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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

I have to warn you that the article that follows my overview is disturbing to the point of wondering where we are going as a species....................For a kid who grew up witnessing the true Environmental Renaissance of the 1960's and 1970's, e.g. Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, et al.,,,,,,,,,,the intense anger and reactionary behaviour and zealotry expressed by so many of our citizens as it relates to all things "wild and free" can almost make you "clutch" and go into hiding as it relates to fighting on to rewild our Continent................But you know what, take a deep breath, be bold, confident and do not let the small mindedness and ignorance depicted below get in your "craw"............Come out swinging,,,,,,,,,,,,,,let us redouble our efforts to both educate and win the day with the majority of Americans who recognize that our great Country always worked at it's optimum when the individual, the neighborhood, the state and Washington D.C. all worked hand in glove to bring the modern day "ARK" into existence 40 and 50 years ago..............If the "Greatest Generation(world war 2 era folks) could find a way to get beyond "fast food", DDT and shopping at the Mall,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,I believe that we as a people in the early 21st century can rebound from a miserable "first half" of environmental malaise and rally to "win the game" for all the travelers on board the only planet that we know of where the beauty of diverse life exists


1949A Sand Country Almanac by naturalist and former Forest Service employee Aldo Leopold describes the complex relationships within nature. His work does much to educate the general public about natural science. It also marks the beginning of a shift from a conservation movement dominated by wilderness lovers to the emerging environmental movement, which brings together scientists from different fields

 1962Silent Spring by aquatic biologist Rachel Carson exposes the harm caused by insecticides such as DDT. The book leads to the development of safer insecticides and to a ban on the sale of DDT within the United States. More significantly, it heightens the awareness of ordinary people, who demand new legislation aimed at protecting the environment—a word that enters common parlance around this time.

1964 The Wilderness Preservation Act establishes the National Wilderness Preservation System. The system can grant wilderness areas protected status that excludes them from mining, timber cutting, and other operations.

1968 The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act establishes a system for protecting pristine, free-flowing rivers from development.

president Johnson signing the WILDERNESS ACT

 1966 The Endangered Species Preservation Act, the nation's first law to protect endangered species, permits the government to take land into federal custody in order to protect "selected species of native fish and wildlife." It does not ban, however, the killing of endangered species, except within national wildlife refuges.

1967 The Environmental Defense Fund is established to seek legal solutions to environmental problems. Its founding heralds the emergence of this new law specialty.

1969 The Endangered Species Conservation Act expands the protection of the 1966 act to some invertebrates and introduces a new category: threatened species—those that are "threatened with worldwide extinction."

1970 On April 22 Earth has its first official birthday celebration in the United States. More than 20 million people marched, demonstrated, and attend teach-ins on environmental topics.

On Dec. 2 President Nixon forms the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce laws that protect the environment and public health. Two days later William D. Ruckelshaus is sworn in as the agency's first administrator.

The Clean Air Act is passed, regulating air emissions and granting the EPA the power to set air quality standards. Amendments to the act in 1977 and 1990 raise standards even higher, in order to counter problems like acid rain and ozone depletion.

The League of Conservation Voters is founded. A bipartisan political action committee (PAC) of environmental activists, it publishes a scorecard of House and Senate member votes for every Congress

.1971 The international organization Greenpeace is founded. Greenpeace proves adept at using the media to raise awareness about industrial pollution, endangered species protection, and other environmentalist concerns.1972 The Noise Control Act helps to define a newly recognized environmental problem-noise pollution—and grants the EPA authority to set noise limits.

The Clean Water Act is passed by Congress, placing a limit on the flow of raw sewage into rivers, lakes, and streams. According to EPA statistics, only one third of the nation's waters are safe for fishing and swimming at the time that the act is passed. Three decades later, about two thirds are safe.

1973 The Endangered Species Act is passed to protect wildlife. The act expands federal protections to plants and all invertebrates; bans the killing of all endangered species, as well as trade in endangered species and their products; and permits non-native species to be added to the U.S. endangered species list. Every year the names of 35 to 60 insects, plants, and animals are added to the list of species threatened with extinction. By April 2001 there are more than 1,800 threatened and endangered plant and animal species around the world.

