“BB” contacted me through an old method this time. A letter stamped with his huge hoof print arrived early in September and he specified an exact location for us to meet. I was fairly surprised to note that we were once again meeting at the “Bugle Inn” restaurant in Forest Lakes. Our very first meeting back in 2005 was at this same location, but since his move to the Big Lake area, we had not been that close to the edge of the Rim. The night in question turned out to include an incredible downpour of rain and hail. I patiently drove the Tundra up the hill and pulled into the parking lot at Bugle’s around 4:00 am.
The owner had once again left the keys to the front door and I apparently was the first to arrive. I turned on one, single dim light and patiently awaited the arrival of my old friend. I have to admit, I was a bit tired from the long ride and the ugly rains, so I helped myself to a bottle of merlot and began thinking of all the times that “BB” and I had met and conversed. Before I could get too nostalgic, I heard a deep throated bugle along with a series of hoarse grunts that seemed to come from the parking lot. As if on cue, “BB” crashed through the front door. He was soaking wet, covered in mud and his eyes were bright red as if he was half in the bag. The drifting odor that followed him in gave me pause to smile. “BB” was in full rut and made no bones about it. “Well boy” he croaked, “how the hell are you?” I took a second to assess my wild friend. “Pungent” is a term that kind of gets across what I was thinking, but “reeking” was in actuality a more appropriate term. “BB” I said, “You have really outdone yourself this time. You smell marvelous, I’m sure every eligible cow from any unit would love to be part of your harem.” He broke into that deep throated chuckle of his and said, “Damn right boy, I’ve got 23 cows just on the dark side of road 200 yards up the hill. We have to keep this short since only half of them have been bred and the other half are getting close. A bull has to have his priorities you know, so get on with it.” It was my turn to laugh now. The image of several impatient cows tapping their hooves while he and I shared some time was just a bit over the top. “Aren’t you worried about some other bulls sneaking in while you and I chat?” “BB” gave me that sly grin of his and said, “When you’ve had the best, why settle for the rest?” With that he began that damn chuckle of his and it kept reverberating in the room.
When he had stopped with his chuckling I decided to get to the point and gauge his reaction. “OK “BB”, word has it that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to try and establish a more genetically diverse group of Mexican Gray wolves, and to do that, they may need up to 750 wolves all across Arizona.” “BB” started shrieking immediately. “How in the hell are we gonna survive if we have 750 wolves in Arizona? Who the hell is the lame-brained idiot who came up with that plan? What the hell are YOU gonna do about it? Why in the world are they doing this?” I sat back and stared at my aromatic friend and shook my head. “BB” I said, “There are a few people out there who have been trying to find a way to get rid of hunting and this seems to be the tool. There are other folks who claim that they love to hear a wolf howling in the wilderness. A small minority has been working on this project for years, and you may just have to plan on more of them being around.” “BB” started stomping around the bar and tossed his antlers into a light fixture. Thankfully the lights were off, but he pulled the whole thing down to the floor. “You humans just can’t get it right can you? I would take a bullet or an arrow right through me as a way to end my existence. There is some honor in that. Someone will have bested me and my abilities to escape. Have you ever seen what a wolf pack does to an elk? They trail us for miles, nipping, slashing, biting and then when we finally collapse, they starting tearing us apart and we are not even dead. It’s the absolute worst nightmare for any elk.” He shuddered involuntarily as he conjured up visions of wolf packs tearing apart his flesh. “Have you seen what they did way up north in the states that have those huge wolf numbers? My old relatives are being torn apart. The little calves can’t even make it one week on the ground and they are destroyed. All the BS about wolves only taking the weak and the sick are just that, BS.” I had to break the news to him that was really the final straw. ““BB”, I have to tell you that the study that I read said that wolves will eat whatever happens to be the most available food base for them. In Arizona, they feel that wolves will eat elk, because that is what they have been doing…eating elk.” “BB” turned slowly and looked at me. “Boy” he said, “Do you have any idea why those wolves are eating elk? It’s not because we are the most available food source, it’s because that’s what the damn things were fed while they were being held in their release pens for months at a time. Every time there was an elk that got killed by a vehicle, the Arizona Game & Fish Department and the damn Forest Service would bundle up the bodies and throw them into the cages. Those early release wolves were fed almost exclusively elk meat. Why in the hell didn’t they feed them road kill coyotes? It would have made a lot more sense. One predator for another and I guarantee that there are a hell of a lot more coyotes than there are elk in this state.”
I pondered his statement for a few moments and thought it through. “BB” was absolutely right. I remember all the elk road kills the AZGFD had been gathering up and feeding to the wolves. I then wondered what would have happened if they had been fed coyotes. Would it have made a difference? I watched my old friend as he paced the room and I could not help but feel his pain. ““BB” if it’s any consolation, we are going to fight this thing every step of the way. My best guess is that it will take at least another 5 years before anything happens.” “BB” glanced over at me and seemed to be mulling something over in his head. “Boy, you and me are getting a bit long in the tooth. I don’t see me making it another 5 years anyhow. Time for me is now, same for you. I would have loved to have gone to someone’s dinner table knowing that at least some of my genetics would live forever in Arizona. If they put 750 wolves in this state, you can kiss the elk herd goodbye in less than 10 years. We will only be a distant memory of a species passing in time. Humans have all the politics, all the idiots with differing views and all the laws that bind them up into big knots. I hope the AES fights this thing Boy… or we may be a fond distant memory.”
“BB” gathered himself up and nodded to me as he started strutting to the door. With a glance over his back he just smiled sadly and said, “Enjoy the moment my friend. The future does not look bright, so you and I may as well go out with our hair on fire.” He kicked open the door and did a stiff legged strut out the door. With an awesome bugle he started rounding up his ladies while I watched from the doorway. He was right of course, it will not affect us because we will be out of the pool by the time the catastrophe occurs. What about hunting for future generations? What is our legacy going to be? Is it time to stop the madness? Is it time to feed these pen reared wolves road kill coyotes? “BB” makes more sense than most of the USFWS folks do.