Friday, February 22, 2008

Link Call: Two things I like (and one I detest)

I was working on something to post here before the "I like" link call came out. Since that post -- about something I think I like, but I'm not 100% certain of yet -- isn't ready, I'm going to write this one for you, instead. It's about two things I like -- and one I absolutely detest.

Less than two months ago, on December 29, 2007, I stood by the side of a snowy road, dressed in three layers of pants, three layers of tops, my snowboarding gloves, and my boarding hat -- and the nifty new snow boots that were rated to -45 degrees… so long as you weren't standing mostly motionless by the side of a snowy road.

The scene was the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. I was part of a group of 27, including guides, and our mission that day was to find the famed wolves of Yellowstone.

We did.

We saw the new pack that's trying to form. Currently called the Silver Pack, they are made up of a breeding pair (the qualifications of a pack, I'm told) and a third friend. They are horning their way into territory between -- or maybe including -- that held by two others: the Slough Creek Pack and the Druid Peak Pack. They may or may not succeed.

Others in our group saw the Slough Creeks. I only got to see the remnants of an elk they'd killed, but our entire group spent a very long time watching the Druids. We watched two yearlings play with a stick underneath some nearby trees. We watched an intruder who'd been chased off and injured. We saw the Druid alpha female check on each member of her pack.

(click on the picture, and then once again to blow it up so you can REALLY see)

I like wolves.

That's why the article in today's paper has me outraged. Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana -- incidentally the three states that Yellowstone National Park straddles -- have stopped offering any sort of protection for wolves. They are fair game, and hunting parties are already forming. It's a new sport! Or a return to an old one; take your pick.

What's the offense of these wolves? They kill a few of the ranchers' cows.

Now, I'm not going to say that killing cows is a good thing. It's not. The ranchers lose money and have to be reimbursed by the Feds. The wolves learn it's an easy way to get food and some of their sharp hunting instincts are dulled. Their natural prey -- elk, for instance -- flourish. And as we've seen since the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, the elk have a huge impact on the flora and fauna in the park. A negative impact, because there are so many elk and so few predators.

But killing wolves for being themselves is horrible, pure and simple. Surely there are other ways to manage the animals and keep them away from cows.

One solution isn't entirely practical, but allow me the pipedream, please. You see, I like bison, too. I like them more than wolves, truth be told. They are big, they are cantankerous, and they do whatever they damn well feel like and the hell with you if you don't like it. Plus, they taste good.

And therein lies the solution. Instead of eating cows, let's all eat bison. Lower in fat and cholesterol than cattle, they are higher in protein. And they taste better. South Dakota is brimming with bison farms, including the farm the Tour Manager and I buy our bison meat from. Run by Dan O'Brien, a writer who did his MFA at the same school that granted me mine (see how it all gets back to books?), these bison are turned loose in the pasture to graze and do their bison thing. When it's time to slaughter, O'Brien and company have a specially outfitted truck that they toss a food inspector into, and off they go. It's less stress on the animal. That makes them taste even better. And believe me, the Wild Idea bison are amazingly yummy.

Best of all in my plan, wolves find bison harder to kill than cows.

Like I said, this isn't a perfect plan. Not while cattle ranchers in Wyoming are killing bison that wander out of Yellowstone during the winters, in search of food. Their grounds for this needless slaughter is that bison might -- might! -- transmit a disease called brucellosis. Nevermind that the transmission can only happen during calving, which happens in spring. Nevermind that there is yet to be a recorded instance of this transmission happening.

Of course, if we get rid of the cows, we get rid of those particular fears.

Not everyone sees the eradication of wolves as bad. I know that. I get that. But from where I sit, having seen wolves in the wild with my own eyes, they deserve to be there, helping keep nature in balance.

That's what it's all about. Balance.

Surely, there has to be a better way to achieve this balance with our cattle ranchers. Killing for the sake of killing, to eliminate the things that might happen or to make sure that this wolf doesn't do what the other one did…

Surely, there has to be a better way.

If I may deviate to another thing I like, that's giving away books. I'm still trying to reach Paula, our own BRBer, who won my copy of State of the Onion. Paula, if you e-mailed me, I didn't see it. Can you try again, please? I'd hate to give this to someone else!


Anonymous said...

I've never eaten bison -- sounds yummy, though!

And like you, I love wolves. How horrible that they'll soon be hunted to the hilt just because they're killing some cows. Sounds like a mess -- elk overpopulation due to too few predators, hunters getting ready to kill wolves, thereby ensuring even fewer predators... leaves me scratching my head and saying, Huh??

Your plan definitely sounds workable. It's too bad so many people don't realize that balance in nature is what it's all about. Sounds like it's the people with vested interest in the cows who want them to be the weightiest, most important part of the balance equation, *sigh*.

ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

Hi Susan Helene Gottfried! I like your post. Your adventures in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park leave me envious. I agree though that it is sad about the wolves. Cows and bison are accepted on the food chain. Whereas killing wolves serves no purpose and depletes their population. Hopefully as you said, a balance will be found.

BTW: I think Paula is in Las Vega for her baby brother’s wedding, currently between internet service.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Yep, Paula got a hold of me earlier. She's back now.

And yes, Yellowstone WAS amazing. IN a lot of ways, it was life-changing, although I can't really put my finger on exactly HOW.

Definitely make a point of getting there. It's such a spectacular place; everyone should see it during their lifetimes at least once.

Me, I can't wait for my fourth visit.