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Aldo Leopold is considered a pioneer of wildlife management, a “science” he defined as "the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use." He was one of the early supporters of predator control for the benefit of increasing recreational killing opportunities for hunters in game herds (called game farming nowadays).

He supposedly saw the wisdom of having a “few” wolves on the landscape after just opportunistically shooting one because it happened into his gunsight. He witnessed the light going out of the wolf’s eyes as she died and experienced remorse. He had been responsible for killing about 300 southwestern wolves in “predator control” ("Game Management," Aldo Leopold, 1933).

It is uncertain, I think, that he would have come around to trophic cascade wildlife ecology, rather than a minimalist, marginalizing view of predators, the hunter attitudes of game farming for maximum recreational killing. He was a hunter with hunter values, and rancher values, and mythology, veiled and open, an irrational bias against predators, seeing them as ravagers of ungulates rather than the healthy positive trophic cascading apex predator. After all, wildlife was to be “managed” as an annual recreational killing harvest and controlled as pests.

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So, Aldo Leopold was not really the conservationist he has been romanticized to be, but rather an avid “hunter conservationist” and a wildlife “agency conservationist,” the very people who are often if not usually the enemy of the wolf, predators balanced ecology. But, he may have evolved.

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Roger Hewitt, 

Great Falls

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