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ANIMALS AND THE INTIMACY OF HISTORY

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ANIMALS AND THE INTIMACY OF HISTORY (Conference Draft: Not to be cited or reproduced without author’s permission) Brett L. Walker Professor and Chair Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies Montana State University, Bozeman [email protected] The tasteful austerity of Kenton Joel Carnegie’s online memorial belied the edgy complexities of his bloody death. The memorial contained traces of Carnegie’s twenty-two-year life: it provided links to Kenton’s artwork, several family pictures, a discussion board, and a donation site at the University of Waterloo, where he was a third-year geological engineering student. Donations served the newly established Kenton Carnegie Memorial Fund. Judging from the written content of the online memorial, Carnegie was a person of “profound integrity” who possessed “an incredible understanding of the land.” But the online memorial is silent on one matter: the cause of Carnegie’s death. All the memorial divulges is that he died “Suddenly on Tuesday November 8, 2005 as a result of a tragic incident in Points North, Saskatchewan.”1 News reports proved more forthcoming with the grisly details: four wolves had killed and eaten him on a trail near a uranium mine in Saskatchewan. Wolf conservation circles labeled the incident the “first documented case of healthy wolves killing a human in North America.” Needless to say, the key word in this poorly documented assertion is “documented,” because it is hard to imagine that, given wolves’ opportunistic natures, unreported killings have not taken place. Barry Lopez, in Of Wolves and Men, wrote that both wolves and humans are social hunters, often seeking the same prey in the same general locations. In such an environment, he concluded,2 confrontations were probably inevitable.2 If published accounts of Carnegie’s death are reliable, however, speculation regarding ancient hominid-lupine interaction is unnecessary. After a brief chase, Carnegie appears to have been dragged down and eaten near the shores of Wollaston Lake. Given that Carnegie was a geological engineering student, it is not surprising that he was in the Points North Landing area. The Duluth News Tribune reported that the “former wilderness area is a hotbed for uranium mining, as well as gold and diamond exploration.” Carnegie was engaged in aerial surveys for an Ottawa company, Sander Geophysics Ltd. The high numbers of miners, engineers, and support workers in the area meant that some wolves, such as the four under investigation, had seized the opportunity and started loitering around mining camps and eating garbage and food scraps. They had become habituated to people – living at the uranium camp/wilderness edge with the miners – intimately familiar with the miners’ life rhythms. Two wolves had been in the area for weeks, including just prior to the incident. More disturbing were indications that Carnegie and others had been “interacting with the wolves at close range, possibly feeding the animals.” Indeed, two days before his death, Carnegie, after showing photographs of wolves at a cafeteria, was warned against taking such photographs by trucker Bill Topping, who hauled supplies in the region. He relayed the story of a dog that had been “shredded” by wolves in the Paull River Wilderness Camp, south of Points North Landing. There, a wolf killed and ate a bulky Airedale terrier in camp. Topping cautioned Carnegie and another geology student that “Wolves are the smartest creatures in the bush.”3 When Carnegie failed to return from a walk in the late afternoon of November 8, searchers discovered his body and chased off the four nearby wolves.43 Andrew McKean, of Field & Stream, recreated the moment for his rifle-toting readers: “The footprints indicated that four wolves had shadowed Carnegie, who stopped, turned around and then tried to elude the animals breaking into a terrified sprint for safety. The tracks suggest that the man was knocked to the ground at least twice but struggled to his feet before he was taken down a final time.” Topping, the trucker who had earlier warned Carnegie, remembered that the site of Carnegie’s body “wasn’t pretty.” He recalled, “It was just as though those wolves had taken down a moose or a caribou.” In Field & Stream, however, McKean had a different interpretation and, by separating humans from other animals, forcefully reined in his readers from the dangerous philosophical abyss. He barked: “Only it wasn’t an animal. The wolves’ victim was a human…”5 On November 10, Saskatchewan conservation officers shot two of the suspect wolves at the dump. When necropsies were performed at the Prairie Diagnostic Services laboratories, at the University of Saskatchewan, veterinarians discovered “hair and flesh in the large intestines that resembled human remains.”6 Paul Paquet, an ecologist from the University of Calgary, concluded his investigation in this manner: “I suspect that ultimately we will find that these are garbage-habituated wolves that are either being inadvertently fed or intentionally fed in the area… That is the common thread to most wolf attacks that I’ve investigated.”7 Tim Trottier, a wildlife biologist for Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management, explained that “These wolves lived in a very unnatural state, so it’s not that surprising that they might behave unnaturally.”8 Intimacy with humans is always unnatural; always supremely dangerous.4 Carnegie’s kill site is not “pretty” (to borrow trucker Topping’s gritty truck-stop vernacular) for environmental historians, either. It evokes the many tricky theoretical issues that historians face when writing about nonhuman animals. Carnegie’s mangled body outraged McKean, the Field & Stream journalist, precisely because the young man was “human,” not an “animal” such as a moose or caribou. His anxieties exposed the carefully policed divide, between a hominid species, one that has long fancied itself as outside nature, and other Earthly organisms.9 Trottier, the Saskatchewan environmental official, likened the garbage dump to an “unnatural state” and wolves that killed people as behaving “unnaturally.” When humans manipulate and defile the sublime Cathedral of wilderness – mining for uranium, laying oil pipes, and logging forests – that pristine place falls from its natural grace, and so do, we


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