Read more: Milestones in Environmental Protection |







2 points on reddit
Opening photo by Martyn Stewart. All other photos by the author
The best way to fatally wound a wolf without killing
 it instantly is to shoot it in the gut, preferably with
armor-piercing ammunition. Unlike soft lead-tipped bullets,
which mushroom inside the body cavity and kill quickly,
 heavy-jacketed AP ammo pierces the target and blows
 out the other side.
This has two advantages: The first is that, especially
with a gut shot, the animal will suffer. It will bleed out
slowly, run a mile or so in terrified panic, and collapse.
 Then it will die. The second advantage is that, if you’re
hunting illegally (out of season, at night with a spotlight,
 or on land where you shouldn’t), there is little forensic
 evidence for game wardens to gather. No bullet will be
 found in the cadaver. Most importantly, the animal will
 have traveled some distance from where it was shot,
 so that tracing the site of the shooting is almost impossible.
I gleaned these helpful tips from a nice old man at a saloon
 in Salmon, Idaho, which last December was the site of the
first annual Coyote and Wolf Derby. I had come to this rural
 town—population 3,000—to enter as a contestant in the
derby. Over the course of two days in late December,
several hundred hunters would compete to kill as many
 wolves and coyotes as possible. There were two $1,000
prizes to be had, one for the most coyotes slain and the
other for the largest single wolf carcass. Children were
 encouraged to enter, with special awards for youths
 aged 10–11 and 12–14 listed on the promotional flyer.
The derby’s organizer, a nonprofit sporting group called
 Idaho for Wildlife, advertised that the event was to be
historic: the first wolf-killing contest held in the US
 since 1974.
Hunting for food is one thing, and in some cases
 hunting helps to keep overabundant species like
 deer in ecological check. But the reason we have too
 many deer in the US in the first place is simple: the
steady decline of big predators like the mountain lion
 and—you guessed it—the wolf. The fact is that we
 need wolves in ecosystems. So why a killing contest
 to rid the land of them?
After digging into the wolf-hate literature featured on
 Idaho for Wildlife’s website, I wondered whether the
 residents of Salmon were looking to kill wolves out
 of spite. They hated these creatures, and I wanted
 to understand why.
Besides killing wolves, one of the group’s core
 missions, according to its website, is to “fight against
 all legal and legislative attempts by the animal rights
 and anti-gun organizations who are attempting to take
 away our rights and freedoms under the Constitution
of the United States of America.” The website also
suggested that media coverage of the event was
not welcome. The only way I’d be able to properly
 report on the derby, I figured, was to go undercover
 as a competing hunter. So I showed up in Salmon
 a few days before the event, paid the $20 sign-up
 fee, and officially became part of the slaughter.
The derby called for hunters to work in two-person
 teams. In the weeks leading up to the competition
 I recruited pro-wolf activists Brian Ertz and his
sister Natalie Ertz, native Idahoans who have
worked for local conservation groups. Rounding
out our teams was Brian’s friend Bryan Walker,
a gnarled former Marine and an Idaho lawyer who
 has studied shamanism and claims to have an
ability to speak with animals.
The nice old man in the bar, whose name was
 Cal Black, bought the four of us a round of drinks
 when we told him we were in town for the derby.
Cal had grown up on a ranch near town, and his
 thoughts on wolves reflected those of most other
 locals we met. Salmon is livestock country—
the landscape is riddled with cows and sheep
—and ranchers blame wolves for huge numbers
of livestock deaths. Therefore wolves needed to
 be dispatched with extreme prejudice. The derby
 was a natural extension of this sentiment.
“Gut-shoot every goddamn last one of them wolves,”
 Cal told us. He wished a similar fate on “tree huggers,”
 who, in Cal’s view, mostly live in New York City.
“You know what I’d like to see? Take the wolves
 and plant ’em in Central Park, ’cause they impose
 it on us to have these goddamn wolves! Bullshit!
 It’s said a wolf won’t attack you. Well, goddamn,
 these tree huggers don’t know what. I want wolves
to eat them goddamn tree huggers. Maybe they’ll
 learn something!”
We all raised a glass to the tree huggers’ getting
 their due. I fought the urge to tell Cal that I live in
