Normally I try and hold my tongue in regards to “issues” where two sides have very strong and often justified opinions. I also have a 24 hour rule. If what I am going to say might offend or hurt somebody else, I will sleep on it and re-evaluate in the morning. It has now been well over 480 hours and I feel no different and I need to say something. For those of you who do not know me that well I am a very strong advocate for wolves, wild horses (mustangs), grizzly bears and other wildlife. I am an animal lover and I appreciate the blessings spending time with them brings to my life. I respect the lives of all living things, including you. Knowing this about me is probably why we are friends on Facebook to begin with and hopefully why you are now following me here on my blog.
I’m not a PETA person and I’m not a vegetarian. I understand hunting to put food on your table and although I will not run out and shoot a deer or elk myself, I believe in the proper management of wildlife. I do not believe in hunting as a sport for trophies or hunting out of hatred for something, if that is the case you shouldn’t own a weapon. I grew up in a family that hunted and even owned a sporting goods store where I learned to shoot far better than most from the age of 5. This is the same place I learned about respect and gratitude.
I was also raised the “cowgirl” way. I can’t remember there ever being a time where there was NOT a dog, a horse, a cat, a cow or sheep around. The cows and sheep came and went, but the horses and dogs did not. I understand the rancher’s way of life and wide open spaces. I understand when predators figure out where to find an easy meal and that it may need to be handled. Knowing that I also know how much it costs to purchase livestock, raise them and what type of profit is made from them depending on whether they were market or breeding stock. I also know what has been set aside to reimburse ranchers for the loss of these animals and it’s more than market value. Personal pets (dogs, cats and horses) sadly have become victim to predators and I do not believe you can put a price on those animals and if it has happened to you, I’m sorry. I know what it is like to lose animals that are as close as family.
There are solutions to every problem and they do not involve the complete eradication of a species, of a life, or a family. I have to laugh when I hear how “horrible” it is when one wild horse jumps over a fence onto a rancher’s land but when 15 of their cows get through a fence onto public land you hear nothing of how it took the feed away from 5 wild horses for a month. I wonder if this is because the rancher has a voice but the wild ones do not? Most often the “lands” that these wild ones roam is public land, owned by the people, for ALL people. It is not owned by one or two ranchers although their cows or sheep are “allowed” to graze there at times. One reason it is allowed is to control overgrowth which could lead to horrible and very destructive wildfires; you see – there isn’t enough wildlife alone out on these public lands to control this on their own so we have to allow domesticated animals to help. I’m also a firefighter’s daughter and I’ve seen this sort of destruction and am aware of how important it is to control overgrowth of the land. If these wild animals who have every right to live there (elk, antelope, deer and wild horses) cannot control this overgrowth, then how can people claim there isn’t enough room or food for them, want them removed, and then feel justified in grazing their own livestock on the same land? I’m pretty sure it has something to do with greed and selfishness.
I’m sure if all these wild horses were left alone like the elk and the deer things might get a little out of hand since really their only predators are mountain lions and humans. This is probably one of the best areas we as humans can help. However, rather than claiming there is no food or room for them, this is where proper wildlife management would come in. Birth control for horses came out long ago, I worked for equine vets for over 17 years, we implanted some very expensive show horses with these drugs; they were safe and they worked. There are veterinarians and groups out there that are willing to absorb these costs to do this to help with this type of management. It is humane! It works! And I’d be willing to bet that by putting these wild mares on birth control it is far cheaper than “storing” thousands of wild horses in holding pens throughout the United States and letting the public’s tax dollars feed them. Feed them till either they are adopted, given up to slaughter houses or worse; holding so many animals in such small places is a breeding ground for illness and disease. If managed correctly, this could limit the amount of foals born each year in the wild, bring the number of horses that can be adopted to more manageable and realistic levels, keep the grazing of the public’s land controlled and much more. It isn’t rocket science however it’s hindered by human nature and people’s focus on self gain.
I could go on for days about the wild horses which are one of my passions however there is another that is dear to my heart. One that has received many hard blows just in the past few months alone. In 1995 a group of scientists and a large portion of the public received permission to bring back the wolves. As with anything it has people who loved the idea and people who despised it. There are people on both sides that are educated and realistic and then there are the others on both sides. Wolves once ran wild throughout the United States but due to people’s fear and ignorance they were eradicated.
I don’t remember exactly when my love for wolves started but I have been fascinated by them for as long as I can remember. My parents would buy me book after book about them and I would read them cover to cover. I’ve also heard many of the fables, fairytales and myths that involve wolves to. It is interesting to me how Native Americans wrote about and felt about the wolves that they actually lived with and shared the land with compared to today’s humans who know don’t live in the wild with wolves and know very little about them. To Native American’s a world without wolves was basically not a world in balance. They respected the wolf, practiced the wolf’s way of hunting and some tribes even used the wolves for good luck.
In 1995 when wolves were returned to Yellowstone I was probably one of the most excited people around. I doubted that I would ever be able to see them for myself, but just knowing that they were there and knowing they would make a recovery made me so happy. I have followed them since the day they were released; worried about them, wondered about them and prayed for them. I cried when some wandered outside the park boundaries and predated on livestock as I knew that they wouldn’t be given a second chance before they were shot down by aerial sharp shooters. I cried and was furious when hunters illegally killed some of wolves who left the park; they were still on the endangered list and hunting was not allowed. To hear that some of these “people” were simply fined very little, or not, was disturbing.
