There’s an excellent article over at the Colorado Sun titled “North Park is ground zero in Colorado’s wolf controversy. Ranchers want to know if anyone hears them.” Here’s an excerpt to set the scene.
North Park is ground zero in Colorado’s wolf controversy. Almost no one here supported the 2020 ballot measure to reintroduce wolves to the state. And now that the wolves have arrived on their own, wandering across the Wyoming state line and helping themselves to cattle, residents here are wondering whether the city dwellers who voted to bring back wolves will finally understand what they’ve been saying.
“I don’t think they care, no matter what we say to them,” said Kim Gittleson, sitting at her kitchen table with tired eyes after another night on wolf watch. “These cows are our living. We don’t want to see that happen to our cows, not just because it’s our livelihood. It’s just sad to see any animal tortured that way that you cared for.”
It would be easier, many locals say, to “shoot, shovel and shut up” when wolves prey on their livestock, although getting caught shooting a protected species could mean a $100,000 fine and a year in jail. The Gittlesons, though, said they are reporting every wolf sighting and attack to their local Colorado Parks and Wildlife agents, seeking government compensation for their dead cows, and asking for help to scare the pack away from the ranch.
The Gittleson ranch has become the case-in-point for what can happen when wolves learn they can take down a cow and keep coming back for more. Some unlucky rancher has to talk about it in the hopes of swaying public opinion, even a little, Don Gittleson said. Ranchers get that wolves are coming — through natural migration and next year, government reintroduction — but they want the right to use lethal force to defend their livestock and livelihood. Otherwise, North Parkers will quietly shoot wolves.
There’s more at the link. I recommend reading the whole thing to get the bigger picture of how government edicts, farming and ranching priorities, and the natural world are colliding in Colorado.
The dilemma of whether or not to reintroduce previously exterminated predators to a region is a problem precisely because most of those who favor it have lost sight of the realities of life. A predator will, repeat, will prey on anything slower, smaller or weaker than itself in order to survive. That’s its nature. There’s no escaping it. If you reintroduce a predator, the less predatory animals in that area are going to be prey, whether you like it or not. That applies to fluffy bunny wabbits, or yearling deer . . . or cows and calves.
Those who live close to the land understand this. It’s a competition between themselves and everything and everyone else who shares the land. It’s been that way since time immemorial, and it’s not going to change, no matter how much the tofu-waving, salad-spinning, vegan-proselytizing hordes of environmentalists would prefer to ignore it. Even their beloved Disney-fied symbols like “Bambi” turn out to be carnivores when they get the chance, killing and eating other animals. Don’t believe me? Watch this – but be warned, it’ll turn sensitive stomachs. It’s not an isolated incident, either. YouTube has more videos like it, as do other sources. Critters are going to get their nourishment, if necessary at the expense of the lives of other critters. That’s just the way it is.
I’m an African boy. I grew up in an environment where Nature really was “red in tooth and claw“. Ranchers and farmers there routinely lost (and still lose) animals to predators, and regarded it as a natural cost of doing business. If the losses were too great to bear, they’d hunt down and kill the predators – but they knew others would be back in due course. They hadn’t solved the problem, merely reduced it. They were, in fact, establishing themselves as the top predators on their land, and natural predators learned (if necessary the hard way) to avoid it and seek out areas where they could prey on lesser animals without provoking their own demise. Human beings themselves are relatively slow, weak and defenseless compared to many wild animals; which is why older, slower predators often turn to man-eating, because homo sapiens is easier prey than things with horns, hooves and speed. The average American would blench at the thought that something might deliberately hunt him or her for breakfast . . . but in large parts of Africa and some areas of the Asian sub-continent, that’s a daily occurrence. Welcome to reality.
Environmentalists, particularly the bunny-hugging urban variety, have largely lost sight of that. They simply can’t visualize a reality in which some animals have to die in order that others may live. Nevertheless, that’s how the circle of life works in the big, bad world out there. It’s a universal precept that cannot be violated. Predators eat prey. Try making a lion into a vegetarian and he’ll die, because he’s become a meat-eater through natural selection and adaptation. Try making a cow into a carnivore and ditto, for the opposite reason.
If you reintroduce wolves into Colorado, the cattle ranchers who now regard the land as “theirs”, and their cows as “their property”, are going to run headlong into competition from the wolves over who’s going to eat what for supper. There’s simply no avoiding that. If the state of Colorado, and the environmentalists who succeeded in passing laws like that, want to have wolves around, they’re going to have to compensate ranchers for losses among their herds. If they don’t, the ranchers – themselves the descendants of the “super-predators” who exterminated wolves in Colorado to begin with – are going to do what their ancestors did, and eliminate the threat to their livelihood. No law in the world is going to prevent that. It’s the nature of things, and you can’t change nature, no matter how much you may want to do that.
It matters not whether laws protect the wolves. I could pass a law tomorrow saying that the sky is not blue, but red. I could make it illegal to refer to the sky as anything but red. That would merely mean that I’d codified a lie into law – not that the sky really was anything but blue. I’d have made the law into an ass. That’s precisely what such environmental laws do when they try to protect predators against those who are suffering losses to them. No edicts protecting the predators will stop ranchers from defending their livelihood, as they have every natural right to do. If you expect ranchers to effectively subsidize predators by allowing the latter to “steal” their cattle, you’re robbing them as surely as if you stuck a gun in their face and demanded their money – and the ranchers, quite rightly, won’t stand for it. You’re either going to compensate them, fairly and equitably, for the losses they suffer, or they’re going to stop those losses by killing the predators, just as their grandfathers and great-grandfathers did. If I were in their shoes, I’d do exactly the same thing, and I wouldn’t lose a moment’s sleep over it.
Of course, hard-core environmentalists would prefer to see the ranchers stop ranching, and have everyone eat tofu instead of T-bone steaks. If there were no ranchers, they reckon they could have wolves everywhere, and nobody would care. (I daresay they didn’t ask Bambi for her opinion about that.) Sadly, they’re living in cloud cuckoo land. Ranchers do exist, and so do their cattle; and the irresistible force of predators and their environmentalist sponsors is now running headlong into the immovable object of the cattle industry and the people they feed. My money’s on the ranchers and their customers for the win in the long term.