SEVEN CIRCUMSTANCES

Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

The case for letting wolves be

Wolf at the WildLife Centre

Wolf at the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre (Photo by M.F. O’Brien) No, it’s not an especially furry dog.

Before you do, know that 1) I am a firm believer of the critical role of the wolf as a primary or apex predator in maintaining balance in the populations of species. 2) I hate hunting unless it is for food and survival. If you can’t make life, don’t take it for sport. So, there you go.

I believe if people kill off apex or primary predators, such as wolves, species either overbreed or die out. Wolves are wolves, animals are animals. They eat each other, that is the food chain. The fittest go live elsewhere or come out on top. A now commonly-cited example of the effect of apex predators, like wolves, on an ecosystem is the dramatic and positive changes to both animal populations and flora in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem recorded after the gray wolf was reintroduced (from Canada!) to Yellowstone National Park in the USA in 1995.

Howling wolves

I have had the experience of seeing wolves in captivity at the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre in Golden, British Columbia, Canada. It was the most depressing thing ever, and I had the morbs all the way back to Vancouver because of that. It was awfully awful seeing creatures that are so magnificent in the wild, true apex predators, kept in cages, half-bred, half-tamed, damaged. The point that the centre wants to make certainly hit home. I applaud their work – someone’s got to do it – but wolves belong in the wild. Even if the caretakers take them out for “runs” in the mountains. Good grief.

I was about to just sit down and cry for the misery of it all when one of the wolves lifted its head and howled. Then the others joined in. It might have been a trained response to visitors or pack behaviour but it made my hair stand on end and shivers run down my spine. There is nothing so impressive, so animalistic, so primal, as the howl of a wolf, as beautiful as some wild music requiring the setting of a bloody moon and black mountains. (See video, below)

John Mole’s poem, The Wolves of Memory, perfectly, just so absolutely perfectly depicts the wolves I saw in the Wolf Centre – howling, pacing, huddling. Even though the wolves in Mole’s poem are free, they are no longer the wild, powerful predators of the past as we remember them and as they are depicted. They are now merely surviving. But their howls are still a trace of their former selves.

THE WOLVES OF MEMORY

Loping through thick snow,
fur matted with ice,
they have lost the trace
that led them long ago
from a legendary tale
to this blank page of survival.

Their warm breath freezes
at the touch of air
as they huddle here
with sharp, bewildered faces
grown solemnly pale
and howl and howl and howl.

Published in The Spectator, 7 November 2015.

Hunting wolves in B.C.

To my chagrin, the British Columbia (B.C.) Ministry of Forestry, Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced that they want to remove limits on how many wolves hunters can kill in the Peace Region and when. The changes were proposed on Nov. 30, 2015 on a ministry website that accepts public feedback on changes to regulations. The proposed changes would also remove the time limits on the hunting season. As it stands, hunters can only kill three wolves each year in the Peace Region between Aug. 15 and June 15. Their reason is that they want to increase the numbers of grizzly bears. For hunting. This follows a B.C. government’s announcement in early 2015 of a wolf culling program in the southern Interior of B.C. to protect a herd of endangered caribou. The B.C. government says 84 wolves were “removed” in hopes of saving caribou herds in the province’s South Selkirk Mountains and South Peace region. The province started the controversial wolf cull on Jan. 15, 2015, the first year of a five-year plan to cull the wolves, which were shot from helicopters. Five years of killing wolves like shooting fish in a barrel.

That ain’t going to end well for the region, I should think. Seems to me it’s a bad idea to mess with the ecosystem. As though we haven’t learned from the Yellowstone example. For once, a celebrity, Miley Cyrus in this case, got on the right bandwagon, bless her little heart.

Go back to the review of Wolf Winter.