Not Only Wolves Howl

To the Editor,

For a long time one of your reporters has mischaracterized the statements and intentions of people of rural Arizona and New Mexico in his articles. His disdain for game commissioner Sue Chilton comes out in every story he has the opportunity to mention her in. During last May's Game Commission meeting in Safford I remember him arguing with her in a most obnoxious fashion about there having never been a wolf attack on a human being. When I tried to give him documentation of the evidence supporting the facts on that score I was brushed off and he kept after Ms. Chilton, trying to get her to yell at him or something of that sort. It was disgusting. Perhaps he is pro-Mexican wolf reintroduction; perhaps it gives him a sense of power to sensationalize his stories.

No one has to stoke rural anger against the Mexican wolf recovery program and, to my knowledge, no one on the Arizona game commission has ever done so. Listening to the people in the wolf recovery areas is something that should have happened a long time ago. However, the original wolf recovery team chose to be totally self serving and allowed the opinions of people in Phoenix and Albuquerque to decide the fates of the people in these rural areas. This is what initially stoked rural anger against the program.

Now, we in the rural areas actually living with the Mexican wolf recovery on a first-name basis are being listened to, however little, and things are slightly better. Apparently this angers the environmental community and they feel the need to sic their pet reporter on individuals that oppose the program for legitimate scientific and economic reasons.

On a more personal nature, I have to draw the line at the quotes Mr. Vanderpool attributed to me in his last Mexican wolf article ("Politics of the Wolf," June 20). They were malicious misinterpretations of what I actually said. The crowd was not raucous, it was reasoned and articulate.

For the record I never said, "I spent 14 days with a wolf in my backyard," or that I spotted a wolf "ripping at one of my calves, and I couldn't get hold of anyone to help. What am I supposed to do when something like this happens?"

What I did describe was the four months I had a wolf or wolves frequently in sight of my house and could not allow my children outside. I described my then 2-year-old son disappearing from my sight in the garden while I was digging one day and the panic I felt when he was out of my sight.

If I did mention my cattle at all, I do not remember it. I did mention the same wolf we dealt with continually for months killing and being caught on a neighbor's calves. I did tell about this neighbor not being able to retrieve a calf carcass until he ran down a different wolf and threw his rope at the animal. I had three minutes to give an unslanted viewpoint and educate the commissioners and I certainly did my best; I would not have wasted my breath on a lie.

In fact, no wolf was ever "caught ripping at one of my calves" though one large yearling calf did have bites about its head when it came into the house pasture. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informed us that they were able to track the wolves around our home from the air. Though the wolves were near our home for three days, FWS informed us as quickly as they had them located. In fact, the pilot that flew Dan Stark with FWS dipped the plane so low over our house that we were able to tell something was wrong, coupled with a bleeding calf and strange howling noises; the call that came in a few hours later was not a big surprise.

Dan Stark and Alan Armistead were at our house by noon the next day dealing with the situation as best they could with limited authority and practical means--a situation that quickly became an ordeal for everyone in a 100-mile radius of our home.

What I described at that meeting was FWS' efforts being all they could do and still not good enough to mitigate the severity of the problem. This is the kind of behavior that rural people have to deal with when wolves are present in their areas. This is why rural anger is stoked by the project. Wolves are problem animals and there are many, many incidents of them causing big problems to rural residents, problems that FWS has partially documented in their data books if your reporter took the time to see this partial list. One would think research is certainly preferable to digging up old half-baked notes from over a year ago for a half-baked quote.

I suggest the purchase of a tape recorder for this reporter at the very least, or perhaps the National Enquirer or the Star would be interested in hiring him to write about aliens impregnating human women. His reporting is certainly up to that limited standard. Perhaps you should allow someone who takes the time to gather real information about the project to do your wolf articles from now on instead of resorting to the sensationalized BS published in your paper June 20.

--Laura Schneberger
Winston, N.M.

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