Wolves were absent from the public conversation for many years, having been very nearly eradicated in the lower forty-eight states one hundred years ago. Recently, though, this rare and mysterious predator has been more and more visible and in the public eye as they mount a comeback in several states after being reintroduced from Canada.
Along with the reintroduction of the signature lonely howl into the eastern Oregon wilderness, we are hearing another plaintiff cry; that of the open range ranchers who bear the brunt of the negative impact of these merciless carnivores. Current compensation policies call for stringent evidence confirming a wolf kill, including a carcass. This is extremely hard in the wide-open range lands of eastern Oregon. Complicating things for the rancher is the fact that the carcass is reduced to a few scattered bones in a matter of days, an almost impossible time line when searching thousands of acres for a lone calf carcass or even an adult.
The wolves were not brought into Oregon and dropped off like an unwanted litter of kittens, but reintroduced themselves, spreading here after their intentional reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park. This would indicate that they do indeed belong here and thus we will have to learn to live alongside them; which means that we will have to educate ourselves in the new proper etiquette as we must anytime that nature decides to take back some of its territory. There will be new rules to follow and new responsibilities for conservation and mitigation.
Right now there seems a line drawn between those directly affected by our newly returned deadly killing machines, and those who are able to admire the noble return of this majestic cousin of ”man’s best friend.” There shouldn’t be a divide. We all have a stake in learning how to cope with our new neighbors and in sharing the cost and the responsibility for the damage that will require creative and cooperative solutions. The people making money on the back of this new attraction have a moral obligation to share in the loss of those negatively affected.
It is too easy to sit in Portland and tell the eastern Oregon rancher to “just live with it” while forgetting that there are wild animals today who try to repopulate in your city, just as much their “natural range” as the high desert and the wilderness across the cascades are to the wolves. Would you tolerate wolves or bears or other natural predators repopulating into your back yard? Into Forest Park? The next time that a cougar or a bear wanders into your neighborhood are you willing to “just live with it?” Even when it eats your chihuahua and leae it’s bloody carcass. I apologize for that imagery, but I think that it is time for the urban liberal to use a little compassion for fellow Oregonians who supply the beef and wool and wheat for their table.
Having a native species of animal return to our state is something that we should all be able to celebrate, meaning we all should join in the extra effort that will entail. It is never fair to profit on the backs of others. A great accomplishment is best enjoyed when all can enjoy it, and you most enjoy something when you helped it to happen.
On any issue, it does no good to line up on your side of the line and take potshots at those who don’t support your point of view. Instead of demanding that someone else make all the concessions to accomplish what they want done, why don’t the environmentalists grow a little compassion along with their trees and see if they can actually accomplish their goals without harming another human being or his ability to support his family. Just a thought.
The concept applies both ways. The people who are adversely affected by the wolves will have to seriously look at working cooperatively with those interested in expediting the wolves return. Somewhere there is a solution that wouldn’t put an inordinate burden on anyone. We all should be willing to help if needed. Isn’t that the Oregon spirit anyway? We see a need and we fill it. We see a problem and we solve it. All of us. Together. We can’t be proud of being Oregonians if we don’t value the compassionate independence that has kept some of us here for more than half a century.
Welcome the wolves, and give the ranchers your support.
Keep Walking. (And watch out for wolves.)