I have heard all sorts of stories from both sides; the hunters and ranchers versus the wolf lovers. When I had heard that some ranchers were actually coming up with solutions to help with predation on their livestock by ALL types of wildlife but mostly wolves I was really excited and thought more would eventually come around. I think this is still a work in progress and often times it is again hindered by lack of man power and money. I have hope that more will start to find more solutions to this rather than simply waiting for it to happen and then bringing out a rifle to fix it. I understand that some predation cannot be stopped and cannot have a happy ending. I have to say that if it were I and I found a wolf or mountain lion attacking, or attempting to attack my horses, I would be the first to get a rifle and end it. I love wolves, but I love my horses more. However if I were to move in to an area I knew wolves lived I would also consider myself a trespasser and do what I needed to do to prevent something like that from happening. We have taken over more and more wild areas where these animals once lived, live again, and call home. It was their home long before it was ours. If you chose to live in those areas you should expect something to happen at any moment. Why can’t we find ways to live together? I don’t think I would move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and buy a place on Moose-Wilson Road and think that a grizzly or black bear would never dare wander across my backyard! I for one would move there wanting to be closer to these wonderful animals, the land they call home is simply breath taking and prepare my property and animals for WHEN those amazing animals came through, not IF they were to come through.
We lost many wolves in 2011 due to hunting in Montana and Idaho, most of the wolves lost were not from Yellowstone but there were a few. In 2012 Wyoming caved to peer pressure and opened the hunting of wolves as well. This has been the most costly hunt for the Yellowstone and Teton wolves. Due to natural causes and pack rivalry Yellowstone saw a dramatic decline in the wolf population from 2009 to 2011, the hunts were not needed and just caused more damage. Today the reports from Doug Smith have the population inside Yellowstone at 80 wolves. We have lost 11 wolves from the park due to hunting directly outside the park boundaries where baiting and calling is used. Worse yet, the wolves killed in these hunts were collared wolves. There are no longer collared wolves inside the park as I write. This morning the Tetons announced that two collared wolves were also killed in the hunts outside the park boundaries there.
Mother Nature does a pretty good job of taking care of herself. We now live in a time where ignorance and fear are no longer an excuse. Wolves have brought balance back to the ecosystem inside areas of Yellowstone where elk were destroying water ways and wetlands. They have also made the elk herds healthier by taking the sick and weak out of the herds. To hear hunters claim that wolves have drastically reduced elk numbers is actually pretty funny. If this is the case than why does the Tetons still have elk population problems and why do states like Idaho and Wyoming still sale hunting tags? If the elk population is at such risk than why are hunters still allowed to hunt them?
The Rocky Mountain National Park is having elk population problems and has considered allowing hunters in to assist, that was just a fleeting thought however. Elk hunting has been allowed in the Tetons and each year when we lose a grizzly due to an elk hunter there is more public outcry to have this stopped. Personally allowing hunting inside a national park is strange to me. Why would this be allowed where thousands of people travel to each year to hike, fish, and bike and see wildlife? I visit the Tetons in October every year, normally right before the elk hunts start, or during it, and I have come across hunters who feel that they have more right to be there than I do. This year I was there before the hunt and on a back road “hunting” for wildlife to “shoot.” The road wasn’t traveled often and it was a single vehicle, narrow road without many areas to pull off. I passed a truck of hunters out scoping the area for where they wanted to hunt, went about another 5 miles and turned around. When I came back off the mountain I noticed that they had tossed some sort of dead animal parts out along certain sections of the road (hunting season had not yet opened) and a few minutes later I noticed that I was being “pushed” back down to the main road. I’m not easily intimidated and I have as much right to be there as they do so when we got to the bottom, I sat on the one side of the pullout, them on the other and when they didn’t leave after about ten minutes, I turned around and went right back up the mountain. I have no idea what they were up to, what they had done if anything at all. What I do know is that I won’t be intimidated by this “type.” I have many friends who hunt, they are respectful, follow the rules and are nice people; they hunt to feed their families and friends. They don’t go around trying to scare and intimidate people. So the parks have a problem; allow hunters in where visitors are allowed to roam at will or find another solution. Wolves have successfully managed the elk population in Yellowstone and I’m pretty sure if they were left alone in the Tetons they would manage there as well. That could be the answer to the Rocky Mountain National Park problem too.
By now you can see that I love horses and wolves first and foremost. I love all animals actually and 3 years ago an encounter with a grizzly bear really interested me and now I find myself photographing bears and learning as much as I can about them as well. Horses and wolves are where my heart is though and I will continue to be their voice as they cannot speak for themselves and are not understood or respected by many. My life has been dramatically changed by both horses and wolves and I owe them more than I will ever be able to repay.
If you are visiting my blog to learn about the wild horses, wolves and other wildlife and the encounters I have with them, I’m happy you’re here. I’m a very open minded person and I believe that everyone has a right to their opinion and I love learning new things from people. I welcome creative insight, new knowledge and growth. Although I often do photo shoots for different horse show associations and love being there to take horse show photos I am always looking for ways to take my images to another level. I really enjoy the artistic side of photography, capturing emotion and feelings and telling a story. So welcome, stay awhile and come back and visit. And please join me in becoming a voice of the voiceless……………………………..