Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Royale pain

The Isle Royale wolves are back in the news and on the radio again. More specifically, public discussions are underway about what to do. According to Ron Madore at MinnPost, the options are:
  • Let the wolves die out and leave mainland wolves to decide whether, and when, to recolonize the island.
  • Let the wolves die out, then reintroduce new packs captured for the purpose.
  • Attempt a "genetic rescue" by bringing a small number of new wolves to the island, in hopes that adding new genetic material will improve the population's health and resilience. This is the option now favored by John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson, longtime directors of research into the wolf/moose population balance on Isle Royale. 

From our recent trip up north, here's a very distant view of the island in question. (It's the dim land near the horizon, not the obvious islands more clearly visible.)

The question I haven't yet seen raised (and maybe I just missed it) goes like this: Both wolves and moose are immigrants to the island. If human intervention is decided upon this time (2nd or 3rd option above) how long until another intervention is needed? The island will stay an island, I presume. I recall only too well Stewart Brand's observation in the Whole Earth Catalog that "we are as gods and might as well get good at it." I also recall Einstein's thought to the effect that "God does not play dice with the world." It seems to me that any course that involves direct human intervention is playing dice with Isle Royale. We've tried before, in different times and locales, to "manage national parks. One example is documented in Playing God in Yellowstone. From my perspective, our track record as gods is less than sterling. Let's carefully consider Aldo Leopold's guidance and see if we can figure out how it would apply to the island situation. He wrote "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." I agree with the philosophy. I've simply found that sometimes, integrity, stability and beauty can be mutually exclusive. Think about it. Think also about whether wolves are iconic wild creatures or not and whether, indeed, we are as gods.

On A Moonstruck Gravel Road

By Rodney Torreson 

The sheep-killing dogs saunter home,
wool scraps in their teeth.

From the den of the moon
ancestral wolves
howl their approval.

The farm boys, asleep in their beds,
live the same wildness under their lids;
every morning they come back
through the whites of their eyes
to do their chores, their hands pausing
to pet the dog, to press
its ears back, over the skull,
to quiet that other world.

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