Lupophobia: Wolf Fear and Hatred
The fear and hatred of wolves goes back in our European history for centuries. Such lupophobia is manifested still today in such purportedly advanced civilizations as the United States of America, a mental pathology which is certainly not shared by indigenous native American Indians. The internet pages being put out today by “Sportsmen Against Wolves” are especially instructive, combining graphic photographs of slaughtered wolves with supportive comments by hunters who see wolf protectors and wildlife conservationists as representing the kind of society that they abhor: A society of tree-hugging Bambi-lovers who are challenging their right to shoot wolves and any wild animal who crosses their paths that may threaten them; provide them with a meal; offer them a challenge of manhood as a ‘worthy adversary’ to test their survivalist skills to track and kill to win a trophy head or pelt to sport on their walls or to decorate their homes or adorn their women.
Supportive letters from wolf hunting advocates on these internet pages also disclose a degree of ignorance about the balance of nature, wolf-deer and prey-predator relationships. They amount to endorsing the self-affirming mythology of wolf hunters that exterminating competing hunters such as the wolf is their right, scientifically/biologically justified, so they can have an abundance of prey all for themselves. The notion of co-existence, as being promoted by organizations such as Project Coyote, is anathema to this community which lives in close association with the last of the wild and which most American citizens are calling for better protection.
Any rational person visiting these Sportsmen Against Wolves Facebook and other internet sites will see beyond their passionate, self-righteous rhetoric, which at deeper levels reveals their own insecurities and fears of extinction of a ‘way of life’ that they are enjoining across wolf-inhabiting states to justify and protect.
Their critics may see them as evidence of the devolution of Homo sapiens, of a regression to the hunter-stage of our ancestral past. The anarchistic individualism and anachronistic pioneer spirit are barely concealed under the camouflage of their costly hunting attire and high-tech scopes and other killing gear. But to be charitable and offer a paw or frond of hope and recovery fro this American sub-culture, if they were to connect their fate with the fate of the wolf and every tree in the forest and frog in the swamp, they might, as Henry David Thoreau advised over a century ago that in wildness is the preservation of the world.
That does not mean the preservation their way of life and of lupophobia but of their evolution as an effective, non-governmental community of wildlife monitors and conservators. Many deer hunters, for instance, like traditional Native American Indians, have discovered the wisdom of biophilia, seeing themselves and wolves and other predators as essential components of healthy ecosystems. This is especially germane considering that across much of the U.S. the white tailed deer population has risen over the past century from some 300,000 to an estimated 30 million. With such an ecological perspective they can begin to articulate a hunting ethic, acknowledge the vital importance of wolves and other predators in helping prevent deer overpopulation and loss of biodiversity, and become a ‘boots on the ground’ force and voice for conservation, habitat preservation and restoration in concert with wolves.
But so long as lupophobia persists, wolves and other essential predators will continue to be killed by some hunters as well as by cattle and sheep ranchers whose subsidized grazing rights on public lands should come with a caveat prohibiting lethal methods of predator control. Putting the wolf on the protective federal Endangered Species list to prohibit sport hunting and trapping of these highly intelligent and social species is a limited deterrent against their illegal killing by lupophobes when there is virtually no effective local enforcement and informant network.
The many thousands of applicants for licenses to kill wolves now that it is legal in most wolf-inhabited states is surely indicative of a significant degree of lupophobia with many others seeing the wolf as a trophy animal, a mere object to be ‘sustainably harvested’ for personal gratification. Both of these attitudes are part of the ‘moral pluralism’ of America’s culture which makes a mockery of democratic process revealing minority rule and the power of vested interests when the majority of the populace want full protection for the wolf. Without a unified sensibility, like those deer hunters who also abhor the killing of wolves as sporting trophies along with the majority of non-hunters, the disunited states will surely continue to fall short of becoming a truly civilized society.
The author has done research on wolves and other wild canids and wrote the best selling book The Soul of the Wolf.