Thursday, March 31, 2022
This is excellent.
It nededs to be taught to all of us at a young age. This item takes the mystery out of it all.
It we just learn to ask us what is best as a matter of habit, then it will work well.
Do read this through as it will set you up with it all. We have accepted following our emotions far too often and that needs to be ended.
5 Ancient Stoic Tactics for Modern Life
Jeremy Anderberg • April 9, 2018 • Last updated: September 26, 2021
Stoicism emerged as a philosophy, a way of life — similar to a religion, really — most famously in ancient Rome somewhere around 50-100 AD (even though it was Greeks who pioneered the thinking).
Two millennia later, the philosophy is enjoying a revival of sorts, and it’s not hard to understand why.
The primary goal of ancient Stoicism was to figure out the best way to live; as modern philosopher Lawrence Becker writes: “Its central, organizing concern is about what one ought to do or be to live well — to flourish.” And this question of how to live is perhaps humanity’s most enduring — becoming especially acute in ages in which a sense of shared meaning has atrophied and every individual is left to find meaning on his own. Stoicism’s answers, its fundamental tenets — what many modern writers and thinkers have deemed the “art of living” — thus feel just as relevant now as they did a couple thousand years ago.
While we’ve covered some tenets of Stoicism on the Art of Manliness before (and given an introduction to it in a podcast interview), we’ve never laid out its more concrete practices — the tactics that lead both to personal joy and the betterment of society. It’s my aim to present five ways you can start to inject Stoicism into your life today, and begin experiencing more happiness and fulfillment.
These aren’t just abstract ideas that I’ll be presenting to you. Rather, they’re based on firsthand experience. Since I first read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations last year, I’ve been rather intrigued by the philosophy he espoused. So I’ve studied up, read a handful of books — both ancient source material and contemporary guidebooks — and have incorporated a number of new habits into my own daily routines.
While there are many more practices and principles that can be gleaned and applied from Stoicism, my goal with this article is to provide those that have most impacted my own life (providing plenty of personal anecdotes to that end), and which I believe can most impact the lives of other men as well. These are things to do on a daily and weekly basis (even if some of them are more psychological in nature). While Stoicism also offers an outline of how to react and respond in a number of different situations — from anger and anxiety, to disability and death — that isn’t in the purview of this piece (though perhaps it will be in another article later on).
What’s especially appealing about Stoicism is that it’s what Massimo Pigliucci calls an “ecumenical philosophy.” Its precepts complement those of many other philosophies, religions, and ways of life. You can practice elements of Stoicism and still pursue Christianity, Judaism, atheism, and a number of other isms or non-isms out there. It’s about finding joy, fulfillment, and tranquility, and making society a better place for everyone in it. Isn’t that something we can all get behind?
Without further ado, I present 5 ways to make Stoicism a daily practice:
1. Visualize Your Life Without the Things You Love
“He robs present ills of their power who has perceived their coming beforehand.” —Seneca
William Irvine argues that “the single most valuable technique in the Stoics’ psychological toolkit” is a tactic he calls “negative visualization.” To fully appreciate your blessings — the immaterial and material alike — imagine your life without them.
For example, if you live in a tornado-prone region, imagine your house being destroyed, along with all your possessions. Obviously sort of a sad thought experiment, but chances are good that you’ll actually come to better appreciate your home, and the stuff in it, if you can really visualize what life might be like without it.
This practice might make it seem like Stoics are lifelong pessimists, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Stoics are in fact the ultimate optimists. Consider the image of a 16oz drinking glass holding 8oz of water. It’s of course either half full or half empty, right? The Stoic, though, would actually just be grateful that there was any water at all! And that there was a vessel to hold that water to boot. The Stoic takes nothing for granted.
This exercise is of course harder to practice with your loved ones, but it’s well worth it. When I drive to daycare in the afternoon to pick up my son, I briefly meditate on the fact that each day really is a gift, and that anything can happen. He might not be around tomorrow, so I better live and love and parent to my fullest, most joyful abilities today.
Now, I’m not consumed with anxiety that my kids aren’t long for this earth (Irvine notes the important difference between contemplating and worrying). I know the odds are extremely slim of that reality. It’s more an acknowledgment that you just never know when the things and people you love might not be there anymore. It’s truly made a difference in my mindset, general gratitude, and mostly — as perhaps to be expected in this young kids phase — my patience. Whether my toddler son is taking forever to brush his teeth, or my 1-month-old daughter decides she won’t sleep unless she’s held and rocked, I seem better able to cope when I briefly imagine a life without them. It should also be noted that this exercise hasn’t made me sad or mopey as you might expect; rather, it makes me swell with gratitude for the days we are given, and I can say that I better truly appreciate all the blessings life has to offer, from my wife and kids, to the cheerful song of a bird out my window on a nice spring day.
As Seneca noted at the top of this section, bad things — which inevitably happen to all of us — are robbed of at least some of their power when we’ve anticipated their possibility, and consequently taken full advantage of each day, hour, and moment given us. The grief of loss isn’t quite as acute when we can truthfully state that we squeezed every ounce of joy out of what we own and who we love when they were with us. As the Reverend William Sloane Coffin said in giving a eulogy for his 24-year-old son, Alex:
“there is much by way of consolation. Because there are no rankling unanswered questions, and because Alex and I simply adored each other, the wound for me is deep, but clean. I know how lucky I am!”
2. Memento Mori — Meditate on Death
“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. . . . The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” —Seneca
While related to the above point, memento mori is about meditating on your death rather than that of your loved ones. Whereas negative visualization is about imagining life without the things you love, memento mori asks you to meditate and be aware that you will not, in fact, live forever. Death comes for us all, including you, dear reader.
We live in a pretty death-averse culture though. At large, we’re terribly afraid of it. The Stoics would argue, though, that if you’ve lived a life of purpose and meaning, you shouldn’t have any fear of something that has naturally befallen each and every human being (and every other living creature) since time immemorial.
Now, meditating on your own death is not the same as asking something like “If you knew this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?” In that scenario, I’d play hooky, make my friends and family do the same, and do something memorable with them. I’d eat a ton of tasty but bad-for-you food, drink some whiskey, stay up all night, etc. Those aren’t things you can do on a daily basis, though. Rather, the question is more like “If you don’t wake up in the morning, would you be satisfied with how your last day was spent?” Did you engage fully at work? Did you love your family and your friends? Did you add to society’s greater good at all? Did you make virtuous decisions?
When I ask myself this question, as with the previous point, it’s not a depression- or anxiety-inducing meditation. I realize the likelihood of my dying tomorrow is very slim; I am simply countenancing the fact that it is possible. And this possibility isn’t demoralizing, but invigorating. It makes me far less likely to waste time. If I’m gone tomorrow, I’d much rather have spent time baking a loaf of bread than playing games on my phone. I’d much rather have spent time reading stories to my son at bedtime (all the words) rather than speeding through it to watch another episode of Nailed It (which is great, don’t get me wrong).
As you go through the day, or just at the end of it, reflect on your activities and decisions. Both the good and the bad. If this day was your last, would you be satisfied with its outcome? What would you have done differently? How would you have changed your interactions with others? How can you use this information to make better decisions and engage in more worthwhile activities tomorrow? Make it actionable. As the Stoics themselves would have asked, what good is philosophy if there’s no impact on how we live day to day?
I’ve also found it’s good to occasionally read memoirs about death and dying. One of my all-time favorite books is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. He wrote the book as he was dying of lung cancer in his late 30s, married and with a young child. I’ve read it twice — when both of my children were just days old. He provides an unmatched perspective on what it means to not only die well, but to acknowledge its reality: “The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.” Even in his waning months, he maintained an incredible sense of positivity: “Even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.” If the words of dying people don’t inspire you to live more fully each day, then nothing will! A few more good books are The Bright Hour, Dying: A Memoir, and The Last Lecture.
3. Set Internal Goals and Detach Yourself From Outcomes
“Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.” —Epictetus
One of the pillars of Stoic philosophy is not letting circumstances outside your control disturb your equilibrium. Such externally-dictated circumstances include things we’re used to thinking of as being out of our hands, like the weather, traffic, and our health (and that of our loved ones). But it also includes things we often erroneously believe we have full personal control over, like the outcomes of contests and the success or failure of business ventures.
As a help in grasping a truth we inveterate bootstrappers often resist, Irvine gives the example of a tennis match. You might set a goal of winning the match. Seems perfectly reasonable, no? But when you really think about it, you can’t control many of the factors that determine the contest’s outcome: The weather is poor and wind gusts aren’t favoring you; you experience equipment failure (like a broken string) that isn’t disastrous but a distraction nonetheless; your opponent is simply better prepared than you (or perhaps just better, period); you sprain an ankle part way through the match and can’t continue on. If your goal is to win, and any of these things happen, you’ll be rather upset.
