WOLVES, DISEASE AND THE NEED FOR REFORMING THE ESA
8 April 2017 by Jim Beers
I will speak for about 20 minutes on the topic of wolves and disease; and then for an equal time on what I see as the problems and solutions associated with wolves and the ESA in the United States in 2017 while reserving a similar period for questions. If this seems like a daunting task to you, it seems to me like being asked to read War and Peace in a similar timeframe!
First, to wolves and disease – More than one of you is probably wondering, who is this guy about to speak about wolves and disease when he probably has never even taken a class in veterinary science? That is true. I am no more than an ex-Utah Fish and Game employee; a USFWS Wetland Biologist/Special Agent/Program Analyst/ Chief of National Wildlife Refuge Operations/Congressional Fellow/ Wildlife Biologist and US Trade Representative Delegation Member to the EU on Fur Trade Regulations. I have a Bachelor’s degree from Utah State in Wildlife Resources and a Master’s degree from the U of Northern Colorado in Public Administration. I am also a whistleblower to Congress about the theft by USFWS of +/- $60M in State Wildlife Funds from Arms and Ammunition Excise Taxes. I also testified before a Senate Committee opposing the creation of federal Invasive Species authority. I have been speaking and writing about wildlife and government programs all across the Nation for the 17 years since I was sent home and forced to retire from USFWS after a 32-year career.
This is the third time I have been asked to speak about wolves and the disease dimensions of their presence in the past 17 years. Why is that?
Well, I first became aware of why when I was a speaker at a western cattlemen’s affair and I sat in on a talk by the state Wildlife Veterinarian and the Agriculture Livestock Veterinarian. I innocently asked a question about wolves and they huddled and refused to answer and then said they had to get back to the Capital and left. A few years later I was asked to explain about wolves and disease to a Natural Resource Committee of a State Legislature. When I asked why me, they said they couldn’t find anyone else.
Looking back over these 17 years, most veterinarians, like many government wildlife folks, give me a wide berth. With the exception of an old horse veterinarian who lost two sons to the defense of our Nation, and who squired me around one day through remote wolf, cattle and former elk hunting country, I confess that I have encountered only three kinds of veterinarians in my travels.
First, there are the pet doctors whose customers understandably “love” their pets and who are generally repulsed by trapping or lethal animal control or, for that matter, anyone that would denigrate the wolf or the “native ecosystem”. They, understandably, wouldn’t touch this topic with a 10” pole.
Second, there are the government veterinarians. They are like Urban Police Chiefs. That is to say they are hired (and fired or marginalized) by Mayors and Agency Directors. When Police “Chiefs” (not elected Sheriffs) chirp about gun control, they are little more than “Charlie McCarthies” for their boss, the Mayor. Similarly, what state or federal Veterinarian, most of whose Agencies and Directors embrace unconditionally the federal protection and spread of wolves in defiance of many of those forced to live with the wolves, would risk controversial statements jeopardizing the agency’s proclamations and policies regarding wolves as benign additions to a communities’ wildlife?
Finally, there are the University Veterinary Science professors. Their students flock to this over-manned profession because they “love animals”, a laudable and understandable motive. The bureaucracies that generate grants and support for much, if not most, of their research (i.e. the ticket for more grad students, bigger budgets, tenure, and retirement security) do so for a wide variety of topics. Today, such “research” fills Veterinary Journals with ever more unintelligible (to the general public) data than modern economic research “papers”. Additionally, the Universities understand that both state and federal governments are “all in” for wolves and that controversial reports or fodder for complaints that enable public protests would jeopardize far more than funding and other support for wildlife veterinary issues in the future.
So, here you are stuck with me.
- Wolves are very wide-ranging Canids that unlike our dogs get no Parvo/Distemper/Rabies/etc. shots and treatments. They are not only fearless, they frequent human habitations routinely and with growing impunity as they increase in densities or experience no challenging behavior from humans or human settlements. They are periodically concentrating on pastures or homesteads or big game wintering areas or calving areas as with moose in their wanderings so that when they pick up an infection or disease, they will likely go to similar surroundings where similar animals or humans can be infected. They are constantly sticking their snout in and eating organs from a variety of animals both dying and deceased for a period of time thus exposing themselves to a very wide variety of bacteria, viruses, prions and other pathogens. It is not that they all carry all these diseases, it is that when they do get a really bad one like anthrax or rabies or foot-and-mouth or Mad Cow or chronic wasting disease – stopping the spread is almost impossible as when dogs and other wildlife disease vectors, that don’t roam far and wide, are killed to stop outbreaks of things like anthrax or smallpox.
