I was intrigued by gray wolves as a kid; I saw them as mysterious and powerful, but not violent, the way popular media and myths have portrayed them. In high school I put together a science fiction adventure story involving a “Wolf Pack“ of reluctant space warriors; I’ve since written about those characters, drawn from the circle of my closest friends at that time, in several media. My initial interest in gray wolves was about finding a cool name for my ‘team’, an adolescent’s concern – but as I grew, I wanted to learn more about the real-life animals.
There are ‘cat people’, and there are ‘dog people’; many names, including mine, appear on both membership lists. There are also ‘wolf people’, who I’d guess are much less common – just as wolves are becoming, thanks to the recent, questionable move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species list. This should prove popular with ranchers and hunters, perhaps, but here’s the savage irony, no pun intended:
it is because Canis lupus has enjoyed federal protection from culling until now that it has recovered some of its lost numbers. In other words, the very ban on killing gray wolves that has kept humans from wiping them out has now been cited to justify threatening them anew with extinction.
That would be a tremendous loss to the Earth’s natural environment, because wolves do a lot to rein in their prey animals, who might otherwise tip over the scales. “No wolves, no water” is a phrase I’ve read, i.e. their predatory activities perform a grisly public service, keeping prey animals from draining rivers and streams.
So yes, indeed, these untamed gray wolves are a needed part of our heritage. We ought to look after them, before the only “wolves” we have left in nature are my fictional space heroes. I do not want it to come to that!
- Computer Identifies Individual Wolves’ Howls (livescience.com)
- Is the red wolf really worth all the trouble? (retrieverman.net)
- Protections still needed for wolves (utsandiego.com)