Jackson, WY 2016
The 3/4 moon danced in and out of the clouds creating shadows that danced over the cold barren landscape. Hungry and weary from a difficult journey, a herd of elk arrived in the Elk reserve ready for an easy meal and relative shelter from the elements.
The moon went behind a cloud and an eery silenced ingulfed the darkness for a split second before the shrieks of a calf rang through the valley. The weary herd panicked, unable to locate the threat they ran into each other, creating a chaos punctuated by more shrieks and screams of dying animals.
In a few moments it was over. The iron rich smell of the fresh blood of 19 victims filled the valley. The carcasses lie wastefully on the valley floor. The poachers escaped the scene of their pointless slaughter under the dark of night never to be brought to justice.
Pasadena, MD 2016
The woods were dark and quiet with the chill of fall creeping into Indian Summer. The herd of deer crested a ridge in the darkness, traveling on the instincts of the upcoming rut they moved with only a fraction of the caution they maintained the rest of the year.
A light flashed, a dull thud and one of the deer dropped. The sudden impact and the returning darkness left the rest of the herd confused. Another flash, another thud. A buck takes off frantically, the smell of blood panics the herd. The light flashes on, longer this time. In the chaos six more thuds, as the herd disperses into the brush in terror. In all, eight victims fell to the poachers.
Something very similar to both of these stories happened in 2016. In one slaughter the poachers were people. In the other the culprit was a pack of wolves. What is the difference between the two?
Wolves are known to kill for sport, torture their prey and decimate populations of elk, deer and other game for little or no reason. So are humans.
It is also documented that not all wolves or humans exhibit these behaviors. The heinous nature of these crimes are not the common behavior or policy of the masses in either species.
Why do these types of behaviors occur? What makes these things happen? No one can explain that for either species.
The cruelty and ruthlessness that wolves are capable of is seen in very few species on this planet. Orcas, dolphins and occasionally some other land predators have demonstrated this behavior, but none have mastered cruelty and ruthlessness like mankind.
Is it the base nature of ourselves that we see in wolves that cause so much fear and hatred of the species? They show us much of what we don’t like to see about ourselves and in return we have labeled them as a villain since the beginning of our history.
The wolves don’t see what they are doing as wrong and neither do we. If we did we wouldn’t make contests out of killing coyotes and we wouldn’t have exterminated the wolves and bison in the American West the way that we did.
A creative mind can imagine a scenario where the wolves watched the way humans moved across the West killing ruthlessly, pointlessly and enjoying it. The wolves saw the path of carcasses left in the wake of the humans and made a decision that it was the way of the future. The wolves adopted the practice as their own in an effort to work towards the status that humans have attained as the apex predator of all apex predators.
Of course, that didn’t happen, or at least if it did it didn’t work. The wolves were exterminated by the humans in the 1940s. What could have been the final act of human aggression towards the species, except that it wasn’t.
50 years later a much different side of humanity was on display as a group of scientists reintroduced wolves back into their previous domain. Millions of humans followed the wolves progress as they fought to establish themselves back into an environment that had forgotten them.
The compassion seen by the act of reintroduction is also a trait that humans and wolves share. It evolves from building family and community ties in ways that the two species are among the most advanced on the planet. It is yet another way, if we watch carefully, wolves show us who we are at our core.
Both sets of traits illustrate wolf nature and both illustrate human nature. The question is, when you look at the wolf in the mirror, which set of traits are you going to see?