Author’s Note: This essay originally appeared in Comeback Wolves: Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home (Johnson Books. 2005). It’s an amazing collection of essays, poetry and thoughtful prose. To purchase a copy, click here.
The television image brightens from black to a shadowy, old-growth forest. As glimpses of a wolf moving through the undergrowth flash nervously through the scene—giving a sense of impending doom—a female’s voice drones darkly: “In an increasingly dangerous world, even after the first terrorist attack on America, John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America’s intelligence budget by $6 billion, cuts so deep they would have weakened America’s defenses.” The scene switches to several wolves resting on a hillside, until the observer apparently catches their attention and they rise to give chase. The female announcer continues, “And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.” As the ad fades to black, the voice of President George W. Bush announces his approval of the piece.
Turning off the television, I stood staring blankly at the darkening screen. The ad’s not-so-subtle use of wolves as a metaphor for terrorists left me dumbfounded (click here to watch the ad). Yet the Bush Administration had never proven to be a friend to wolves. In fact, Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton—a Bush appointee—approached her stewardship of the nation’s wolves much like a princess would approach a stinky shirt. This ad, however, was a cheap shot.
After nearly a decade of struggling to build the scientific case and a constituency for wolves in the Southern Rockies, I felt my blood boil at this ad. The political hacks who created it were so proud of themselves they granted interviews to the major media outlets just to discuss their handiwork. They argued that the ad’s imagery “tested as very compelling with focus groups.” Really? What a surprise! The only thing that might have made it more compelling would be seeing the wolves chasing down and devouring the Secretary of the Interior.
I knew that my righteous indignation wouldn’t stop the ad from airing, however. This felt like familiar territory.