Wolves, cattle, wilderness and control

I’m reminded, yet again, that in so many cases, government edicts or actions don’t necessarily have anything to do with the problem they claim to address.  Instead, they’re an attempt to impose greater control over part or all of the populace, so that bureaucrats and special interest groups can force their will upon them.  Gun control?  It’s about control, not guns.  Obamacare?  It’s about centralized control of health care and those who need it, not about medicine as such.  Draconian traffic rules and regulations?  It’s all too often about “revenue generation by cop”, rather than road safety.

The latest example may be wolf conservation.  This article admittedly appears to be biased in favor of ranchers grazing their cattle on public lands:  but it also presents some interesting facts.

The proposed ballot measure forcing introduction of wolves into Western Colorado has touched off another debate pitting ranchers and livestock advocates against proponents (primarily the Sierra Club and a coalition of outside environmental organizations calling themselves the Southern Rockies Wolf Restoration Project.) They argue the supposed benefits, and the dangers, of bringing in wolves. But it seems clear to me that this debate is not about wolves – it is about cattle.

This has almost nothing to do with wildlife. The canine predators are merely the latest tool in a generation-long campaign to stop ranchers from raising cattle, and Americans from eating beef.

. . .

For years, environmental industry websites have used language like this: “… do not want to eliminate all grazing, but instead, we advocate for management that ensures grazing practices are sustainable, allowing lands to remain ecologically diverse with healthy, functioning ecosystems.” Translation: we want to ban cows on public lands, but can’t admit it because that might be unpopular.

Indeed, it would be extremely unpopular if people understood its impact on the food supply.

. . .

Almost 20 years ago, the “Foundation for Deep Ecology” published a giant full-color book railing against cattle grazing. “Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West” was dedicated to those “who have had the courage and insight to challenge the use of America’s public lands as private feedlots, and who have dreamed of western landscapes made wild and whole again.”

Still, some anti-cattle leaders understood Americans were not about to give up beef. But they knew how deeply people care about wildlife, so they devised the wolf strategy. Knowing wolves and cattle don’t peacefully coexist, if they could reintroduce wolves into the mix, nature would take care of the “cattle problem.”

Mike Phillips, director of billionaire land magnate Ted Turner’s Endangered Species Fund, outlined that strategy in a wolf symposium speech in 2000. He spoke about wolf reintroductions in the south, and in Yellowstone. But the climax of his wolf speech was an attack on the cattle industry.

There’s more at the link.

I have a particular interest in the wolf problem because, as part of writing my Ames Archives Western series of novels, I’ve studied the historical evidence about the relationship between predators and cattle.  There’s more than abundant evidence that wolves killed and injured thousands of cattle every year, particularly calves and nursing mothers, until the predators were brought under control through a determined program that amounted to extermination in many districts.  (You’ll find a few infamous cattle-killing wolves listed here:  follow the links for more information.)  I think extermination programs went too far:  but, if I’d been a rancher back then, watching my herds (and my livelihood) decimated by such predation, I’d probably have been a lot more sympathetic to them.

Advocates for the wolves tend to gloss over that historical reality, or even deny it altogether.  I went on a tour of one wolf sanctuary in Colorado where the guide, in so many words, insisted that wolves are delicate, sensitive creatures who’ve been misunderstood by ranchers, and there was no reason why they couldn’t coexist with cattle.  I think ranchers and farmers of my acquaintance (and yes, I know a few of each) would have a rather different and more sulfurous opinion!

Be that as it may, I’m deeply skeptical about the actions of the pro-wolf lobby in this clash of interests.  The former appear to be trying to ride roughshod over the objections of the ranchers (who surely have an equally valid say in the matter), and force the reintroduction of wolves to areas where they’d long been eradicated, regardless of the effect of such a step on the farmers and ranchers who’ve taken over the area in the interim.  They refuse to deal with the reality on the ground:  they’d rather ignore it, and/or compel it to change under the impact of legislated force majeure measures.  “The people have voted for this – therefore, you’ve got to do it, whether you like it or not!”  The fact that the people doing the voting are, in most cases, urban residents who know little or nothing about ranching or farming, but are casting their ballots with their emotions stirred up by heart-rending propaganda videos about the poor, misunderstood wolf, is never mentioned.