Wolves travel in packs; romp; fight; and, like bats, sleep and groom together. They are very often silent (and therefore unidentifiable) vectors spreading diseases, pathogens and infections among themselves and over a wide area to humans, domestic animals and other wildlife in a multitude of ways. They are all but impossible to eliminate quickly or efficiently as when there is a rabies, foot-and-mouth, smallpox, anthrax or Mad Cow (BSE) outbreak. Consider the havoc, often documented in early America of rabid wolves that went for miles biting everything they encounter, or the Russian sawyer (along with many others at the time, several of whom died) bitten by a rabid wolf while running a chain saw a few years ago. Indian villages, trappers, homesteaders, and even forts with soldiers all are mentioned in historical records and reports of the terror and death rabid wolves were and are capable of imposing.
Certainly bites are an obvious danger for infection. Less obvious (and ignored or denied) are:
- Saliva left in yards and along (increasingly urban) paths on objects that are of interest to dogs that mouth them and nose them before returning home.
- Mucous from a sneeze or runny nose left in areas frequented by people like yards and camping areas where dogs, children and others are exposed and can become carriers.
- Feces laden with various tapeworm eggs (some of which develop deadly cysts years later; some of which last more than a year on the ground around where deposited and are capable of being transported by dog’s feet or shoes into homes, tents or campers onto rugs and elsewhere where small kids are especially vulnerable to ingesting them unknowingly) and also Parvo viruses that also have long infection periods where deposited. Feces are a particular problem when undigested meat is passed and dogs do what they often do with
- feces containing partially digested meat.
- Blood transfer or deposit from accidents, fights with dogs or other wolves or incidents with other animals creates a potential infectious transfer to others and even a temporarily infected site that can infect others that touch or mouth anything coming in contact with the area, especially in places like campgrounds and rural residence surroundings.
- Oozing sores or unhealed infections are an area of concern, in my opinion, but I could not find any information on such matter or what threat it may or may not pose.
- Fur between toes and on the body coming in contact with the ground or infected animals can capture, transport and spread Mad Cow (BSE) prions; anthrax bacterium (capable of being absorbed through the skin, ingested or inhaled); and foot-and-mouth, and smallpox viruses among other pathogens.
For the record, I no longer let dogs lick me. I helped my Dad raise Dobermans as a kid and as a young man I had several retrievers, one of which I am about to tell you about.
The following is a list of diseases carried and transmitted by wolves. While not totally comprehensive, it represents over 30+ infections and diseases that have been attributed to wolves. Those that can infect humans are followed by an (H), those that affect other animals are followed by an (OA).
- Rabies (H) (OA)
- Brucellosis (H) (OA) ** i.e. Undulant Fever
- Hydatid Disease (2):
- Echinococcus granulosis (H) (OA)
- Echinococcus multilocularis (H) (OA) ** i.e. Deadly Cysts
- Encephalitis (H) (OA)
- Anthrax (H) (OA) ** Cleanup Requirements
- Encephalitis (H) (OA)
- (Granulomatous meningoencephalitis) (OA)
- (Necrotizing encephalitis) (OA)
- Great Lakes Fish Tapeworm (H) (OA)
- Smallpox (H) (OA) ** i.e. Aral Sea Is.
- Mad Cow Disease(BSE) (OA) (H) ** i.e.UK
- Chronic Wasting Disease (OA) From Ticks (13) ** Carried by wolves: Natural History?
