Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Status of Wolves in Utah

There is a fight intensifying in Utah over wolves. This is a sensitive subject in the West because two powerful groups hate wolves and don't want them in Utah: ranchers and hunters. Ranchers hate wolves because they are viewed as a threat to their livestock. Hunters hate wolves because they makes hunting more difficult.

It has gone so far that state senator Allen Christensen introduced a bill that would have allowed state officials to kills or trap any wolf found in Utah. Sen. Christensen has made the following claims about wolves:

"They serve no real useful purpose."

"Despite what Disney portrays them as, being little fluff balls, they make their living by killing other animals and sometimes they do it just for the sport of the kill."

Both claims are demonstrably false. Wolves never kill for sport. They also serve an incredibly useful purpose ecologically. In Yellowstone, where wolves were reintroduced in the 1990s, the benefit of wolves has been profound. Wolves have kept herds of elk on the move, preventing overgrazing, particularly along streams and rivers. This has increased the stability of the banks and made the water clearer. It has also allowed cottonwood and aspen to grow to maturity which has increased bird and beaver populations. With more beavers damming streams and rivers there is more slow-moving water, which has increased bug populations and further helped birds. Wolves also hunt year-round which means more carrion in the winter to help scavenger populations like eagles and coyotes.

You can only claim that wolves serve no useful purpose if you don't understand science and respect the natural beauty and balance of the Earth.

As for the ranchers, the threat of wolves is overblown. Studies have shown that livestock losses caused by wolves are only a tiny fraction of overall livestock deaths. This simply isn't a big enough problem to justify decimating entire wolf populations.

As for hunters, I just don't have any sympathy. I don't really have a beef with hunters (excluding trophy hunters, i.e. hunting predators, I have a beef with them), but what is best for our ecosystem is exponentially more important to me than what is best for hunters. Wolves and other predators pick off the weakest of the herd, thus strengthening the herd and the ecosystem. Hunters pick off the strongest and biggest, weakening the herd. Plus, it's not a bad thing to give the hunters a little competition, they've had it too easy for too many years. Our early ancestors had to compete with all the other predators to hunt, and thus had to hone their skills and prove their worth. If modern hunters have to try a little harder to kill elk, I say all the better.

Anyway, luckily the bill has been watered down to merely petition the Fish and Wildlife Service to delist wolves as endangered species and allow Utah to come up with its own management plan. The original bill would have been unconstitutional as the federal government has jurisdiction over wolves as an endangered species and a state government cannot supersede that authority. But the fight is not over in Utah. As wolves slowly start to make their way back in Utah after being exterminated in the 1930s, the anti-wolf voices will only get louder.

I hope Utahns will understand that what is best for our state is a healthy wolf population. It will certainly take some adjustment, but if we are truly interested in being good stewards over the Earth we will let the wolves live.

25 comments:

Daniel H said...

I will agree with you - at the same time, I've been receiving e-mails all week to fund the lobbyists who are fighting against the bills, and part of me is so jaded with our state legislature that I really don't feel like any of it would work.

peter said...

As a scientist, I understand, respect, and in most cases agree with the reasons stated for reintroducing wolves. However, having a father-in-law who is a rancher, I have seen first hand the problems that they face with predators. About two years ago a cougar attacked my father-in-laws herd of sheep one night (while it was pastured in a field next to a residence.) The cougar killed about twenty lambs by crushing their skulls and dragging them. He ate part of one and left the rest strewn about the field. My father-in-law couldn't legally hunt the cougar, so he called in the government person, took detailed photographs, and tried to get back as much money as he could for his dead livestock. Needless to say, his reimbursement was no where near the market value of the lambs or what some of them would have earned him as ewes for years to come. Predators are absolutely his biggest threat to his herds. Sure he has other sheep die, but it is usually of old age. For a guy who owns a small family farm and ranch, this was a big deal.

I guess I want to say that there are definitely two sides to the issue and both the ranchers and environmentalists have some valid points.

peter said...

Sorry, that last post wasn't Peter, it was from Kristy.

Jacob S. said...

There are definitely two sides to the issue, and as a meat-eater I respect that ranchers have a business to run that I support. Conversely, as someone who sees how destructive ranching on public lands can be I have this ever-out-of-reach goal of reducing my meat consumption to both help reduce environmental impacts and come more fully into line with the Word of Wisdom.