That perspective is also evident in the language of the ballot proposal.  It says merely that in the event of wolf predation of cattle, the rancher and the State of Colorado shall attempt to negotiate a figure for compensation.  If that negotiation fails, or is not undertaken in good faith by either side . . . what then?  The matter reverts to the courts, and that’s too expensive for most ranchers and farmers to do in every case.  It seems to me like they’d be on a hiding to nowhere.

It’s a dilemma, to be sure:  but I think there are few efforts being made to seriously listen to, and/or accommodate, the interests of both sides.  Instead, it’s coming down to control, yet again.  “Do as I say – or else!”  Unfortunately for the environmentalists, the practice known as “shoot, shovel and shut up” is as applicable as ever.  I know it’s been applied to unpopular conservation programs more than once.  I expect it will happen again.  There’s no controlling that!



  1. The introduction of wolves into Central Arizona doesn't seem to have created the problem that others outline, but I'm sure that it's just a matter of time and the wolves will start dipping into the grazing cattle population.

  2. One thing they always leave out (or outright lie about) is that the wolves being introduced now are NOT the same wolves that used to be there. The wolves being introduced now are Canadian wolves; the former inhabitants in most cases were Great Lakes wolves. The Canadian wolves are much more aggressive and average 40 lbs heavier.

  3. The wildlife biologist do-gooders are near-sighted, the effect on rural locals matters little because they consider the rancher the intruder (despite still wanting cheap hamburgers).

    On a recent trip to a Central Wyoming ranch the locals are having a very serious problem with wolf packs taking out livestock. This new breed is much larger and by observation seem to hunt merely for sport. Ranchers are hamstrung…coyotes attacking cattle are legally dispatched, but wolves are "protected". Here in Northern Colorado we have had one show up on occasion, cattle dogs offer good protection.

  4. You touched on this aspect…the Colorado Front Range, where a large number on the Left moved over the past 30 years, are dictating to the rest of the state, which consists mostly of ranches and ag. At some point the rural areas will revolt (Red Flag being the latest).

  5. The ecofreaks never quit because their activities have little costs, and no adverse consequences, to them. One example, going on for years in Western Colorado, involves sage grouse.

    Over the years I've come to know several of these people and there is one common denominator. Most are trust funders, don't have to work to put food on the table.

  6. I foresee tracking collars heading east on I-70 at 75 mph after being tossed on top of a tourist's suv while they are shopping in Walmart.

    On the other hand, I have crossed paths with wolves while hiking and also seen them several times in Yellowstone and they are magnificent to watch.

  7. Regarding the Three S Solution:

    Shoot a wolf, and you solve your problems for a day.
    Shoot a pro-wolf biologist or eco-tard, and you solve the problem for decades.

    When there are entire counties those idiots can't safely drive into, your worries are over.

  8. We have wolves back up here in northern Maine. We have seen them stalking our cattle. We use Ovcharkas for livestock guardian dogs, so the predators go down the road where they only have to deal with Border Collies.

    Also the loggers don't like wolves up here. If loggers don't like you up here, you probably will go extinct.

  9. This reeks of the pukes that ran the United Nations "wildlands" project. Agenda 21?

    The New American magazine warned of this back in the last century. As I recall it, the watermelon pukes intended to have no humans in a wide swath of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico.

    The sooner the U.N. is removed from the North American continent, and the sooner the U.S. taxpayer is relieved of paying the U.N. bills,and the removal of all their Gaia-worshipping religious lunatics, the better.

