The following essay is copied, with permission, from the Web site of the Roane State Community College Online Writing Lab (Harriman, Tennessee). The copyright for this essay is held by Ella Berven, author (and recent graduate of Roane State Community College) and Ms. Berven's instructor, Jennifer Jordan-Henley. The sidebar analysis is done with the blessing of Professor Jordan-Henley. "Cry, Wolf" was the winning essay for the December 1995 Beulah Davis Outstanding Freshman Writer Award.|
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Three little pigs dance in a circle singing "Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?"
Movie audiences shriek as a gentle young man is transformed before their eyes into a blood-thirsty werewolf, a symbol for centuries of the essence of evil.
Such myths and legends have portrayed the wolf as a threat to human existence. Feared as cold-blooded killers, they were hated and persecuted. Wolves were not merely shot and killed; they were tortured as well. In what was believed to be a battle between good and evil, wolves were poisoned, drawn and quartered, doused with gasoline and set on fire, and, in some cases, left with their mouths wired shut to starve (Begley 53).
Today many people are convinced that the elimination of the gray wolf was not only an error, but also a detriment to the quality of life in this country. There has been a public outcry to rectify the situation created by the ignorance of our ancestors. However, in seeking to address a situation created by the human compulsion to control nature, it is crucial to discern how much human interference is necessary. Human control must be tempered by respect and restraint.
The consequences of human actions involving the elimination of the gray wolf have been especially acute in Yellowstone National Park, where the lack of a natural predator has resulted in the overpopulation of bison, deer, and elk. According to
Another issue is more subtle. As Ms. Begley points out,
In 1995, it is obvious that the hatred and fear which fueled the elimination of the gray wolf
However, many believe that protection has not been enough. In January 1995, the Department of the Interior flew 29 wolves from Canada to Idaho's River of No Return Wilderness Area and to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Fifteen were released directly into the Idaho area, and the rest were put in pens in Yellowstone, scheduled to be released after an acclimation period of 6 to 12 weeks.
Critics of the program have raised a number of concerns. First of all is the apprehension of ranchers regarding the possible loss of livestock. Wolves have been absent from Yellowstone for 60 years. Although some statistics claim that "Less than 1% of the sheep and cattle living in wolf range in Canada are killed by wolves annually," others tell a different story. According to the policy director of the National Wildlife Institute, "In Canada, 41 percent of livestock found dead have been killed by wolves" (qtd. in Richardson 30).
In addition to their concern for livestock, ranchers fear the possibility that, to help ensure the wolf's survival, wildlife managers will fence off thousands of acres now used for grazing. This could lead to the shutdown of ranches, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs.
Finally, ranchers know that they have very little recourse if the wolves prey on their livestock. They are allowed to shoot a wolf caught in the act of killing a sheep or cow if the animal belongs to them. However, it is very difficult to be in the right place at the right time to catch a wolf in a kill. It is even more unlikely that a rancher would witness the kill of his own animal. Yet the penalty for defending a neighbor's property is the possibility of up to one year in prison and $l00,000 in fines (Richardson 30).
Another problem critics point out is the exorbitant cost of implementing the reintroduction program. Estimated at $65,000 per wolf, the federal government will spend up to 13 million dollars to helicopter lift 200 wolves over the next five years (Richardson 28, 30).
If assurances could be made that this program would work, perhaps the cost could be more easily justified. However, there are inherent problems in capturing and relocating wolves successfully. Even biologists in favor of the program admit that the number one challenge is to overcome the natural tendency of wolves to try to get home. The only solution to this dilemma is to pen the animals up for a period of time until they get used to their new surroundings. Unfortunately, whenever wolves are penned, there is a danger that they will lose some of their wildness. But such measures have already been necessary in the case of one of the wolf families in Yellowstone. Following the illegal killing of the dominant male in one of the packs, a recent update reports:
In an effort to help the wolves form viable packs, biologists hope to solve the other problem that concerns them, "the tendency of a stressed wolf to go it alone" (Carpenter 15). A consequence of moving wolves from their habitat is that their social structure breaks down. In an interview with Dr. Marcella Cranford, proponent of wolf relocation, veterinarian and expert on wolf behavior, she explained, "Lone wolves don't make it. They survive as a family or they don't survive at all" (n.p.). A result of the breakdown is that "mates separate and some abandon pups in their haste to return to familiar turf" (Carpenter 15). Biologists believe that in order to form viable packs, they must capture wolves of different ages. The assumption is that when they calm down, the captured wolves will establish a new pack. It is evident from biologists' concerns that wolves not only are intelligent creatures, but also have ties to family and fear of change, as humans do.