I guess I would be in favor of moving ranching to private lands only, even if that means an increase in the price of beef. Only 2% of grazing occurs on public lands, so taking it off the table is something doable. It would improve wilderness areas and reduce conflicts with predators. And I have nothing against ranchers at all, I just think it is time for the public lands to be more focused on conservation.

M.Galt said...

Dear Jacob S.

Why is that you have to lie to us over on our blog saying you don’t have a blog when you clearly do? You have been in an ongoing argument with us posting as “Anonymous” but then slipped up posting a comment as Jacob S. which you quickly deleted and then reposted as “Anonymous”. One of the benefits to being a blog moderator as I’m sure you know is that EVERY comment posted gets sent to you even if the person deletes it

What would be a justification you could think of for lying to prove a political point and still claim the whole LDS thing? Is it not the truth that sets us free? but you decided it would be better to lie instead of stand by your actual beliefs. I’m confused, wait no I’m not, your like every other left winger, you have to lie to accomplish what you want that whole “ends justify the means” thing people on your side are always talking about. Is that what it is?

How can anyone trust a single thing you say if you have proven to be a liar on a simple question like “do you have a blog where we can look at your ideas?”

Shawn O. said...

Who is M. Galt? That's funny, seeing as your favorite novel is the Ayn Rand classic.

As the second moderator of this blog, I politely ask you to refrain from posting derogatory and condescending accusations.

GreatWhiteHope said...

The accusations are not unfounded but if you want to claim to be progressive and claim to believe in freedom of speech, then proceed to ban people from commenting on your blog under the guise of making derogatory accusations then you do nothing but continue to facilitate the perception the liberals are arrogant hypocrites.

Jacob S. said...

No one said that we were going to ban anyone. Shawn and I have talked about it, M.Galt and I have hashed it out, and I think everything is basically cool now. So lets just drop it.

Shawn O. said...

Wow. Somebody didn't eat their Jimmy Dean breakfast this morning!

I asked politely that M. Galt "refrain from posting derogatory and condescending accusations." I did not say that I would ban anybody from commenting, so I have no idea where you conjured that idea from. There is no guise here.

I'm not questioning the accusation itself. As for hypocrisy - condescension, belittlement, profanity, and judgment are not methods that should be employed of someone trying to follow this faith.

The prospects of a better world are found in rational, substantiated debate between individuals with differing opinions, but mutual respect.

Please refrain from using the above approaches in discussing anything on this blog, as you have on your own, and other sites.

Shawn O. said...

The "above approaches" are those listed next to hypocrisy, not the rational debate ones. Just to clarify.

GreatWhiteHope said...

"I'm not questioning the accusation itself. As for hypocrisy - condescension, belittlement, profanity, and judgment are not methods that should be employed of someone trying to follow this faith.

The prospects of a better world are found in rational, substantiated debate between individuals with differing opinions, but mutual respect."

Amen Shawn, I concur 100%, however the posters on The Spirit of the Law blog have been banned from aggregates and from individual sites and have never used profanity in our posts as the lefties who come and harrass our site continually do. We welcome the debate, but when it digresses to lying, and the other attributes of a poor blogger that you mentioned.... we still have refrained from banning anyone. So I was just expecting that from you guys because you are self proclaiming Mormon leftists and that is the consistent reaction from other leftists in relation to M. Galt and myself.

parker said...

How does everything somehow digress into arguments concerning political party, religion, etc? this started on wolves and ended with "...self proclaiming Mormon leftist..."

JohnH said...

"Both claims are demonstrably false."
A typically liberal statement. Did you read the article that supposedly proves wolves don't kill for sport? Not only is it not proof that wolves don't kill for sport but in fact it actually says no one could say for sure. One liberal writes some half truth and another embellishes the half truth and all of a sudden its 'scientifically proven'. Laughable really. The article talks about instincts inherited from wolves in domestic dogs. I have a Jack Russel Terrier and she will kill all day for fun.

Jacob S. said...

John,

This was just one article out of dozens that claim, based on scientific observation, that wolves do not kill for sport. Humans are the only animal that do that. If you can find some scientific paper that refutes this claim, I would love to see it and reconsider my position. I've never seen one, however, and I doubt it exists.

That does not mean that wolves do not over-kill at times. Almost all carnivores are opportunistic and will take kills when they can, and wolves are known to do this and stash the kill for later. But to attribute this common behavior to "sport" or "fun" is incorrect and just meant to rouse hatred towards wolves.