- Tick paralysis (H)
- Anemia (H)
- Dermatosis (H)
- Tick paralysis (H)
- Babesiosis (H)
- Anaplasmosis (H)
- Erlichia (H)
- E. Coast Fever (H)
- Relapsing Fever (H)
- Rocky Mtn. Spotted Fever (H)
- (A new type of Spotted Fever is being investigated) (H)
- Powassan Fever (H)
- Heartland Fever (H)
- Lyme Disease (H) From Fleas (4) Carried by wolves:
- Plague (H) ** i.e.MT (OA)
- Bubonic Plague (H)
- Pneumonic Plague (H)
- Flea-Borne (Endemic) Typhus (H)
- Typhus (H)
- Distemper (OA)
- Neospora caninum (OA)
- 2 Types of Mange (H) (OA)
- GID (a disease of wild and domestic sheep) (OA)
- Foot-and-Mouth (OA)
- Parvo (OA)
Of the 30+ diseases and pathogens listed, 27 affect humans and many of these are deadly. Whether it is a child ingesting tapeworm eggs from a ranch house floor rug, or a dog walker or jogging soccer Mom encountering wolves as a schoolteacher did recently in Alaska that resulted in a horrible death, the fact that these human health hazards have been given short-shrift and even covered up by government agencies and their allies as they forcibly introduce, protect and spread wolves is nothing short of scandalous.
How do you control wolves as vectors of these diseases when there is an outbreak? Who pays for control? What methods are permissible? Who is responsible? These sorts of questions need to be answered before we can determine where wolves are to be tolerated; in what numbers; and how these things are to be achieved ad infinitum. I am a strong believer that State Governments, recognizing the primary interests and desires of the Local communities expected to bear the costs of hosting wolves in their midst, are the proper government authority for such decisions if the first and foremost purpose of all government as defined in the Preamble o0f our Constitution, i.e. – “domestic Tranquility” and “the general Welfare” of the all the citizenry – is to be achieved and maintained.
What are we to make of all this? How did it happen? Most importantly, what can or should be done?
Wolves are like mosquitoes: both are numerous, found worldwide, and both create serious and increasing problems for humans closely correlated in magnitude to the human densities found in modern settled landscapes where each is found. Each has benefits that are marginal as when mosquitoes and their larva provide food for fish and especially young birds with brief time windows in which to grow, fly and migrate. Similarly wolves existing in relatively uninhabited (by humans) habitats create an insular plant and animal community that, while described by some appreciatively as “native” or “balanced”, provides a biological comparison for plant and animal management in more densely inhabited and settled landscapes as found in the Lower 48 States. Even in these less inhabited landscapes like Alaska and Siberia, human interventions are required. Examples of the latter being:
- When humans are killed, attacked or injured
- When disease outbreaks occur
- When moose and elk et al needed for human food are being decimated
- When wildlife licensing revenues and matching funds dwindle due to scarcity of game
- When cattle, reindeer or sheep et al husbandry is being decimated.
- When always fragile rural economies and communities worldwide are diminished in any of the many myriad ways that wolves can affect them from dog killings to threatening or attacking especially children and the elderly.
To say that a world with a Canada full of thousands of wolves; an Alaska bursting with wolves; a vast Siberia ** Magadan/Kazakhstan/India (indeed much of Asia) with high wolf densities; a Europe currently dealing unsuccessfully with wolves continent wide; and a world full of dogs & coyotes (that are currently cross breeding with wolves in the settled landscapes of the Lower 48 States) dingoes and jackals (all 4 of which breeds can breed with wolves and produce viable or fertile offspring) ** current crossbreeding – to say in such a world that WOLVES ARE (currently) ENDANGERED in the settled landscapes of the Lower 48 States and :
- Require federal pre-emption of traditional and Constitutional State Wildlife Authorities and Jurisdictions.
- Require the expenditure of millions of scarce federal and state general taxes and wildlife funds.
- Require preposterous federal bureaucratic authority to take private property without compensation in defiance of the Constitution.
- That rural communities forced to host the wolves are to have NO say regarding their presence, numbers, distribution, control or impacts.
Is (*?) to say the least.
* What? – “Absurd”? “Crazy”? “Misguided”? “Ignorant”? “Unjust”? “Illegal”? “Not what it appears to be”? “A direct threat to rural ‘domestic Tranquility’ and the ‘general Welfare’ of the Nation”? NOTE: I confess to wrestling continuously with the right term to use both for the policies and instigators of this misbegotten fiasco. Too harsh or too truthful words turn off many readers and listeners.
