Wolf/Wildlife News 1/01/03 AM
- * The Wolf as Story, Both Old and New
* 30 KY Elk Heading to TN
* Administration Eases Rules For 'Dolphin-Safe' Labels
On a lighter note -
* News Is Stranger Than Fiction
The Wolf as Story, Both Old and New
BY MARK N. TRAHANT
© 2003, SPECIAL TO THE TRIBUNE
Consider Utah's roving wolf as a story.
You already know the plot: There is the carnivore that threatens three
little pigs, or the one that stalks Little Red Riding Hood. This dude is the
big, the bad, the wolf.
We know these stories well because they are old to us when we are young
and we hear them over and over.
It is these stories, or master narratives, that make up the human
version of our software code. These stories are recorded deep in our brains,
our souls, teaching us how to think, act and participate in society.
These are stories that matter.
At first glance, the story of a wolf and its return to Utah doesn't
quite fit the master narrative.
Indeed, it is unsatisfactory for grown-ups to even be arguing about
fairy tales and what they might mean in the 21st century.
We have moved on.
After all, it is the federal government -- as part of the ultimate pack
of predators, human beings -- that decided to bring the gray wolf back into
our part of the world.
It only took a few breeding pairs of wolves in Yellowstone National Park
and central Idaho to restore the species in a short time, little more than a
decade. So successful is this human intervention that there are now a few
dozen breeding pairs and hundreds of wolves. And, a wolf or two and probably
more has found its way back to Utah after nearly three-quarters of a century
So once again we hear the stories about how bad the critters are and we
instinctively know it to be so. We read news accounts about dead sheep and
cows, and the threats wolves pose to respectable rural society.
Different Stories: There again pops up a master narrative. But, this
time there are at least two conflicting narratives.
Ed Bangs, the Montana-based coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service told The Salt Lake Tribune recently that Utah should develop a plan
for wolves soon "before there are dead sheep everywhere and the wolf lovers
and the wolf haters are beating each other over the heads."
Either wolves or cows. Either civilization or nature. Either a frontier
West or a new West.
These narratives surface again and again in Western history.
Historian Richard White, an author and professor at Stanford University,
has described these narratives as "the finishing of the West," or the region
as the Garden of Eden.
Jefferson Dream: The finishing narrative could be the dream of Thomas
Jefferson, or the rancher in rural Utah, and it is about making a better
place from what nature started. At a conference in Sun Valley a few years
ago, White said: "The plow is to the farmer as the wand is to the magician."
Wave a wand and land becomes productive. Wave another wand and water is
reserved for future use. Wave another wand and troublesome predators
disappear -- supposedly forever.
But the other story -- a variation of the Garden of Eden -- fits with
the increasing urban nature of the American West.
A century ago, when we wanted all wolves gone forever, seven out of 10
Americans lived in rural areas; now, 80 percent of all Americans live in or
near metropolitan areas.
So we tell a different story: The West was once unspoiled. Perfect. Then
we fouled up the West with mining, logging or too much development. As a
result, we now try to preserve places that reflect that state of nature,
perfection. Places like Yellowstone.
Far-Off Place: This narrative works for people who live in places like
Salt Lake City, where we are surrounded by cars and congestion. Our world is
suburban developments or office towers -- and so we reserve a far-off place
for the natural world. We search for reminders about the West of our
Yellowstone fits this story line, that of an urban people seeking
solace -- comforted by the knowledge that wolves are in our world, too.
But these two narratives are in conflict because the old Western story
has not yet disappeared.
Folks who ranch or farm are, in some ways, as endangered as the wolves a
generation ago. To them the wolf is just one more attack from those who
don't understand their way of life. Sometimes they see predators, in
economic terms. Wondering how much it is going to cost to follow federal
protection rules or how much of their livestock will be killed?
Recently a county commissioner in Wyoming said he wanted gray wolves
limited to the federal "reservations" of Grand Teton and Yellowstone
national parks. And, if the wolves should stray? Then they should be shot as
Too bad wolves don't respect borders. They cross park boundaries and
state lines, or travel onto private property freely.
In this view of the world, there is no use for wolves unless tightly
bound in a large zoo called Yellowstone. Something for the city folk to
admire from time to time.
That, too, is funny when you think about it. A couple of years after the
wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, I packed up my family and
traveled to the park to look for wolves.
We did what we were supposed to. We got up early, waited and watched
from an ideal vantage point and tried to stay quiet. We waited -- and saw
I was all prepared to show my sons something amazing. Instead, they just
heard Dad talk. They were easily more impressed by the cool toys at a
Yellowstone gift shop than by the prospect of wolves we didn't see.
New Narrative: If the story is supposed to be about a wolf as a link to
the natural world, then the message hasn't made it to the wolf packs.
Yet, there ought to be a story that works for those who live in Western
cities and those who fear wolves ruining their rural way of life. There
ought to be a story that goes beyond either wolves or no wolves, and allows
the West to find and adapt the old narratives into new ones that work for
Mark N. Trahant is a former reporter, columnist and editor at several
Western newspapers, including The Salt Lake Tribune. He writes from Fort
30 elk heading to Campbell County
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 31, 2002
GOLDEN POND, Ky. - The Elk & Bison Prairie in western Kentucky's Land
Between the Lakes will be closed Thursday and Friday as 30 elk are rounded
up for shipment to East Tennessee.
They are scheduled to be released Jan. 11 into the Royal Blue Wildlife
Management Area in Campbell County. The LBL staff, assisted by veterinarians
and staff from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the University of
Tennessee, will tranquilize the animals and test them for brucellosis,
tuberculosis and other diseases before shipping them.
"LBL periodically reduces the herd in the Elk & Bison Prairie and makes the
animals available for reintroduction in the eastern United States," said
Steve Bloemer, an LBL wildlife biologist.
He noted 25 elk from the LBL herd were relocated last year to the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park. The elk herd numbers more than 60 animals.
The LBL established the Elk & Bison Prairie, a 750-acre enclosure just north
of U.S. 68, in 1996.
LBL staff and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources employees
traveled to Elk Island National Park near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to
bring the first shipment of 29 elk to the recreation area. They returned the
next year for more.
The LBL effort marked the first attempt to reintroduce elk to Kentucky since
they were driven out of the state in the mid-1850s by pressure from
increased settlement and hunting. Since then, the Department of Fish and
Wildlife Resources has had success in developing a free-ranging herd in the
eastern Kentucky mountains.
Administration eases rules for 'dolphin-safe' labels
News Is Stranger Than Fiction
Wolfseeker Wildlife Art
Checkered Flag Racing Art