Wolves & A Chicken Rancher
What's the truth about Yellowstone's wolves?
Every summer I have visitors to my fly shop asking about the wolves which were introduced into Yellowstone Park in 1995. I usually answered, "it does it affect me. . . I saw the Cache Creek pack last week just east of Soda Butte," but that was about it. I told the more interested how and where to find them.. . .
I never thought I would "jump subjects" and begin to write about the wolves which were introduced into the Yellowstone ecosystem but that's what I'm doing now. . . .You betcha! . .and it's 3:30 in the morning so there must be something troubling me..
I'd like for you to imagine-
Last night, as I got into bed, the only sounds I heard were the sounds generated by normal house functions (ie. the refrigerator, the heating system and our cat which meows every time it rolls over in its sleep.) Some time later I am suddenly awakened to a chorus of nervous egg laying chickens panicing in their coop. I quickly dressed, loaded a shotgun and stepped outside to possibly "pursuade" whatever it was that decided to tread on my territory to quickly depart or follow more heavenly pursuits.
I soon realized the chorus of squawks was much greater and louder then anything I have ever heard in the past (like when a skunk or a racoon attempted to raid the coop.) I quietly moved closer to the building and switched on a powerful hand light. I scanned the land around the enclosed pen . Nothing but darkness for hundreds of feet. However, the birds continued to squawk for help of any kind.
I quitely entered the coop quite expecting to see Rocky Raccoon feasting on Hennrietta Hen. . . Nope, all I saw were dozens of wide eyed chickens huddled together in the highest reaches of the roosting system. It was obvious that they were not about to descend. I said to myself "This has to be a ghost in the night. . . Why don't you crazy birds go to sleep?" The birds settled down and the night passed without another incident.
Then, this morning I went out to feed the animals, it was just starting to drizzle. Normally the chickens greet me at the fence as I approach with their feed. This morning they remained inside the coop. I yelled to them as I began to scatter their feed under a dry area. They slowly appeared.
As I stood in that cold, damp drizzle I happened to look down and there in the mud I saw the remains of a several fresh and different sized wolf tracks. The track was being eroded by the rain. I thought "Holy s..t! So it was two. . . maybe three wolves! Well this is evidence lost. And, the grass between here and their mountainous sanctuary doesn't show track."
So what's the point? Hell, I don't know. I lost some sleep. Egg production dropped off to nothing for the next day or two. But I will say this; when a predator is introduced into any enviononment and food sources are as plentiful as in Yellowstone National Park, the predator will natually reproduce and expand its territory (much like a rampant infection in your body.) The Park's animals, then will be naturally preyed upon and will be decimated until they are virtually nonexistant. Then, and only then will the population of the introduced predator begin to drop in number. ( Such as hawks and owls with rodent populations.) We are now experencing the expansion of wolves territory and they are now showing up everywhere. Now I have a few questions for you. . . before you start waving some stupid flag for whatever side of the equation you are on.
What natural controls have been put in place to control the wolves?. . .Some Phd.? Bart Simpson might say at this point, "There are so many of the little buggers that they must have already bit him in the ass."
One woman, who lives just across the valley, had two wolves set up shop in her front yard using one of her six pet sheep for an appitizer. She called the Park officials and they came and "looked." (It's funny how they were trying to figure out if a wolf ate the sheep. . . or was it a Grizzly bear? Especially when they had an eye wittness.) It took another dead sheep before they decided, for the best interest of the experiment, to move the (confirmed) wolves from her area. (Now I didn't see this but. . .) I'm told they showed up with an small "army" riding in helicopters, quads, horses and in several radio antenna type pick up trucks. Two days later they darted the two culprits and then dropped them off near Yellowstone Lake (about 100 miles to the south). Well, within two or three days the wolves were back munching on the rest of my neighbors diminishing flock. Again the "army" returned and finally shot the two wolves. I guess the "army" is now up in Mammoth Hot springs having a snowball fight waiting for another incident! Oh, I forgot to mention that these guys are drawing checks for this.
I'm also being told, by very knowledgable Elk hunters, that elk and deer populations within the Park are falling rapidly. So rapidly that they equate it to a plague. But then again I've watched some of these same hunters hunt and unless they see an elk standing in an open high mountain park (a meadow) there is a problem. (Well, sometimes you have to get off your horse and actually "hunt".)
Or, do I listen to someone who is cashing in on the wolves existence? Yes, researchers and other government monitoring officials do draw paychecks for riding in helicopters and making snowballs in the Park. I'm sure they don't want to give up that lifestyle. I told that the press is also very attentive to their information leaked out by another "pensioner" in Washington.
Where do I or you go for the truth about a failing experiment? . . . Where is the check and balance system for that human element of this experiment? We all know it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature or is it?.
One argument I hear is that the wolves, deer and elk did fine when Lewis and Clark showed up for the party but back then (in 1803) the elk lived out on the valley floors and out on the prarrie. I think you'd need a crystal ball to find one out there now. . . so kiss that argument good bye.
Things will ultimately change in time but somehow stupidity (on both sides of this equation) lives on. It's just too bad some fool has to affect my (and my neighbors) life and I can't (in all reality) defend my interests. . . because it's the Park's "party" and they're having it with my (and yours) money. This certainly is a "Catch 22" or a SNAFU depending on our outlook. In the mean time. . . I can almost hear laughter and snowballs hitting gore-tex jackets in the Park.
By Doc Knoll