Someone I know very well recently saw a gray wolf near Houston.
Yep, a gray wolf. After hearing the description of the sighting, I pulled up some online photos and the person said, “that’s it!”
The animal was observed walking swiftly near a large wooded area, and its back remained level as it moved, sort of like a gaited horse. It was described as being less scraggly than a coyote and way, way (way) bigger.
I have no doubt that a gray wolf is what the person saw, along with a second person who was also witness to the moment. The viewer’s detailed recap of its appearance and actions, along with the very real excitement in the vocal delivery, were obviously those of a person providing a truthful narrative. I also know for sure that the person wouldn’t simply fabricate such a story, so there’s that, too.
Having heard the person’s account of the incident, I decided to look into what “the authorities” had to say about wolves in Missouri. I half expected to find something similar to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s long-standing cougar policy (or mountain lion, if you prefer), and that’s exactly what I found.
To recap, the MDC promotes the fascinating notion that there is no “breeding population” of cougars in the Show Me State, and that when the big cats are seen, they’re (to paraphrase) “males traveling from states to the west to states to the east in search of territory or mates.”
I love that. So I guess there must be a one-way cougar trail that crosses Missouri, and other cougars are stationed along it telling the travelers “nothing to see here – keep moving” until they’ve reached Illinois, Kentucky or Tennessee. There also must be a station on the trail’s entrance on the west side of the state where females are told, “sorry ma’am, men only,” as well as a station on the east side where wayward boy cats are prevented from going the wrong way on the one-way path.
So when cougars set foot in Missouri, they never find a reason to stay? In the presence of such abundant real estate and food sources, they still can’t wait to “head east?”
All of that is strange, and pretty ridiculous. Especially to the many people who have had first-hand experience with cougars that don’t appear to be “passing through,” like a Houston businessman who once told me he saw a female and cubs on his acreage near Licking.
It turns out that according to the MDC, wolves seen in Missouri are similarly “just visiting.” The policy (again paraphrasing) states that they’ve “wandered south from states to the north.”
So again, they come down from North Dakota, Minnesota or Wisconsin, and never, ever feel led to stay? What, does an officer with the wolf police arrest them and tell them to go back where they came from?
Come on, really? I suppose that’s possible, but then it’s equally possible that I’ll play first base for the St. Louis Cardinals before the current season ends.
Anyway, a friend of mine wasn’t at all surprised when I shared the story of the gray wolf sighting. In fact, he said that about eight to 10 years ago, a a crew from some form of government agency showed up in his neck of the woods to “eradicate” eight of the big, scary animals.
“I guess that was a bunch that had wandered down here from the north and hadn’t yet turned around to go back,” I said.
“Exactly,” he said as he chuckled.
Look, the reality is there’s stuff out there in this vast area of land we call the Ozarks – silly government policies notwithstanding. And these are life forms that preceded the white man in these parts by a long shot, so they know what they’re doing.
I’d say they’re not to be feared, but rather to be respected and recognized for their natural majesty. Certainly, though, if they’re eating your calves, a quick and permanent solution is called for. I think that should be how it works.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. A big canine ‘visitor’Email: email@example.com.