Recognizing that much of life is out of your control doesn’t mean giving up your sense of agency; instead, it means focusing it on the only areas where you do have full control: your own actions.
Instead of focusing on results — which are impacted by external circumstances outside your control — set goals strictly related to your own efforts. Instead of setting a goal to win the match, make it a goal to prepare as best you can, practice as hard as you can, and then play to the best of your abilities. If you do those things, and still lose, there’s just nothing more you could have done, so why fret?
Rather than setting a goal of getting the job you’re interviewing for, make it your goal to prepare well, dress right, and answer every question as best you can. If you do all that and don’t get the job, it wasn’t meant to be (or so the Stoics would argue).
Rather than setting a goal of getting a girlfriend, prioritize making yourself a good catch. Eat well, work out, have a stable job, dress nicely, and make it a goal to ask someone out X times a month until you get a yes.
My own hope regarding this article shouldn’t be, and truly isn’t, that it gets shared or retweeted X number of times. I can’t control what goes viral and what doesn’t. The whims of the internet aren’t worth thinking or worrying about. Instead, my true goal was that I would do all the research I could, and write, organize, and edit the article to the best of my abilities so that those who read it have the best possible chance of engaging it meaningfully and putting something into practice.
When you set goals, attach them to what you can control — your own efforts and attitude — and detach them from what you cannot — their ultimate outcome.
4. Welcome Discomfort
“Nature has intermingled pleasure with necessary things — not in order that we should seek pleasure, but in order that the addition of pleasure may make the indispensable means of existence attractive to our eyes. Should it claim rights of its own, it is luxury. Let us therefore resist these faults when they are demanding entrance, because, as I have said, it is easier to deny them admittance than to make them depart.” —Seneca
One practice the Stoics famously abided was welcoming a certain degree of discomfort into their lives. They’d go without, for a time, certain pleasures — food, drink, sex. They’d immerse themselves in poor weather conditions (and with few clothes to boot). They’d eschew riches (and even praise) so as to not learn to cling to those things. They’d even deliberately subject themselves to ridicule. These practices were rather contrary to the Epicurean view of things, which was to ultimately pursue pleasure. The Stoics knew, though, that in welcoming challenge, they were actually far more content and fulfilled than their Epicurean peers.
To be Epicurean — one who basically just seeks the things in life that feel the best — you have to ever be experiencing pleasure. You’re basically living off constant dopamine hits. But, those senses get dulled after a while, and you need ever bigger and more pervasive doses to keep your pleasure sensors activated at the same level. Once you start running on the “hedonic treadmill,” real contentedness becomes frustratingly elusive.
Let’s show this with a quick little thought exercise. It’s simple: you want to stay cool when it’s hot outside. It’s a natural inclination. So you turn on the AC at home to a chilly 65 degrees while it’s a sizzlingly 95 outside. Ahhh, feels nice, doesn’t it? You get used to that sense of comfort, and even pleasure of staying so cool. But now, to feel comfortable, you also need to feel that cool wherever you go. You need to start your car 10 minutes early so that it cools down enough for you to be comfortable, otherwise you’ll just be miserable. You need your workplace, your favorite restaurant, heck, every establishment you enter, to be that chilled. If, God forbid, the AC goes out, you’re royally screwed. A friend invites you to an outdoor ball game? You’ll go, but you won’t enjoy it because it’ll be too stinkin’ hot. It’s all you’ll be able to focus on.
Consider the alternate scenario. Yes, you turn on the AC at home, but in the car, you just roll the windows down and let yourself be a little warm if it’s hot outside. Rather than work out in your refrigerator of a basement, you take a ruck outside in order to break a sweat. In some regards, you embrace being hot every now and then so that you can feel content in any situation. AC goes out? No biggie, you can adjust. Invited to a ball game in a heat wave? Heck yes! You love baseball, and you’re happy to just be at the game, regardless of the weather. You are a tranquil man who isn’t bothered merely by what the mercury reads on the thermometer.
Isn’t that a better way to live?
It’s sort of a silly and shallow example, but the principle holds for just about any pleasure in life. If your enjoyment and comfort relies too much on it, you’ll turn into a fragile, petulant curmudgeon when you don’t have it.
Irvine lays out three specific benefits of sometimes welcoming discomfort and intentionally foregoing pleasures (with an example of how a particular practice — periodically abstaining from alcohol — could play out):
It hardens us to whatever misfortunes may come in the future. (If your health turns, and the doctor forbids you imbibing alcohol, having practiced regular periods of sobriety will help you to easily get through that period.)
The idea of those misfortunes won’t cause us anxiety, because we know we can withstand and even be content in just about any scenario. (You can look forward to a birthday party with friends where you know the booze will be flowing; you won’t be downtrodden about not being able to have any fun, because you know you can enjoy things just fine without alcohol.)
It helps us appreciate the pleasures we do have, when we have them. (If you then receive a clean bill of health, you’ll be far more appreciative of the dram of whiskey you can enjoy with friends.)
This is one of the practices most associated with Stoicism, and there are a number of specific things you can do to welcome discomfort into your life and harden your general resolve:
Enroll in The Strenuous Life (embrace the motto of “Do Hard Things”)
Hold/try to calm a crying baby while staying completely cool
Exercise outside in inclement weather (perhaps without shirt, shoes, etc.)
Keep your house at a higher temp in the summer, and a lower temp in the winter (don’t freeze out your family though; be reasonable!)
Eat nothing but rice/beans for a week (or a month)
Fast from food completely for 24 hours once a month
Embrace challenging situations in which you aren’t comfortable (travel/vacation with your kids, go to an event you don’t want to attend, make small talk with strangers, volunteer at a soup kitchen)
Do manual labor around your house instead of hiring it out
There are innumerable ways to embrace some semblance of discomfort in your life, and it can and will be different for each person. Find yours, and tackle it head on. As Irvine astutely observes, “The act of forgoing pleasure can itself be pleasant.” Embrace the grind!
5. Vigorously Pursue Character and Virtue
“Every day I reduce the number of my vices.” —Seneca
To the Stoics, the best way to live well was to pursue virtue. William Irvine even writes: “What, then, must a person do to have what the Stoics would call a good life? Be virtuous!” In becoming a better person — a man of great character — we’ll naturally find fulfillment, but also make greater contributions to society as a whole in the process. How might that happen, you ask? If you’re committed to virtue, won’t you volunteer more? Be more likely to help a stranger in need? Won’t you take on the role of Neighborhood Watch leader or Little League coach? Will you be more likely to say “Yes!” when a favor is asked? These are all things that improve our communities, and are natural byproducts of attaining greater personal virtue and character.
How does one become more virtuous though? How do you develop your character and exercise it in daily life? Luckily, there are a number of good options (many of which we’ve previously covered in-depth):
Regularly ask yourself: “What would my best self do in this situation?” Father James Martin brought up this idea in his book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything and in his interview with Brett on our podcast. All of us have an ideal version of ourselves in our head. That version eats better, exercises more, is a little more patient with his wife and kids, doesn’t waste time at work, etc. To more consistently act in ways that align with this ideal, simply ask what your best self would do, or how that best self would decide, in any given scenario:
Would my best self take two minutes to floss in the morning?
Would my best self choose a hard-boiled egg to snack on, or a Girl Scout cookie?
Would my best self call his parents and grandparents just a little more often?
Would my best self watch porn?
Would my best self write more letters to old friends as a way to stay in touch?
Would my best self have a little more patience with his kids’ drawn-out bedtime routines?
Would my best self yell and flip the bird to the guy who cut him off on the freeway?
Would my best self take work time to dink around with his fantasy football team?
Would my best self read a book on the Kindle app, or play another level of Candy Crush?
Would my best self pursue romancing his wife, or spend another conversation-less night watching TV on the couch?
Would my best self have yet another drink?
Would my best self attend the far-away funeral of a dear friend’s parent?
Would my best self volunteer to clean up a park on a weekend morning, or would he sleep in?
It’s such a simple question to ask, but remarkably powerful. And these aren’t just theoretical examples. Some of these are the very questions I’ve been asking myself since I read Fr. Martin’s book late last year. And while I don’t always follow-through on what I know my best self would do (particularly when it comes to Girl Scout cookies), I’ve seen enormous strides in my being able to make more virtuous decisions on a consistent basis and am slowly getting closer to that ideal.
