THERE are folks in Chicago who are having a hard time figuring out the difference between a bald eagle and a gray wolf, so thank God the scribbler is here to help them out.

The confusion surfaced recently after the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposed to remove gray wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act in the lower 48 states, which federal authorities did with no new arguments and admittedly will be subject to reversal when challenged in federal court.

The Chicago Tribune published an editorial opinion against the proposal, arguing that the gray wolf deserved the same recovery criteria that was extended to the bald eagle — which wasn’t delisted from federal protection until they populated every state except Hawaii.

“That’s the definition of success in recovery of an endangered species,” wrote the Tribune. “But it’s not one that the Interior Department wants to follow for another treasured American creature: the gray wolf.”

Apparently, some residents of Chicago’s concrete jungle forgot that there are more than subtle differences between the bald eagle, our national bird, and the gray wolf, which the Tribune describes as an “iconic predator.”

So what’s the difference between the two? 

Well one of them has never been called big and bad, poses virtually no threat to livestock or family pets and is no threat to humans. Clearly one of them, the bald eagle, was not targeted by the federal government for eradication during much of the 20th century.

One of them is a revered national symbol that represents freedom and power and grace and everything good about America. The eagle brings with it few conflicts in a modern society that is no longer in the pre-Columbian state that once accommodated virtually unlimited numbers of wolves, a fact wolf advocates often ignore.

While we now acknowledge the policy of attempting to eradicate wolves from the country was wrong, that does not mean the gray wolf gets the same recovery status and criteria that the bald eagle deserved. Not by a long shot. This is not an apples to apples comparison.

History shows a love for the bald eagle and a disdain for the gray wolf. At the very least, history shows a need to control wolf numbers so that never again will they become so hated by the American public that every rancher, hunter, farmer and a majority of citizens want to rid the country of wolves.

Last time I checked, the Department of Natural Resources wasn’t keeping any weekly, monthly or annual depredation reports on bald eagles. They are not reimbursing ranchers and hunters for livestock and pets that were killed by eagles.

I’ve never heard anybody curse or use profanity in reference to the bald eagle, which says something for an American mindset that will tolerate some gray wolves but certainly not allow them to become overpopulated in any state or region — as they now are in Wisconsin and the western Great Lakes states.

This may surprise you, but I actually agree with the Chicago Tribune’s position against the delisting of gray wolves in the lower 48 states. That delisting has been earned by Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, where recovery by federal standards was completed decades ago and management plans are in place. But 90% of the states have done little or nothing, so why should they be off the hook?

What stinks about the Tribune’s stance is that they naively expect Wisconsin to remain overpopulated with wolves for years, maybe decades, with the hope of them spilling over into adjacent states. That is pure bunk and such thinking is why members of Congress have proposed legislation to remove the gray wolf from federal protection of any kind in the western Great Lakes states.

Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan did their jobs when it came to accommodating a timber wolf recovery plan. Penalizing these three states now with federal management authority that promotes wolf overpopulation is just wrong.

The Tribune pointed out that eagles not only populate every state, but that once recovered, they were not hunted. Again, they are wrong to compare eagles and wolves, for the latter predator is far from a national symbol and demands much stricter management — including lethal controls that have proven to be the only effective tool for curbing numbers.

“Protect wolves in the Midwest from slaughter” was the headline that accompanied the editorial. I beg to differ. Hunting as a management tool is conservation at its best. It’s about managing for a sustainable population of wolves for all time, just as Wisconsin has done with bears, bobcats and many other predators.

Unless you’ve got your head stuck in the sand of liberal America, you cannot expect that wolves will someday populate great portions of their native range. And it’s not just that society won’t allow it, but that society should not allow any megapredator to exist without strict control of their numbers. And if that means lethal controls and public harvest seasons, then so be it.

The bottom line: wolves are not eagles. Common sense says the two can’t be recovered or managed in the same way. Conflicts with a modern society need to be taken into account.