We have all had experiences where a smell, taste or sound can bring back an old memory. My trigger is sound based. My trigger word is wolves. Not wolf as in a lone animal but wolves, plural, more than one.
You may recall hearing our story of loss and devastation in July of 2019 when our family lost all but one of our sheep flock as the result of a wolf attack. Just two nights later, our new breeding bull was chased for miles by a pack of wolves thankfully finding refuge at a local dairy farm.
Flash forward to August 2020. Calls, texts and Facebook messages of the wolf pack being back in action started rolling in. Our cousins, who have land connected to ours, lost six of their 13 sheep to a wolf pack. Neighbors east of us lost their entire flock of chickens and other neighbors began to feel scared to walk our peaceful country roads.
Me? I lost a lot of sleep. Thirteen months after the massacre of our flock of sheep, I can still see the remains of what was left behind when I close my eyes. That is the thing with tragic events, you never know when the memory will come back to the forefront. The last 13 months have been extremely difficult on our family, specifically for me and my father-in-law. We were the two that cleaned everything after the carnage.
That is the thing with tragic events, you never know when the memory will come back to the forefront.
Since June, I have not been able to leave the farm without asking family to stay. It brings me comfort knowing someone is with the animals every night. Most mornings between 1 and 4 a.m., I am usually walking around the house making sure the windows are open (so I can hear if there are any disturbances outside) making sure that all is calm and the animals are still safe. The constant anxiety over wondering if this will be the morning, I wake to another tragedy is exhausting. It is taxing not only for me, but for my entire family. For 13 months, I have struggled to find a full night’s sleep and battled anxiety while my entire life has changed –not for the better.
As a state and national organization, we have made a lot of progress in policy related to delisting wolves but at the end of the day, we still have a lot to do. To turn our policy into action, we need to utilize our greatest asset: you our members.
We need to talk with our elected officials, and we report every unusual sighting, harassment and possible kill on our farms to the DNR. We need to let them know how wolves are impacting our neighborhoods, our farms and our livelihoods.
Since taking office, Congressman Tom Tiffany has been very outspoken about his commitment to giving state’s the authority to manage their wolf populations. It is essential for us to speak up and speak out to support his efforts. You can read more here.
I hear from members all the time, “I am just one person; what can I do?” You can make a difference, your voice matters. You can call your county Farm Bureau, attend a county event, reach out to your elected officials and you can share your story. We can do so much more together than we can alone. Together, we can make a lasting impact, the question is will you join us?
You can make a difference, your voice matters.
Wolves is a trigger word for me. I look forward to the day when the word “wolves” is no longer a trigger, but rather a reminder of the progress our voices made and the difference our organization has made for farmers just like me.
Ashleigh Calaway serves as the District 8 Coordinator for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. Ashleigh and her husband, along with her husband’s family, raise beef cattle and sheep in northern Wisconsin. They are also proud parents to their daughter.