* and private sources. They suck up federal and private compensation money when their cows get killed by lobos (even when confirmations are sketchy, at best). And don’t even get me started on the artificially low federal grazing fee for public lands livestock. And really don’t get me started on the truckload of other subsidies these folks get for the privilege of producing a tiny fraction of U.S. beef on national forests and arid BLM lands. I. Can’t. Even.

Collectively, we throw a ton of taxpayer money at these folks and they still can’t deal with sharing space with Mexican wolves. Instead, they believe they are entitled to the have the cake they are already eating. It all seems insane until you realize that the whole cowboy myth is built on that same sense of entitlement, whether it’s wolves or bison or prairie dogs or southwestern willow flycatchers or … you name an imperiled species in the western United States and there’s very likely a close connection to livestock being part of the problem. (It’s a twisted and less-fun version of the Kevin Bacon game.)

Unless you are a rancher who is willing to forego removals of wolves for livestock depredations, you aren’t coexisting. You’re pretending. And we see you.


* Sorry if this is behind a paywall for you. It’s about a new source of money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: $886,255 to a coalition of ranchers, conservation groups and tribes in the West to research and adopt nonlethal ways to reduce conflicts between wildlife and livestock.

Greta Anderson is a plant nerd, a desert rat, and a fan of wildness. She is the Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project.