Follow Benjamin Franklin’s virtue plan. As a 20-year-old, Franklin set a lofty goal for himself: attain moral perfection. To do so, he developed a 13-week plan to improve himself in 13 areas or virtues. He’d particularly focus on one each week, while also keeping track of his progress with the others as well. We’ve written about the program in-depth here, and we have also created a unique journal that acts as a virtue tracker based on this 13-week plan. While Franklin never did attain perfection, over time he saw his mis-steps decrease, and had this to say about his program later in his life:
“Tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.”
Ask “What good shall I do this day?” Another of Franklin’s ideas on his own pursuit toward being more virtuous. Every morning he’d ask himself this question, and every evening he’d reflect with “What good have I done today?” This question will have you focus less on your pie-in-the-sky “I want to change the world” ideas, and more on doing daily kindnesses to and for your fellow humans. Whether it’s writing a letter home, helping an elderly woman with her groceries, or maybe even just giving someone (your wife, a stranger, anyone!) a compliment, sometimes going smaller to change the world accomplishes much more. Read more about this idea here.
Develop a code of principles. How can you pursue virtue if you aren’t sure of your life’s guiding principles? Massimo Pigliucci writes in How to Be a Stoic: “the question of how to live is central. How should we handle life’s challenges and vicissitudes? How should we conduct ourselves in the world and treat others?” You need some sort of guide in order to best answer those questions; the answers aren’t going to come out of thin air.
The Stoics thought there was one universal Truth which could be discovered by contemplating the laws of Nature. You may choose a different course of study. Whether from religious texts, philosophical ideas, or some combination thereof arrived at through your own rigorous reading and reflection (à la Winston Churchill), it should be your aim to acquire a defined set of principles and values you’ll adhere to in your daily life. If you aren’t sure where to start, dig into classic religious texts. From there dive into various schools of philosophy. What resonates in your soul? What are some practices and/or spiritual disciplines your ideal self would commit to? Speaking of disciplines . . .
Regularly practice the spiritual disciplines. While called “spiritual” because their original purpose was to bring the practitioner closer to God, these disciplines can be used by anyone in order to develop character and “train the soul.” From fasting, to pursuing solitude, to doing service and practicing gratitude, there are a number of disciplines that have guided and strengthened higher-purpose-minded people for thousands of years. Read our series on the topic, and decide which you’d like to take up in daily, weekly, monthly, and annual cycles. You’re guaranteed to come out on the other side more centered, virtuous, and fulfilled.
Pick one of these ideas, stick with it, and see what happens. The only thing holding you back from attaining greater character and virtue is yourself. If you truly and wholeheartedly pursue the task — making it a goal to in fact get veritably drunk on virtue — you’re bound to make strides, and as noted above, you’ll improve your community at the same time.
Stoicism is a rich philosophy, but it’s not just for contemplation. Full of ancient truths, it’s got myriad modern applications. Put it into action, and practice the art of living.
Wgat5 this really tells us is that uust letting the socalled infection to run its course is the best option. In this event, death was not the major risk at all and it was all well ameliorated by well known meds.
The emergency measures laid down truly apply to a 90% killer such as the plague or Small Pox. Understand that both kill to this day if allowed out.
Yet viral infections are best handled internally with the body been treated with anti scurvy meds or plenty of vitimin C. You want every cell in your body to be C saturated as it then destroys any passing virus.
Pandemic Lessons Learned: CDC Versus Natural Immunity
March 28, 2022 Updated: March 28, 2022
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters is seen in Atlanta, Ga., in a file photo. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the U.S. government’s major operating components, an agency under the Department of Health and Human Services.
The CDC’s mission statement reads, “CDC increases the health security of our nation. … CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats.”
The agency also pledges to the American people that it will “base all public health decisions on the highest quality scientific data that is derived openly and objectively.”
Well, COVID-19 has been the nation’s largest health threat for the past two years. It has had a huge impact on the lives of every American. During those two years, thousands of scientists and health-care researchers have studied COVID and accumulated a huge amount of information on the disease.
We’ve now gradually come to realize that the most effective force that would eventually end the pandemic is natural immunity. Even Bill Gates has admitted that “the virus itself, particularly the variant called Omicron, is a type of vaccine.” With the rapid spread of Omicron and with many asymptomatic infections, millions of people have developed natural immunity, which is driving COVID-19 out of its pandemic stage and into endemicity.
With its $15.4 billion annual budget, one would think the CDC would have done a good job providing taxpayers with data on COVID-19. If cutting edge research is too challenging for the CDC, they at least should have provided the public with basic surveillance data, such as:
Who was infected with SARS-CoV-2, when, which variant, and what were the symptoms?
Who was vaccinated, with which vaccine, when, and were there any side effects?
Who was vaccinated, got infected, when, and recovered?
Who was never vaccinated, and never infected (never tested, or never tested positive)?
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published on Jan. 28 presented some very interesting information from California and New York comparing immunity against COVID-19 from four groups of people, indicating natural immunity alone provides the best protection.
Since then, I have been anxiously waiting for more data, as there are 48 other states, and even for California and New York, important data like this should be updated monthly, if not weekly.
To my surprise and disappointment, I have not been able to find any more data on natural immunity from the MMWR since Jan. 28. I am sure they have the data—they just don’t want to share it with us.
I’m beginning to wonder if CDC stands for Center for Data Control.
Those Recovered From COVID Are Best Protected
On March 1, the scientific journal Clinical Infectious Diseases published a peer-reviewed article titled “Risk of reinfection after seroconversion to SARS-CoV-2: A population-based propensity-score matched cohort study.” This Swiss study “observed a 94% reduction in the hazard of being infected among SARS-CoV-2 seropositive participants, when compared to seronegative controls, >8 months after serology assessment.”
This level of protection (natural immunity) from SARS-CoV-2 infection (94 percent) is comparable to that of the Pfizer vaccine but lasts longer (eight months and counting).
In a peer-reviewed article published in the journal Science Immunology on Jan. 25, scientists from Oregon Health & Science University showed in raw data that antibodies derived from previous COVID-19 infection are at least 10 times more potent than that generated by vaccination alone. They still concluded, however, that “Vaccination is highly effective at preventing the most severe outcomes from COVID-19 and should be provided regardless of previous infection status and age.” I’m confused by their conclusion, but happy to see the raw data.
Similarly, in my Feb. 5 article “Pandemic Lessons Learned: Scientific Debate Silenced, With Deadly Consequences,” I wrote: “Now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control admits in a report released on Jan. 28 that natural immunity against COVID-19 is superior to any of the available vaccine regimens.”
A reader commented that she “looked all over the CDC site and could find no such info. … Now who’s being ‘subjective’?”
The reader was right. I should have explained in my article that the conclusion I drew was not a direct quote but rather my own summary based on the CDC’s raw data.
The CDC’s Jan. 28 report included the following chart but neglected to provide a summary comparing protection between vaccinated people without natural immunity and unvaccinated people who recovered from COVID and now have natural immunity.
It seems that it’s necessary to dive a little deeper into the data to elaborate my point, as the authors of the report did not conclude the very obvious. Please bear with me.
The above CDC chart shows data from California on protection against COVID-19 collected from four groups of people between May 30, 2021, and Nov. 20, 2021:
1) The unvaccinated, with no previous COVID-19 diagnosis (top solid line)
2) The vaccinated, with no previous COVID-19 diagnosis (broken line below the solid line)
3) The unvaccinated, with previous diagnosis
4) The vaccinated, with previous diagnosis
It is obvious that the lines representing 3) and 4) are superimposing on one another, indicating that vaccination had virtually no impact on protection when a person has recovered from COVID-19 infection, meaning natural immunity dominates protection over vaccination to a level that made vaccination irrelevant.
Although the biggest difference lies between the unvaccinated with no previous infection and everyone else, the second biggest difference, however, is between the “Vaccinated, no previous COVID-19 diagnosis” line (vaccine immunity) and the “Unvaccinated, previous COVID-19 diagnosis” line (natural immunity), with the natural immunity line having a much lower “hazard rate,” meaning better protection.
The report also revealed similar findings for New York state.
Is CDC Censoring Data on Natural Immunity?
The CDC’s MMWR is a weekly report. The chart above is part of the report for the last week of January, and it was for only two of the 50 states, California and New York. When I was writing my Feb. 5 article, I thought that maybe it was a benign omission that the CDC did not conclude the obvious. For sure, more data would be coming from the CDC in February and March, I thought, as it would teach us so much more about natural immunity.
