Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In response: We can live with #wolves in the wild

As much as I appreciated Sandy Updyke’s Jan. 14 column headlined, “City people don’t understand wolves” — it was refreshing to read something so thoughtful on this topic — I did have some disagreements.
As a veterinarian, I dispute her claim that foothold traps are “harmless.” Ischemia, or the lack of blood supply, is extremely painful. Depending on how long an animal is caught in a trap and depending on the trap’s tension, a foot may be damaged beyond repair. A rubber band around your finger for long enough would produce the same kind of damage (don’t try it).

Updyke also didn’t address the fear that animals face when exposed and unable to retreat or the sometimes-brutal methods of dispatch. Not to mention the fragmentation that happens to a family when a member of a social species like a wolf is taken. Traps are most certainly not harmless.

As for dogs and wolves, by far the most conflict occurs when hunting dogs are intentionally put in harm’s way. I don’t live in wolf country but have friends with pets who do. There are sensible guidelines that keep dogs safe: Don’t leave dogs outside alone, check an area with lights before sending a dog out and don’t leave out food or other attractants.

I wholeheartedly concurred that wolves are not deities or villains and that their hunting strategy is not pretty. Though why does the latter even matter? I even concur that people need to be able to shoot a wolf if it is imminently harming them or their animal.

That doesn’t seem to be what happens, though. It seems that people filled with hatred and a desire to inflict the most harm possible are turned loose on wolves to maximize destruction.

Wolf advisory boards have precious few advocates for wolves. The impact of killing a single wolf on that wolf’s family rarely if ever is considered by such boards.

We can live with wolves and other large carnivores. We can have them safely in our forests. Why would we want to? Because we will be much richer for it. It’s not only city folk who feel this way; there are plenty of people living where wolves do who want wolves free from hunting and trapping and killed only when it is truly unavoidable.

Chris Albert of Lebanon Junction, Ky., is a doctor of veterinary medicine.