Friday, January 06, 2006

The Problem with Raising Wolf Bait in the Woods...

...is that wolves will eat it. Ditto cougars and their prey. Predator reintroduction programs in the West have made ranchers upset, and part of me can't blame them - a place that was safe for sheep 50 years ago isn't as safe anymore when there are wolves running around. On the other hand, I don't know why there's so much hostility toward these predators - the damage they cause is rather light overall.

GreenInk is getting exercised about proposed hunting programs to thin the population of cougars (like the one that anti-wolf people in Idaho would implement if they can get the grey wolf off of the threatened species list). While I agree that ridding the environment of these animals is not a smart ecological idea and morally yucky to boot, I can't understand the attitude that "idiot ranchers" shouldn't be concerned about their cattle. Raising free range cattle is often a hard thing to make a living at, and as a person who likes eating these cows, I'm going to lend them some sympathy. They're doing me and my stomach (but not my arteries) a service after all.

With the new wolf management program in Idaho there are likely to be many more ranchers authorized to kill wolves that they deem to be a "menace," and it's not going to be pretty for the grey wolves. Killing these very expensive and environmentally important creatures seems like a wrongheaded exercise in revenge for these ranchers. In the beef-eating spirit I referenced earlier, I think it would be very reasonable for the state, if it is interested in reintroducing predators to the wild areas of this country, to offer predator insurance to ranchers, and just cover the costs of what these predators are eating. It's a program that I'd be happy to pay taxes for, and I don't know why either environmentalists or ranchers should object. Ranchers sometimes counter with a sort of paternalistic concern for their poor cows, but that's false on its face; you're going to send your cows to slaughter either way, so let a wolf eat it or let me eat it.

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