Sunday, November 19, 2006

Crying Wolf

So with in the past few months, there was a news story about how some US Forest Service employees called to be evacuated after hearing wolves. Most of the story then goes on to ridicule their fear. Basically the consensus among experts is: "Wolves don't kill people." I don't believe them. Experts also said that mountain lions don't eat people. Until they ate several people in Colorado. Hmm... let's list top predators, cougars kill people, bears kill people, dogs kill people (not exactly a top predator, but similar to a wolf) but wolves just don't? It doesn't make sense to me.

The issue is that aren't enough wolves yet. Once the population gets big enough, younger wolves will get pushed into areas where there are people. Already the rather small population of wolves gets press for killing ranchers' stock. This means wolves are in contact with people. Fortunately (in terms of wolves eating people), this type of contact tends to be fatal for the wolf which means wolves retain their fear of people. The problem comes in when the wolves are protected and loose their fear of humans. Of course a wolf would prefer a nice fat deer, but if deer are in short supply, why not start scavaging people's garbage? And what if deer are in high supply, but in the suburbs where there are lots of people who don't hurt the wolves? Any animal will attack if it feels cornered. All it takes is a wolf stuck in a back yard or some hiker coming too close to some pups, and people will get hurt.

Now, I'm not saying kill all the wolves, but people killed the wolves in history for a reason, mostly that they didn't want to compete with them. Once there gets to be enough wolves, the problems will resurface. Of course, I think the forest service employees might have overreacted. Wolves far from people making a kill are well fed and probably still fearful of people, so not a real danger. But then, I wouldn't have waited around to find out either.

(More wolves might solve the cougar problem. Historical evidence suggests cougars and wolves don't get a long well, so they'd probably keep each other in check.)

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