Wolves Made Me Do It

By | January 6, 2012

I just did something dishonest—I helped organize a Wolf tracking class and got people from all over the country and Europe to register for it, only I didn’t tell them that all along, I had an ulterior motive.

It all started when I was in my 20s. I lived with a pack of Wolves, and they were my family. I felt closer to them than to the people in my life. Three times people threatened to kill every animal in the pack, and once a group of hunters showed up with rifles-in-hand to do it. Their children were at risk, they said, and the deer herd would be decimated.

The showdown resolved itself without a shot being fired, yet those men left me with a precious gift: they convinced me that the only effective way to change Wolf’s fate was by introducing the public to the real animal behind the big-bad-wolf image. Along with that, people needed to be educated on the vital ecological role Wolves and other apex predators played.

Now Wolves are returning to the Northwest and Southwest, along with regions in Europe, and they are meeting the same fierce resistance they once did here in Wisconsin. Poaching is an issue, just as it was here. A couple of high-profile court cases helped slow it down, but it was mostly changing attitudes that did it. Now our Wolves are doing resoundingly well—they’re moving into what was typically considered marginal territory, and they are thriving.

We who have a passion for wolves can play a helpful role in turning public opinion around. Here in Wisconsin, we now have 30 years of experience running a public relations program that has created an amenable-enough climate for Wolves and humans to coexist. One of our greatest successes is Wolf Awareness Week, a once-a-year-event where Wolf ecology is worked into the natural sciences classes of all primary and secondary schools. Two key figures in the Wisconsin PR program will be participating in the Wolf tracking class, which will offer a prime opportunity for participants to learn firsthand what has worked here and take it home with them.

There, I confessed—now I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

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