Wolves are synecdoches, symbols carrying different meanings depending on personal affiliations and values. How we perceive them, highly subjective.
When I was studying for my Masters in Ecopsychology at Naropa (2010), I studied two things intensely: Wolves, and Roadside Wildlife. I’ve written much and often on the latter, not so much on the former. Unfortunately, to this day, I feel the call to speak once again on behalf of wolves and their plight, as they continue to come under fire in our changing West. Most recently, the federally-funded Wildlife Services aerial assault on wolves has claimed the lives of forty-two sentient beings over the last three years. That’s forty-two beautiful wolves, with packs and pups and mates, gunned down at Idaho’s asking. Despite former claims that the wolves were mere agents of federal government intrusion into their own private state when they were reintroduced in 1995 under the ESA, they are now asking the federal government to fuel up the helicopters and load up the guns to take down more.
Unfortunately as well, their own Governor Butch Otter, is spewing his anti-wolf venom along with many wolf haters, promising they will continue their agenda to remove these beautiful creatures who have taken their rightful place in the ecosystem.
These animals haven’t been depredating — killing — cattle, nor are they molesting cats or taking fluffy from backyards. They were doing what wolves naturally do — killing elk deep in the wilderness. But Idaho wants to eliminate its competition, where the elk are concerned.
It’s a death sentence that continues in perpetuity, this time funded by American tax dollars.
It’s worthy of discussion, at least to my own naive and hopeful mind, to understand the deeper reasons for wolf hatred. It’s why I studied much about in ecopsychology.
We write and speak of wolves in our culture, based upon what exists in our imagination and according to what serves our human needs, according to Robisch (Wolves and Wolf Myth, 2009). The World Wolf of our literature, the Corporeal Wolf of our biological world. We need both, in order to understand the wolf’s place in our world, within their landscape, their role in our ecosystem, and their inherent right to exist.
To appreciate our interconnection with the wolf — as an animal of high intelligence, social qualities, relational capacities, survival instincts, tenacious and fierce determination — is to recognize its intrinsic value. We tend either towards romanticizing, overemphasizing, villifying or reifying the wolf, in order to support our position. We reason for its eradication or its existence.
But here’s the thing: The choice to take a wolf’s life is not ours to make. Wolves possess an inherent right to live.
As we continue to assert dominance, employ all means of murder — from political, economical, manifesting into physical — we conveniently disregard other responsibilities as stewards and guardians of life on earth. Certainly, it is as reasonable to protect ourselves from the natural effects of a wolf’s predatory behavior as we would seek shelter from a hurricane or higher ground from a flash flood. But our continual choice to assert our right to a healthy and prosperous life, if there were such right, by murdering sensitive, feeling, intelligent and beautiful creatures is a crime of inner morality, an act of ignorant arrogance and contributes to the social violence among us.
Who among us needs more aggression and violence in our society?
All of these alleged acts of self-protection are eschew with myth, overreaction, and malice. Wolves deserve a rightful place in our landscape — we can employ nonviolent means to deter predator behavior, we can use our human consciousness — continually evolving — to create paths of coexistence. (I”m happy to share recent wolf mitigation efforts in a separate writing on this website.) We can address the legitimate concerns of those living close to wolves to put hearts and minds at ease. And we can expand our concept of what it means to live in the world with all creatures, even those that push the edges of our very human boundaries.
Planet Earth: It’s their place, too.