On April 14, 2011, something unprecedented happened in the U.S. Congress. A budget deal to fund the government, negotiated by Republicans and Democrats and approved by the Obama Administration, included a non-budget related provision to strip federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. The budget rider, attached to the must-past bill by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), requires the Secretary of the Interior to reinstate the same 2009 delisting of wolves that was declared unlawful by a federal district court, while insulating the provision from any legal challenge.
What does this mean for wolves? It leaves their "management" in the hands of politicians in the states, many of whom have already expressed their desire to see this species eliminated. Widespread hunts of the wolves are likely to happen, with as many as 1000 of them targeted, making the species genetically unsustainable. Less rabid wolf opponents say they simply want to protect livestock from wolves, although non-lethal means of wolf management are available.
Of equal concern is what this anti-wolf campaign means for the Endangered Species Act. If wolves can be delisted because some politicians don't like them, and not for reasons of science or due to decisions by the courts based on that science, then the same thing could happen to salmon, polar bears, grizzly bears, panthers, manatees, and other threatened species. Here is a statement from Defenders of Wildlife on this issue.
How do we pray this news? What is a spiritual response to the delisting of wolves? A first step might be to look deeply into our animosity toward wolves. What is it about wolves that have made them the villains of nursery stories? In what sense are they humanity's shadow? How are we like wolves, and what do they say to us?
The following meditation by William J. Fitzgerald explores the many meanings of wolves. This is followed by "A Wolf Prayer" that enables us to get in touch with our inner wolf. Perhaps if we can see ourselves in wolves, we will be less inclined to kill them.
An Excerpt from One Hundred Cranes: Praying with the Chorus of Creation by William J. Fitzgerald
"He stands on a snow-covered slope, head arched toward the moon. His cry pierces the valleys and echoes for miles. It is a cry that has inspired legends, fueled myths, stirred up fear and loathing.
"He is the "big, bad wolf" of nursery stories. He is the fierce predator who circles the camp. He is the enemy, the invader, the spoiler.
"And he is the most maligned of creatures. He is carnivorous, yes, but so are most humans. He is also a faithful monogamous spouse to his mate. She is a devoted mother, playing with her pups, teaching them the ways of the wild. They are both community creatures with an intricate social webbing."
"Young 'lone wolves' eventually leave their pack, venturing out into the wilderness — solitary figures seeking new territory and a possible mate. Theirs is a heroic quest, for all they have known from youth has been the den, the pack and the communal hunt. Their trek may take them over a four hundred square mile territory."
"The wolf pack hunts what they need. Faithful to their instincts, they trek through the winter snows, following the herds. Their lives too are an everyday adventure and challenge.
"All things considered, theirs is a fair fight; not so when they are the prey — they are hunted and hounded from airplanes and helicopters, shot like fish in a barrel.
"Humans seem to find it easy to hate the wolves, to despise their ways. Why? Could it be because we cannot bear to face and free up the wild wolf man or the wild woman who lives beneath the frozen surfaces of our own lives?
"We are not so different from the wolf and the pack as we might think. In fact, we may be projecting our own dysfunctions and winter calamities upon this ancient 'enemy.' "
"Winter challenges the wolf pack. The search for food will take the pack into the face of gales with subzero windchills, over ice, through snow fields in relentless pursuit. Have you experienced
. . . the windchill of opposition,
. . . the ice of prejudice,
. . . the freezing out of misunderstanding?
"Sometimes in the wolf pack there is a struggle for dominance. There is a change of roles after such a struggle. Have you experienced
. . . the stress of family dysfunction,
. . . the anguish of divorce,
. . . the pain of separation,
. . . the ache from a straying, prodigal relative,
. . . the dissonance from sibling conflicts?
"Sometimes in the wolf pack there is a scarcity of caribou or an overrun of territory — too many wolves, not enough prey. Have you experienced
. . . unemployment,
. . . down-sizing,
. . . friction with fellow workers?
"Often in the wolf pack there is movement, change of climate, tough running in their pursuit of moving prey. Have you experienced
. . . moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar,
. . . stress from a rapid pace and increasing demands,
. . . confusion, as the demands of our culture accelerate with change?
"Sooner or later, the 'lone wolf' strays out from the pack and howls against the moon? Have your experienced
. . . isolation,
. . . loneliness,
. . . alienation?
"There is an energy in the wolf that sees them through the worst of their snowy days and frozen nights. Their call from the wild is one of exuberance: 'We are here! We belong here! We shall endure! We shall overcome!'
"Our human call from our wilderness needs to be no less confident."
are not my deepest powers damned up? frozen over?
There are times when I feel listless,
made inert by repetitious days and long winter nights.
I wonder if there is life beyond Monday night football
or milling at the mall?
It's easy to be simply a spectator of life,
dazed and dulled.
The consumer society can swallow my soul.
I am programmed to be passionate about
Bud Lite, little leagues, small advances in the stock market,
and little else.
Life can too easily become a monitor —
hard drives, soft drives, cathode tubes.
It is to be viewed, reviewed, instantly replayed,
recorded, canned, put on the shelf.
It is not just cold outside;
I seem frozen within.
Never so much sex, never so much action —
up there on the screen —
and so little passion within.
Let me befriend the wolf within,
the wild energy of my own life force,
my zest for life, my alertness of spirit.
Let me make the move,
shake the springs,
reawaken my wild dynamism from slumber.
Let me own my own imagination,
dream a better dream,
howl at the moon
and seek my bliss.
Help me to be alert to the direction
where a prize lies waiting for my prowl.
Let me be passionate about compassion,
for I share my trek
with all the human pack.
Like the wolf,
we are both the hunters,
and the hunted.
Let me lope with the wolf,
for life is an adventure,
and we must make tracks across the snow."