Animal Rights Advocate, Editor, Recording Artist
As a young child growing up on a large wheat farm in rural Southeastern Kansas, I often walked the short distance to the Missouri state line with my brother to explore the abandoned strip mines on the other side of the railroad track. We imagined that we were walking on the stark surface of another planet—the hills and the gravel pits with their grainy craters were in such sharp contrast to the lush, horizontal green of the nearby wheat fields cultivated by my family for four generations.
As a young girl, I witnessed this microcosmic harbinger of the future, personally seeing how the destruction of wolves, and then hawks, directly affected the balance, diversity, and stability of the entire ecosystem by allowing other species to proliferate without the natural checks and balances afforded by critical predators.
On our way toward the mines one day, we looked, out of habit, into a large drainage pipe and discovered a den of young wolf pups. Excited by this once-in-a-lifetime discovery, we rushed back to our farmhouse and told my great uncle, who promptly rounded up his friends and accompanied me back to the site. At the tender age of nine or ten, I had no idea that they wanted to do anything other than to share in my excitement, and I thought the guns they carried with them were for protection from the adult members of the pack.
The County had put a bounty on wolves that year, though, and my uncle and his companions promptly and unceremoniously fired directly into the culvert tunnel, killing the pups. The men dragged out the tiny bodies, cutting their ears off in front of me and exclaiming excitedly about how much money the little bloody pieces of fur and cartilage represented—those pieces hacked off so callously from the small, limp creatures that were as innocent as I had been, prior to my watching this horrifying and life-changing massacre. I was left with a depth of guilt, too, that has informed my life-long concern for not just wolves, but for all species with whom we share this fragile planet.
Over the next ten years, wolves became non-existent in the Kansas countryside. The State eventually banned the shooting of hawks, which had been hunted to near-extinction during my later teenage years. By that time, the natural predators of rabbits became so scarce that the rabbit population burgeoned and became a nuisance to local farmers. As a young girl, I witnessed this microcosmic harbinger of the future, personally seeing how the destruction of wolves, and then hawks, directly affected the balance, diversity, and stability of the entire ecosystem by allowing other species to proliferate without the natural checks and balances afforded by critical predators.
I often think back to that idyllic Kansas countryside in which I grew up, and I relive my young and sudden recognition that, in a more perfect world, the survival of one species should never be sacrificed in order for another to profit. That more perfect world was ushered in forty years ago when the Endangered Species Act became law. The Act has weathered many assaults over the years, and as it faces new challenges today, we must stand together to maintain and strengthen the Act. New generations of wolf pups should be entitled to thrive, as a vital and integral species within a much larger ecosystem, and it is only with our moral and ethical integrity—as expressed by the Endangered Species Act—that they will be able to do so.