North Carolinians love their Wolfpack. So much so, that’s the nickname for the athletic teams of North Carolina State University.
In Florida, love for the Florida Panthers extends not just to the branding of the National Hockey League team; the big cats are the official state animal.
You should remember the brand names and the cute cartoon logos because the animals themselves, red wolves in North Carolina and panthers in Collier County Florida seem headed for extinction.
Not that this is something the American people want. Four major national polls taken over the last 25 years show consistent 80 percent majorities who “somewhat” or “strongly” support for the Endangered Species Act. You can call this sentimental thinking, but it is also overwhelmingly the will of the people. Most Americans love and respect wildlife and want their governments to protect animal species from eradication.
This was reflected in the bipartisan support for the ESA in 1973, when it was pushed by President Richard Nixon and made law by a 355 to four vote in the House of Representatives.
But these natural predators can create problems. Grey wolves are known to attack livestock in Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and in the northern tier states of Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota, where, by the way, the local National Basketball Association team based in Minneapolis is the Timberwolves.
In Florida, panthers have the misfortune of living in areas suitable for commercial development — places with room for more homes, stores and highways. The panthers are in the way, and so like the sometimes genuinely problematic wolves to their north and west, according to group of politically active developers, farmers and ranchers, they’ve gotta go.
At least in Florida, the big land developers who want to take over pantherland are willing to cut the big cats a break, and cede back to them unwanted land. The offer is as self-serving for the developers and and potentially devastating to the panthers as the forced removal and resettlement of Native Americans to the butt-ends of the earth in “protected” reservations.
In Wisconsin, it’s not commercial development that’s targeting the shrinking population of grey wolves but recreational hunters. Ahh, if only the wolves were armed and weapon-trained, but the reality is fangs and claws are no match for long guns.
Just as, popular sentiment seems to be overmatched by big money, which has made the decline in application and enforcement of the Endangered Species Act a similarly bi-partisan political exercise. A lot of the bad news for wild animals in America came during the Obama Presidency, as well as the pandemonium of the Devil Trump.
Jimmy Tobias is a freelance reporter and frequent contributor to the Nation, the Guardian, and the Intercept, who writes about extinction, extraction, and environmental justice.