Cry, Wolf


Cry Wolf



Three little pigs dance in a circle singing "Who\'s afraid of the big, bad wolf?"


Little Red Riding Hood barely escapes the cunning advances of the ravenous wolf disguised as her grandmother.


Movie audiences shriek as a gentle young man is transformed before their eyes into a blood-thirsty werewolf, a symbol for centuries of the essence of evil.


Such myths and legends have portrayed the wolf as a threat to human existence. Feared as cold-blooded killers, they were hated and persecuted. Wolves were not merely shot and killed; they were tortured as well. In what was believed to be a battle between good and evil, wolves were poisoned, drawn and quartered, doused with gasoline and set on fire, and, in some cases, left with their mouths wired shut to starve (Begley 53). Convinced that they were a problem to be solved, U.S. citizens gradually eradicated gray wolves from the lower 48 states over a period of 25 years.


Today many people are convinced that the elimination of the gray wolf was not only an error, but also a detriment to the quality of life in this country. There has been a public outcry to rectify the situation created by the ignorance of our ancestors. However, in seeking to address a situation created by the human compulsion to control nature, it is crucial to discern how much human interference is necessary. Human control must be tempered by respect and restraint. Programs designed for the protection and restoration of wildlife must reflect deference for the natural order rather than dominance over it.


The consequences of human actions involving the elimination of the gray wolf have been especially acute in Yellowstone National Park, where the lack of a natural predator has resulted in the overpopulation of bison, deer, and elk. According to Sharon Begley of Newsweek magazine, "Absent a natural predator, thousands of the ungulates have starved during tough winters, and there has been no selection pressure to keep deer fast and moose powerful" (53).


Another issue is more subtle. As Ms. Begley points out, "The wolf has been the only native animal missing from Yellowstone" (53). In one of the few places where the wildness of the west could be preserved, the wolf\'s absence leaves a big hole. In a world filled with skyscrapers, subdivisions, and superhighways, human beings yearn for the wolf\'s untamable majesty.


In 1995, it is obvious that the hatred and fear which fueled the elimination of the gray wolf stemmed from a gross misunderstanding of wolves and their behavior. Cultural myths picturing wolves as scheming, aggressive beasts plotting to pounce on innocent victims do not reflect the truth. In reality, wolves are elusive creatures who keep to themselves. The wolf\'s social structure is much like ours. They live in family units called packs consisting of a mated pair, young pups, and older offspring. It is through the intricate relationships and interactions within the pack that offspring learn how to live as adult wolves. As the environmentalist Charles Bergman points out, "Wolves are intensely social animals, living in packs that are structured in rigid hierarchies. In the chain of power each wolf has a defined place on a ladder of dominance and submission" (3l). The entire pack works together according to position to raise and nurture the pups, teaching them a highly sophisticated system of communication used "for expressing their status relative to each other" (Bergman 31). Also, from parents and older siblings, young wolves learn not only how to hunt, but what to hunt as well. Wolves are trained early to go after certain prey and leave others alone. Since their prey is usually larger and stronger than they, wolves are taught specifically to hunt the weak and sick in order to avoid injury.


Information given in Friends of the Forest describes the similarity between humans and wolves. This publication states, "Like humans, some wolves stay with their families until they die, others leave the pack during adolescence in search of uninhabited territory and a mate" (1-2). Unlike humans, wolves instinctively control their population. The number in a pack rarely exceeds twelve and is determined by the availability and size of prey in their territory.


Faced with the consequences of hasty actions to eliminate the wolves, as well as increased knowledge about their