The federal bureaucratic placement of wolves is an arbitrary nightmare for groups out of political favor **New England? and almost always not in any direct way affecting those lobbyists, ideologues and politicians enabling the wolf programs. Wolf types in the Lower 48 (i.e. red, Mexican, timber, etc.) are simply names for varieties similar to other widespread mammals like the large whitetails in Saskatchewan descending in size and varying in coloration to the tinier and lighter whitetails found in the Southwest to the tiniest whitetails found in the hot and food-poor FL Keys. Was the ESA really passed to preserve such morphologies?
There is an abundance of hidden agendas behind wolf programs from human population and gun control to eliminating hunting and trapping and surgically parsing rural America into expanding federal ownerships and easements with decreasing land costs.
As with grizzly bear expansions in the Lower 48 States, no one is responsible for the calamities brought about by wolves.
Only last week the morning the paper reported the first Zika-infected childbirth in the US. The child was born in San Diego. Imagine if you will, if mosquitos had been eliminated from the San Diego area one hundred years ago and if only ten or twenty years ago the federal government had announced the “scientific” finding that the lack of mosquitoes in the San Diego environs was unacceptable. Suppose further that the federal government then initiated and the government of California enthusiastically embraced (no surprise there) the reintroduction, protection, and spread of the “native San Diego Yellow Mosquito”. This was done with the enthusiastic support of:
- Midwest, East Coast and Northwest environmental organizations that collected millions to “save the San Diego Yellow Mosquito”.
- Federal politicians that accepted “contributions” from these groups and then were subsequently featured in the news as a “friend of the Mosquito”.
- Professors and entomologists that shared in a bonanza of grants, graduate student increases, tenure and public adulation as they justified the banning of spraying and other controls of mosquitoes and their kin; the need to further regulate and restrict chemical production and use; and the need for a myriad of new laws forbidding the removal of any standing water suitable for the mosquito’s many needs to reproduce and live.
- Federal and State bureaucrats that outlined the need for more employees, bigger budgets, more regulations, new amendments to existing laws, “key” land acquisition and easement, and promotions and bonuses as their “workload increased”.
Could that be a “just” law authorizing such actions? Would the Constitution in any conceivable way allow such a travesty? Would San Diego parents and parents-to-be tolerate such a law? Would the parents of an infected child be able to sue federal politicians, federal bureaucrats or “scientists” that denied or hid the dangers they knew to exist? Of course this could never happen, but not because:
- Mosquitoes (and wolves) are ubiquitous
- There is no San Diego Yellow Mosquito
- The environmental organizations and government would look silly.
This would not happen because it would be the urban voting majority being imposed upon. The suburban (with a few exceptions like NJ) and rural voters neither demand nor contribute to such impositions on their city cousins so the National Organizations do not reap millions; politicians do not reap votes; professors do not reap emoluments; and bureaucrats do not reap dollars and fame.
It is a fact that no one is responsible for any of the many wolf, or grizzly bears’ deadly effects or the economic and cultural sectors that they diminish and that what happened here with the Mosquito is and has happened with the wolf and grizzly bear to name just two such “Listings”.
Here is what I have learned in 17 years of dealing with the ESA and wolves et al:
- It is unjust and unconstitutional to empower federal bureaucrats (and their enablers from politicians and “scientists” to wealthy environmental lobby groups) to seize State wildlife and wild plant authorities and jurisdictions and violate with impunity such Constitutional Rights as are found in the I, IV, V, VI, VII, or X Amendments as defined in The Bill of Rights, and as is being done under the color of the Endangered Species Act.
- Large predators like wolves and grizzly bears are not endangered or threatened. (Grizzlies are abundant in W Canada, Alaska and N. Asia). Both are very dangerous and destructive animals; and their presence, abundance, and distribution should be under State authority with primary attention given to those local communities expected to live with either of these animals. To say that either, especially grizzles, belongs anywhere in the settled landscapes of the Lower 48 in a protected status is a position that anyone valuing human life and American freedoms should think long and hard about. Current magnanimous “return of management” to State governments by federal bureaucracies with attendant “minimum” wolf levels is a chimera or mirage, like promises of “compensation” to ranchers and others, simply short-term public relations ploys intended to continue drainage of wildlife conservation funding and programs until a future push to invigorate greater federal control is judged politically possible.
