Words of deep passion for our remaining wildness, with wolves in it, free and untrapped. We are the protectors of both….
I remember golden winter days spent wandering the Gros Ventre, tracking wolves — their prints still in shadowed snow, the blood of recent kills, rare sightings, pure green eyes, howls (instead of the silence of their absence) echoing in canyons, forests, and fields and feeling the deep sense of wonder that comes with having these animals in this place. Wolves inhabit only the wildest places in our country, the types of places that are growing fewer and smaller with the procession of time.
This winter there were whispers that the wolves were gone in the Gros Ventre — just one of those last wild places — they had fallen from sight. This was recently confirmed by state biologists. The Gros Ventre pack, once one of the largest in the state, is no more. Their families and home, broken.
The identity of this great valley, its towering sparkling granite, powerful winding rivers, emerald forests, why many of us choose this place as our home, is because of its wildness. When some of this is lost, we lose a part of this place and we should mourn it. Wildness, if anyone needs reminding, is not curated. Wolves are social creatures that wolf researcher Jim Dutcher says are “deeply emotional individuals who care about what happens to themselves, family members and friends.” Dutcher also goes on to say that a “wolf knows who he is, and sees his packmates as individuals. He has a concept of how his actions are perceived by others. He is capable of empathy, compassion, apology and encouragement.”
In the contentious predator debate, these unquantifiable qualities, the value of the life of a wolf, its soul and spirit, and beyond that how its family members feel when he/she is murdered are almost entirely absent. These animals are not numbers to be managed; they are highly intelligent individuals capable of feeling grief and joy, excitement and sadness, playfulness and determination, compassion and loneliness, and they place family above all else.
Instead of thinking of wolves as numbers or datasets, trophies to be won or targets to destroy — consider them individuals, members of families, the thinking feeling creatures of this earth that they are. Respect their spirit. Leave a place for them in your heart. Start from there and we begin to become the protectors of this planet that in an ideal world we should all hope to become.
Jon Wall, Victor, Idaho