Caring for Wolves, Icons of the Spirit of the Wild
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
I say caring for wolves and not “the wolf” because they are more than another endangered species. They are sentient beings like us with families, clans, social bonds, emotional intelligence and instinctual and learned survival skills. I speak for them having raised their cubs in my research into canid behavior, communication and development, coming to know and respect them and enjoy their trust and affection. But they do not make “pets”, nor do most of their dog-hybrids, the breeding of which I advise against for humane reasons.
Those who do not see wolves as sacred, or at least as kindred spirits in many ways worthy of respect and equal consideration, must step out of themselves and the confines of anthropocentrism. Then we may save the wolves from extinction along with the salvation of our own humanity. Where there is collective existential ignorance, Nature becomes our nemesis. Where there is respect for all life, Nature becomes our apotheosis.
Until ranchers and others stop justifying their persecution and endless war against wolves, perhaps we will always be at war with each other. The killing of wolves for sport and fur may come to an end when other forms of discriminatory, often fear and hate-based, politically divisive speciesism, racism and sexism are something of the past. As Chief Dan George advised, “One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don’t talk to the animals, they won’t talk back to you, then you won’t understand, and when you don’t understand you will fear, and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself.”
The end of objectifying and exploiting others, be they human or non-human, comes when there is empathy and compassion. These are the hallmarks of a civilized society and more evolved human species. The nature of love and the love of Nature abide in the spiritual communion of one being with another. But those who love to be in Nature and to kill for sport pervert and demean the beauty and power of such communion in which they would find infinitely greater satisfaction and fulfillment. A camera is a good substitute, and for wolves, try a flute as I detail in my book the Soul of the Wolf.
In protecting and conserving wolves and their habitats we rise to the challenge of responsible planetary stewardship long overdue. Where there is no sense of kinship with other beings including our own species we can kill with equanimity. Kinship sensibility is profoundly influenced by culture and religion for better or for worse. Encouraging the sense of kinship with all life should be an essential part of every child’s education.
“Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” is the fitting inscription on the Christopher Award I was given for my children’s book The Wolf. I pray that the spirit of the wolves and the wild will light everyone’s candle and illume our passion to protect, conserve and love illimitably.
More than 500 wolves have been killed recently in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, jeopardizing a long-term ecosystem research project in Yellowstone National Park. The project was “one of the best models for understanding the behaviors and dynamics of a wolf population unexploited by humans,” and researchers are trying to salvage “what we have left of it,” said National Park Service wildlife biologist Doug Smith. Full Story, Science (1/31/22)