Despite the Vastness


wolvesAccording to some scientists that study wild animals and their environment, as the numbers of wolves have dwindled, the surrounding environment has suffered. The reason is that when the number of predators dwindle, prey animals change their feeding habits. Being more relaxed, the animals are likelier to feed in one spot for a longer period of time. Another way to think about it is that instead of grazing and moving on, prey animals are pigging out, leaving stubble in their wake.

Why are the wolves diminishing? Is there a natural order to it? Do species like wolves have puppy booms, followed by periods of leveling off or declining?

What people do know is that wolves are pack animals that like to travel 40 to 50 miles in a day. In order for them to flourish, they need quite a lot of space. In a New York Times article, science writer Mary Ellen Hannibal explains, "We have begun to realize that parks like Yellowstone are not the most effective means of conservation. Putting a boundary around an expanse of wilderness is an intuitive idea not borne out by the science. Many top predators must travel enormous distances to find mates and keep populations from becoming inbred. No national park is big enough for wolves, for example."

Becoming curious about their plight, I decided to do a quick investigation. We have a number of national and state parks, not to mention forests that aren't considered parks. For instance, Yellowstone National Park spans 3,468.4 square miles or 2,219,790.71 acres. For the life of me, I can't see why Yellowstone wolves can't find suitable mates within the confines of all those miles. (Here's a link to other national parks.) Then I started thinking about state parks. Thinking about my own state, I looked up two: Shenandoah National Park, which is 200,000 acres of protected lands, and Cumberland State Park in Virginia, which is 16,000 acres. Among the predators roaming these parks are the eastern timber wolves and cougars.

Hannibal's advocacy of open spaces, save for tight boundaries around towns and cities, makes me me wonder if some people will take this as a invitation to eviscerate the rights of private property owners. You see, some ardent environmentalists already think humans are the blight of the earth, and are actively seeking to eliminate as many as possible. (I've covered this elsewhere, but here's a link to Dr. Eric A. Planka's pernicious idea about the value of human beings. Also, other property rights are being taken away. See Wesley Smith's recent National Review blog post.)

We should be concerned with animal welfare. It is when people start seeing animals as equal, or even superior, to humans that problems arise--in both the human and animal world.

As for wolves, I'm glad God gave us this powerful animal. I'm glad there are people who take interest in their welfare. One thing is certain, though: These wild animals don't make good pets, not even as half-breeds.

Comments:

It does get to be a juggling act. Apparently we here in Minnesota have been too successful in reviving the wolf population. We have thousands of them now. Enough farmers and others have complained about problems they're having that we are about to start a wolf hunting season. Opponents are currently seeking an injunction but are so far unsuccessful.
Again, the point is not that this is sufficient. The point is "why is this option not mentioned?"
If the problem really is prey species why not let humans have a shot at it?

The fact is, if you are going to "terraform" you have to accept humans as part of the system rather then keeping them away like men away from a harem.

Now perhaps they are doing this but still I wonder. If the problem really is to many herbivores, many of the same things that are tasty to wolves are tasty to Alaskan Female Politicians. We do at least have the power to regulate hunting to the degree that the number of human kills will be roughly equal to the number of wolf kills if they were there.

It is not that we should ignore the preservation of wolves. It is just that trying to control the whole system may be beyond our capacity for the moment. Whereas it is easy enough, if crude, just to control prey species with Alaskan Female Politicians, and preserve wolves by dropping a steak on the trail thus handling the problems separately. I realize I am speaking in a field outside my knowledge. But it does seem strange to "terraform" without accepting humans as one of the species to work into the system.




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