HOWL Colorado

Animal Planet pulls anti-wolf program, but the damage could already be done

The “Monstrous Week” special – “Man-Eating Super Wolves” – aired on Animal Planet over the Memorial Day weekend, but in response to a flood of protests from wolf advocates and others, the network has pulled the remaining repeat airings, and posted a pro-wolf article on their home page.

Animal Planet pulled the remaining 4 re-airings of the special, placed a pro-wolf article on their home page “10 reasons to love wolves,” but stopped short of issuing an apology.

This leaves concern that the damage of the special could have been done, and Animal Planet has not done much to fix the perceptions their special could have fostered, nor are they addressing the long term impact of those misconceptions.

If there is a positive to take from this whole situation, however, it is that Animal Planet successfully unified dozens of wildlife groups, and motived tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of wolf advocates to reach out with their complaints. Wolf advocates can take the actions of Animal Planet as a victory – albeit one which was more reserved and later than desired.

“MAN-EATING SUPER WOLVES”

Animal Planet, a part of the Discovery Communications network of stations, aired the poorly-conceived, irresponsible and inaccurate special about America’s wolves on Memorial weekend Sunday. The special focused on the story of Kenton Joel Carnegie, a 22-year-old student killed in Saskatchewan by a wild animal attack.

The presentation of the information was highly-sensationalized with deep, dramatic voice-overs, a distinct lack of details and “facts” which turn out ot be incorrect.

The “expert” put on camera was Dr. Valerius Geist, a ethologist (the study of animal behavior – a subset of zoology) who is infamous for being the expert witness for the Carnegie inquest which led to a jury determining the guilt of wolves. Geist now speaks on behalf of anti-wolf organizations.

KENTON JOEL CARNEGIE CASE

Geist put forth an interpretation of the Carnegie evidence which was in contrast to two court-approved experts. Carnegie was killed by a large carnivore attack, which could have been wolves, but was more likely a bear according to the official investigation’s findings. Geist believed firmly, without much support, that it was wolves which killed Carnegie.

To put this in perspective:

Experts who believed the attack was by a bear (or agreed with the equivocal conclussion of the official investigation) –

– Dr. Paul Paquet (investigated the scene)
– Dr. Ernest Walker (RCMP forensic anthropologist)
– Dr. Stephen Herrero (Bear Expert)
– Dr. Jane Packard (National Geographic Society Animal Behaviorist)
– Dr. Gary Haynes (forensic anthropologist – investigated the scene)
– Wayne McRory (Bear Expert)

Investigators hired by the Carnegie family and believed wolves were responsible:

– Dr. Valerius Geist (ethologist – testimony excluded from inquest due to lack of expertise)
– Dr. Brent Patterson (Wildlife biologist – testimony excluded due to lack of expertise)
– Mark McNay (Wildlife biologist)

2 wolves were killed in the area a few days later, but their systems – during necropsy – were found to be mostly empty.

The Carnegie family requested private investigations and an inquest was initiated after determinations were made that the initial investigation was not to the standards it should have been. However, Carnegie’s family also seemed only to hire investigators who seemed already predisposed to see wolves as the culprits. Two of those hired actually had their testimony excluded for lacking the necessary expertise.

The first wolf attack in North America in around a century ended up being blamed on wolves not by conclussive evidence, but by a decision made in the legal system. Most experts were at best unsure, and most (including the official investigation) concluded a large predator was to blame, with a bear being most likely.

ALARM BELLS SHOULD BE RINGING

The death of any person is a tragic affair, and oftentimes the families look for answers, or someone to blame. The full truth of why the family did what they did is hard to ascertain – but one thing is certain, the spin given to this story to generate the underpinning of the special created for Animal Planet was maliciously conceived, intentionally damaging and spoke to a dangerous agenda.

One can only hope the worst that can be said of Animal Planet, their executives and producers is that they are ignorant and naive. The alternative is that this was far more sinister and wolf advocates would be well advised to closely watch Discovery Communications to ensure their voices are raised more loudly and more quickly the next time a special interest attacks one of America’s most endangered and important species through what was once a well-respected cable TV company.

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