Wolves: Can't live with 'em, CAN live without 'em
January 1, 2003
by Julie Kay Smithson
Wolves -- can't live with 'em, CAN live without 'em. Does that sound too pro-human -- or perhaps too anti-wolf? Human/wolf conflicts aside, that's very likely what the decimated elk herd of the Northern Yellowstone would say!
Just for a moment, put yourself in the position of an elk cow, half-grown calf at your side, pregnant with another. You've had five good years of life, including the extreme winters of your home turf, the northern Yellowstone range that takes in parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. You are a healthy cow elk, your fat layer thick, your fur dense, your eyesight and hearing good.
Until today, you've been living a relatively normal life. Until today.
You've smelled the wolf scent, seen the remnants of other, less-swift elk. You've kept your growing youngster safe, felt the new life growing within you, feeling the protective instinct to safeguard two besides yourself.
Now you have seen, for the first time, the sights of the wolf pack trained on your calves -- both the one at your side and the one that's visible only by the telltale fullness of your distended belly.
Why have you at last been singled out for destruction? Why are your hooves and speed no longer enough to hold this happy pack of sport killers at bay?
Because there are no other elk left in this entire region. Your herd mates have succumbed, one or two or a half-dozen at a time, and the safety that was once had in numbers, has become a fraction. You are 'it' now.
It does not matter that the pack isn't particularly hungry. It does not matter that these Canadian wolves -- bigger than those that once lived in these parts, generations before you were calved -- are not 'native species to the northern Yellowstone.
What matters now is that you are making a decision: stand your ground and protect your calf or make a run for it and protect next year's calf. Either way, your odds are long.
You are hopelessly outnumbered. You can see over half a dozen wolves and there are still others outside your field of vision. Even if your hooves dispatch one or two, there will still be enough left in the pack to open your stomach and rip its precious contents asunder. Even with the knowledge that you've imparted to your juvenile calf, it is not yet big enough or strong enough to fight off so many flying bodies, encircling, coming in to nip and tear.
And then ... a shot. Another! The wolves look, as do you, to the end of the mountain meadow, where stands a figure with a long-rifle and other firearms, a thin cloud of bluish smoke rising before him. He is reloading faster than even the wolves can fathom, and again, Crack! Three wolves have fallen in the space of less than thirty seconds. The fourth shot makes the decision for the pack -- it flees back into the timber, while you stand on shaky legs, your calf leaning against you for support, both of you in semi-shock.
You've seen hunters before, but this one stands apart from the others. He is not here to hunt you. There are not enough elk left for that. There are not even enough elk left to be called a herd.
Even with your mighty flight instincts, you stand as if cast in bronze, staring at him in disbelief. He is still looking after the departing pack, and suddenly his voice rings out across the meadow, to echo up and down the mountains, in a primal yell of victory against the killers of the pack. For the first time since you were a calf yourself, you feel protected from harm.
Thank you for reading this.
Respectfully (but desperately),
The northern Yellowstone elk herd (what's left of it) and all grazing animals, their human stewards, their pets and their offspring.
By Julie Kay Smithson
213 Thorn Locust Lane
London, Ohio 43140
http://www.PropertyRightsResearch.org (about 350 articles about wolves and over 200 about elk archived)
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