New York part-time, and that in college Natalie
trained as an arborist and had actually hugged
trees for a living. Her brother, who is 31 and
studying to be a lawyer in Boise, Idaho, had warned
 me about the risks of going undercover when I
 broached the idea over the phone. As a representative
for the nonprofit Western Watersheds Project, which
has lobbied for wolf protections, he’d attended numerous
public meetings about “wolf management” in communities
 like Salmon. “Salmon is the belly of the beast,” he told
me. “There is not a more hostile place. It’s Mordor.”
Brian’s former boss at the Western Watersheds Project,
 executive director Jon Marvel, has received death threats
 for speaking out in favor of wolves and against the
 powerful livestock industry. Many pro-wolf activists
across the American West, especially those who have
 publicly opposed the ranching industry, have reported
similar threats and acts of aggression—tires slashed,
 homes vandalized, windows busted out with bricks in t
he night. Idaho for Wildlife’s opinion on the situation is
made clear on its website: “Excess predator’s [sic
] and environmentalists should go first!”
Prepping for the derby, we disguised ourselves
according to the local style: camo pants and jackets,
wool caps, balaclavas, binoculars, and heavy boots.
 When he wasn’t mystically communicating with elk,
Walker enjoyed hunting them. He didn’t look out of
 place in Salmon, carrying his M4 rifle with a 30-round
magazine and a Beretta .45 on his hip. He loaned me
 his bolt-action .300 Win Mag with a folding bipod,
 while Brian carried a .30-06 with a Leupold scope.
 Natalie, who is tall and good-looking, was armed
only with a camera and played the part of a
domesticated wife “here for the party,” as she put it.
At the derby registration the night before the killing
was to commence, we were so convincing that the
organizers didn’t even bother to ask for our hunting
 licenses or wolf permits. Instead they suggested
 spots in the surrounding mountains where we
 could find wolves to shoot illegally.
From left to right: Bryan Walker, Brian Ertz, and Natalie Ertz
IWolves and the Wolf Myth in American Literature,
S. K. Robisch presents the wolf as a “mystical force
 in the human mind,” one that for thousands of years has
 been associated with the purity of bloodlust, the unhinged
 cruelty of nature. The wolf as mythological super-predator
brings terror and chaos, devouring our young, our old, the
weak, the innocent, and the foolish, operating through
 trickery and deceit.
From Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come
 to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
” Little Red Riding Hood loses her grandmother to a cross-
dressing wolf, and the Three Little Pigs pay the price as well.
 In the late Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church declared
 the wolf an agent of the Devil, or possibly the shape-shifting
manifestation of Satan himself. And of course the werewolf,
a human turned beast by the contagion of a bite, also lived in
 the imagination as a demonic figure, killing for sport under
the light of the full moon, indiscriminate and lunatic.
In Anglo-Saxon and the Germanic languages, certain words
 for wolf—warg, warc, verag—were also used to describe
bandits, outlaws, and evil spirits. In Swedish, the word varg
simply meant “everything that is wrong.” Even Teddy Roosevelt,
 the conservationist president and lover of the wilderness,
referred to wolves as “the archtype of ravin [sic], the beast of
 waste and desolation.”
In reality, Homo sapiens shares a long and intimate relationship
with Canis lupus. The gray wolf was the first animal to be
domesticated out of the wild, long before the cow, horse, or
 goat. Its direct descendant is classified as Canis lupus 
familiaris, better known as the common dog, which, despite
 its wide subset of breeds, is almost genetically identical to
 the wolf. The bear, the tiger, the lion—feared predators of the
 human race, even today far more dangerous to man than
wolves—never came out of the dark to join the fire circles of
early hominids. The wolf did, though the humans in its midst
 became food on some occasions.
It’s theorized that wolves and humans, some 20,000 years ago,
 hunted the same prey—large herbivores—and, like us, wolves
 worked in packs. We fed at their kills, and they fed at ours.
 Antagonism gave way to mutualism, symbiosis, cooperation.
Around 8,000 BC, however, humans began to domesticate
livestock and gather in villages. The wolf was no longer our

