Hmmmm. “This is an interesting coincidence,” I said to myself yesterday as I perused the back page of the Salem Statesman-Journal sports section. The headline read “Beaverton man gets in tangle with wolves.”
For on the very day the story appeared the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission was scheduled to meet in Salem and vote on a controversial wolf-management plan. My suspicions were aroused. Could this be a case of anti-wolf media bias?
The reporter who wrote the article, Henry Miller, is in charge of the newspaper’s Outdoors Section. He’s an avid hunter and fisherman.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and I wouldn’t object to him writing an opinion piece about the danger of reintroducing wolves to Oregon. Nor would I object to him writing a factual piece about wolf-human or wolf-livestock interactions.
But it struck me as strange that this story about a Beaverton businessman who goes to Canada to hunt moose and has a close encounter with a wolf pack was published on the same day that the Commission was slated to approve a plan that prevents livestock owners from killing wolves that threaten their sheep or cattle.
Methinks there is some hidden editorializing going on here, masquerading in the guise of Outdoors news coverage. I emailed Miller early Thursday morning, asking him to explain why the story appeared when it did, and why there wasn’t any mention of when this incident took place. I told him that I wanted to know the date of the Canadian wolf encounter, as it was conspicuously absent from the story.
Not having heard back from him after more than 24 hours, today I found the email address of David Leonard, a Salem attorney who, the story said, was along on the moose hunt. Leonard replied to my message almost right away. He said that the incident happened on Tuesday, October 4.
Almost two months ago. Which made me wonder even more why the story appeared on December 1, just in time to fan the flames of opposition to the wolf-management plan. It passed, by the way. Hip, hip, hooray! Or rather, hoooowwwwllllllllll!
As I wrote in my “Ranchers overly afraid of the big bad wolf” post, livestock losses from wolf predation are minimal in areas with significant wolf populations. Since Oregon has zero wolves right now, the losses obviously will be just that, zero, for the foreseeable future.
Similarly, up to 2005 there had been zero human deaths caused by wolves during the past 100 years in North America. One man apparently was killed by wolves a few weeks ago in Saskatchewan. A single death in a century over an entire continent—obviously many more hunters are killed by other hunters than by wolves or other predators.
I told Miller that this fact should have been included in his story, the main lesson of which is that there is indeed an extremely slight chance of being bothered by wolves if you are hunting moose in wolf territory, walking through thick brush with very little visibility, making moose calls at dusk, and responding to the call of what you think is a bull moose in timber.
For the rest of us, wolves are no danger. Hopefully they will find their way into Oregon soon, helping to restore some much needed wildness to our overly humanized and livestockized environment.
I’ll be writing to the publisher of the Statesman-Journal, asking her to look into the timing and source of this story. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association had a hand in its appearing in the newspaper when it did.
But that’s just a hypothesis. Regardless of whether it is true, the job of reporters is to tell us about the news, not try to influence the news. My suspicion is that Henry Miller’s intention was to do just that.