Sunday, May 01, 2011
Wilmeth - Of Wolves and Cobras
Ground Zero Interpretations and Views of the Weather Map
Of Wolves and Cobras
The Case of Human Compassion Hypocrisy
The escape made national news. In fact, it was carried over a three day period by Fox News. The AP carried it into print news. It was right there amidst the continuing saga of national weather, and the place to start is always the weather. Discussions always need a shot of weather so objectivity can remain high.
A trained intelligence operative can sit in front of his television set or laptop and interpolate national priorities from weather reports. He can take notes, and wind up with abundant high level data for his reports.
What kind of data would he come up with? Start by asking a New Mexican where national weather priorities are. New Mexico will always be on the weather map right behind the bulging midriff of the expectant weather reporter. After sitting through the five minute weather segments anxiously awaiting the little snippet you need to make a decision of cow work for the upcoming weekend, the next string of commercials hits. For the next five minutes there is an update on the Weather Warrior and his upcoming “sleeves rolled up” commentary on how the Galveston Hurricane affected the coastal bend of Texas a hundred years ago. That will precede a series of high volume ads that invariably prompt expletives from the fidgeting viewer as the advertisement allocated space exceeds that of hard weather facts.
Finally, the current weather segment returns only to be dispatched to the elevator music and “Weather on the eights” with its metropolitan temperature expectations for morning, noon, and evening time periods for the next day. The regional Doppler displays then show you in order the northeast, the southeast, the Midwest, the Northwest, and as the West and Southwest rocks into view, the segment is cut short because of time constraints.
Finally, a segment of hard reporting is back on the air. The weather gal is almost ready to just move out from in front of New Mexico just so you can glimpse the forecast and she has to break for commercial! Gheez, you missed again the only thing that helps make your decision to call the day work crew or push the work off another week. You give up and go do chores before supper.
The first report of the missing cobra from the New York zoo sounded a lot like actual South African citrus grove encounters with real deal cobras posturing to defend their territory. As the Jeep makes its way through the grove the first inkling of any snake being there is when it comes to meet you and rears up all flared and menacing in front of the Jeep! Back and forth its hooded head sways with eyes of liquid fire. All six or 10 or 50’ of that living, spitting, terrifying son-of-a-gun just dares any of the Jeep’s occupants to get out and discuss the situation!
From the expressions and words of Fox’s Shepard Smith, the same thing was likely to happen at any moment in the asphalt alleys of downtown New York City. Where could that runaway killer snake be, and what possibly could the good citizens of “the Center of world weather importance” do to save themselves? A major catastrophe was on the verge of happening.
There was a day of lapse before Mr. Smith announced that the danger was over. The snake had been found. New York citizens were safe!
The following day the AP story was in our local papers about the wayward 20” Egyptian cobra . . . Pheww! But, only 20” . . . what?
Thrown to the Wolves
Meanwhile, back behind the weather reporter, the good folks of Catron County, New Mexico have nearly given up trying to glimpse the weather forecast. They are used to being left out of the picture. In fact, their existence has become very analogous to the aforementioned attempt to quickly view the weather map before the segment runs out of time and the process loops back to the citizens where weather matters.
The folks of Catron Country don’t have anything like the New York phantom cobra. They have the honor of having wolves dropped into their midst . . . wolves whose reintroduction have a very high degree of support from folks where the most important weather events apparently take place.
Whereas, the New York parents were updated on the wayward 20” cobra, the Catron County parents seat their children in wolf proof cages where they await their school bus! Can you only imagine if a New York neighborhood had to do the same thing because of wolves introduced by their government? What if the neighborhood was Harlem?
Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton would surely suffer apoplexy. Mr. Smith would be only one of a long list of major network personalities who would be turning crimson with disdain, disgust, and rapid fire commentary. The news would preempt any snowstorm regardless of its intensity.
Wolves thrown to their fate
The Mexican wolf project now has somewhere in the order of 42 collared adults in the wilds. The plan called for the eventual self sustaining population of 100 free roaming wolves. The process started back in 1976 when the Mexican wolf was listed on the endangered species list. In 1996, the prescribed environmental impact statement was concluded for release of the wolves back into native range in the Apache and Gila National Forests of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.
