“They’re Here…” Wolves Near Boise.

Gray Wolf

Well then.  Here’s an interesting development.  The news broke day before yesterday that two wolves took down a cow about a mile west of where I regularly take Dane up hiking in the hills.  Suddenly, the highly controversial subject of wolf reintroduction and management here in Idaho has come remarkably close to home.  (Our home.  About five miles to be exact.)

Residents of Eagle are a little uneasy right now, with some of those living north of town bringing in their horses and other livestock for protection.  The department responsible for dealing with problem wolves in Idaho is USDA Wildlife Services and so far, in spite of numerous flyovers, they haven’t been able to locate the two wolves believed to be responsible for killing the cow.

Which then begs the question:  Do I want to take Dane up there for his afternoon romp today?

Actually, I’m not really asking myself that.  Of course I’ll take him.  I’ve been hiking up in the mountains for years now, in all kinds of places where cougars, bears, and wolves  live.  Is there some risk?  Absolutely.  I’m not a big fan of denial as a risk management tool.  Do I mentally discount the horror of getting mauled and possibly killed and eaten by a wild animal?  Not at all.  While I’m a tree-hugger of sorts, I’ve never been the kind that romanticizes wild animals as either noble or cuddly.   I have a very healthy fear of big claws, strong jaws, and sharp teeth.

wolf skull (note the teeth)

In all likelihood if there was an attack, they’d probably go after Dane.  Wolves are traditionally timid around human beings so those kinds of attacks are extremely rare, but they attack dogs.  There’s definitely a greater risk for him than there is for me.  However, these two wolves are most likely juveniles striking out to find new territory and juveniles tend to be far less predictable than adults.  Cougar attacks on humans, which used to be relatively rare, have been growing in the last couple of decades as humans encroach further into wilderness areas, and the majority of the attacks are by juveniles.   So, while Dane’s risk is greater, I by no means get a free pass.

So here we are, suddenly standing on the shifting front line of the controversy, confronting the complex challenge of species reintroduction on a very, very personal level.  Me?  I love wolves.  But then the majority of people do.  Even the people who oppose their reintroduction admire and respect them.  They’re magnificent, beautiful, wild, and inspiring animals permanently woven into our history, mythology, and group unconscious.  The thought of a world without them is unsettling and unutterably sad.   Having said all that though, I don’t want Dane or I to be dead either.

And therein lies the paradox we’re all confronting, not just with wolves but with much of the ancient world we’ve inherited and are now changing on a massive scale.  I have no idea what the solutions to these kinds of problems will be, nor do I have any idea what the world will wind up looking like someday.  Right now I’m just concerned with getting my dog and I through our next excursion.  Today it’s my turn to figure out how to straddle this place where the past and future collide.

I think, at a time like this, it’s important to consider the big picture.  The truth is, Dane and I both live in a world every day with far greater risks than a wild animal attack.  (i.e. getting T-boned at an intersection, sickened from ecoli contamination in our food supply, or euthanized for attacking the neighborhood cats among other things.)  With all the risks that wilderness and wild things hold, civilization is no picnic either.  In fact, I think my chances are probably better facing a wolf in the foothills than a drunken slob hurtling down the interstate in a two-ton SUV.

But for now, Dane and I need to get going because I really don’t want to be hiking up there when it starts to get dark.  So I’ll  just throw on my boots, grab my bear spray, and we’re out of here. Dane and the valley (back behind) where the cow was killed.

copyright 2011 Dia Osborn

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7 responses

  1. Dia – That’s one of the best posts, articles, blogs I’ve seen on wolves. I like realistic people who have a great respect for both our wild friends and for our human friends (and their pets) I had a great dog Murphy, a Black Lab mix, who looked a lot like your Dane but a lot bigger. He’d have gone after a wolf since he had a lot of Rotweiler in him and am not sure who’d have won – he was that powerful with a low-to-the-ground frame that carried 110 lbs of solid steel muscle on it. He was a fierce protector of my wife and me against other animals of any kind or size (which got us into trouble not infrequently) but he was a lover of all two-leggeds, thus a terrible watch dog except he looked so fierce and was so big, that people kept their distance. Murphy’s been gone for 2.5 years now and I miss him terribly. He was the son I never had. My best thought about you and Dane on your hikes is smear on lots of bear grease, BUT don’t push yours or Dane’s luck. The chances are very slim that ANYTHING bad will ever happen to either of you with a wolf, but be careful anyway like you definitely sound you are. You are too good a writer and person and Dane is too handsome and full of life – you both need to be around a long time.

    • Bear grease eh? Do they sell that at REI? 🙂 We’re back and safe. After two days and all the activity out there, the likelihood of those wolves still hanging around was negligible but still, “be prepared” is a great motto for more than just boy scouts. Sorry to hear about Murphy. Losing a dog can be so hard to spring back from. Thanks for taking the time to post such a thoughtful comment Bob. Dia

  2. Dia, I was enjoying your post but as I read, I wondered, what about… surely she’ll address…
    And bingo! There it was. You’re writing and your logic never disappoint me. I’m so glad you addressed the larger scale perspective: the far greater odds of meeting disaster as a consequence of humaan foibles…like cars and carcinogens.

    Walk proudly and carry the bear spray…or hmmmm….bear grease, as suggested by Bob? Cal might have something to say about that. ;-o

  3. Good morning,
    Dane will most likely pass over from old age or ‘put to sleep’ for killing a neighbors cat. Being attacked by wolves for protecting Dia would then look like such a great death!
    With that said…would still like to have him around as long as possible. Seeing him dance across the snow at 40 miles an hour yesterday…brings great joy to us. 🙂
    Happy Trails…
    Cal

  4. The animals roamed the earth in the wilderness and now we build homes boarding their running ground. So pay them the respect they deserve you are now in their home. Stop trying to manage everything.

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