Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What’s so bad about the big bad wolf?

Jerome Christenson | Winona Daily News

At least the Three Little Pigs had something to celebrate when the Minnesota Legislature adjourned.
Come November, the Big Bad Wolf will be legally in the crosshairs for 6,000 Minnesota hunters — that’s two hunters for each of Minnesota’s estimated 3,000 wolves for you folks keeping score at home. But then again, the DNR will close the season after 400 wolves are dead and registered — which should leave about 5,600 hunters unhappy and 2,600 wolves to be targets next year.

Now, other than the fairly substantial chunk of change the state stands to net from selling licenses, I’m not entirely clear on exactly what it is we stand to gain from this. It wasn’t all that long ago — 1974 to be exact — that Minnesota was running out of wolves. And those last few wolves were the last wild wolves in the lower 48 states, the DNR tells us. Under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, that population built itself up and wolves started roaming across more and more of Minnesota and into Wisconsin and Michigan. That protection was withdrawn in January.

It didn’t take long for an animal that had been considered rare and valuable for decades to become just one more thing for folks to kill.

Sorry if that comes off a bit harsh, but the longer I live I find less and less recreational value in killing things. I can go to where the wild things are, sneak up and enjoy a good long look without dragging a bloody carcass out of the woods with me.

That’s not to say I carry a particular beef against hunting — better a whitetail end up venison in the freezer than roadkill along the highway. There are times and species for which it is entirely appropriate to break out the guns and hit the woods to thin the herd. But 3,000 timber puppies in a state the size of Minnesota hardly puts a wolf at every door. To put that number in a bit of perspective, I’m told there are almost one-third that many dogs and cats licensed in the city of Winona alone, and the territory Up Nort where most of those wolves take up residence is not a particularly crowded place. Those counties comprise considerable real estate that’s mostly lakes and pine trees with the occasional iron mine to give folks living up there something to do.

Now, granted, Tabby and Fluffy are more likely lounging on the sofa than out roaming the countryside, but then I’ve never heard anybody argue that even when the wolves are hungry they pose a threat to Riding Hood or Grandma.

They do compete with hunters for deer, though. That seems to be a primary point of irritation.

No denying that wolves eat deer. It’s what they do. Since they don’t have pockets to carry a debit card nor a woodland Hy-Vee to use it at, for Minnesota wolves it’s eat deer or go hungry. Considering that the disgruntled human hunter has the option of store-bought Angus burgers or pork chops, it would seem that when it comes to venison, the wolves would seem to have the better claim.
For that matter, considering the number of deer that end up roadside carrion around here, it might not hurt to have a few big, bad wolves prowling our neighborhood — for white-tailed crowd control, not to give folks something new to shoot at.

Not even the most jaded foodie holds forth on the exquisite deliciousness of wolfie fillets, and it takes a peculiar fashionista to argue that a wolfskin doesn’t look it’s best when worn by a wolf.
I guess the Three Little Pigs and the Minnesota Legislature understand all this.

I sure don’t.