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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 16, 2002 - Issue 74


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How Rabbit Fooled Wolf


Howling WolfTwo pretty girls lived not far from Rabbit and Wolf. One day Rabbit called upon Wolf and said, "Let's go and visit those pretty girls up the road."

"All right," Wolf said, and they started off.

When they got to the girls' house, they were invited in, but both girls took a great liking to Wolf and paid all their attention to him while Rabbit had to sit by and look on. Rabbit of course was not pleased by this, and he soon said, "We had better be going back."

"Let's wait a while longer," Wolf replied, and they remained until late in the day. Before they left, Rabbit found a chance to speak to one of the girls so that Wolf could not overhear and he said, "The one you've been having so much fun with is my old horse."

"I think you are lying," the girl replied.

"No, I am not. You shall see me ride him up here tomorrow."

"If we see you ride him up here," the girl said with a laugh, "we'll believe he's only your old horse."

When the two left the house, the girls said, "Well, call again."

Next morning Wolf was up early, knocking on Rabbit's door. "It's time to visit those girls again," he announced.

Rabbit groaned. "Oh, I was sick all night," he answered, "and I hardly feel able to go."

Wolf kept urging him, and finally Rabbit said, "If you will let me ride you, I might go along to keep you company."

Silly BunnyWolf agreed to carry him astride of his back. But then Rabbit said, "I would like to put a saddle on you so as to brace myself" When Wolf agreed to this, Rabbit added: "I believe it would be better if I should also bridle you."

Although Wolf objected at first to being bridled, he gave in when Rabbit said he did not think he could hold on and manage to get as far as the girls' house without a bridle. Finally Rabbit wanted to put on spurs.

"I am too ticklish," Wolf protested.

"I will not spur you with them," Rabbit promised. "I will hold them away from you, but it would be nicer to have them on."

At last Wolf agreed to this, but he repeated: "I am very ticklish. You must not spur me."

"When we get near the girls' house," Rabbit said, "we will take everything off you and walk the rest of the way."

And so they started up the road, Rabbit proudly riding upon Wolf's back. When they were nearly in sight of the house, Rabbit raked his spurs into Wolf's sides and Wolf galloped full speed right by the house.

"Those girls have seen you now," Rabbit said. "I will tie you here and go up to see them and try to explain everything. I'll come back after a while and get you."

Hayburner HorseAnd so Rabbit went back to the house and said to the girls: "You both saw me riding my old horse, did you not?"

"Yes," they answered, and he sat down and had a good time with them.

After a while Rabbit thought he ought to untie Wolf, and he started back to the place where he was fastened. He knew that Wolf must be very angry with him by this time, and he thought up a way to untie him and get rid of him without any danger to himself. He found a thin hollow log and began beating upon it as if it were a drum. Then he ran up to Wolf as fast as he could go, crying out: "The soldiers are hunting for you! You heard their drum. The soldiers are after you."

Wolf was very much frightened of soldiers. "Let me go, let me go!" he shouted.

Rabbit was purposely slow in untying him and had barely freed him when Wolf broke away and ran as fast as he could into the woods. Then Rabbit returned home, laughing to himself over how he had fooled Wolf, and feeling satisfied that he could have the girls to himself for a while.

Near the girls' house was a large peach orchard, and one day they asked Rabbit to shake the peaches off the tree for them. They went to the orchard together and he climbed up into a tree to shake the peaches off. While he was there Wolf suddenly appeared and called out: "Rabbit, old fellow, I'm going to even the score with you. I'm not going to leave you alone until I do."

Rabbit raised his head and pretended to be looking at some people off in the distance. Then he shouted from the treetop: "Here is that fellow, Wolf, you've been hunting for!" At this, Wolf took fright and ran away again.

Some time after this, Rabbit was resting against a tree-trunk that leaned toward the ground. When he saw Wolf coming along toward him, he stood up so that the bent tree-trunk pressed against his shoulder.

Pig"I have you now," said Wolf, but Rabbit quickly replied: "Some people told me that if I would hold this tree up with the great power I have they would bring me four hogs in payment. Now, I don't like hog meat as well as you do, so if you take my place they'll give the hogs to you."

Wolf's greed was excited by this, and he said he was willing to hold up the tree. He squeezed in beside Rabbit, who said, "You must hold it tight or it will fall down." Rabbit then ran off, and Wolf stood with his back pressed hard against the bent tree- trunk until he finally decided he could stand it no longer. He jumped away quickly so the tree would not fall upon him. Then he saw that it was only a leaning tree rooted in the earth. "That Rabbit is the biggest liar," he cried. "If I can catch him I'll certainly fix him."