However, it hasn’t materialized. Since Jan. 28, there have been 10 MMWR reports published on the CDC website, totaling 29 articles in all. They cover topics ranging from vaccination by geographic locations, to vaccine confidence by sexual orientation, to isolation strategy for fully vaccinated NFL players, and so on. So far, the Jan. 28 report was the only one that included “unvaccinated, with previous diagnosis” in the data, and that’s unfortunate. All the other reports were to re-enforce the conclusion that vaccines are effective, with almost nothing about natural immunity. Here is a screenshot of the MMWR website:
For example, one of CDC’s latest reports, published on March 18, includes the following chart:
Here, hospitalization data was plotted against 1) unvaccinated people, 2) vaccinated without a booster, 3) vaccinated with a booster. There is no information about people who had recovered from COVID-19. In other words, information on natural immunity is censored.
According to the CDC’s own information, the United States has had about 80 million COVID-19 cases. The vast majority of patients recovered from the disease. This huge part of the U.S. population now enjoys natural immunity. This is also true for Canada and many other parts of the world.
Wolves are still difficult to manage and are way too good at what they do. At least we do not ride around on a horse through a snow covered lanscape along with starving wolves.
I have seen idiots claim that somehow these creatures are mostly safe. My own posts report on two separate women waylaid while out running in the winter. Oh really.
The fact is that a wolf can take down any guard dog or guard donkey as well. That means in wolf country you will need to ultimately use well armed human guards to protect cattle herds.
We so need technology to help us. The best solution may be a killer drone monitored through human operators with sensing ability. any cattle herd can be monitored with one drone and many herds can be then monitoered by an operator. A drone circling overhead will easily pick up a odd wolf. The drone can then target and fire even a knock out dart allowing live recovery. this prevents accidental kills of non wolves.
Killing Wolves to Own the Libs?
The predators were reintroduced to the state in the nineties—and have been the object of political controversy ever since. An aggressive new law allows people to hunt or trap as many as they can.
By March 28, 2022
A taxidermied wolf owned by Robert Roman, an Idaho logger who has a reputation for having killed nearly sixty of the animals. He says, “It’s so much fun to shoot ’em!”Photographs by Balazs Gardi for The New Yorker
The gray wolf prefers to eat fleet ungulates—elk, deer—but when Europeans arrived in America with livestock its menu expanded. A wolf that cannot find its favored meal may turn to cattle and sheep. Livestock producers and big-game hunters have considered wolves an existential threat since Colonial days. In 1634, a tract called “New England’s Prospect,” by William Wood, described the animals as “the greatest inconveniency,” noting that there was “little hope of their utter destruction, the Countrey being so spacious, and they so numerous.”
Idaho has plenty of cattle and elk, both of which generate a lot of profit: the cattle industry is worth nearly two billion dollars, and the state collects about six million dollars a year in hunting fees—about ninety thousand people hunt elk. Of the Western states, Idaho has long had a reputation as the most hostile toward the gray wolf, a once endangered species; it’s legal to slay pups in their dens there. But last spring the state legislature dramatically broadened opportunities to target wolves. For the first time, sportsmen could kill an unlimited number. Trappers could operate year-round on private property. Night-vision goggles, silencers, snowmobiles, A.T.V.s—all legal, though such tactics pose ethical concerns about “fair chase.” Sportsmen could now use motorized vehicles to pursue wolves to the point of exhaustion, or simply run them over. The state’s intensifying embrace of wolf hunting was based, in part, on the misconception that wolves were decimating elk and livestock. Over all, these populations were holding steady.
Opponents of the legislation framed it as a chilling mandate to exterminate ninety per cent of the state’s fifteen hundred or so wolves. They assumed that sportsmen would quickly reduce Idaho’s wolf population to the conservation minimum that had long been in place—fifteen breeding pairs and a hundred and fifty wolves. Reports of an impending “massacre” reached the White House and Congress. By fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had embarked on a yearlong review of whether gray wolves—which have been moved in and out of federal protection for decades—required renewed safeguards. Among those who asked the White House to re-list wolves, on an emergency basis, were twenty-one U.S. senators, nearly two hundred tribal leaders, about sixty conservation groups, and more than eight hundred scientists.
This request has not been granted, although President Joe Biden once said in a virtual town hall on YouTube that his grandchildren were “calling me, saying, ‘Pop, they’re gonna kill all the wolves!’ ” The clip was incorporated into a promotional video by a longtime wolf advocate in Idaho, Suzanne Asha Stone; the video débuted in October at Boise’s Timberline High School, whose environmental club had “adopted” a wolf pack in 2003. Current students, incensed that eight of the pack’s wolves had recently been killed, participated in Stone’s video, which was tagged #RelistWolvesNOW. Jane Goodall also appeared onscreen, saying, “The suffering inflicted on these sensitive and social animals is terrible to contemplate”; Senator Cory Booker, of New Jersey, declared, “We must take action now to prevent the second eradication of wolves in the West.”
Idaho’s remote landscape, and wolves’ formidable ability to elude humans, meant that reaching “fifteen and one-fifty” wouldn’t be as easy to achieve as activists feared. Yet mass extirpation has occurred before, on a greater scale and with less sophisticated tools. Between the late eighteen-hundreds and the nineteen-thirties, wolves across America were trapped, shot, snared, and poisoned nearly to extinction. Last April, retired federal, state, and tribal wildlife managers implored Idaho’s governor, Brad Little, to veto the new legislation. The state’s Fish and Game Commission also opposed the bill, arguing that matters of conservation are best left to experts. An Idaho sheep rancher, Brian Bean, who uses nonlethal measures such as noise devices to thwart predators, went on television and warned that lawmakers weren’t “competent” to manage wildlife, and were facilitating the killing of wolves “for political gain.” Carter Niemeyer, a retired federal wildlife biologist who now advocates for the wolves that he was once paid to eliminate, described the law as hateful “retribution” against liberals. A Republican senator, Van Burtenshaw, who is a rancher and a livestock dealer, had introduced the bill; Little, a Republican from a longtime ranching family, signed it on May 5th.
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Several days later, Brendon Ash, an outdoorsman with a growing social-media audience, announced a plan to take “full advantage” of the new law. He had recently moved back home to central Idaho, to live near the mountainous Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests with his wife and two sons. About to turn forty, he’d been spending half the year in Arizona, and had missed the Northern Rockies and “the snow and the blow” of winter. The traditions he grew up with included fishing for steelhead trout, trapping, and hunting. His first boyhood rifle was a Winchester Model 94 .30-30—he’d “put lots of meat on the ground with it”—and he often carried a single-action .22-calibre pistol and a bow and arrows.
Ash, who is large and tattooed, dresses in Carhartt and camouflage, his lip often bulging with tobacco. In winter, he lets his hair grow curly, and his beard gathers ornaments of ice. At seventeen, he joined the Navy. He eventually became a trapper for Wildlife Services—a unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture whose agents have the authority to kill predators. Ash has said that he left because of a back injury. More recently, he has worked as a butcher.
In Idaho, Roman can now hunt wolves with night-vision goggles and silencers.
To him, hunting and trapping is “grocery shopping.” A black bear became chili. A bobcat became tacos. A moose hide became a blanket. Last summer, Ash blew the heads off three rattlesnakes that were sunning themselves on river rocks where he’d intended to fish for sturgeon with his son Wyatt; Ash cured the skins with pickling salt and used two of them to cover the handle of a bow. He sometimes hashtagged his posts #cavemanshit.
One of Ash’s first acts as a repatriated Idahoan was christening his grandfather’s 1987 Ford pickup his “trapping truck.” He ran traplines at the edge of a forest meadow where he had heard that wolves were attacking cattle. To get there, he drove as far as the back roads allowed, then hopped onto an electric bike that he carried in the back of the truck. The bike was outfitted with a rifle scabbard, saddlebags, and a one-wheeled trailer that could haul carcasses and gear. When a social-media user snarled, “Keep riding your gay bike around the forest,” Ash replied, “You seem to have something against the gay community, you homophobic or interested?”
Ash’s customized license plate says “lobopro.” “Lobo” is Spanish for “wolf.” On his eighteenth birthday, he got a tattoo of a baying wolf on his right shoulder. Around 2010, wolves killed one of his family’s horses and injured another so badly that it had to be euthanized. “That got me started in chasing wolves,” he told me. Ash volunteered to help ranchers who cared deeply about their livestock and were worried about being “put out of business” by wolves. In 2019, he created a YouTube channel as a way of sharing trapping techniques—“so the tradition don’t die.” Initially, he focussed on coyotes, but he named the channel LoboPro Predator Control.
