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Title: A Gray Wolf's Plea

 Early settlers nearly pushed the gray wolf into extinction
There was a time when my species extended from Coast to Coast and from Canada to Mexico. We lived in dens with our mates and pups, and our backyards extended for hundreds of miles. We had an abundance of food back then - elk, antelope, deer, rabbit. We were skilled predators, but we always adhered to the Rule of the Wild: Give more than you take.


Finally!/ I Found What I Was Looking Forů

I know what you're thinking: What could a pack of gray wolves possibly contribute to Mother Earth? Didn't we just terrorize the countryside, wreaking havoc on small, fuzzy creatures?

Hardly. Whenever we killed an animal, we left some meat behind for others. We kept hoofed animals (such as deer) from overpopulating and taking more than their fair share of the vegetation. In fact, our threatening presence made our prey stronger. Antelopes ran faster, elk stayed more alert and mountain goats scaled steeper mountains because of us. Then, when we finally passed on to the Other World, our bodies became nourishment for those still in this world.

 Whooping cranes dwindled down to a dozen in the 1940s

You see, every creature on this planet contributes something sacred to the circle of life - from sea slugs to cactus to elephants. Over time, we have come to depend on one another. We wolves could not live without the deer, nor could they live without us. In this way, our universe maintains a harmonious balance.

But 200 years ago, that balance was severely threatened.

Green sea turtles are threatened by nets and development.
Our problems started when the White Man started conquering the countryside. We'd had experiences with Humans before. We'd lived alongside Native Americans for centuries. Occasionally, they killed one of us for fur, but only when necessary, and they didn't waste a thing. They understood the importance of maintaining a balanced circle of life, and they treated all of Earth's creatures with respect.

The White Man, however, was a cold-blooded killer. When they built railroads across our countryside, they shot every bison, deer, elk and moose in sight. Practically overnight, our food supply was depleted. Left with no other alternative, we had to sneak up to their camps at night and attack their sheep and cattle. This infuriated the White Man so much that he tried to exterminate us. Bounty hunters were offered as much as $20 to $50 for our pelts. Obsessed with greed, they hunted us down in incredible numbers, dragging us from our dens and shooting us in front of our pups. Some of them even salted carcasses with poison and left them out for us. Since there was nothing left for us to eat, many fell for their evil tricks and died. So did countless eagles, foxes and bears.

By the 20th century, we gray wolves were nearly extinct in 48 states. A few packs of us remained in northeastern Minnesota, and that was it.

Irene heads out to meet the manatees

And we weren't the only creatures having a rough time. Our friends the whooping cranes had it ten times worse. Have you ever actually seen a whooping crane? They are a remarkable bird - nearly five feet tall with long, graceful necks and snow-white feathers tipped in black. Every year, they migrate to and from northwest Canada and South Texas. That's a 5,000-mile distance! If I did that, my paws would kill me! Anyway, the whooping crane did this incredible journey for centuries - until the White Man came and drained their wetlands, turned their grasslands into farmland, and polluted their water with toxins. They also shot them - sometimes for meat, but often just "for fun."

In the 1800s, there were thousands of these majestic birds. In the winter of 1941, there were barely a dozen.

Then there were our aquatic friends, the green sea turtles. They already had a tough time making it through life. Raccoons, skunks and opossums attacked them when they were still tucked inside their eggshells; crabs and mammals snatched them when they were tiny hatchlings. But Mother Earth accounted for these natural threats by giving female turtles the ability to lay up to seven clutches a year, with 75 to 200 eggs per clutch. Predators could have some of the baby turtles, but there would still be enough left to venture out to sea and become adults. After that, green sea turtles were practically invincible.

Until, of course, Humans intervened.

Neda says 'Be kind to the manatees!'
Whereas raccoons and opossums only stole as many turtle eggs as they and their families needed, humans emptied every nest they stumbled upon. That's because eggs were considered a "delicacy" in Asia and could bring in tons of money. Humans also built fancy resorts on top of the turtles' homeland (making it difficult for females to find places to nest) and polluted their water with toxins. Worse yet, sea turtles started getting caught in the nets set out by commercial fishermen. Many drowned before they could be set free.

As you can see, my friends and I were nearing extinction by the middle of the 20th century. Granted, extinction is a natural part of the circle of life, but humans were causing us to die out hundreds, if not thousands, of times faster. And that doesn't just hurt us. Humans, after all, are part of the circle of life too. Not only do you need us for food and fur, we supply you with medicines as well. More than 40 percent of prescriptions filled in the United States each year come from plants, animals and microbes. Who knows - we may even contain a cure for cancer. Pushing us into extinction only hurts you in the end.