- State wildlife agencies, state governments and Universities have each been corrupted by the current system ** PR theft w/o repayment and have become little more than subcontractors to federal bureaucrats, powerful Non-Government Organizations and their agendas. Governments no longer serve constituents, and Universities and science no longer seek nor publicize the truth regarding these issues. A companion issue with wolves that draws only snickers today is the downplayed but very real concerns that present wolf immersions in the dense Canid populations on the Lower 48 States spell disaster for future wolves as crossbreeding with coyotes and dogs point to a future similar to that of Russian Caucasian immigrants to Formosa over a hundred years ago that today only linger in a rare Caucasian facial feature in that otherwise dense Mongolian populous.
- If urban/environmental organizations and voters want wolves or grizzly bears in XYZ let them first convince those folks living in XYZ to appeal to the State government with a plan to do so and how to finance it. Counties could allow these animals if the residents and their neighbors agree under a system like Virginia has for deer hunting wherein the Counties decide what guns, methods, seasons, bags, and goals are permissible for deer hunting in THEIR County recognizing the County resident’s desires. Adjoining Counties could oppose the proposal and/or authorize the dispatch of any such animal in their County under certain or any circumstances. In other words if Wyoming and Idaho and Montana do not want any wolves, when a wolf steps out of Yellowstone, State laws and regulations could authorize shooting or trapping 365 24/7. Other federal Parks, Forests, BLM and USFWS lands would and should need State permission as with other property owners in the State to introduce or maintain such wildlife just as if they wanted to introduce and maintain pythons or Asian carp in or on their ownership. Yellowstone has a very singular and unique legal status regarding such matters.
- Non-large-predator Endangered Species Act programs and policies have also become corrupt political activities. Too often they are thinly-disguised environmental and animal rights agendas and ploys to destroy dams, irrigation, farms, ranches, private property, hunting, trapping, fishing, public land access, Local governments, sustainable and renewable natural resource use and management, national sovereignty, corporations, human development nationally and internationally, and a long list of human cultural and traditional pursuits considered politically incorrect at the moment.For instance, while I was in Washington recently, the paper described a pending Endangered Listing of a Bee that is declining nationally. The Bee occupies burrows in intermittently plowed fields and are “thought to be” affected by pesticides sold by “Dow” Chemical. The Listing article (like snail darters intended to stop a dam; or smelt and suckers intended to close down farms and irrigation; or spotted owls intended to eliminate forest – i.e. timber – management) painted objecting farmers and the Dow Chemical Corporation as villains. The Listing will and is intended to importune widespread farm production and practices in the Midwest thereby adversely affecting the national economy, the food supply and food availability for the poor. It will also disrupt a giant Chemical “Corporation” bottom line, facilities and processes for an unknown time and with likely significant financial and job losses. Now while all this may please some elements in the country it is counterproductive to American prosperity and our modern way of life. This is the opposite of the bureaucratic hammer in use today and returns to recognition of the Constitutional role of elected officials authorizing, funding and administering things currently left to bureaucrats with a bag of money to do all sorts of mischief and harm without accountability or responsibility except for their own careers.
- What if the process for conserving true species in extremis was harmonized between Federal and State lawmakers and authorized and mandated that federal and state scientists first jointly determine what is causing the decline and not just hammer “all the usual suspects”? Then work with USDA and farmers to identify and evaluate alternatives and their costs to modify practices or equipment. Then have federal and state scientists work with and through the National Institute of Science and Technology (that routinely works with American Corporations on such matters) to cooperate with Dow Chemical on research for specific adjustments and tolerable costs to their products and existing infrastructure to reduce bee declines. All of this should be accomplished with specifically requested Congressional funding which, if not authorized, means it is not of sufficient importance in line with other national priorities at the moment.
- I am constantly told the ESA will NEVER be repealed (even though a similar travesty, Prohibition, authorized by a Constitutional Amendment, was repealed when its pernicious and corrupting effects were no longer deniable).
- I am constantly told that the ESA will Never be amended because any politician supporting such a thing would be deported or jailed by environmentalists, animal rightists, professors, teachers, bureaucrats, and a hodgepodge of urban residents that could be mobilized to “save” the environment.
- Could elected rural Sheriffs resist these federal impositions like some Mayors, Governors and County officials are resisting federal illegal immigrant enforcement activities?
- Could ESA reforms be enacted in laws, regulations and policies amid the turbulence of reform and confrontation now taking place in Washington, DC?