 friend, as it stalked and devoured the sheep and cows we
 now kept as property. Hatred of the beast was born, and it
grew in proportion to our divorce from the wild.
Western man, armed with gunpowder and greedy for land,
 proved from the moment he arrived in the New World to be
a more capable beast of waste and desolation, as predators
of all kinds—the wolf, the cougar, the coyote, the black bear,
 the grizzly, the lynx, the wolverine—fell before his march.
Wolves were shot on sight, trapped, snared, fed carcasses
 laced with poison or broken glass, their pups gassed or set
on fire in their dens. “Such behavior amazed Native Americans,”
 writes wildlife journalist Ted Williams. “Their explanation for
 it was that, among palefaces, it was a manifestation of insanity.”
The sprawling roads, farms, towns, and cities of the young
 republic completed the job by systematically razing the wolf’s
habitat. By 1900, wolves had disappeared east of the Mississippi
. By the 1950s, they could only be found in isolated regions of
 the American West, with perhaps a dozen wolves remaining
in the contiguous 48 states, compared with a pre-Columbian
 population estimated at several hundred thousand.
The point of this slaughter was not to protect human beings,
although this remains the enduring perception. Only two fatal
 wolf attacks on Homo sapiens in North America have been
reported during the past 100 years, with perhaps a few more
 over the course of the 19th century (the records prior to 1900
 are uncertain and the stories undocumented, often embellished
and tending toward the folkloric). A 2002 study conducted by
the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research reviewed the
 history of wolf predation on humans in Europe, Asia, and the
US from 1500 to the present and found that wolf attacks were
“extremely rare,” that “most attacks have been by rabid wolves,”
 and that “humans are not part of their normal prey.” Wolves in
 the United States died at our hands for the most part because
of the ancient grievance: They ate our cattle and sheep,
representing viscerally that which could not be tamed.
Then, in 1974, wolves in the United States got a reprieve.
 The passage of the Endangered Species Act the previous
year had cleared the path for Congress to declare the animals
endangered, making it illegal to hunt them. Wolves had survived
 by the thousands in the forests, mountains, and prairies of
western Canada, and now, protected from widespread
slaughter in the US, portions of the population began a
 slow march of recolonization, dispersing south from
Alberta and British Columbia and into Montana. In 1995,
Congress expedited this process by mandating the
 reintroduction of captured Canadian wolves to the
 mountains of Idaho and Wyoming.
Thereafter, wolves thrived as never before in our
recorded history, and ecologists noted with astonishment
the beneficial effects on ecosystems in the West. In
Yellowstone National Park, a centerpiece of this reintroduction,
wolves pared the overabundant populations of elk, which had
stripped the park’s trees and grasses. With fewer elk, the
 flora returned, and the rejuvenated landscape created
habitats for dozens of other creatures: beaver in the
streams, songbirds in the understory, butterflies among
 the flowers.
Such was the perception of success that by 2009 the US
 wolf population was declared fully recovered. In 2011, when
 Congress rescinded the wolves’ protected status, scores
of biologists, ecologists, and wildlife scientists protested the
decision. Critics observed that the removal of Canis lupus
 from the endangered species list had been accomplished
mostly due to the lobbying efforts of the livestock industry.
For the first time since 1974, wolves across the Northern
 Rocky Mountains—in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana—were
legally hunted, trapped, and shot with vengeance. The winter
 hunting seasons decimated whole packs. At the behest of
ranchers, the US government joined in the slaughter,
dispatching predator-control agents from the federal
Wildlife Services.
The view of wolves as vermin bent on stealing ranchers
’ livelihood has carried through to the present, though
ittle evidence supports this stigma. The number of cattle
 and sheep lost to wolves and other predators each year
is negligible. In 2010, just 0.23 percent of cattle in the
US died from “carnivore depredations” (as wolf attacks
 on livestock are officially categorized).
And it didn’t matter that aggressive “predator management”
 has no basis in ecological science. “The myth we’ve been
 fed is that predators like wolves need to be hunted because
 otherwise they’ll grow out of control, exponentially,” said
 Brooks Fahy, director of the nonprofit Predator Defense,
 in Oregon. “But no scientific study backs this up.
Wolves self-regulate if left alone.” Wolf management,
 Fahy said, “is a form of rationalized madness.”
Proud derby contestants displaying a pair of coyotes
“You going for wolf?” a cowboy with a big ha
t and a smile the size of Texas asked us
when he saw our camo jackets and the truck bristling
 with rifles. We nodded. “Good!”
We were at a country store in the village of Old Sawmill
 Station, Idaho, and the walls of the store were festooned
 with pictures of hunters holding dead predators as trophies:
 handsome bears and cougars and wolves shot to tatters
. In some of the pictures, petite wives gripped the slumped