Wolves can be much harder to track down or trap than coyotes, their smaller cousins, but Ash had killed a few wolves over the years, and under Idaho’s new law he had permission to scale up his operation. In a post last fall, he wrote, “Patients is key.” Detractors told him to “rot and die,” but Ash had no qualms about his work. In 2014, commenting on a blog that had urged the humane treatment of wolves, he wrote, “Wild wolves are a apex predator capable of taking down an adult Yukon moose not a cute puppy you walk in the park.” He was defending a U.S. Forest Service employee who had been photographed in front of a chained, wounded wolf as it walked in circles, bloodying the snow. Last September, as Ash power-washed dozens of foothold traps, he said of wolves, “I hope they like bracelets.”
Wolves attract more outsized opposition than other large predators because, as one Idaho hunter recently complained to me, “they’re just too good at what they do.” The gray wolf is a sophisticated, collaborative hunter that, unlike bears and mountain lions, can traverse thirty miles of rugged terrain within hours. Wolves reproduce consistently and thrive in packs as large as twenty individuals. Each pack establishes a territory of at least twenty-five square miles and will defend it to the death. Gray wolves are also “habitat generalists”—as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes, they are “equally at home in the deserts of Israel, the deciduous forests of Wisconsin, and the frozen arctic of Siberia.” A wolf’s survival requires only “sufficient food and human tolerance.”
In 1914, the conservationist William Hornaday, the first director of what is now the Bronx Zoo, described wolves as one of “the most cunning and capable of all American predatory animals,” and endorsed shooting wolves on sight, in the misguided belief that it protected other species. Congress funded a wolf-annihilation program. A U.S. senator from Montana argued that it was un-American not to eliminate creatures that threatened the beef providing “brain and brawn for our workers.”
The federal government deployed trappers and hunters throughout the West, formalizing a campaign that had been under way since pioneers started replacing bison with livestock, with inevitable results. Wolves are more often heard than seen, and trappers frequently succeeded where hunters failed. Poison was the most effective lethal strategy; lacing a single deer carcass with strychnine could kill dozens of wolves. By the thirties, ground stakes could be equipped with spring-loaded contraptions that sprayed cyanide into an inquisitive animal’s mouth. These poisons were later restricted, partly because they could also harm whatever creature consumed the tainted animal or the plants onto which it vomited or drooled.
The extirpation was recognized as a mistake even as it was happening. In 1924, a naturalist at Yellowstone National Park, Milton P. Skinner, observed, “We need these predatory and fur-bearing animals alive and living their normal lives.” Balanced ecosystems require predators. Wolves can regulate the presence of coyotes, sparing many of the small mammals also eaten by hawks and bald eagles, and wolf kills feed a range of scavengers. Wolf packs keep ungulates agile and alert, and they cull herds of weak or diseased members. Skinner considered it appropriate for wildlife managers to kill “animals individually responsible” for attacking livestock, but advised against “declaring war against a whole species.”
By the late thirties, there were essentially no wolves left in the Western United States. Tens of thousands of wolves remained in Alaska and Canada, and stragglers survived in northern Minnesota and Michigan. In 1974, the year after the Endangered Species Act was passed, the gray wolf was added to the list of federally protected animals. Twenty years later, the Canadian government permitted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to capture sixty-six wolves in Alberta and British Columbia; they were released in the core of the gray wolf’s native range—central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, which spans parts of Wyoming, Montana, and eastern Idaho.
The public supported reintroduction; ranchers and big-game hunters opposed it. At one public hearing, a Montanan accused wolf advocates of having “stars in their eyes,” asking, “Have you ever seen your pet horse hamstrung by a wolf and eaten alive while it’s still screaming? That’s what a wolf will do.” This was potentially true, wolves being wolves. The president of a wool growers’ association warned of mauled tourists, predicting that “anything that has blood in its veins will be a target.” This claim was spurious: in the past century, there have been two documented fatal wolf attacks on humans in the wild in North America.
Managing wolves starts with counting them. Nobody knows precisely how many wolves live anywhere. Population estimates are based on a combination of techniques, which may include radiotelemetry collars (G.P.S.-like devices that transmit locations and behaviors), trail cameras, mortality reports, and direct observation of “wolf sign”—tracks, scat. In 1995, the U.S. government released fifteen transplanted wolves onto federal land in Idaho. Twenty more were released the following year.
Idaho’s Republican legislature resisted the project, and refused to allow the state’s Fish and Game department, which manages wildlife populations, to assume responsibility for wolves. U.S. Fish and Wildlife contracted with the Nez Perce tribe, of northern Idaho, to monitor the animals. The Nez Perce give the gray wolf status equal to that of human beings. A manager of the tribe’s Natural Resources Department once said, “Actually, we’re probably lower status than them, because the Indian way is that the creatures were here before us.”
Idaho lawmakers eventually decided that it was in the state’s best interest to participate in reintroduction, in part to avoid seeing wolves returned to federal protection. U.S. Fish and Wildlife agreed to cede control if ten breeding pairs and a hundred wolves had survived for at least three consecutive years by 2002, and if Idaho produced an acceptable management plan. The state went beyond the federal guideline and imposed a conservation minimum of fifteen breeding pairs and a hundred and fifty wolves.
\Nobody knows precisely how many wolves live anywhere. Population estimates are based on a combination of techniques, including direct observation of tracks.
By 1998, the number of gray wolves in Idaho had exceeded the mandated recovery threshold for breeding pairs and reached an over-all population of a hundred and fifteen. In December, 2002, U.S. Fish and Wildlife declared the gray wolf “biologically recovered” in the Northern Rockies, and prepared to remove it from the endangered-species list. Environmental groups entangled the plan in lawsuits. Four years later, there were six hundred and seventy-three wolves in Idaho. By 2009, there were more than eight hundred. Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit founded in 1947 and based in Washington, D.C., noted that this was “still a low number compared to other normal healthy predator populations,” pointing out that Idaho had three thousand mountain lions, twenty thousand black bears, and forty-five thousand coyotes.
Sportsmen and ranchers agitated for a wolf-hunting season the moment the population reached the recovery benchmark. Hunting, when properly regulated, augments professional wildlife management. If left to overpopulate, elk and deer ravage the vegetation, and that can affect everything from erosion to river temperatures. Idaho’s Fish and Game department strove for ecological balance by limiting wolf harvests, enforcing staggered hunting and trapping seasons, and licensing. It’s illegal to hunt without a license and a “tag,” an identification document that a sportsman attaches to a carcass when reporting the kill to the state. An elk tag costs about thirty-six dollars, a wolf tag thirteen-fifty. Regulations shift according to herd size, climate, human-population density, weaponry, species characteristics, and geography. The ecosystem of the high desert around Boise is radically different from the timbered, mountainous terrain of the northern panhandle, the part of Idaho that, on a map, resembles the barrel of a gun. What’s legal in one zone may be forbidden in another.
In certain areas, elk numbers had dropped significantly, and ranchers were reporting depredations. The U.S.D.A. reimbursed ranchers when livestock were killed by predators reintroduced by the federal government; the agency generally paid seventy-five per cent of the average fair market value of the animal. For a time, Defenders of Wildlife also reimbursed ranchers for fatal wolf attacks. Reimbursement required confirmation of wolf predation from Wildlife Services, the U.S.D.A. unit that investigates livestock deaths.
Niemeyer, the retired wildlife biologist turned wolf advocate, worked for Wildlife Services for twenty-six years, and told me that once a wolf starts attacking livestock it usually doesn’t stop. He had to “pull the trigger” on thirteen of them. But wolves were often falsely accused. Predators leave different signatures: coyotes go for the throat; bears like to turn their prey inside out. In “Wolfer,” a 2010 memoir, Niemeyer noted that wolves tend to kill “out in the open” and from behind, grasping “the webbing where legs meet the body.” They leave distinctive tooth marks and cause internal hemorrhaging that resembles grape jelly. Contrary to rancher lore, most livestock deaths are caused by “respiratory and digestive diseases, birthing problems, old age, poisonous plants and weather.” Wolves were frequently blamed when livestock had actually died of dehydration, or of a horse’s kick to the ribs.
Whenever Niemeyer concluded that a wolf was not the culprit, ranchers called him a traitor. “It’s kind of like a lynch mob,” he recently told me. He grew to resent both “environmentalists who lashed out at ranchers” and anti-wolf “blowhards.” Inflamed rhetoric disturbed him because it yielded “imprecise reasoning.” Some ranchers urged the targeting of wolves with a fervor not seen since the extirpation, when cowboys roped wolves and dragged them to their death. Niemeyer recalled seeing a placard that said “kill all the goddamn wolves and the people who put them there.”
