Wolf Wisdom from a Wolf Authority

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Jim Beers, retired Refuge Manager, Special Agent, & Wildlife Biologist U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Jim Beers, retired Refuge Man­ag­er, Spe­cial Agent, & Wildlife Biol­o­gist U.S. Fish & Wildlife Ser­vice

Introductory note from Jim Beers: 

Dr. Val Geist is a retired Cana­di­an Uni­ver­si­ty Pro­fes­sor now liv­ing in British Colum­bia. While his title is “Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence” his field of exper­tise for which he is inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized is the biol­o­gy of wildlife and the soci­etal impli­ca­tions of wildlife pol­i­cy options. I have no greater respect for any aca­d­e­m­ic in the field of preda­tors and pre­da­tion; two top­ics of great moment as you read this in North Amer­i­ca and Europe.

Below are some very suc­cinct and can­did com­ments by Dr. Geist regard­ing the con­tro­ver­sies and com­pli­ca­tions swirling around Euro­pean wolves, their effects of rur­al Euro­peans, and the ques­tion of what is a wolf. This last ques­tion involves the genet­ic def­i­n­i­tion of a dog v the genet­ic def­i­n­i­tion of a wolf and when is a hybrid one or the oth­er. As I have writ­ten many times over the years; I believe a wolf is a dog is a coy­ote (tru­ly one species using the clas­si­cal def­i­n­i­tion of a species) since all three inter­breed freely and always pro­duce viable (repro­duc­tive­ly capa­ble) off­spring. The emerg­ing ques­tion of what genet­i­cal­ly is a dog or a wolf (or a coy­ote in North Amer­i­ca) is both an aca­d­e­m­ic (i.e. pedan­tic) deter­mi­na­tion as well as a val­ue deci­sion by gov­ern­ment. The real, every­day aspect of this ques­tion is the many cur­rent and grow­ing num­bers of hybrids that can eas­i­ly look like one anoth­er while car­ry­ing vast­ly dif­fer­ent genet­ic make-ups.

This ques­tion of hybrids; which is what, what is pro­tect­ed and what is the gov­ern­ment pur­pose over­all is anoth­er one of the inter­minable side­bars that con­fuse the pub­lic and make informed deci­sion-mak­ing by the pub­lic and gov­ern­ment mere­ly a mat­ter of bureau­crat­ic inter­ests, emo­tions and pro­pa­gan­da fan­tasies. I would refer you to wolf effects on big game herds like elk and moose; wolves as dis­ease and infec­tion vec­tors endan­ger­ing humans, domes­tic ani­mals and oth­er wildlife; wolf effects on domes­tic dogs; Red v Gray v Mex­i­can v Tim­ber, etc. wolves; and wolf effects on rur­al economies and the gen­er­al wel­fare of rur­al res­i­dents as all sim­i­lar­ly ignored and unde­fined ram­i­fi­ca­tions of wolves kept total­ly beyond the con­trol of those forced to live with them by pow­er­ful, remote gov­ern­ments.

Dr Geist’s com­ments are in response to a Euro­pean pro­pos­al — after just sen­tenc­ing some Finnish hunters to jail for killing some wolves/dogs/hybrids (?) – to legal­ly define just what is a wolf and what is a dog. These com­ments should be read by every­one involved with or soon to be involved with GI (Gov­ern­ment Issued) wolves, dogs, hybrids or “what­ev­ers”. If you agree, PLEASE SHARE THEM FAR AND WIDE. Thanks.

Jim Beers

19 Jan­u­ary 2015


Wolves can­not be kept in set­tled land­scapes, because of the impos­si­bil­i­ty of keep­ing wolves and dogs apart, and the destruc­tion of the wolf genome by creep­ing hybridiza­tion. While I whole-heat­ed­ly agree that there should be no keep­ing of wolves and wolf hybrids as pets, the sheer size of the “wolf-dog” indus­try as well as past releas­es of wolf hybrids will insure fur­ther ero­sion of the genome of free-rang­ing wolves. Sec­ond­ly, how is offi­cial­dom to know of wolf hybrids unless wolf num­bers are strict­ly and close­ly reg­u­lat­ed so that plen­ty of spec­i­mens are avail­able for test­ing. Third­ly, from my expe­ri­ence iden­ti­fy­ing wolves or dogs from pho­tos sent my way I have seri­ous doubts that Euro­pean wolf spe­cial­ists can cur­rent­ly dis­tin­guish wolf from dog. Unless lim­its are set ear­ly to wolf num­bers – and I see no hint of that – wolf pop­u­la­tions will expand to destroy the pop­u­la­tions of deer and turn to live­stock and humans.

Do the authors of this man­i­festo real­ly think that they can sig­nif­i­cant­ly keep wolves and dogs apart by min­i­miz­ing the num­ber of free-rang­ing dogs? Even if they have some suc­cess in doing so, are they not aware that lone wolves them­selves seek out dogs? Do they real­ly think that lone wolf females in heat will desist from vis­it­ing sub­urbs and farms look­ing for a mate? Do they think that chained farm dogs will not cop­u­late with a female wolf in heat at night? Has nobody had the expe­ri­ence of hold­ing a young very large male dog in train­ing while they come in con­tact with am estrus female canid? I had a Bou­vi­er de Flan­dre on the leash while we came across a small wolf track in the snow – and the Bou­vi­er went wild! He then weighed only about a hun­dred pounds. I had my hands full! An amorous male wolf threat­ened my wife when he approached an estrus hunt­ing dog in an enclo­sure. No neigh­bor­hood male dog had been that bold! In short, giv­en wolves with a desire to mate and they will intrude deep into human habi­ta­tion. There is no way to effec­tive­ly seg­re­gate wolves from dogs in set­tled land­scapes. More­over, as this is writ­ten, there is no way to pro­tect wildlife from maraud­ing packs of dogs either.

As I have said before, all efforts to make wolves com­pat­i­ble with set­tle land­scapes are a waste of time and ener­gy. All maraud­ing canids in set­tle land­scape need to be removed. This rais­es the ques­tion of how to con­serve wolves as a species. What we know for cer­tain is that they need to be kept away from peo­ple and dogs. In the first instance that means that wolves and oth­er large preda­tors need to be kept where the pub­lic has no entry. And such areas need to be large. The very first step is to nego­ti­ate inter­na­tion­al­ly for keep­ing large preda­tors on mil­i­tary and atom­ic reserves. I doubt that nation­al parks are suit­able because the tourist lob­by will balk. Sec­ond­ly, means and ways need to be found to con­trol close­ly wolf pop­u­la­tions in such reserves to insure that the preda­tors do not run out of prey, and leave the reserves for set­tled land­scapes. Well-fed wolves will cause the least prob­lems. Severe trap­ping and preda­tor con­trol in 20th cen­tu­ry North Amer­i­ca kept wolves out of set­tled land­scapes, elim­i­nat­ed agri­cul­tur­al loss­es and dis­ease trans­mis­sion, retained their genet­ic integri­ty, while attacks on humans were unheard of.

Wolf con­ser­va­tion as pro­posed here (i.e. Europe) is not seri­ous.

Sin­cere­ly, Val Geist
Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence