Rick Lamplugh is a wolf advocate and author of the Amazon Bestseller In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter’s Immersion in Wild Yellowstone. Available as eBook or paperback at http://amzn.to/Jpea9Q. Or as a signed copy from the author at http://bit.ly/1gYghB4.
Thanks to wolf advocate and educator Oliver Starr for sharing his thoughts about how we describe wolves. I couldn’t agree more. I will now use the word “family” in my writing about wolves. Here’s what Oliver wrote:
Like all of you, I was overjoyed to hear the extraordinary news that a new wolf family has made California their home. For the first time in nearly 100 years the howls of WILD WOLF PUPPIES are gracing the slopes of Mt Shasta! How fitting that such a picturesque location would host such an important guest.
But my joy quickly turned to dismay when I saw that once again, as a community, we are making a mistake in our collective use of language and this mistake is harming wolves.
People that know wolves are well aware that groups of wolves are families — not “gangs of associated animals”. The term “pack” as defined by Webster’s provides many meanings for the word; most of them negative, none of them having anything in common with the reality of wolves.
When we use the term “pack” to refer to wolf families, we “de-humanize” the species and we diminish what they are. The use of the term “pack” when applied to wolves is not only biologically inaccurate, it plays into the hands of those that hate them. It’s one thing for “Wildlife Services” to say, they’re eliminating the Wedge Pack, then if they told the truth and said they were going in to kill the Wedge Family of Wolves.
Even as I write this, I am watching tweets appear announcing the “Shasta Pack” in Northern California, I’ve received at least half a dozen emails from NGO’s and seen more news items than I can count announcing the same thing.
But imagine the even more positive nature of this news if the headlines read like this instead:
“California Welcomes Shasta Wolf Family as Species Gains Ground in West”
“CDFW Reports New Wolf Family Confirmed Via Camera Trap: Meet The Shasta’s”
“Shasta Family: newest wolves to grace the Siskiyou…”
It’s a small change in language but one that gives a vastly different impression. It’s also a distinction that’s factually true.
We can help the wolf by taking control of this language and consistently bringing this point home.
I know there are many others among you that share this conviction, one I owe to the late Gordon Haber. So for Gordon and for the wolves, let’s take back the dialog and welcome all wolf families, but most especially the Shasta Wolf Family, home.