Hunters call it buck fever.
The heart-pounding, breath-holding, tunnel-visioned rush can overwhelm inexperienced hunters when they take aim at wild game.
It is the body’s adrenaline-fueled response to stress, excitement or fear.
Idaho’s lawmakers have stoked the fever, but not for elk and deer, the traditional objects of a big-game hunt.
The fever is wolf fever.
The fever can become a volatile stew when combined with Idaho laws that don’t require any firearms training for anyone who possesses a weapon.
In last winter’s inarguably crazy legislative session, lawmakers used misinformation, mythology and outright lies to justify passage of a law that lifted all restrictions on killing wolves.
They declared war on the estimated 1,500 wolves in Idaho and called for reduction of the population to 150—just enough to keep them off the federal endangered species list and away from federal management.
In doing so, they fueled irrational hatred and unreasonable fear of wolves.
Fear is highly contagious. It resulted in a camping trip gone wrong earlier this month.
A local man took his teenage daughter on her first backpacking trip along with their six-year-old heavyset malamute.
Malamutes have distinctive markings. They don’t look like wolves. But to anyone susceptible to wolf fever, any pointy-eared big dog may become a wolf.
Another man camped near the same lake mistook the dog for a wolf, even though it wore a jangling collar. He issued a warning shot, then shot the dog—twice.
The near-fatal shots seriously injured its head and neck, and took off part of its ear.
The dog’s owners said the shooter took responsibility for his error and did everything he could to make the situation right, including offering to pay for the dog’s medical treatment.
That’s more than the legislators who declared war on wolves have done. From them has come not a moment of pause, not a peep, not a single statement of misgiving about what they have unleashed.
Wolves are not running in enormous packs molesting every other living creature in Idaho. They have not wiped out the state’s healthy elk and deer herds. They sometimes kill domestic livestock. For this, packs are destroyed.
The sight of a wolf in the wild is a rare thing. It’s an experience that inspires awe in people who don’t have wolf fever.
Dog owners would be wise to equip their canines with orange vests when camping or hiking the backcountry. Legislators would be wise to treat wolf fever with cool facts and stop the war on wolves.
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