Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Cecil the Lion and OR-7

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wolf in scope

What do lions and wolves have in common?  Canus lupus and panthera leo aren’t exactly close relatives.  But yesterday, biologists with Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended removing wolves from Oregon’s endangered species list.  The new rules to be voted on, will let the state kill more of the predators based on conservation targets in the state Wolf Management Plan.  It also lets farmers kill wolves that are chasing livestock.  And the announcement reminded me of something.

Up until two years ago, wolves were the darling endangered predator.  State residents heard wall to wall coverage on the movement of OR-7, a radio tagged wolf that wildlife officials labeled as the key to helping the recovery of Oregon’s discimated wolf population.  But recent news reports speak of the existence of other wolves thought dead who have sired more wolf pups in heretofore unknown packs as well as those by OR-7 and other wolf breeding pairs.

It is interesting to see how the narrative shifts as circumstances change.  Of course, life is a fluid situation.  But stories that sound initially mythic can plant the idea in people’s minds that once something is, like a hero’s journey, (even if that hero is a wolf), that story never can or should change.  Removing those same wolves from the endangered species list and making them subject to be shot by hunters and farmers crashes hard into what we were hearing in 2013 about how OR-7 was practically the last of his kind struggling to survive.  And as we heard more stories of how he was suceeding, the fairy tale of the heroic and anthropomorthized wolf grew.

If any of Oregon’s radio tagged wolves, and especially OR-7 is killed, will we experience our own Cecil the Lion moment?  How will journalists tell the new story and how will the audience reconcile it with the old one?

It’s an example how life continues even in fairy tales after “The End”.

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Written by Interviewer

October 30, 2015 at 23:26

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