I have to admit, I like wolves. They have always struck a strong emotion with me, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s their look (which I’d love to photograph), maybe it’s their family and social structures, maybe it’s the thought of these animals roaming through the snow on the hunt. I can’t pin it down for sure other than to just say they are one of my favorite animals. That said it was good news when I heard about the programs to repopulate the wolf back into the Northwest United States. Of course, that move was (is) opposed by many ranchers in those areas, who cite the impact of predators on their livestock.
But first let’s talk about why wolves are important. CNN cites studies showing the biodiversity of the areas that have wolves increases, and the population control of the deer and elk is more stable in those areas too. More vegetation, less hooved animals eating it, makes more options for further biodiversity, and less option for out of control populations of elk and deer. Wolves have even been used in some areas to control deer population but overall the image of the wild predator still remains a challenge for most americans and the ranching establishment. Judges had to order the wolf to be put back on the endangered list in Idaho and Montana to help keep them protected.
There are organizations like WolfHaven, which help provide services to protect wolves as well as information about wolves to help dispell myths and misinformation about them. They also rescue animals and provide shelter for many wolves in the Wa State area. You can even adopt a wolf and get information on that wolf for you or maybe for a child or classroom of kids while they study wolves. But it’s a long fight against years of cultural thought about “The Big Bad Wolf”.
So here is my thought. Why don’t we encourage ranchers (who fear predation not just from wolves but also cougars and bears) to adopt a program like the tuna industry did a while back: Dolphin Safe. It’s a labelling that shows they use slightly more expensive but dolphin safe techniques to catch the tuna. In a similar vein, ranchers could choose to not kill the wolves but adopt a higher cost for the product and label it “Predator Safe”. Not saying they can’t or shouldn’t use non-letal means to control populations and predation like tagging, collars and fencing, etc, but simply that they accept that some percentage of the livestock will be eaten by predators. Instead of killing the predators, they simply work out the cost of that loss and add it back to the product with the label and sell anyway. I’d pay more for knowing that a species we nearly took to extinction is not being killed all over again.
What do you think? Easier said than done, but I would you pay a little extra for knowing my desire to eat steak isn’t killing a wolf.