JohnH said...

Here you go, every bit as much 'proof' they do as you can provide that they don't:

http://www.norcalblogs.com/gate/2010/08/photograpkic-proof-that-wolves-do-kill-without-wating-their-prey.php

http://www.aws.vcn.com/wolf_myth_legend_misconception.html

Like I previously mentioned, I have observed domestic dogs killing for fun - I can tell when my dog is enjoying what she is doing. Wolves are no different. Bottom line is the only way you could say for sure would be to get inside the heads of a statistically significant group of wolves to know for sure. Any time I see comments "both claims are demonstrably false" I have to call baloney...

Jacob S. said...

Well, you failed to offer any scientific backing for the assertion that wolves kill for sport. I already admitted that there is some overkill, like with most predators, the reasons for which are pretty well understood pretty well in science (note: sport is not one of the reasons).

Is is the anti-wolf folks that have put forward the claim that wolves kill for sport. If you want it to be taken seriously you have to prove it with science and cannot simply say that it can't be disproved by science. That won't fly.

Humans have a problem with ascribing human emotions to non-humans. I have a dog and am a dog lover, and I often think I see true human emotion in dogs, but rationally it just isn't the case. Some people hate wolves for a variety of reasons and try to ascribe negative human feelings and intentions to them, but rationally this just isn't the case, and there is no proof showing otherwise.

JohnH said...

No Jacob, your initial claim was that wolves kill for sport is 'demonstrably false'. You are wrong it is not 'demonstrably false'. With your last statement you actually proved my point. You are absolutely correct, I have no proof they do, likewise you have no proof they don't. What has been proven is that wolves do in fact have a detrimental effect on ungulate populations. The notion that wolves make populations stronger by weeding out the weak and the sick is a liberal lie.

Jacob S. said...

I'm not sure why this isn't setting in. There is no scientific evidence that wolves kill for sport. There are volumes of scientific reports which have studied predators and the way they act, none show that any predator, including wolves, hunt for sport. Someone show me some science to contradict this.

So you can't just make an outrageous claim, like wolves hunting for sport, and then sit back and require the other side to disprove it. If anti-wolf folks want to advance the sport theory they have to back it up, which they haven't. It's like me claiming that dogs pee on fire hydrants because they like the color red. You can't disprove that? I guess I'm right, then.

But it's clear that you oppose wolves, in part, because they hunt for sport. You find that immoral or disconcerting or something. I imagine that, for the sake of consistency, that you also oppose humans that hunt for sport? You would agree, then, with this post on the subject? Because you are intellectually consistent.

Now, as to wolves having a detrimental effect on ungulate populations, in as a far as wolves kill and eat ungulates, you are correct. No one has ever claimed that wolves don't eat ungulates. But there are a few points here that matter. First, wolves and ungulates co-existed for millennia before humans wiped wolves out. Are you suggesting that this is otherwise? Second, human hunters also have a detrimental effect on ungulate populations. Are you against human hunting for the same reason? Third, right before wolf reintroduction in the 90s ungulate populations were at their highest in recorded history, going back decades, and now are back in line with historical norms. Nature has a way of evening out.

"The notion that wolves make populations stronger by weeding out the weak and the sick is a liberal lie."

I'm pretty excited about this. Is it your opinion that "liberals," knowing full well that wolves actually target and eat the strongest of the ungulates, unlike every other predator on earth and much like human hunters, are in on a conspiracy to lie about this? Is it your opinion that "liberals" are actually anti-ungulate marauders spreading lies about the wolf-ungulate relationship in an attempt to weaken ungulate populations? Please, please tell me this is the case, and that there is a conservative conspiracy theory out there to this effect, it would make my day, frankly.

JohnH said...

Yes I agree, I am not sure why this is not setting in either??? I guess it's the typical liberal line of thinking. Because I say so, or because other liberals say so it must be true. Liberals tend to base their reasoning upon emotion, not upon fact. That is why liberal men are typically gatherers, not hunters. Now about the ungulate populations, and 'natural order'. You are absolutely correct in saying that ungulate populations are higher than they ever have been historically. That is because humans, primarily through funds from hunters have manged the herds to be the largest and healthiest they have ever been. So in fact, contrary to your statement, hunters have in fact been beneficial to ungulate populations, not detrimental. Wolves, and other predators on the other hand have no concept of management. They will kill as much as they can as often as they can. Hopefully you understand and will agree that natural predator and prey populations go through boom and bust cycles? So what is better a strong healthy ungulate population that hunters can much more humanely harvest and appreciate, eat, and enjoy or for wolves to over harvest,then have extremely lean years, then finally die off from disease and starvation? We still have wolves in Canada and Alaska, we don't need them here. This is a different time, just because it was once one way does not mean it has to stay that way for ever. This brings me to another topic I have been thinking about since I saw your blog. Completely off topic and probably belongs in a different thread but I can not understand how a 'liberal' could claim to understand and live the precepts of the Latter Day Saint Faith?