Idaho’s first wolf-hunting season started in September, 2009, and ended the next March. Hunters bought more than thirty thousand tags. The statewide population of wolves was then about eight hundred and fifty, and the harvest limit was two hundred and twenty. Each hunter could lawfully kill one wolf. Trapping was illegal. Hunters killed a hundred and eighty-eight wolves that season, roughly thirty of them less than a year old.
In 2011, several ardent sportsmen started a group called the Foundation for Wildlife Management—F4WM in the branding. On YouTube, they declared that they were on “a mission to save elk.” Based in northern Idaho, the organization, which soon became a nonprofit, argued that the state was not managing wolves effectively, and that sportsmen could do the work of wildlife biologists more efficiently. To recruit members, F4WM leaders asserted that elk hunters had a responsibility to defend their “way of life” by supporting the elimination of wolves. The foundation’s logo depicts an elk facing off with a wolf.
F4WM rallied support by sharing disturbing images online: a large ungulate ravaged to its ribs, the remains of a devoured calf. Its promotional materials included a photograph of a wolf eating an elk alive. The gruesome deaths were framed not as the manifestation of a wild creature’s natural instincts but as evidence that wolves are—as one hunter recently told me—“mean and nasty.” An F4WM recruitment effort on YouTube declared, “While you are sitting on your couch watching football, there are sportsmen working hard to manage out of control wolf populations for the good of all wildlife, as well as our rural and ranching communities.”
The nonprofit’s director, Justin Webb, characterized Idaho’s wolves as “Canadian” and “non-native,” although they are Canis lupus—the species that existed in the Lower Forty-eight before extirpation. Wolves are often unsuccessful when they hunt, and they can go for weeks without eating; F4WM nevertheless portrayed the animal as a relentless, gleeful killer. The group likes to say that an adult wolf annually eats sixteen to twenty-two elk; in fact, it eats the equivalent of that amount. Wolves scavenge, and their diet includes birds and such small mammals as rabbits, beavers, and squirrels.
Wolves kill far less than one per cent of Idaho’s 2.8 million cattle and sheep. Mountain lions are the top predator of Idaho’s elk calves. Since wolves were reintroduced in the state, elk populations have fallen by as much as twenty per cent in certain regions, but these declines may have been caused by interconnected environmental factors. The building of roads and the introduction of motor vehicles, for example, can prompt elk to flee an area. Encountering fewer elk in favored hunting grounds does not mean that herds no longer exist; it may just mean that the elk won’t stay where certain Idahoans prefer to hunt. Webb, the F4WM director, once remarked that “hard-core” sportsmen do not enjoy following elk into the agricultural lowlands: “They want to be up here in the mountains.” Over all, Idaho’s elk are fine, according to the Fish and Game department. The current population of a hundred and twenty thousand—a near-record, statewide—meets or exceeds objectives in well over half of Idaho’s twenty-eight elk-management zones. Wolf advocates like to point out that a state official recently called this the “second golden age of Idaho elk hunting.”
During the late nineteenth century, wolf bounties flourished. Bounty systems tended to encourage fraud, and they ultimately failed to benefit the other wildlife that the wolf hunters purported to protect. Killing wolves does not produce more game. As early as 1907, one federal biologist noted that “intelligent ranchmen” questioned the efficacy of bounties.
F4WM immediately aroused the suspicions of environmental groups by cutting checks to members who killed wolves. The nonprofit supported itself through membership dues and donations. Its benefit banquets, attended by politicians such as Little, sold out. Membership, which is concentrated in Idaho and Montana, climbed to more than three thousand.
At first, F4WM paid up to five hundred dollars per wolf, but the top amount eventually rose to a thousand; wolves that were harvested in areas of “chronic depredation” fetched more. To wolf advocates such as Suzanne Stone, who spent much of her career at Defenders of Wildlife, this sounded an awful lot like a bounty, which is illegal in many states. She told me, “It’s like going back to the Old West.”
A sheep wearing a motion-activated L.E.D. tag, which is intended to deter predators. Idaho’s intensifying embrace of wolf hunting was based, in part, on the misconception that wolves were decimating livestock. In reality, wolves kill far less than one per cent of the state’s 2.8 million cattle and sheep.
So far, F4WM has paid out more than $1.2 million for the deaths of roughly fifteen hundred wolves. The group characterizes its payments as “not a ‘bounty’ program” but, rather, as an opportunity for sportsmen to recoup the expense of trapping or hunting. Brendon Ash, the trapper from central Idaho, is a member, and promotes the organization as a way of offsetting the cost of “your traps, your backpacks, your rifles, your scopes, your trapping lure, your vehicle.” Ash, who told me that he is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, made this endorsement in early 2020, during a fur sale near Boise; at that point, he had received seventeen hundred and fifty dollars from F4WM after killing two wolves.
Last March, Derek Goldman, of the Endangered Species Coalition, scrutinized F4WM’s publicly available finances while preparing to testify before Montana lawmakers who were considering similarly aggressive wolf-hunting legislation. F4WM had pitched itself as an enthusiastic collaborator. Goldman noticed that many F4WM “reimbursement” checks to hunters were “for exactly a thousand dollars.” He asked the lawmakers, “Are we supposed to believe every single hunter or trapper that killed even a single wolf spent that much money?” To Goldman, the consistency of the payments indicated that they were bounties, not reimbursements.
Webb, the F4WM director, who has killed at least thirty wolves, once told a reporter that he had spent “over sixteen hundred dollars in fuel for every wolf that I’ve caught.” Checking the math, Goldman noted, “Even in an old truck that gets twelve miles a gallon, that’s close to eight thousand miles in driving”—nearly a third of the circumference of the Earth. Montana’s wolf-hunting bill passed, and F4WM continued to operate there. In mid-March, the nonprofit held a series of meetings in Wyoming, and posted, on Facebook, “are you ready for a f4wm chapter in your home state?”
In 2014, Idaho’s legislature created the Wolf Depredation Control Board, a five-member panel of state officials and representatives who decide how to spend money earmarked for wolf removal. (There is no similar board for other apex predators.) Since then, the board’s annual budget has risen to as much as eight hundred thousand dollars.
The board initially spent most of its funds contracting with Wildlife Services, the U.S.D.A. predator-control unit. Its agents may trap and shoot wolves, or collar them for monitoring—they are even allowed to create a “Judas” wolf, whose radio signals betray an entire pack’s location. They are also authorized to kill pups. Last August, Stone and seven other activists asked Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, to forbid this practice, writing that “wolf pups pose no threat to domestic livestock.” An under-secretary replied that wolves had killed a hundred and eight head of livestock in Idaho since the start of 2021; after trying nonlethal deterrents, agents had chosen to eliminate eight juveniles in two counties, hoping that the loss of offspring “would encourage adult wolves to relocate, thereby reducing the total number of wolves requiring removal.”
Butch Suor, who represents sportsmen on the Depredation Control Board, disliked contracting with Wildlife Services. He told me, “I have a hard time paying a federal agency for something that they caused in the state of Idaho. I’m a states’-rights kind of guy.” Last June, he was pushing the control board to hire F4WM—of which he’d been a member for several years. Idaho’s Fish and Game department had already awarded F4WM tens of thousands of dollars in funding; the board soon provided it with two hundred thousand dollars more. In the fall, the nonprofit’s top payout spiked, to twenty-five hundred dollars per wolf.
By the end of November, F4WM had depleted the monies from the Depredation Control Board. In January, as the board prepared to ask the legislature for a new round of funding, Robert Crabtree, the chief scientist at the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center, and eight other ecologists and wolf advocates wrote a letter to Deb Haaland, the Interior Secretary, imploring her to step in. They cited the activities of F4WM—“No other game species is being managed with these eradication tactics and there is no similar lucrative bounty for any other species in the state”—and reminded Haaland of long-standing federal guidance that allowed her agency to declare an emergency if a state changed its “regulatory framework to authorize the unlimited and unregulated taking of wolves.”
Haaland didn’t intervene, but in February she published a column in USA Today expressing “alarm” that at least twenty wolves had lately been killed in Montana, near Yellowstone. “This happened because the state recently removed long-standing rules in areas adjacent to the park,” she wrote, noting that wolves “do not recognize boundary lines on a map.” She added, “Recent laws passed in some Western states undermine state wildlife managers by promoting precipitous reductions in wolf populations,” and warned that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would reinstate federal protections “if necessary.”
More than five thousand wolves have died in Idaho since reintroduction. The overwhelming majority—more than thirty-three hundred—have been killed by hunters and trappers.