 cadavers of wolves twice their size.
The proprietor told us that the best place to find wolves
 was up a dirt road along the east fork of the Salmon River.
 “Once you get up past Boulder Creek, look for tracks,” he
We drove into the mountains, tracing the river’s east fork.
 Brian passed the time with a joke about a cowboy and a
ranch hand riding a fence line in Idaho: “They find a sheep
 tangled in the barbed wire, and the cowboy jumps off his
horse, unzips, and has his sweet way with the creature.
 He pulls out, turns to the ranch hand: ‘You want some of
this?’ The ranch hand says, ‘Sure, but do I have to get
 tangled up in the wire?’”
Brian had hunted elk and antelope in the backcountry
 from a young age. By his early teens he’d come to the
realization that cattle and sheep dominated the landscape
 to the detriment of almost every other species that depends
 on grass to survive. In his 20s he spent five years as
 media director of the Western Watersheds Project, a
group whose chief enemy is the ranching industry.
Watersheds are ruined by the presence of too many
cows. In fact, cows mess up just about everything in
the ecosystems of the arid West. Wherever domesticated
 livestock graze, the result is less to eat for the wild
 ungulates—elk, moose, deer, antelope.
The road along the river led up high among jagged peaks
—the loveliness of the place made us quiet. We slung our
 rifles and hiked up hills and little dirt roads and down
gullies, looking for wolf prints in the snow.
Walker was our tracker. He’d grown up in a family of
 ranchers in rural Idaho, on a farm with 200 head of sheep.
 A hunter for most of his adult life, he told me he had shot
 “pretty much everything,” until one night in 2004, at the
 age of 40. He was sitting in a hotel room in Spokane,
Washington, and a coyote sidled up directly under his
window and starting howling and didn’t stop. “Right in
 the middle of downtown Spokane!” he said. “That was t
he first time I understood that animals were talking to me.”
From that point on, his view of animals changed. If he
hunted, it would be honorably, deliberately, and thoughtfully.
 He talked about “the responsibility of the predator.” He
spoke of the “ethical shot,” taking an animal down with
 one bullet, inflicting the least suffering. He told me how
one afternoon not long ago he’d been bow hunting in Idaho,
chasing down an elk high on a ridgeline. “A magpie flew up
 from way down in the valley,” he said. “I swear it must have
 been 2,000 yards he flew, and he comes up to me and
 perches on a branch and starts making sounds I’d never
 heard a magpie make. We just talked and talked.”
On day one, we found no signs of wolves, neither tracks
 nor scat. Back at the truck, empty-handed, we cracked
beers and lit up cigarettes. Before too long, a growling
 pickup appeared in the distance, trawling. We tensed.
As it slowed to a stop, the two young men in the cab eyed
“You doing the derby?” they asked, and we nodded.
“Where you been today?”
There was a long, uncomfortable pause. I sucked
at my beer and glanced at Brian, who was chain-smoking.
 We’d been lazy hunters. Walker took up the slack and lied
marvelously. We’d hunted up and down the east fork of the
 Salmon River, he explained, and up and down this and that
 canyon, hungry for a kill but finding nothing. The two men
 stuffed tobacco into their cheeks and spat. We talked
about how hard it is to track wolves and wondered why
the hell they wouldn’t show themselves. The men reported
the word from the local ranchers: If any of us derby folk
happened to see a wolf on their property, we should shoot
 it on sight and forget about the legalities.
After they pulled away, Walker let out a sigh. “Those ar
e the kinds of guys I’ve known all my life,” he said. “That’s
 my family right there. They like to go out and kill. They’re
 not evil. They’re just… unaware.”
That same day, a veteran BBC wildlife sound technician
 and videographer named Martyn Stewart, who had traveled
to Salmon to cover the derby for his own purposes, found
himself drawing unwanted attention.
The first problem was his accent—Martyn is Australian,
and a foreigner in Salmon is serious business. “We stick
 together in this town,” a wolf hunter had told him when
 he arrived. “We ain’t got no niggers in this town. You see
any niggers in this town?”
The second giveaway was his earring. He’d gone to a gun
 shop on Main Street to find out where the derby registration
 was to be held. Martyn told me later that the shopkeeper
had looked at him as if he were deranged. “I suggest you
take out the earring,” the shopkeeper said, “because you
look like a fag.”
At the registration he showed up in tennis shoes and a
 yellow North Face jacket. I overheard a brooding hunter
 as he nodded in Martyn’s direction. “Ain’t got no right
being here.” After registration, Martyn drove to his hotel
shadowed by a pickup, which looped around in the
parking lot and drove off when he emerged from his car.
The next morning he went to a local coffeehouse where
 the waitress told him she hadn’t heard wolves howling
 in at least two years. She seemed sad about it. Two
hunters in camo then walked in and sat at the table
 opposite him, staring. Eventually, Martyn made eye
contact and said hello. They didn’t reply. Instead they
 stared for 40 minutes, ordering neither food nor drink.
 When he got up, they got up. When he left, they left.