Wolf serving Bunny a Carrot DinnerAfter that, Wolf hunted for Rabbit every day until he found him lying in a nice grassy place. He was about to spring upon him when Rabbit said, "My friend, I've been waiting to see you again. I have something good for you to eat. Somebody killed a pony out there in the road. If you wish I'll help you drag it out of the road to a place where you can make a feast off it."

"All right," Wolf said, and he followed Rabbit out to the road where a pony was lying asleep.

"I'm not strong enough to move the pony by myself," said Rabbit, "so I'll tie its tail to yours and help you by pushing."

Running WolfRabbit tied their tails together carefully so as not to awaken the pony. Then he grabbed the pony by the ears as if he were going to lift it up. The pony woke up, jumped to its feet, and ran away, dragging Wolf behind. Wolf struggled frantically to free his tail, but all he could do was scratch on the ground with his claws.

"Pull with all your might," Rabbit shouted after him.

"How can I pull with all my might," Wolf cried, "when I'm not standing on the ground?"

By and by, however, Wolf got loose, and then Rabbit had to go into hiding for a long, long time.

Print and Color Your Own Gray Wolf
Gray Wolf

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Pack Howl

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Gray (Timber) Wolf
Big Picture
Legends and myths drove Americans to extirpate the wolf; now it is making a comeback.
The Big, Bad Wolf?

Wolf RestingThe gray, or timber, wolf's story is one of the most compelling tales of American wildlife. Once, the wolf was plentiful in most of North America — from the Arctic to central Mexico, and from the east coast to Alaska. But European colonists, and subsequently Western settlers, hunted it ruthlessly, systematically extirpating it from almost all of its historic range south of Canada.

In the Old Country, where gray wolves were the victims of folklore that depicted them as a threat to livestock and people, Europeans killed them as vermin for centuries. American colonists continued to see wolves as malicious killers. Within about a decade of the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth Rock, New England colonies began placing a price on the wolf's head. By the end of the eighteenth century, gray wolves had been nearly wiped out in the Northeast.

In the West, the wolf held on. Probably numbering in the hundreds of thousands, it preyed upon deer, bison, elk, and other large, hoofed animals. As the West was settled and became the domain of livestock, however, uncontrolled hunting depleted wild prey, and wolves turned to feeding on livestock. Ranchers hired hunters to kill wolves wherever the predators were found. In 1914, the federal government entered the fray, launching its own predator-control efforts. Even in the national parks, wolves and other predators, including bears and mountain lions, were trapped, poisoned, or hunted down until federal control agents killed Yellowstone National Park's last wolf around 1930.

Wolf and pupsThe drive to extirpate the wolf, however, stemmed largely from misunderstandings and myths about the animal. While wolves will prey on livestock, the general perception of their impact is often exaggerated. Studies of wolf predation on livestock indicate that wolves kill a very small percentage of livestock yearly. In the Northern Rockies, a private compensation fund that pays ranchers for wolf depredations verified only 76 cattle and 192 sheep lost to wolves during its first 10 years in operation. The key to human-wolf coexistence is managing the animals to discourage livestock predation and encourage wariness of humans.

But fear of the wolf was harder to kill off than the wolf itself. By the end of the 1970s, the American gray wolf barely survived outside of Canada and Alaska, the only places where it remained numerous. Its range in the lower 48 states was restricted to the northern reaches of the Great Lakes States, primarily Minnesota. A victim of prejudice, habitat destruction, and loss of prey, the gray wolf in most states became a piece of history.

Wolves and the Endangered Species Act

The gray wolf was federally listed as endangered in a few states in 1967. Wolves in Minnesota were downlisted to threatened status in 1978, which allowed federal agents to kill wolves that attacked livestock and thus helped reduce opposition to wolf conservation among livestock producers. At the same time, the federal government extended endangered status to the species throughout the lower 48.

The wolf has benefitted from protection under the Endangered Species Act in two tangible ways. First, the wolves in Minnesota, as well as Northern Rockies wolves that began to roam from Canada into Montana in the mid-1980s, were protected from control efforts, giving them a chance to form stable populations. Second, the federal government initiated reintroduction programs designed to restore wolves to areas from which they had been extirpated. The fight to bring back wolves, however, has been fraught with difficulty. In the end, the conservation actions taken under the federal wolf recovery plan serve as a lesson for the successes and challenges that other species-reintroduction programs — especially for large carnivores — will face.

