Editor’s Column: Ranger Rick isn’t reality

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I had a subscription to “Ranger Rick” nature magazine when I was a kid. It was educational, yes, but it insulated its immature readers from the true nature of the beasts it highlighted. There was a little anthropomorphism (Ranger Rick was, after all, a raccoon … I even had a stuffed version) and a lot of romanticism about nature and wildlife and critters in general.

Imagine my trauma some 30 years later when I heard terrible noises in our chicken coop and hurried outside at midnight to find a scene worthy of any true-crime drama. A raccoon had broken in, attacked and killed multiple hens, and mortally wounded my beloved rooster, Chanticleer. The coop looked like something out of a horror flick, complete with blood spatter patterns.

The worst part? We’d found an entire family of baby raccoons living in a hollow tree the previous spring. It was more than likely those same raccoons who’d gone on a murderous spree in my chicken coop. My perception of raccoons as cute little masked bandits or caricatured wildlife rangers changed that night forever.

I fear many of those who believe returning wolves to Colorado is a good idea may be subject to the same kind of incomplete understanding I had about raccoons. Contrary to what folks on the Front Range and in our resort towns may think, the western slope isn’t a giant national park like Yellowstone or a wildlife refuge where nature is unimpeded by human civilization, and this isn’t an issue of Ranger Rick magazine. These wolves, like those raccoons in my chicken coop, have teeth and claws and they aren’t afraid to use them.

There will be consequences to the return of the wolf if the initiative passes, just as there have been consequences from every previous voter-directed attempt at wildlife management. Some of those consequences will be expected and some will be unintended. It’s a fretful situation, not just for those who will have to adapt to the presence of wolves, but for the wolves, too.

By Niki Turner | niki@ht1885.com