More dead coyotes
Idaho for Wildlife had arranged for a closing ceremony at
 sundown on the second day of the contest, beginning a
t 4 PM. The assumption was that dozens of wolves would be
 hauled in. The judging was set to take place behind the ranching
supply depot where we’d registered, a place called Steel &
 Ranch. “It sounds like an S&M club for cows,” Brian snorted.
 There was a meat hook from which kills would hang as derby
 judges measured and weighed the cadavers to determine the
 winning teams.
We got in the truck and were headed north toward town when
 Natalie yelled out that she saw something moving across the
 broken snow in a field a few hundred yards away. “I don’t think
 it was a deer,” she said. Walker slammed the truck to a halt,
 and we leaped out with spotting scopes and binoculars and
 one rifle, the .300 Win Mag, which I carried.
“Coyote?” asked Walker, glassing the field.
“That’s no coyote,” Brian said. I caught the animal in the
 scope of my rifle.
“That’s a wolf,” said Natalie. “Look at the color, and the size,
and that tail.” She paused and lowered her chin, smiling.
“I haven’t seen a wolf in more than two years!”
We watched as the animal moseyed along some 400 yards
 away, sniffing the ground, easeful in the afternoon light. It
stopped and raised its head and stared in our direction, its
 shape silhouetted against the snow. I felt like it was looking
right at me, up through the scope and down through my
 bones to my toes.
Then it was over. In a flash, the animal slipped from our
sight, vanishing into the patchwork of the sagebrush and
 snow. The river trilled, and the sun smiled down through
the mountains.
Natalie and Brian agreed that the sighting was an anomaly.
 “It’s fucking incredible,” said Natalie. “In the middle of the day,
 by the side of the road, this close to town, this close to a
place like Salmon, with all these hunters out… It’s just…
” Words failed her. She looked as though she were about to cry.
Natalie had spent the past five years watching, tracking, and
listening to the packs in the mountains of Idaho. She had seen
at least 20 wolves in that time. She’d fallen in love for the usual
 reasons that wolf-lovers describe. Wolves, after all, are not
 unlike human beings. They’re monogamous, loyal, mate for
life, and carefully raise their young in strong family units, with
 an alpha male and female at the top of the pack. It could be
said that what we love about wolves is their similarities with
Natalie had howled with the animals and heard their answers,
and she had watched the alphas pair up and raise pups. She’d
 watched the pups play and thrive and learn from their parents,
 bringing her ten-year-old son out to see the wolves, listen to
their talk, and try to parse the meaning. Now, after a two-year
 absence, she’d seen a wolf again.
“Let’s try a haze,” she said. I looked at her. The purpose of
hazing wildlife—usually accomplished with a few shots fired
 in the air—is to dishabituate them from the presence of
humans, to let them know we’re not their friends. We’d
discussed this possibility. It would be a violation of Idaho
 state law, which mandates that citizens can shoot wolves
 but cannot “intentionally harass, bait, drive, or disturb any
 animal for the purpose of disrupting lawful pursuit or taking
Walker, who’d been a prosecutor in Idaho, warned that
