Canis Lupus (for Kent Weber), by Jennifer Phelps

Palms to the sky

If you open your palms to the sky, arms halfway
outstretched, one might come to you if you are lucky.

And if you are lucky, you must not pull away
although it is human instinct. If one
comes to you, nipping at your forearm or nibbling
the twisted threads hung at your wrist,

remember the skin is foreign to clean
white teeth. Do not fully extend your arms or
pull them away. Do not turn your back or giggle
with nervousness when your fear sets in.

Because it will. If you are lucky, you must unlearn
what you have been taught about big ears and teeth
and breath that has no odor. When one comes to you
and the mouth opens directly in front of your nose

you will see into a darkness larger than your head.
Then, you must wait. If you are lucky and one comes to you,
you must not pull away. Instead, grab the neck
with both hands and pull the wide face closer to you.

There, you must look directly into the yellow eyes,
bear your teeth and allow the mouth larger than
the size of your head to nuzzle into your grimace.
You must keep your eyes open at all times

then, you will discover what it means to be wild.

Yellow eyes

Photographs: Kent Weber


A Trip to Mission: Wolf, Westcliffe,Colorado

Kent Weber of Mission Wolf with visitors

Speaking about wolves.

Illiamna & friend

Magpie kisses a visitor in greeting

Visitors with Ambassador Wolves

Magpie takes a break

Response from Colorado Senator Mark Udall

On April 6th, I wrote a letter to Senator Mark Udall concerning the removal of the Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species Act (posted earlier in the month).  Below is his response.  You may click on the image of the letter to enlarge.

Ambassador Magpie of Mission: Wolf

On April 16th, Kent Weber of Mission: Wolf brought three ambassador wolves to the University of Colorado, Boulder, as part of Month of the Wolf.  Magpie, the elder Gray Wolf, at age eight, set a fine example for Abraham, the wolf-dog, and Illiamna, a one-year old Arctic Wolf pup.  Magpie has been in the program since she was four months old, meeting over 100,000 people from coast to coast.  Since the 1990’s, the ambassador program has reached over a million people, helping to dispel negative stereotypes about wolves.

Weber opened the event at CU’s Fiske Planetarium, with a short lecture on the dynamics of wolf-human contact.  He also spoke firmly against any notions of wolves or wolf-dogs as pets.   Though Mission: Wolf gives refuge to both – captive born animals from the film industry and from private owners – many others are euthanized because they cannot be domesticated or placed in shelters.  There aren’t enough wolf sanctuaries to rescue them all.  Breeders don’t help the situation.  It’s illegal to sell a wolf, but selling a “part wolf,” is legal, and lucrative.  This financial incentive is part of the problem, and Weber wants to educate people so they can choose not to participate.

After the discussion, a large crowd of perhaps 150-200 students, staff, and visitors, moved to an outdoor area and formed a circle to meet the ambassadors. Weber was concerned the wolves would be reluctant to enter the space, so he instructed everyone to sit down and be as quiet as possible.  The silence was immediate and heartfelt.  The wolves were led from the tour bus by Weber and his wife Tracy, entering the circle without hesitation: Magpie and Abraham in the lead, and Illiamna behind.  Their body language – tails relaxed and wagging – indicated they were comfortable in the crowd and had complete trust in their handlers.  As they moved around the circle, each stopped to lick a face now and then, charming the audience with their friendliness, presence, and beauty.  Young and playful Illiamna was already larger than his adult companions.  Arctic Wolves are built to survive in extremely harsh conditions – with longer legs, smaller ears, and heavier bodies.

Mission: Wolf  is a non-profit organization dedicated to “education vs. extinction.” Meeting wolf ambassadors is a powerful and life-changing experience, and without a doubt, this work is integral for the continued acceptance and survival of wild wolves in the U.S, and beyond.  Thank you Mission: Wolf!

Below is an excerpt from the book The Outermost House, by Henry Beston (1888-1968), quoted in the lecture by Tim Hogan, earlier in Month of the Wolf.  It bears mentioning here:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps more mystical concept of animals.  Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.  We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves.  And therein do we err.  For the animal shall not be measured by man.  In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.  They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

Visit the Mission: Wolf website for more complete information about their history and programs.

EcoJournal: Month of the Wolf

Four events centered around “Month of the Wolf” at the University of Colorado, Boulder, provided valuable information about the reality of wolf research and wolf politics today.  I’ll attempt to give a brief synopsis of the first two events here.

The first lecture, by David Armstrong, Professor Emeritus at CU, was entitled “The Wolf and the Tangled Food Web.”  Dr. Armstrong began with a history of the wolf, which originated in Eurasia and spread into North America about one million years ago.  The ancestors of gray wolves coexisted with the Dire Wolf for about 100,000 years, until that species became extinct.  In a map illustrating the distribution of mammals over the last 40,000 years, Armstrong noted that today, many of those animals are confined to extremely diminished areas due to a human explosion that has occurred within the past 200 years.  Our civilization has made a profound impact in a very short time.  A satellite map revealed the distribution of humans over the continent, denoted by varying concentrations of electric lights seen from the night sky.  It was powerful evidence that large mammals like bears, bison, and wolves, are being restricted to less and less territory.

On April 13th, Tim Hogan, a botanist and Collections Manager at the Herbarium, and creator of the current wolf exhibit at CU’s Museum of Natural History, presented a lecture entitled “Join the Conversation: Yellowstone Wolves.”  Focusing on the research conducted at Yellowstone National Park since the re-introduction of wolves in 1995, he explained how the presence of wolves changed the behavior of deer and elk, by keeping them moving in the landscape.  No longer over browsed, stream beds and aspen groves began to recover.  These riparian zones (the interface between land and stream), and riparian vegetation were restored to a level that hadn’t been seen since wolves were removed from Yellowstone in the 1920’s.   Beavers began to build dams, thus creating wetland environments beneficial to many other species.  The return of wolves to Yellowstone illustrates the trophic cascade – where “top predators in a food web suppress the abundance of their prey, thereby releasing the next lower trophic level from predation.” (Wikipedia)  The lower trophic level in this case is plants.  Hogan stated, “The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone was the most important act of ecology and conservation in the past century,” and that it was “hard to overestimate the importance of this act.”

More on Month of the Wolf to come.

That Lobo Lope

That Lobo Lope, by Jack Collom, first appeared in the beautiful book, Comeback Wolves: Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home, published by Johnson Books of Big Earth Publishing (link at right). They, and Jack, have generously agreed to let me post it here.  You may click on the image of poem to enlarge.

Aerial Gunning of Wolves in Alaska

The short video below shows what aerial gunning looks like.  It was produced by Defenders of Wildlife, a leader in wolf advocacy and protection.
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