Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wildlife oxymoronics


"The enemies of the wild are the abundant and ever-multiplying forms of human control. ... Many forms of control are dangerous to the wild, from cadastral maps, bureaucracy, statistics, surveillance, biotechnology, and nanotechnology to social engineering and scientific management ... to the mass production of game species, an intellectual move that laid the foundations of modern wildlife management (an oxymoron)."

—Jack Turner

Wildlife management is an oxymoron, one of many, including serious fun, common sense, fighting for peace and Creation Science, that modern civilization blithely uses to obscure reality and the personal and public costs and consequences of its out-of-control, obsessive, even psychotic need to control the uncontrollable and understand the unknowable. Earlier this month, I was reminded (again) of Western wildlife oxymoronics when the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services and/or the Idaho Department of Fish and Game hired a helicopter for an undisclosed sum of taxpayers dollars. The helicopter was installed with an undisclosed number of "aerial gunners" who were paid an undisclosed amount of taxpayer dollars to fly around north-central Idaho on a mission to shoot and kill wolves from the air "in an effort to protect elk herds."

After an undisclosed number of hours of flying time, the aerial gunners managed to kill five wolves. Idaho Department of Fish and Game Deputy Director Jim Unsworth announced that the hunt was being suspended indefinitely because it was "inefficient and expensive." He said the wolves are in thick timber, which makes them difficult to shoot from the air. Unsworth told the Lewiston Tribune, "The elk and deer are on green-up down low and the wolves are there with them. They are in that lower-elevation, big-timber kind of stuff. We can find the packs, but you can't find the wolves to do anything from a control standpoint."

"From a control standpoint" is an interesting phrase. If "you" can't find the wolves to do anything, then there is no point of control to stand on. Maybe "you" who can't find the wolves should check in with "we" who can find the packs where the wolves, by definition and practice, hang out. Every report, justification or rationale for killing wolves that I've seen is always filled with interesting phrases, some oxymoronic, others just colorful, opaque, incomplete, misleading and, on occasion, unreal, and they always raise more questions than they answer. Even people like myself who view the term "wildlife management" as an oxymoron and are not in favor of shooting wolves, especially at taxpayer expense, appreciate and ponder such colorful language as "the elk and deer are on green-up down low and the wolves are there with them. They are in that lower-elevation big timber kind of stuff."


One obvious question is, didn't the Idaho Department of Fish and Game know the wolves they couldn't find were in that lower-elevation big-timber kind of stuff? If not, why not? Isn't it the job of Fish and Game in its oxymoronic role of managing wildlife to know that wolves favor that big-timber kind of stuff, and that to a healthy wolf's ears, the sound of a helicopter is as loud as its inefficiency and expense to the taxpayer, from a control standpoint? For those people who enjoy the thrill of killing defenseless wildlife from the air, it must have been a great hooah experience at taxpayer's expense, but, as is so often the case from a control standpoint, those hooah moments are inefficient and expensive.

It's simply not true that "you can't find the wolves to do anything from a control standpoint." At least five wolves were found and killed, and, from a control standpoint, it would be an interesting and revealing exercise in accountability to determine the cost of killing each wolf.

The contention that the inefficient and expensive wolf killings were carried out "in an effort to protect the elk herds" is, at best, incomplete, and, at worst, misleading. Wolves and elk existed as wild creatures for many thousands of years on this continent in an unmanaged natural (and wild) balance between predator and prey in which the herds are kept healthy by wolves dining on the old, the weak, the lame and the slow. Without human "management" they would continue with their wild, natural dynamic. Everyone who has looked into it, or even thought a bit about it, knows that the biggest dangers to elk are loss of habitat due to human encroachment on their natural territory and hunting of elk by those same humans.

Most of the elk habitat loss is due to real estate development and the public-lands-welfare sheep and cattle ranching industry, which each year loses a miniscule number of their flocks and herds to wolves. And hunting is a big business. Killing wolves on taxpayer dollars is not done to protect elk herds from being killed by wolves, but, rather, to eliminate competition for killing those elk herds so that the wolves' fellow predator, man, will have more elk to kill. It is also done to placate the strong political lobby of the cattle and sheep industry.

Aerial gunners in helicopters or ground troops on foot (or on four-wheelers or trucks) are not killing wolves at government expense to protect elk or any other wildlife. They are the hired guns of industry. Those amateur sportsmen who kill wolves for sport turn the word "sport" into an oxymoron.

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