 the law could construe a haze during the derby as an
egregious act. “Fuck it,” I said. “The state of Idaho can
extradite me.” I loaded a round in the Win Mag, aimed
 high above the brush where we’d last seen the wolf,
 and fired. The report caromed off the hills, and we
 heard the bullet zing when it hit.
“You hit him! You fuckin’ got him!” Brian cried, peering
 through his scope.
I felt like I’d been shot.
“Just fucking with you, Ketcham. Look, he’s moving!”
The shot had flushed the animal from cover. “Running
 fast, over that fence line, up the draw! Wait, there’s two!
Yeah, two! And they got the message.”
The pair of wolves, lithe and beautiful and full of strength
 and speed, sprinted up a draw into the distant hills, up
 into the mountains—600 yards, 700 yards, 1,000 yards,
It was the first time I had seen wolves in the wild, and
given current trends, it felt like winning the lottery. The
 Humane Society of the United States reports that nearly
 1,400 wolves have been killed since the 2011 delisting
, almost half of them in Idaho alone. This is out of a
population in the Northern Rocky Mountains that had
risen as high as 1,700 just a few years ago. The animals
are disappearing, and the packs are splintering into smaller
 groups, their viability compromised. Natalie told me that the
two animals we’d seen were most likely the remnants of a
 family whose kin had already been hung from a meat hook.
Despite the contestants’ best efforts, not a single wolf
 was killed as a result of the Salmon derby, and the
ceremony at Steel & Ranch had an air of failure.
We stood around and feigned disappointment at the lack
of dead wolves. Only one other team had spotted even
one of the animals during the hunt, and we bragged that
 we’d seen two of them. Our fellow hunters looked dubious
when I lied about missing the shot at 400 yards. “Say 500
 yards, goddamn it!” Walker hissed in my ear. “This is
As for the coyotes, only 21 dead had been brought in,
 according to Idaho for Wildlife. Martyn Stewart was
 perched up on the loading dock, filming the proceedings.
 Rigor mortis had set in for most of the animals, and
 the judges had a hard time pulling the dead coyotes’
legs apart to check their sex. It had been announced
 that there would now be a lesser prize of several
 hundred dollars awarded to the hunter who had
bagged the most female coyotes.
Martyn didn’t know I was a journalist until a few days
 after the derby, when I spoke with him on the phone
. He told me that when he left town at 6 AM the nex
t morning, the lights of a pickup truck flared in the
 winter dark as it pulled out after him. As soon as
the speed limit hit 55, the truck raced up behind his
 bumper, the floodlights on high, the horn blasting.
“They were blinding me,” Martyn said, “and I gotta
 admit, my heart was in my mouth. They were literally
 driving me out of town.” About 15 miles north of
Salmon, the truck emitted one final blast, flashed
its lights, and gave up its hellish pursuit.
We avoided a similar fate, managing to hoodwink
 even the local sheriff, who told us he was on hand
 to make sure there was no trouble from pro-wolf
 protesters. “They said there was some kind of a
 threat,” he said. “But nobody showed. Guess
they didn’t have the stomach for it.”
“Is that right?” Natalie said. I could see a smile
playing on her lips.

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