We saw her last January, leading a string of wolves across a blank white hillside, unaware of the throng of cameras aimed at her, leading her life as the daughter of the Alpha female of the Lamar Valley pack. Her mother had ceded her the leadership before being shot by a hunter outside the park. Now Spitfire, Wolf 926F, has been killed by a hunter too.
Wolves don’t know the meaning of park boundaries or of death-dealing labels like the one Spitfire wore on her collar. The label allowed her to be shot on sight if she strayed onto private land.
It’s been two decades since I wrote a poem called “First Wolf in Yellowstone” about their re-introduction to the park after years of absence, a re-introduction that caused protests and much political action to create even the park’s zone of safety. It is generally know that wolves don’t kill healthy cattle, and so it seems to me that there is something more basic behind this endless resistance.
D.H. Lawrence as a young man searched for a woman to love who would not eat his soul and regretted that “There isn’t a wild she-wolf in the length and breadth of England.” Had there been such a woman, she would have needed to hide her wildness in order to survive.
But there are wild she-wolves now, women who don’t eat souls and range as freely as Spitfire did, and are perhaps nearly as endangered. There is something about the fierce wordless independence of the female wolf that stirs an atavistic antagonism. Wildness in female wolves and in all females must be stamped out.
Not foreseeing this outcome to their reintroduction, I ended my poem with a statement of faith:
“From now on, she knows no boundaries:
Trapped, then freed,
She can never be trapped, or freed, again.”
Or only in death.
[If you’d like to send a message to Congress in support of federal protection for wolves, please visit the Environmental Action website.]