CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Sheltered for many years by federal species protection law, the gray wolves of the West are about to step out onto the high wire of life in the real world, when their status as endangered animals formally comes to an end early this year.
January 2, 2008
Once hunted to the point of extinction, wolves are returning to the American West. And they are being treated as suspiciously as Mexican immigrants.
Since 41 wolves were released inside
Because of this and the traditional attitudes of long-time ranchers, battle
lines have been drawn in
After a lengthy court fight, the removal of the gray wolves from the federal endangered species list will occur in late March and ranchers are understandably jubilant. But it’s not the West of Bill Hickok or Charlie Goodnight anymore, and environmentalists and many newly arrived residents are strongly objecting.
Read the entire article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/us/02wolves.html.
Admittedly, it’s a question of priorities, but whichever side of the issue you come down on, the looming, Paleolithic presence of the wolf can’t be ignored.
Several years ago, my friend Olivia Redwine and I were down in the
Olivia quickly turned off the tape machine and tossed it in the truck. We
tried our best to look innocent. “My goodness, what the heck was that?” Now, I
doubt that wolves have roamed the Sierra Madre of north
This being said, I know for a fact that we, the dominant species and conquerors of the planet, have killed a lot more of them than they have of us. After all, we’ve been at each other’s throats, tooth and claw, spear and gun, since the dinosaurs abandoned the stage. Perhaps we’ve evolved the way we have because of each other.
Whatever our histories, it remains that now that the wolves are a factor again, we need to be honest and brave, put aside our political convictions and deal once more with a primitive, deeply ingrained fear.
Looking at Frederic Remington’s 1909 painting, Moonlight, Wolf, might not help.
The composition is starkly simple. The bank of a lake zigzags from lower left to upper right, concluding in a gap between hills which frames a star-filled sky. Standing on the shore and squarely facing us, is a Western Gray Wolf. His eyes shine as if reflecting fire, or, more menacingly still, glow with the heat of a far more powerful, inner furnace.
Remington, who was one of the most popular American painters and illustrators of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was known largely for his renderings of cowboys, Indians and hell-for-leather cavalry charges. But it’s his nocturnes that draw our attention these days. In the decade preceding his death in 1909, Remington produced over 70 canvases that explore the challenges of depicting the outside world at night. And they are among the most innovative representational works of his time. In 2003, the National Gallery of Art presented a major exhibition of these nocturnes, wonderfully entitled, The Color of Night.
As for our relationship with canis lupus, this composition provides no answers, but merely poses an old question anew.
And God knows, as a 21st century man, I’d like to live in harmony with the wolves. I certainly wouldn’t want to shoot one. As a matter of fact, I’d like to have a wolf-pal who would accompany me wherever I went. Especially when paying bills. “Gosh, Mr. Creditor, this seems excessive. Caligula and I were just wondering if perhaps there’d been a mistake.”
So, if you’ve struggled with the political question, examined Remington’s painting, delved the substrata of your unconscious, and find the spread of wolves disturbing still, consider a world without them. And without the wolves, would we still be as human?