Jacob S. said...

Oh geez, seriously?

First, look through this blog as an answer to your question. Do you doubt my faith and membership in the church?

Here's another Mormon liberal blog that is worth looking at.

Here are some appeals to authority:

Pres. Hugh B. Brown

Pres. James E. Faust

Marlin K. Jensen

Pres. Hinckley's answer to your question.

If you still are unable to understand please let me know and we'll delve deeper.

JohnH said...

It seems to me like there is a big difference between the Democratic party of the 50's to the Democratic party of today. I guess I should not generalize but it seems like the term liberal has been hijacked by a a lot of groups that I could never agree with. You can find 20 different sources that define 'liberals' 20 different ways. I can only judge base upon the groups, causes, and ideals that seem to gravitate to todays group proclaiming to be liberal. Things like homosexuality, abortion, and in general what seems to be synonymous with Satan's plan as described in Moses 4:1. When I read that scripture the first person that comes to my mind is the
loathsome creature known as Nanci Pelosi. Bottom line Jacob, I see no point in posting here again simply for the sake of negating contention. We will obviously never see eye to eye on a great many things - that's fine, I am grateful for the free agency we have been granted. All my best to you Jacob.

P.S. Back to the original subject. Jacob YOU are the one made the 'demonstrably false' statment (see demonstrably). This would imply that YOU had some sort of proof to back up what YOU were saying thus putting the onus on YOU to actually back it up with cold hard scientific evidence. In no way have you ever provided any evidence that I can see. I know it seems like a trivial little bit to hold on to - whether canines feel pleasure, kill for sport, or whatever - and it probably is. My whole purpose in selecting that one statement was to make a point.

JohnH said...

It seems to me like there is a big difference between the Democratic party of the 50's and the Democratic party of today. I guess I should not generalize but it appears as if the term liberal has been hijacked by a lot of groups that I could never agree with. You can find 20 different sources that define 'liberals' 20 different ways. I can only draw my own conclusions based upon the groups, causes, and ideals that seem to gravitate towards todays group proclaiming to be liberal. Things like homosexuality, abortion, and in general what looks to be synonymous with Satan's plan as described in Moses 4:1. When I read that scripture the first person that comes to my mind is the
loathsome creature known as Nanci Pelosi. Bottom line Jacob, I see no point in posting here again simply for the sake of negating contention. We will obviously never see eye to eye on a great many things - that's fine, I am grateful for the free agency we have been granted. All my best to you Jacob.

P.S. Back to the original subject. Jacob YOU are the one that made the 'demonstrably false' statment (see demonstrably). This would imply that YOU had some sort of proof to back up what YOU were saying thus putting the onus on YOU to actually back it up with cold hard scientific evidence. In no way have you ever provided any evidence that I can see. I know it seems like a trivial little bit to hold on to - whether canines feel pleasure, kill for sport, or whatever - and it probably is. My whole purpose in selecting that one statement was to make a point.

Jacob S. said...

1950's? Pres. Faust just died a few years ago and was a lifelong Democrat, Elder Jensen is still alive, Pres. Hinckley made his comment during the 2000's. Pres. Brown lived a few decades ago, but even that was during the vilified New Deal era and its supposed "socialism" with its supposed similarities to Satan's plan.

margarita armida morales lugo said...

El humano es un ser muy egoista y no quier compartir con las demas especies la naturaleza.
Debe ser mas flexible y respetar a las demas criaturas ya que la tierra es de todos y antes fue mas de ellos que nuestra.

margarita armida morales lugo said...

El humano es el ser mas egoista y no quiere copartir nada con los demas seres de la naturaleza.
Debe ser mas flexible y respetar a las demas criaturas que tiene igual derecho a vivir y ademas estaban antes que nosotros en la tierra.