Wolves kill in packs, driving, exhausting, surrounding and terrifying until they have singled out an animal — infant, healthy or aged, it really doesn’t matter. Then they close in, snapping and snarling, tearing first at genitals and bellies, mutilating and ripping, spilling intestines that will be dragged, stepped on and seized by jaws that tear the life right out of the victim from the inside out. The term “gut-wrenching” takes on a whole new meaning here. It becomes a horrifying death, both frantically fast and agonizingly slow. These predators frequently settle in to feed before the victim succumbs.

I have to question the premise that we want to preserve this — even reintroduce and increase this — as the fate of more and more animals.

Unlike predators, the sportsman kills from a distance; there is the striking absence of eyeball-to-eyeball impact and the indescribable horror of claws and teeth tearing the living flesh and crushing bone. There is always the desire for a humane, quick kill; there is usually that result. With predators there is never the desire for a humane, quick kill; there is seldom that result.

Predators put on their horror show year-round, terrifying daily, killing indiscriminately. Wolves, especially, raise the stress level of the prey species exponentially, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The sportsman, by vivid contrast, hunts from afar, only during two months in the fall, and kills discriminately — selectively. The benefit to the prey species is obvious — and profound.

To prefer the “natural” inhumane and cruel treatment of animals to man’s less natural but more humane beneficial treatment just does not make ethical sense.

It is legitimate for man, the hunter, to largely supplant the role of the predators when we multiply and fill a geographic area. If we are going to partake of this natural bounty and utilize it for some of our own food and recreational needs, we do have to reduce the predators. That we can manage the resource and harvest humanely is a huge bonus to the resource. If they could, they would thank us for it — and curse us for the reintroduction of wolves.

The pioneers who eliminated the wolf did so not because they misunderstood the wolf, but because they understood the wolf intimately.

They witnessed the wolves’ idle cruelty and wanton killing; they saw the waste and experienced the loss of their own livestock. They learned to hate the wolf because that is what the wolf taught them to do; they responded to what they witnessed as any rational person would. They were the true friends of animals.

Our shared hunting heritage is tied up with values that lead to improving the human, as well as the animal, condition. What the proponents of predators desire will be worse for both the hunter and the hunted — and the unintended consequence will also be reduced opportunity to view wildlife for the non-hunter.

I hate cruelty; you should too!

Reg LeQuieu lives in Mt. Vernon.

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