The Social Security Administration, ever searching for important tasks, tracks the most popular new names for babies each year (Olivia and Liam, four years straight). Similarly, Rover.com tracks the most popular pet names (Luna and Max). But who is keeping track of the names we give wild animals? Well, nobody, because we don’t name wild animals. In Colorado, that’s about to change.
In one of his best Gazette columns to date, my friend Dick Wadhams calls out a group labeling itself the “Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center,” which is sponsoring a “naming contest” for middle school students to name the wolves that will be relocated to Colorado. “How sweet,” he writes, and I agree. He follows by asking whether students might also name the cows and calves that will be killed by wolves being introduced on the Western Slope following the 2020 ballot initiative, adopted by overwhelming majorities in Denver and Boulder Counties. Or perhaps, he suggests, they might learn the names of the working ranch dogs killed, or the generational ranch families whose livelihoods are threatened.
It’s not a bad idea to personalize the issue, as Colorado Parks and Wildlife has now released the first five of what will be 200 gray wolves in northwestern Colorado, despite strong opposition of the people who live there (not CPW’s fault, mind you; the ballot initiative is now law).
So, I thought I might get a head start on the naming contest. I’m not in middle school, so I can’t win a prize. But students are welcome to use any of these, some of which have already been suggested.
There are plenty of popular names for cows and calves available. When I was little, we had a cow named Daisy May. Other common names include Annabelle, Clarabelle, Buttercup, Bessie, Cupcake, Gertie, and Maggie. If students want to be more creative, they could opt for clever names like Cowabunga, Deja-Moo, Holy Cow, Chocolate Malt, Mrs. O’Leary, or Winnie the Moo. For the bulls, I recommend Big Mac, Dozer, Grillmaster, Angus, Beefcake, Roman, or Porterhouse. If they’re black and white, like dairy Holsteins, maybe Magpie or Snoopy. Or they could name one after a famous cow like Chatty Belle the “talking cow,” Elsie, the Borden mascot, or Molly, one of the Chick-Fil-A cows. For the little calves, how about Yampa Yearling, Steamboat Scarlet, or White River Willow?
Naming the wolves is much easier, because their personalities are so predictable, even when they are puppies. Acknowledging their native habitat where they belong, they might be named Alaska, Yukon, Banff, or Inuit. Foreshadowing their behavior, appropriate names might include Assassin, Baskerville, Blitz, Bully, Butcher, Executioner, Havoc, Hunter, Jaws, Jason, Killer, Mauler, Nightstalker, Phantom, Slasher, or Terminator.
Wolves hunt in packs, often at night, and frequently kill more than they can eat. In other words, they are the animal world’s serial killers. So, it might be very catchy to give them names like Alphabet, Bundy, Leatherface, Ripper, Son of Sam, or Zodiac. Or maybe they could be named after other famous alpha males who sought to be at the top of the food chain. Such names might be Vlad, Sadam, Ivan, Caesar, Pharoah, Rommel, Stalin, or Kaiser.
Some kids might want to give the wolves names that suggest their physical characteristics, such as Fang, Howler, Scarface, or Wolfgang. Or names that acknowledge they are the dominant creature wherever they stake out territory: Czar, Dictator, Despot, Duke, Sarge, or Tyrant. Wolves are extremely intelligent, so the name Beowulf might fit.
Schoolkids will no doubt enjoy this exercise, but I agree with Wadhams that their stories should include the names of all the players. Perhaps they could draft news articles with clever leads:
“Daisy May, Clarabelle, and Winnie were grazing last night at Serenity Meadows Farm when suddenly a wolf gang appeared, including the famed outlaws Havoc, Slasher, Zodiac, Tyrant, and their leader, Butcher. The females tried to protect their calves, Maverick, Dogie, and Speckles, but the wolves quickly subdued their defenseless victims. There were no bovine survivors.”
“Investigators believe the pack was the same one that last week attacked the sheep herd at Whispering Pines Ranch, killing Snowflake, Vanilla, Flannel, Cottonball, and Wooly. Their owners, Old MacDonald and Uncle Henry, have offered a reward but authorities say catching the killers is illegal.”
Nature can be cruel, but this is man-made cruelty. Schools should teach students about wolves. But if the goal is to indoctrinate kids to believe wolves are cute and calves don’t matter, then don’t expect any of this in the lesson plans.
Greg Walcher is former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and a Western Slope resident.
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