The Wasatch Behind: Waltzing with wolves
"Holy cow," Uncle Spud said from behind his newspaper, "some guy in Box Elder County caught a wolf in a coyote trap. They think it might have migrated down here from Yellowstone Park."
"I thought Yellowstone was wolf heaven," I answered. "Why in the world would a wolf leave Yellowstone and come to Utah to stick his foot in a coyote trap?"
"He probably heard there were two or three deer in Utah that hadn't been killed on the highway yet,"Spud smiled, "and he came to check it out."
"Wolves are not supposed to be here," I said. "When they transplanted wolves to Yellowstone 10 years ago, the wolf people assured us that Yellowstone had everything a self-respecting wolf would ever need."
"Wolves don't like national parks," Uncle Spud said with an air of authority. "Too much traffic, too many tourists, too many park rangers, too many flash bulbs, and now, too many other wolves. Besides, sheep and cows make better wolf cuisine than deer and elk. Cows can't run as fast as deer, and centuries of domestication have made them dim-witted. When given a choice, wolves prefer mutton and veal."
"You seem to know alot about wolves," I said.
"No doubt," he smiled. "When I first came out west in nineteen-ought-six, my Ute Indian name was Waltzing with Wolves."
"Waltzing with Wolves?" I giggled. "How did you get a name like that?"
"By doing the same thing the eco-warriors are doing today," he blushed. "I tried to dance around the issue of what wolves really are, and I tried to make wolves my friends."
"Do tell," I said, enthusiastically.
"While living in the city, I thought I had wolves all figured out," he began. "To me, wolves were nothing more than big shaggy dogs, misunderstood, vilified, and persecuted for no good reason. I just knew that if we were kind to wolves, the wolves would be kind to us."
"So what changed your mind?" I asked.
"Old Bigfoot, the phantom wolf of San Juan County changed my mind," he said. "There was a $1000 bounty for old Bigfoot in 1920, and $1000 would buy a nice house in those days. The cattlemen said old Bigfoot killed 600 calves in 10 years and they wanted him bad. You can read all about it in the old newspapers."
"So how did you get involved?" I asked.
"I didn't want to see old Bigfoot killed," he said. "So I went to the mountains to be his friend. I took some Beneful dog food with me, you know, the stuff they advertise that's made from peas, lettuce, and carrots. I thought I could turn old Bigfoot into a vegetarian and the cowboys would leave him alone."
"How'd it work?" I asked.
"I found that wolves are like sharks," he said sadly. "They are made to kill and they won't eat carrots. You can love them all you want, but you can't reason with them and you can't make them change their ways. A fat calf is like blood in the water and they'll go for it every time."
"The eco-warriors tell us that wolves are a necessary balance in nature," I said.
"That was true when there were sixty gazillion elk and buffalo on the prairie," he offered, "but nature has a different balance today and wolves have no place in it."
"But they tell us man has put nature in an unnatural balance today," I said.
"What's unnatural?" he countered. "Nature is always changing. An asteroid killed the dinosaurs. Species are constantly evolving. Climate is always changing. Early man killed off the Pleistocene bison by jumping them over ledges. Modern man has replaced modern bison with domestic sheep and cattle. Things change. Species adapt or die. Wolves don't adapt."
"But coyotes are flourishing," I said. "How are wolves different from coyotes?"
"Coyotes adapt," he smiled. "Coyotes have learned to eat garbage and stray cats in downtown Los Angeles. Wolves won't do that. They insist on killing larger animals."
"So what's the future for wolves?" I asked.
"We'll have to re-learn who wolves are," he said, "and then we'll eradicate them again like was done in the 1920s. But sadly, they'll probably have to kill a few fishermen, boy scouts, and backpackers before we understand why our grandfathers killed them off in the first place."