Taking a different position from almost all other public expressions on the matter, the Idaho Farm Bureau President wrote an op ed for the Idaho Mountain Express. Here, for the first time we learn more facts about the matter, including that they did have pepper spray.
In my view that fact makes their fear even less reasonable. Pepper spray would be far superior to a gun if you really were confronted with an wolf pack intent on eating you. It’s easy to miss with a gun, not so with spray, but, hey you can carry both! I do. The gun is for the real danger — generally two legged predators in the front country; spray for the backcountry.
Here is the Farm Bureau op ed in the Idaho Mountain Express.
These employees might not have been “greenhorns” to backcountry travel, but they didn’t know much about wolves. For example, the Farm Bureau opines, “However, as they were walking through thick buck brush they could hear wolves growling, snarling and howling.” If you have been around wolves, that is not a threat to you. Wolves communicate with each other. The wolves were most likely feeding on their kill — growling at each other. If you have been close enough to hear adult wolves at play or on a kill, there is lots of growling that would might make a person unfamiliar with wolves think they mean to kill each other.
Social psychologists have long studied ambiguous situations like this — incomplete knowledge in a new situation. In such situations social cues and personal dispositions are paramount in determining what people do. More training would, as the Forest Service said, help their employees make sense of what for them was a novel situation.
For all predictions that the wolves in the lower 48 are dangerous, I still haven’t seen any bite marks on someones’ butt, and frankly I’m surprised given all the stupid dog tricks people often do in the backcountry and tourists crowding wolves in Yellowstone, not to mention the incredible number of deer, deer hunters, and wolves in the Great Lakes.
Note that over a million people are bitten by dogs a year in the United States.