Monday, July 25, 2011

Don't "Smoke"

I had wanted to write about the young ospreys trying out their wings on the nest box on Woodell Road. I had wanted to write about the incredible wildflower displays after this spring's heavy rains. Instead I am writing once again about wolves.

Last week I saw a bumpersticker I hadn't seen before - "Canadian wolves - smoke a pack a day".

Kind of hard to keep my mind on the bountiful display of mock orange scenting the river's edge. Actually it was kind of hard to keep breathing when faced with that kind of hatred and violence.

In this same week the journal Science came out with another article on the vital importance of top predators in ecological health. The article, by an international team of 24 scientists, points out that the destruction of large "apex consumers" has kicked off a series of consequences that rank as one of the most devastating impacts we have had on this planet. It's not the animals themselves, as terrible as their loss has been. It's the effect of tearing the web of connections which we are barely starting to understand. It's not the individuals, it's the relationships. It's not the death of an animal, it's the "trophic downgrades"from the absence of that animal - those linked consequences that rip apart the fabric of a place.

I think about what it means to "smoke a pack" - the loss not just of the individuals, but the relationships between them, and between the wolves and the land.

Research on wolves shows that increased hunting of wolves does not reduce livestock predation, as hunting has a dramatic effect on the cohesiveness of the pack. The worst predation that's happened in Oregon came from two loner "teen" wolves in 2010, on their own without a pack structure.

Aldo Leopold wrote that even as the deer fears the wolf, so the mountain fears the deer. Without the fear of the wolf, the deer becomes a force for destruction of the land. In his essay "Thinking Like A Mountain" he makes a case for the need for wolves and other "apex consumers" for the land itself to be whole and healthy. It's not about loving wolves, it's about loving the land.

It's all about relationships. We can choose to keep smashing the connections, or we can stop, think, and maybe, just maybe, preserve a chance for this place we love to thrive.

- Danae Yurgel
Monday July 25th, 2011

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