The movement to restore gray wolves to the U.S. was spurred in part by Canadian wolves that began to travel into Montana on their own. In 1984, the discovery of Glacier National Park's "magic pack," the first recent generation of gray wolves born on the U.S. side of the Rockies, gave biologists hope that wolves could be successfully reintroduced to portions of North America. Yellowstone National Park was selected as an ideal location for reintroductions. But reintroduction efforts met with fierce opposition from the livestock industry, which feared that wild wolves would prey upon their stock and damage their livelihoods. Surveys of park visitors, however, indicated that the majority wanted wolves back. Ultimately, conservationists settled on designating reintroduced wolves as "experimental, nonessential" populations, which permitted more flexibility in the management of the wolves. In addition, Defenders of Wildlife, a private conservation organization, established a "wolf compensation fund" to reimburse ranchers for lost livestock, an offer which helped to reduce rancher opposition. Throughout the fight to reintroduce the species, the National Wildlife Federation has played a key role in galvanizing public support of wolves, seeking solutions to alleviate people's fears, and ensuring appropriate legal protection for reintroduced wolves.

Gray (Timber) WolfIn 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) trapped 14 wolves in Canada and released them into Yellowstone park. At the same time, FWS released 15 Canadian wolves in central Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Additional Canadian wolves were released in Yellowstone and Idaho in 1996. In both areas, the wolves quickly established territories and growing populations. The Nez Perce tribe oversees the management of the Idaho wolves, which includes monitoring the populations and helping to resolve conflicts between ranchers and wild wolves. FWS defined wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies as the establishment of at least 10 breeding pairs for three consecutive years in Yellowstone, Idaho, and Montana. Within four years of reintroduction, both reintroduced populations had attained 10 breeding pairs — a promising step for wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies.

In 1998, FWS tackled gray wolf reintroduction in the Southwest, releasing 11 captive-reared Mexican wolves into their native territory in Arizona's Apache National Forest. Mexican wolves are the most southern-occurring and genetically distinct gray wolf in North America. The released animals were descendants of wild wolves that FWS had brought into captivity in the 1970s when it became clear that the Mexican gray wolf was on the verge of extinction in the wild. Since their release, the Mexican wolves have struggled to survive in a community that fears their presence. Five of the initial 11 wolves were shot, and others were lost or recaptured. But biologists believe wolves will ultimately reestablish themselves in the Southwest with human assistance. FWS is also studying the potential for wolf reintroductions in New York's Adirondack Park and in Washington State's Olympic Peninsula.

Meanwhile, wolves in some regions have been taking over lost habitat on their own. Northwestern Montana is now home to wolves that moved in from Canada. These wolves are protected as endangered. The Great Lakes population has grown and expanded from northern Minnesota into parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, central Minnesota, and perhaps the Dakotas. Finally, in 1999, a lone female wolf made her way from Idaho into Oregon, sparking the debate about how and when wolves might begin to repopulate other areas of their historic range.

A Future for Wolves

Wolf PupsWolves currently number over 5,000 in Alaska and more than 3,000 in Canada, but these populations are also under assault. In southern Canada, wolf numbers are declining due to hunting, trapping, and loss of habitat. In the lower 48 states, with the exception of the Great Lakes region, wolves still need strong protection. Nevertheless, opponents of wolf recovery — primarily livestock interests — have sought to stop wolf reintroductions and to force removal of reintroduced wolves from Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, and the Southwest. Anti-wolf activists are also among the many powerful special interests seeking to weaken the Endangered Species Act. The FWS recently proposed to downlist endangered populations of wolves in the Northern Rockies and the Northeastern United States to threatened. While this reclassification reflects some success in efforts to recover wolves in the Northern U.S. Rockies and opens the door to increased state involvement in new efforts to re-establish wolves in the Northeast, wolves are still missing from many areas of historic U.S. habitat. Conservationists continue to work diligently to promote wolf recovery in other appropriate areas, including the Southern Rockies and additional parts of the western U.S., as well as to insure continuing recovery of wolves throughout their historic range. The National Wildlife Federation continues to be a leader in the fight to protect wild wolves in the lower 48, with the ultimate goal of recovering the species completely.


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