Robert Roman, a logger and a “lifetime” member of F4WM with twelve children and thirty-five grandchildren, has a reputation for having killed nearly sixty wolves. When I met him, on Halloween weekend in Coeur d’Alene, a lake town in the panhandle, he told me that he’d made his most recent kill during the summer. “I went out in the dark and sat and listened over this large valley,” he said. After hearing wolves howl all night, he set up where he thought they’d be in the morning. Using an electronic call—also legal—he played the sound of a young elk in distress. A wolf appeared. “Bang!,” Roman told me. The first sportsman to receive a check from F4WM for a dead wolf, he is now the organization’s president.
After we met for breakfast, at a Best Western, we climbed into his pickup. Roman’s rifle lay between us in the front seat, pointed at the rear ceiling. There was a roadkill deer in the back, which he planned to eventually repurpose. We drove east for two hours, into the Bitterroot Mountains. Passing some pastured ponies, Roman said, “Wolf bait.”
Tony McDermott, a founder of F4WM, was in the back seat. A lifelong hunter in his seventies, he used to sit on the Depredation Control Board and, before that, on the Fish and Game Commission. He said that he’d been “on the forefront of the wolf wars” for decades: “People that live in the cities want to hear wolves howl. People that live in the countryside don’t want wolves at all. The cities usually rule.” When McDermott remarked that “there’s nothing you can do” with wolves but “shoot ’em or trap ’em,” Roman replied, “I wouldn’t want to do anything else—it’s so much fun to shoot ’em!”
The steep road cut through dense fog; at the narrowest point, marked by a dizzying drop-off, Roman took a call on his cell phone. Eventually, he stopped at a blue-sky ridge overlooking a vast autumnal basin and began speaking in hushed tones. Stepping out of the truck, he told me, “No offense intended, but there’s nothing worse in the woods than a woman’s voice. They carry a long ways.”
He put on a backpack and brought along his electronic call and his rifle, which had a silencer. McDermott carried a walking stick and a vintage Winchester rifle. Climbing the windswept ridge, we followed a logging trail for the better part of a mile. At one point, I caught McDermott saying to Roman, “I never heard of a moose falling off a cliff, but I guess it happens.”
We stopped five hundred yards above a watering hole. Roman turned on his electronic call—a beige device that resembled a boom box—and unfolded a camouflage seat in front of a pair of hemlocks. He got comfortable, as if ready to watch an outdoor concert. His rifle lay across his knees.
The call’s simulated wolf howls carried into the basin, followed by recordings of an elk calf (which sounded like a mewling kitten) and a wounded rabbit (cranky baby). Nothing moved but the leaves, the grasses, the cirrus, and the shadows of the cirrus. Roman scanned the basin with binoculars. A hawk and some ravens eventually cruised over—that was it. Much as I would have liked to see a gray wolf in its natural habitat, I felt relieved. We reconvened with McDermott and took turns firing at the watering hole, enjoying the satisfying splash.
Roman later wrote in the F4WM newsletter that the wolf issue was media hype, and that, by taking me to see “the immensity of the Idaho backcountry,” he had underscored “how nearly impossible it would be to kill 90% of Idaho’s wolves, using today’s tools.” He also mentioned “denning”—slaying newborns where they live. He wrote, “I find it quite interesting that killing pups in the den is an unforgivable sin, yet abortion of humans is not a problem.”
In the final weeks of the Trump Administration, the gray wolf was removed from endangered-species lists nationwide. This didn’t affect Idaho, since wolves had already been delisted there, and in any event a federal judge in California struck down the change. Yet Trump’s delisting had an emboldening effect: Idaho’s new law was hurried through the legislative process soon afterward. Ed Bangs, who oversaw the reintroduction of wolves for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recently told the online magazine Yale Environment 360 that the Idaho law is “about making ‘snowflakes’ cry,” adding, “It’s 1850s stuff—let’s show how much we hate wolves and the people who like them, and let’s stick it to the feds.” McDermott, the F4WM founder, didn’t speak in rude partisan terms to me—he saved his vitriol for wolves. But Roman disparaged environmentalists as liberals who “lie through their teeth.”
Neither side of the wolf divide appeared capable of compromise. Hunters have suggested that environmentalists intentionally overstate the danger that culling poses to wolves; wolf advocates such as Suzanne Stone believe that many wolf hunters won’t be satisfied until all wolves are dead.
McDermott told me that he “could live with” three to five hundred wolves in Idaho, and wondered if that number would appease someone like Stone. Why didn’t he just ask her, I said. He responded that they’d never spoken, even though they’d seen each other at countless public meetings.
Stone, a wildlife advocate since the eighties, wears long patterned skirts and loose scarves, and is so soft-spoken that she is almost inaudible. Her interest in wolves began in her native Texas, after a car that she was riding in one night nearly hit a wolf; as Stone described it to me, she and the creature “locked eyes.” She participated in the federal wolf-reintroduction project and later became the Northern Rockies field representative at Defenders of Wildlife. Recently, she started a nonprofit, the International Wildlife Coexistence Network.
One Monday in November, Stone, who lives in Boise, flew to Spokane to meet with McDermott. He had driven an hour and a half from his home in the panhandle, after getting up early to feed his horses. The three of us went to lunch at Clinkerdagger, which advertised outdoor seating. Despite the pandemic, we arrived to find the patio closed. A movie starring Zooey Deschanel and Casey Affleck was filming there. “Dreamin’ Wild” had us eatin’ indoors.
McDermott flew Army choppers in the Vietnam War, and later taught military science at the University of Montana. He had stayed up late composing questions for Stone. She turned on her cell phone’s voice recorder and started jotting McDermott’s arguments in a small notebook. At one point, McDermott observed that wolves represented “the most complicated issue that you and I have ever dealt with, because there’s no good answers.” Stone replied, “There’s some great answers.” When McDermott said of wolves, “We can’t eradicate ’em,” she reminded him that it had happened before.
“With poison,” McDermott said.
“And when’s that gonna be back on the table?” Stone said.
She confronted McDermott about pups. He assured her that he never targeted pups and didn’t know anyone who did. At different points during the conversation, he said both that he “could condone” the practice, given the size of Idaho’s wolf population, and that it “probably violates the ethics of fair chase.”
McDermott had told me he believed that environmentalists stoke controversy in order to stay in business. He read aloud a quote that he attributed to L. David Mech, an eminent University of Minnesota biologist: “Non-governmental organizations that federal and state promoters have been in bed with for several decades have parlayed wolf recovery into a never-ending, billion-dollar enterprise and used tainted science and activist judges to support their destructive agenda.”
“Here’s another David Mech quote,” Stone replied, peering at her phone: “If the wolf is to survive, the wolf haters must be outnumbered. They must be outshouted, outfinanced, and outvoted. Their narrow and biased attitude must be outweighed by an attitude based on an understanding of the natural processes.”
McDermott said, “My quote is from 2019. When is yours? He’s changed his position.”
“He hasn’t changed his position,” Stone said.
The quote that Stone read comes from “The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species,” one of Mech’s eleven books on wolves. McDermott’s quote didn’t sound like Mech. When I later asked Mech about it, he replied, in an e-mail, “I did not say or write it anywhere, nor would I.” (McDermott was quoting material that had been passed along, inaccurately, online.) Mech verified Stone’s quote but noted that he had written those words in 1968—when wolves could be found only in tiny numbers, in the upper Midwest. The implication was that more nuance was needed, on both sides.
Mech has written that, under some conditions, wolves “can seriously reduce prey herds,” but he stressed that dips in population tend to happen during adverse weather or when herds are “small and isolated.” He has lamented media distortion of the issue, observing, “With wolf lay advocates it is just natural to want to promote their favorite animal and to try to counter the known negative effects of wolves and the claims fostered by people who vilify wolves.” He has also written, “The wolf is neither a saint nor a sinner except to those who want to make it so.”
Watching Stone and McDermott go round and round reminded me of something that Talasi Brooks, a Boise-based environmental lawyer, recently told me: “Wolves are essentially like religion—you’re not gonna change anybody’s opinion.” When Stone asked McDermott, “Why do you hate wolves so much?” McDermott replied, “Suzanne, I am an elk lover.”
Stone refused to give McDermott a preferred minimum number of wolves. McDermott declared that, if Idaho kept harboring more than five hundred, the animals would devour the entire ecosystem. If that were true, Stone told him, “there wouldn’t have been another living creature left” when colonists arrived in America. She added, “You guys have seen what you want to see.”
After Stone finished her lunch, a salmon sandwich, she set her purse on the table. She put on a face mask and took it off again. When McDermott said, “How can you call yourself an environmentalist?” Stone said, “O.K., we’re done.” She walked out, telling McDermott, “Have a good life.”