Luckily, Americans started realizing this in the late 1960s. The continuous threat of war caused many people to re-evaluate their roles in Mother Earth. A man named Denis Hayes decided the best way to promote awareness of the planet was to throw it a big birthday party. Some 20 million people participated in the first-ever Earth Day on April 22, 1970. At long last, environmental issues were brought to the nation's forefront. Even more amazingly, the government started doing something about it. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed in 1969 to review issues of concern, and a number of Acts were soon to follow. Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Water Pollution Control Act in 1972 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

All of this has had a tremendous impact on my family and friends. It is now against the law to kill gray wolves, whooping cranes, green sea turtles or any other creature on the Endangered Species List. Anyone caught violating the air or water codes established by the EPA is severely punished. Projects have also been implemented to incubate endangered eggs in laboratories so that certain birds and reptiles will have a stronger chance of survival. My friends and I have made some impressive comebacks. Today, approximately 2,200 of us gray wolves roam through the Minnesota countryside. Although it's not as many as there used to be, it's a decent start.

Stephanie has turned in a real cactus-hugger
But while there have been some exciting victories in the Environmental Movement, we are still losing tens of thousands of species of plants and animals worldwide a year. This rate cannot continue. It will devastate our circle of life. That is why I am asking YOU to help maintain the harmony of our Earth. Here's how:

  1. 1. Cars cause a great deal of pollution in our society, and they also kill a lot of wildlife like me. Carpool and use public transportation as often as possible. Better yet - bike or walk.
  2. 2. Buy foods that are grown organically, without the use of herbicides or pesticides. Not only does this benefit the workers who picked the produce, it is a great deal healthier for you. (They taste a lot better too!)
  3. 3. Recycle and reuse as much as possible. Avoid products that come with disposable plastic packaging, and never, ever litter. We animals have been known to die after swallowing plastic debris or getting entangled in plastic six-pack holders. Yikes!
  4. 4. Never buy products made from endangered species, such as ivory, leopard skins or - heaven forbid - wolf pelts! In fact, try not to buy anything made from animals. Cut down on leather as much as possible, and stamp out fur from your wardrobe altogether. And when you travel, never buy things like dried alligators, shark teeth or rabbit's feet for souvenirs. That just encourages people to go out and needlessly kill us beautiful creatures.
  5. 5. Take your own bags to the grocery store. (Some places may even give you a discount!)
  6. 6. Donate your toys, books and games to hospitals or daycare centers when you have outgrown them.
  7. 7. Store your food in reusable containers like Tupperware instead of plastic baggies or aluminum foil. If you must use baggies, wash them after each use and reuse as long as possible.
  8. 8. Return wire hangers to the dry cleaner's and film canisters to photo shops.
  9. 9. Use phosphate-free laundry and detergents.
  10. 10. Turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer.
  11. 11. Start a compost pile in your backyard or balcony. Not only will it save space in landfills, it will eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers that are hurtful to you and us. It's also great for your garden.
  12. 12. Build a birdfeeder or birdbath. Maybe a whooping crane will stop by for a visit!
  13. 13. Plant a tree.
  14. 14. Always turn off the TV when you aren't watching it. Better yet, store it in the closet and only bring it out when there is something you absolutely have to watch (a PBS documentary on wolves, for instance).
  15. 15. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth and use water-saving devices on toilets and shower-heads.
  16. 16. Use cold water whenever possible. It takes too much energy to heat water!
  17. 17. Never use an electrical appliance when a manual one will do. A perfect example is can-openers! (Or, just use your teeth - like me!)
  18. 18. Instead of throwing old letters, envelopes or papers away, bind them together and use for scratch paper.
  19. 19. Support environmental organizations or, better yet, start your own. Allow me to make a few suggestions: Save The Wolves Foundation. Wolves Are Beautiful Campaign. Paws Off The Wolves. Give The Wolves A Chance. Pups for President. You get the picture!
  20. 20. Teach everything you've just learned to 10 other people!

On behalf of the gray wolves, I thank you. Mother Earth thanks you. Your future pups thank you too.


Please email me at: stephanie@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Stephanie - Your life is in danger if your neighbor is a toxic dump
Rebecca - "I survived a nuclear meltdown...I think"
Nick - Two years in a tree can make you a believer, and change the world
Making A Difference - Save the world, Superhero! It's going down faster than a speeding bullet
Stephen - Chainsaws and bulldozers are no match for crusaders for "living museums"