Folklore, fairy tales, human fear and greed have given wolves a bad reputation. All wild animals deserve respect and a certain amount of fear, mixed with regard, is healthy. You don’t want to approach wolves anymore than you would lions, tigers, or bears! In North America the fear mixed with greed however, nearly eradicated the wolf. Native Americans portrayed wolves as fierce, ferocious warriors. The tribes lived in harmony with nature and many clans held the wolves in such high esteem, movements were patterned after them. The native people admired and tried to adopt the pack dynamic of the wolves. Each member of the pack has a role and they are fiercely protective of the family… noble traits, yes? Sadly, the arrival of European Americans brought fear of this beautiful creature and persecution nearly erased any trace of the wolf.
In addition to lessons on sharing, cooperative hunting skills and looking after their young, wolf packs taught Native Americans how to move carefully and quietly through the land. These same stealth hunting skills became the catalyst for their near eradication. European settlers took over land and filled it with tamed livestock. Docile horses, cattle, sheep and pigs were easy prey for the hungry wolves. The colonists were none to happy with this threat to their livelihoods and formed campaigns to kill the wolves that lasted generations!
Wolf baiting and trapping started off as protection and quickly became sport. By the early 1930’s the nearly 2 million wolves that once roamed freely in North America, were reduced to tiny remnant populations along the Canadian border in Michigan, Montana and Idaho. Thankfully, people evolved to a greater understanding of natural ecosystems and in 1973, Congress gave gray wolves protection under the Endangered Species Act. Since then the comeback has been remarkable. There are now an estimated 1,700 wolves across Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon with a few wolves spotted in California and Nevada!
The revival of the wolf was also a victory for the planet’s ecosystem. In 1995 eight gray wolves from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada were relocated to Yellowstone National Park. Wolves had been hunted to extinction in the park with the last wolf spotted in 1920. As a result the elk population exploded and vegetation was wiped out from overgrazing. Scientists witnessed the degradation of the land with alarm, concerned about erosion and plants completely dying off. When the wolves arrived, ranchers were loud with concerns that their livestock would be killed along the park’s borders and hunters complained that the wolves would kill all the elk. Neither happened. As you can see in the video, the wolves’ presence restored the natural ecosystems, attracted more animals and brought Yellowstone Park back to its original beauty.
Here at ED Practical Art, we too want to live as harmoniously as possible with nature. The natural backdrop of Lake Tahoe, including our animal neighbors, inspires my art. In the 1700s and 1800s wolf sightings were reported throughout the Sierra but the last known wolf was killed in 1924 in Lassen County (where the Sierra meets the Cascades). In recent years my interest was piqued and we all celebrated when a 2-year-old female gray wolf was spotted near Boreal Mountain, about 30 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe. The wolf, tagged as OR-54, came into California from Oregon and is believed to be the daughter of OR-7, the first confirmed wolf in California since 1924!
My Howling Wolf Silhouette, made from reclaimed wood, is inspired by the resiliency and resurgence of the wolf; one of the greatest beings that ever graced North America.
Wolves aren’t bad, or frightening. They are important ecological neighbors and we are grateful they still exist! Buy a silhouette at edpracticalart.com and be reminded daily that we still have this incredible creature around!