Many ranchers argue that the U.S.D.A.’s reimbursement program for dead livestock fails to cover the true cost of losses from wolves. They point to a series of livestock studies in central Idaho and eastern Oregon, by the U.S.D.A. and the Oregon State University Extension Service. Fifty pregnant Idaho beef cows from a herd that had experienced wolf predation were mixed with fifty cows that had not. Researchers soaked cotton plugs in wolf urine and attached them to fencing, then blared recorded wolf howls for twenty minutes. The cows that had had experience with wolves “bunched up in the farthest corner of the pen,” became “more excitable,” and “had an increase in plasma cortisol and body temperature.” The others went about their business. The study—whose backers included the Oregon Beef Council—concluded that the presence of wolves may negatively affect cows’ “productivity and welfare.” Yet the researchers also suggested that G.P.S. tracking and habitat mapping could mitigate interspecies conflict, as could changes in where ranchers allow cows to give birth. In other words, instead of expecting wolves to change, humans needed to change.
At a recent workshop for ranchers, in Colorado, I watched a livestock producer named Shella DelCurto describe a similar outlook. She and her husband run two hundred and fifty head of cattle on the Oregon-Idaho border. The DelCurtos thought of “environmentalist” as a “dirty word” before Defenders of Wildlife paid them to attend an immersive seminar on coexistence and provided wolf deterrents tailored to their ranch.
Loud, sudden noises (air horns, starter pistols) and unexpected visuals (ribbon flags, strobe lights) are known to scare wolves away. Years ago, another organization that Stone founded, the Wood River Wolf Project, started helping Brian Bean, the sheep rancher, defend his herds by using motion detectors, attaching L.E.D. lights to the animals’ ears, and outfitting guard dogs in protective collars made of leather and Kevlar. Such tactics aren’t necessarily cheap, and they require variation and patience—ranchers often give up when they don’t see immediate results. Last summer, Burtenshaw, the Republican state senator who introduced the wolf-culling legislation, publicly complained that it was unfair to make ranchers “hire more and more men or women, or whatever, to run around the ranges to try to scare wolves off.”
The DelCurtos used a combination of electric fences and “range riders,” who patrolled their land. “Human presence is essential,” Shella DelCurto told the Coloradans. She appeared on behalf of Working Circle, a California-based nonprofit that teaches coexistence. Colorado voters had just approved a ballot initiative to reintroduce wolves by the end of 2023, and the ranchers wanted to understand their options. They were familiar with coyotes and mountain lions, but Colorado had fewer than two dozen wolves. DelCurto advised the ranchers to prepare by ridding their property of attractants such as decaying carcasses and bone piles: “Bury ’em. Bury ’em deep.”
She was no radical. Though she believed in coexistence, she told the crowd that workers on her ranch had killed wolves that “would not stop depredatin’.” But she also described how her operation now protected its livestock by restructuring herding patterns and breeding schedules. The herd ultimately produced more—and bigger, stronger—calves, which fetched a higher price at market. DelCurto concluded, “There’s an advantage to this.”
Creatures caught in traps often die miserably. Some attempt to gnaw off the immobilized limb. One of Ash’s critics recently told him, “Not only do you make them suffer, you humiliate them as well. May your dick get caught in one of your traps.”
Some states require trappers to check their lines every twenty-four hours, but Idaho law allows devices to go unmonitored for seventy-two. The generous time frame acknowledges the remoteness of Idaho’s backcountry, the cost of gas, and the fact that trappers often work full-time jobs. In a video, Ash once confessed that, while he tries to check his lines more often than the law requires, he has occasionally operated “outside” that window.
This season, he planned to target entire wolf packs and hoped to “hit a thousand subscribers” on YouTube. “I don’t hate wolves,” he told me. “But I do feel that people need to be able to protect their property, and I think wolves need to be managed.” Last September, he biked dozens of traps to the forest meadow, where—for photographs—he hung a buckskin between trees and inscribed it “wolf camp 2021 2022.” Ash likes to “set heavy”: he may install fifteen or more traps near where he sees scat or hears howling. He chose his locations after finding piles of poop on an old logging trail and the carcass of a flying squirrel in the forest.
Ash uses foothold traps with spring-loaded steel jaws. Weight triggers the jaws to snap shut. An attached chain, secured to a stake or a tree, prevents escape. He once demonstrated a trap on camera by letting it clutch his hand. “There’s a lot of people say that trapping’s inhumane and whatnot,” he declared. “But I’m here to tell ya, it’s just designed to hold ya.”
Picking out a rotted stump, Ash dug a shallow basin at the edge of it, and set a trap inside. As he sifted dirt and duff over the arrangement, he said that he wouldn’t be able to afford to trap wolves if not for F4WM: “They’re payin’ out pretty big bucks!” He opened a small jar of Fox Hollow lure, which contains “pure skunk essence,” and used a twig to place a dollop near the trap. He then added a sprinkle of Minnesota Brand fox urine.
Ash once told his fans, “I’ve caught wolves a month later, the next day, and sometimes not at all!” His traps had lain empty for eleven days when, in late September, he posted a glum video. It was the sixth anniversary of his father’s death, and he had caught nothing. Then, around sunset, he heard a clanking chain. “Look what we got here, boys,” he said. He showed a wolf—mottled gray, medium-sized—caught by one of its feet. As Ash walked toward it, the wolf jerked frantically at its chain, then crouched behind a fallen log. Ash let the camera run for a bit, then turned it off and shot the wolf.
Afterward, he filmed the carcass, displayed on the log. “There she is, a female,” he said. “A young one.” Ash told his detractors, “You want to hate on me? Hate away.”
Several nights later, Ash, who camped near the meadow, was woken in the night by bawling and howls. “I think them wolves are getting a cow,” he said into a camera. He grabbed a pistol and a flashlight and walked toward the commotion. When the noise stopped, Ash whispered, “Must’ve gotten killed.” The next day, he found a calf dead on its side in the forest, attracting blowflies. He zoomed in on the graphic cavity that was once the animal’s hind end.
That day, Ash trapped a second wolf—mottled gray, like the first, caught by a back leg. He shot it and arranged it beneath his rifle. He titled his video “sweet revenge!” and declared another “cattle killer” dead. Days later, after he filmed the capture and imminent death of a third wolf, a fan commented, “Badass!!” Another joked, “You should be ashamed of yourself for killing such a majestic animal and not inviting me.”
Ash trapped his fourth wolf in early October. He came up on it still struggling to flee and remarked, “Real pretty dog. . . . No more calves for them.” A friend of Ash’s videotaped him taking a knee, holding a pistol. The friend kept the camera trained on Ash as he fired. A California-based animal-rights group, Lady Freethinker, recently sued YouTube for failing to enforce restrictions on videos of animal cruelty, but the platform’s content rules allow creators to air legal acts of hunting. A promotional video for F4WM shows a wolf being shot in the head. Ash was later criticized for taking too long to “dispatch” the wolf, as he terms it. He told me, “I was trying to get a good clean shot—I’m not trying to cause suffering to any animal.”
After killing the wolf, Ash thanked F4WM for what would be his “ten-thousand-dollar reimbursement for this year.”
By October 13th, his audience had grown dramatically. Channels featuring wilderness content have proliferated on YouTube. Jordan Jonas, who won the reality-TV contest “Alone,” after outlasting competitors in the subarctic, is one of Ash’s followers. Ash has promised to teach him how to trap wolves. One fan suggested that Ash headline a video “Crazy hillbilly vs scary wolf”—more lurid titles would help him “get a million views.” Ash replied, “I’m trying to show people how to trap,” not “become a sideshow.”
Wolf No. 5 stepped into one of Ash’s traps in late October, just before the first snow. He found it in the daytime, its glossy black coat contrasting with the forest browns and greens. After killing it, he pulled back its lips and examined its teeth, to assess the animal’s age. “Big ol’ black sucker,” he said. Lifting a hind leg, he checked the genitalia, and said, “Big black male.” Ash usually did not comment on coloring, but he made seven other references to the fact that this wolf was black, eventually headlining his YouTube post “Caught a big black male.” Repeating that haters did not upset him, he gazed into the camera and declared, “All it does is motivate me.” Before he could trap more wolves, though, he got a bad case of what he suspects was covid-19, and sat out much of the rest of the hunting season.
Ash usually sells the wolf pelts, but he took his fifth kill to a friend who had “always wanted a black wolf.” The wolf lay across Ash’s electric bike, its nose bloody, its mouth propped open with a stick. The friend lifted the wolf’s head and said, “Another wolf killer down!”
Ash laughed and replied, “Elk killer.” ♦