  10. Eco-fascists point out that after wolves were introduced into Yellowstone, the populations of grazers was reduced, which allowed for trees and shrubs to grow back, and for other creatures to return in significant numbers, like beaver and porcupine, that provide habitat for other species.

    Of course, the non-eco-fascists had a different solution. Allow more hunting of said grazer herds. But that wasn't what the eco-fascists wanted.

    The eco-fascists also promised that the wolves wouldn't leave Yellowstone and attack cattle. But the wolves did, and do. How do we know? From the GPS tracking collars on the wolves. Why isn't this better reported? Because it doesn't fit the message that the eco-fascists want us to hear.

    Now these same eco-fascists are using the Yellowstone model in not-Yellowstone. Gee, no-one alive can foresee what will happen in a few years once packs become dominant.

    And, of course, eco-fascists try to cover up the fact that grey wolves are known to kill for fun, not for meat. So their effect on the grazer populations is much more destructive than what is supposed to happen.

    At least cougars/puma/mountain lions tend not to kill for fun, and are pretty solitary. Wolves, not so much.

    People forget that wolves will predate man. The lack of evidence of missing people being eaten by wolves is actually more evidence of solitary people being picked off by wolves than not being evidence of wolf predation, since wolves tend to gnaw bones to destruction.

    People also forget that such tales as 'Peter and the Wolf' and 'Little Red Riding Hood' are cautionary tales of man's interaction with wolves. The Russians even have a phrase that translates roughly as 'throw the babies and old people off the wagon/sled' meaning toss the old and young as decoys to the wolves in order for the more fit and useful to escape.

    Yeah, wolves, so friggin wonderful…

  11. And LL, it's not the wolf you see or hear that you have to worry about. It's the ones you don't see or hear that you have to be fearful of.

    Wolves will attack isolated humans in the heights probably before they start attacking lowland range cattle.

  12. Off topic, but related: A fellow I know caught what appears to be a grizzly bear on his game camera in Central / Eastern Arizona. He has hunted and killed enough black bears to know when one doesn't look quite right. He also came across a Montana Game & Fish truck up there. Now, I wonder what a Montana bunny cop was doing in Arizona?

    There have been rumors for a few years now, of them secretly re-introducing grizzly bears into the Gila Wilderness, but nobody has been able to confirm that one.

  13. I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I used to run about 500 Angora Goats and sheep. Then the wolves were brought in. Between them killing my stock and the Bald Eagles eating my lambs and kids that was the end of that business. Years and work and tens of thousands of dollars invested taken away by nature freaks' and the State. And according to them I and others like me are the bad guys. And the idea of killing the wolf and throwing the tracking collar on a SUV heading back to Illinois doesn't work. The collar sends a death signal and marks the site on the DNR GPS map as soon as it is killed so you are had.–ken

  14. Ted Turner has been releasing wolves in western Colorado since the early 2000's. How do I know?? My relative in the Grand Junction area shot a white wolf off of his front porch when it came up looking for a handout. No fear of humans!! Obviously a human raised wolf that was turned out. Another neighbor of his shot a solid black wolf days later that was similarly human habituated. These obviously were not wild wolves moving in from Wyoming or Montana.

  15. Shoot , shovel and shut up, the wolves are already here and we have taken care of many of them. These are not the original inhabitants of our state and these Canadian monsters are and will have a huge negative impact.

  16. These wolves may have some competition in the future. Locally, we have a coyote pack that keeps the smaller animals (possums and raccoons and feral cats, etc) in check, but the animals are growing in size dramatically, and I would expect them to eventually add cattle and dogs and humans to their diet.

    They have been mating with German Shepherds, judging by the size and shape of the pack leaders, who look like GS's with coyote coloration and tails. A bit bizarre looking, actually. These are BIG compared to the normal size, and they must consume more as a result. Currently, they are still as human shy as any coyote, but I wouldn't expect that to last. They hunt part-time on a cattle ranch at the edge of Silicon Valley. It's part of their field rotation.

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