Given the elusive nature of wolves and the strong ties which bind them to their own pack, all these measures seem invasive and extreme. Such techniques are often necessary in attempts to save animals from extinction. However, the gray wolf is in no such peril. Although the number of wolves in the lower 48 states is minuscule, 60,000 roam the ranges of Canada and about 7,000 thrive in Alaska (Richardson 30).
The story of this conflict is the story of how we view ourselves in relation to animals, whether we can replace the assumption of "dominion" that has been so destructive to us and the natural world with a world view that recognizes that we live in a state of reciprocity with the birds and the beaststhat we are not only the product of nature but also part of it. Our attitudes toward wolves and our treatment of them cut to the very marrow of how we view our relationship to the natural world. (17)
With the best of intentions, it is all too easy for human beings to cross the line between necessary concern and unnecessary control
For all the pure motives of most of our wildlife managersand I honor and respect their good intentionswolf control nevertheless derives from the same world view that has enabled Americans to dominate nature wherever we have gone. Humans are superior to nature. If we no longer try to conquer or eliminate wolves, we at least try to control them. (29)
The following interview with Dr. Marcella Cranford, veterinarian and expert in wolf behavior, was conducted by telephone on November 30, 1995,
Berven: What is your opinion of the reintroduction of the gray wolf into Yellowstone National Park?
Cranford: Well, it's one of the missing links. The overpopulation of the elk is a problem. Right now, we're feeding them. Not having wolves in Yellowstone is like a tear in the fabric of nature. Someone said that.
Berven: What do you think are the repercussions for packs in Canada from which the wolves are taken?
Cranford: I'm hoping they're going to do it right. If you kill the best ones, the hunters, the pack won't make it. Lone wolves don't make it. They survive as a family or they don't survive at all.
Berven: What about the ranchers? They're very upset from what I have read.
Cranford: The ranchers should shape up! I mean, after all, we're paying money to subsidize their cattle.
Berven: What about their concern that the wolves will kill their sheep and cattle?
Cranford: They have more of a problem with feral dogs. Wolves prefer ungulates. They don't want to come near us. They're not like the coyote.
Berven: I know you are short on time. Is there anything else you can tell me?
Cranford: I have a magazine, International Wolf. It has all the information concerning the Environmental Impact Statement and how this whole thing got started. I know it started in 1991, so there have been years of debate and controversy about it. There were 160,000 responses to it [the reintroduction]. It was one of the largest responses on a proposed government action.
Askins, Renee. "Releasing Wolves from Symbolism." Harpers April 1995: 15-17.
Begley, Sharon with Daniel Glick. "The Return of the Native." Newsweek 23 Jan. 1995: 53.
Bergman, Charles. Wild Echoes: Encounters With the Most Endangered Animals in North America New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.
Carpenter, Betsy. "A Precarious Return of the Wolf." U.S. News and World Report 16 Jan. 1995: 16.
Cranford, Marcella. Personal interview. 30 Nov. 1995. Friends of the Forest Ketchum, Idaho: Wolf Education and Research Center, 1993.
Johnson, Mark. "Dual Citizenship Awarded to Transported Wolves." International Wolf 5.2 (1995): 17.
Maughan, Ralph. "Yellowstone Wolf Update." Return to Wolf Home Page. firstname.lastname@example.org (27 Nov. 1995).
Neimeyer, Carter. "Precapture OperationSnaring and Radio Collaring of `Judas' Wolves." International Wolf 5.2 (1995):13.
Richardson, Valerie. "Decrying Wolves." National Review 20 Mar. 1995: 28-30.
United States. Department of the Interior. Endangered Species Act. 1973. Section 1531.© 1995 Ella Berven
Instructor: Jennifer Jordan-Henley