In 1998 the first captive adult wolves were released. That first release consisted of 11 wolves to be set “free”. Numerous references can be found proclaiming good wishes to the maiden crossing of those pen raised wolves. They were set free on a “historic journey”. Their journey would be a profound “journey of recovery.” It almost gives you shivers doesn’t it?
In a discussion a couple of months ago, I asked Grant county rancher about his views of the wolf recovery program up to this point. His reaction was very much a surprise to me. Rather than disparage the bureaucratic efforts in the recovery process, he described the plight of the wolf. “I feel sorry for those wolves,” he said. “How would you like to be thrown out there with nothing to eat in the only way you know how to eat and expect to exist?”
Interestingly, the view of one of the very stakeholders who has been most profoundly affected economically from the wolf reintroduction was more related to the treatment of the animal itself than the mission of the Federal Government.
“Talk about cruel and unusual punishment,” the rancher continued. “Just think about the horrors those poor animals have faced being thrown into a situation that ultimately forced their extinction in the first place!”
Search for a viable comparison
With the rancher take on the wolf recovery program, it prompted me to attempt to find a historical comparison. The process was started by attempting to quantify the losses amongst the introduced wolf populations.
The data from the Mexican Wolf Recovery Project provides a fair summary of population dynamics from 2001 through 2003. From that point forward the detail of new releases and translocations becomes much more difficult to wade through because, among other things, the two activities became a single reported activity from 2004 forward. The data, though, gives a fair idea of attrition.
Armed with that data, a review of other man made disasters was in order. What could historical war casualties be and how would they compare to the death and destruction of the pen raised wolves released into the wilds?
The bloodiest and arguably the most gruesome single military battle in the history of mankind was the Battle of Stalingrad. On the Russian side alone, the prevailing data of actual death counts runs about 475,000 outright deaths and another 651,000 wounded or missing. In attempting to figure out a percentage of deaths of the total Russians who were engaged in the battle at any one time, the number appears to be about 41 percent.
The battle ranged from August 1942 to February 1943 or a partial span of two years. If a comparison can be made, a similar time period of the wolf project in 2002 and 2003 yielded data suggesting that the casualty rates of the poor wolves released from captivity into the wilds was about 31 percent. It wasn’t as bad as Stalingrad, but it was 75% as bad!
In several accounts of Stalingrad, the plight of the Russian soldier has been elevated into our realm of understanding. For example, early in winter of 1942, all new recruits were issued ammunition, but only a percentage weres issued rifles. Those without rifles were instructed to pick up rifles from those comrades who were killed in battle and commence using the ammunition issued to them. To make matters more horrifying, the recruits were ordered into the teeth of German machine gun fire knowing that if they retreated they would be killed by machine gun fire from the Russian army. They were in a caldron of horror that none of us can imagine today . . . an atrocity beyond comparison.
Is there a moral dilemma here? A place of comparison would be to start with how the press would handle a similar situation in a confined animal feeding operation. What if deaths of the confined animals equated to the casualty rate of the reintroduced wolves? Would the situation become a national outrage? Sure it would . . . it would cause a meltdown.
What if the number was cut by 75%? Would the clandestine videos edited for the purposes of impact by the animal rights organizations make national news? Sure they would . . . the whole industry would be shut down.
Why then should the performance of the various state and federal agencies be applauded much less condoned and funded for their record of the death and destruction of a living, breathing creature that comes anywhere near a similar record in the most horrendous battle in the history of mankind? How can any possible suggestion of stewardship and ethical justification be predicated by law?
That answer should be demanded, but the most interesting bit of insight comes yet again from the Grant County rancher. “How on earth can this program work?” he continued. “When the best genetics were in place and that animal couldn’t survive, what makes any human being think he or she can find the genetics for the survival of these animals when the whole historical range is changed yet more?”
What a simple statement of fact . . . if only America had leadership who could comprehend such simple logic and devote their efforts to making lives of their constituents more survivable . . . rather than a species who ultimately found it impossible.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The wolf project is symbolic of a government without capital constraints. It is also a paradigm of an inverted chain of authority.”