Crying wolf

“For over a thousand years, the tale of Little Red Riding Hood has taught children and adults that wolves can’t be trusted.”

That’s how Bob Beauprez, a former U.S. congressman from Colorado, began an opinion column in the Feb. 16 Denver Post in which he opposes the reintroduction of wolves into the state.

Now, understand that we are not urging people to vote in favor of the reintroduction, which is going to be a question on the November ballot. There are many issues that need to be considered and there are some legitimate arguments against the return of wolves.

But on the other hand, there are some ridiculous arguments being thrown about as well, and Beauprez’s column contains some dillies.

For instance, that lead sentence. “… the tale of Little Red Riding Hood has taught…”

Is he really, truly saying that we should base environmental decisions on a fairy tale in which a wolf dresses up in a woman’s clothing and talks? Are we really putting this forth as some science-based argument on how wolves should be judged?

“They are cunning, vicious apex predators,” he goes on in his column.

It’s both amusing and pathetic that he labels wolves as vicious. This is a common tactic in war, of course – slap some derogatory label on your enemies to justify hating and killing them.

In what way are wolves vicious?

Like all animals, they want to survive. To do this, they have to eat. And to do that, they have to kill prey – attacking and bringing down elk, deer and other animals. It is sad for the prey, but you could hardly argue that it means wolves are vicious. They don’t have the option of walking to the fridge and pulling out a package of hamburger, or going out to a restaurant and ordering a thick steak. If they want to eat and feed their young, they have to kill something.

Are they vicious because they attack humans? They don’t very often, but certainly they are capable of it. As far as we know, wolves don’t have a moral code that says, “It’s wrong to attack humans, but it’s okay if they attack, trap, torture and kill you.”

Still, wolf attacks on people are fairly rare. They weren’t common even back when wolves were widespread in this country. Anyone who’s read By the Shores of Silver Lake might recall the way a big wolf behaves when Laura Ingalls and her sister come upon it.

There is only one animal on the planet Earth that can genuinely be called vicious and cruel, and it isn’t the wolf. Wolves don’t imprison other animals in small cages in which they can barely move around, suffering miserable dull lives in order to make money for the owner of a roadside zoo or circus.

Wolves don’t put chains around elephants’ feet and stab them with barbs to make them perform tricks. They don’t trap skunks and set them on fire for fun (it’s been done locally). They don’t kill endangered animals in order to hang heads on their walls, saw off their horns for bogus medical remedies, or create photos to post on Facebook.

Wolves don’t capture members of their own species and torture them for sexual pleasure or force them into prostitution.

So which species should truly be judged the vicious one?

But, again, wolf reintroduction in Colorado is something that may not be right. It’s true that the majority of the people who vote in favor of it will be those living on the Front Range, while the sites where the animals would be released would be on the Western Slope where rural people would have to deal with the consequences. Wolves will certainly attack some livestock, and that is a concern, as Beauprez noted.

And is this proposal even fair to the wolves? In all likelihood they would face a lot of “shoot, shovel and shut up,” just as they did when released in New Mexico.

Furthermore, Colorado’s population is growing madly, which everyone wants because it’s great for economic growth (and making a lot of money seems to be the main reason for human existence). Will there be room for wolves even on the Western Slope for very long? Some folks who say they are in favor of the reintroduction might feel differently if they move here and a wolf snatches up their pet dog or cat from their ranchette.

So these are many factors to consider before voting yes or no on the ballot question.

But however you vote, we hope you base your decision on reason, not fearmongering, name-calling, or ancient fairy tales.

Have you heard the one about the wolf that actually blew down a house?

From Editorials.