Wolves in the fold: Ranchers struggle to co-exist with an old Montana predator

This story appeared Oct. 6 and is fairly moderate in tone, despite the headline — “their struggle” isn’t much compared to the multitude of other things that kill cattle and sheep.

Montana’s Department of Fish and Wildife and Parks, which does just about all on-the-ground decision making about wolves today, is also moderate. Montana’s Department and its commissioners are much more inclusive, willing to try new things, and open to the public than Idaho. I won’t even talk about Wyoming’s Game and Fish Commission where total darkness reigns.

The odd thing is this, despite Idaho’s harsh rhetoric, and backward ranchers with political pull, Idaho has far more wolves than Montana, kills fewer wolves than Montana, and in many years has fewer so-called “depredations” on cattle and sheep (note that I am being conscious of George Wuerthner’s article on language that I posted today).

So I am puzzled.

Wolves in the fold: Ranchers struggle to co-exist with an old Montana predator. By Kim Briggeman. The Missoulian

Related story. Wyoming wolf conflicts decline: Aggressive control actions limit livestock kills. By Whitney Royster, Casper Star Tribune. When you factor out the large number of wolves in Yellowstone Park, a much higher percentage of wolves are killed in Wyoming than in Montana or Idaho by the government — in this case the federal government.

Another puzzle, does killing a lot of wolves improve the political situation with ranchers? Are they going to be more pleasant in Wyoming now, or does that kind of management just raise their expectation level? The question needs to be asked and answered, and wolf conservation groups decide their tone in the future on the basis of the answer.

Working Wilderness and Other Code Words

George Wuerthner has a good piece how metaphors affect the way we perceive our natural resources.

Working Wilderness and Other Code Words. New West. By George Wuerthner.

In fact my use of the term “natural resources” implies a point of view, namely that elements of the natural world exist just for our use and have no intrinsic value.

I shudder when organizations use the word “human resources,” for it implies that people are like mineral ore, trees bound for the sawmill, animals sent to be slaughtered and fully utilized. It also implies that people are subjects, not things valuable in their own right. The phrase “human resources” is both anti-democratic and anti-individualistic.

Conservationists would do well, as Wuerthner says, not to adopt these words. When you start talking about “working rivers” (meaning dammed and/or dewatered), predator control (killing an animal that somehow offended the owner of livestock), you are adopting a language that says “I accept your cultural and economic dominance.” You should only use these words if you can somehow decenter it — redefine it and get people to use it in a way that implies an alternative view.

I always told my classes that most of the process of politics consists of the manipulation of language.

Note that “livestock” strongly implies a view about the status of an animal, and cattle, sheep, horses have no value other than to us. 

Posted in politics. Tags: . 2 Comments »

Yellowstone moose use roads to outsmart grizzly bears

Rocky Barker has a short and interesting blog as to how the presence of roads affects the interaction of predators and prey.

Yellowstone moose use roads to outsmart grizzly bears. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Update: I just found this. It’s the same story with a somewhat different slant on the matter. It’s from Science Daily Study: Moose move toward humans for safety.

10-13. More still on the moose/grizzly bear/roads story. Mother moose know best. Bears avoid park roads, so expectant ungulates stay close. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette Staff

Posted in Bears, Moose, wilderness roadless, Yellowstone. Comments Off on Yellowstone moose use roads to outsmart grizzly bears