The Washington Wolf Dilemna

Huckleberry pups, June 2012

Huckleberry pups, June 2012. Photo from WDFW website.

It’s a disconcerting deja vu. Two years ago we fought hard to prevent the killing of the Wedge pack for their supposed role in livestock depredations. But the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department (WDFW) ignored public opinion as they spent over $76,000 in a full scale war against the Wedge pack wolves, killing seven of its members.

An OPD article dated November 14, 2012 quotes WDFW spokesperson Madonna Luers as saying, “Our director (Phil Anderson) has said that he never wants to do this again… The social acceptance is just not there.”

Mr. Anderson must have forgotten making this statement because now the Huckleberry pack is being targeted under his authorization. One member, reportedly a pup, has been shot already and three more are in the scopes.

I spoke today with Bob Ferris, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands about the issue. Bob has been involved in wolf recovery for over twenty years. For eight of those years he worked with Defenders of Wildlife, either vetoing or giving the OK for the release of funds for livestock compensation claims. Wolf and livestock issues are a subject Bob is very familiar with.

According to Bob, one of the primary problems is the lack of transparency within the WDFW. He compared their department with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which (at least since the Oregon Wolf plan was revamped) is maintaining a high level of transparency in their actions with wolves. WDFW kept quiet their plan to eliminate the Huckleberry wolves until just before the weekend, when they came forth with a brief statement on their intentions, then reported that nothing more would be said until Monday. There was no time for public comment or even a Q&A.

Bob said that the WDFW might benefit from a plan more like Oregon’s, one in which they would be accountable to clear guidelines and regulations. This Cascadia Wildlands press release from February 6, 2014 explains the current Washington wolf plan and its failings. Their plan was adopted in 2011, and management was quickly switched from the Endangered Species Division to the Game Division. Not surprisingly, the Game Division instituted a lethal control program, granting themselves the authority to make decisions that so far, have proven to be far from science based.

Bob suggested that their actions with the Huckleberry pack is more punishment based than science based. As if killing four wolves will tell the rest of the pack to steer clear of sheep. While some non-lethal measure were reportedly used by rancher Dave Dashiell to prevent these depredations, more measures were offered than were implemented. There was talk of moving the sheep but this was never done. Range riders were just beginning to circulate. And depredation was not a chronic problem for this pack, they had not been associated with any livestock deaths until this month. Nonlethal measures take time and diligence, according to Bob, and they must be varied depending on the situation.

Teanaway wolf, from WDFW website

Teanaway pack wolf, from WDFW website.

Is there anything we can do? Bob advises that no matter the outcome of the current situation, we should contact Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Our persistent voices do have an effect, especially with an elected official. The Governor’s phone number is 360-902-4111. His email is governor@gov.wa.gov.

Bob Ferris lends hope in a time of discouragement. He reminds me that the wolf recovery effort has been a long and challenging one, but one that has been overall quite successful. The first talk of relocation to Yellowstone was back in the 1940s and it took over fifty years to come to fruition. And decades ago, Bob had the foresight to project that one day, wolves will return to California. His peers doubted him, but thanks to Journey, his optimism has proven out.

So don’t give up, continue to support wolves in whatever way you can. They need our patience and persistence now more than ever.

 

Salmo pack wolves, photo from WDFW website

Salmo pack wolves, photo from WDFW website.

 

What’s Worrying Journey?

Journey's pup USFWS photo

My what big feet you have!
Journey’s pup-USFWS photo

Good wolf news is invariably mixed with not so good wolf news.

This week we saw a reprieve in the Idaho Fish and Game’s plan to eradicate 60% of the wolf population in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area until November of 2015. But what then?

I applaud Ralph Maughan, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, The Center for Biological Diversity, Wilderness Watch, as well as Earthjustice who is representing them, for their efforts in halting this baseless culling of wolves.  Read Ken Cole’s report in The Wildlife News for details.

Journey and his new family have been enjoying a peaceful summer in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest of southeastern Oregon. But two threats to their homeland cast a shadow on their seemingly safe existence.

The Oregon Gulch Fire started yesterday morning just north of the Oregon/California border during one of the many lightning storms we’ve been having lately. The fire spread quickly and is still raging today.

I was at the Green Springs Inn on Highway 66 last evening waiting for my son, Dylan and friend Erick to meet me for dinner after they finished fly fishing at the Klamath River, a dozen miles to the east. The Inn was filled with talk of the Gulch Fire, only about ten miles away as the crow flies. A great plume of smoke, looking like a puffy cumulus cloud, rose high in the sky behind us. From the time it took me to sip a glass of Pinot Gris, the extent of the fire reportedly went from 1,700 to nearly 3,000 acres.

Oregon Gulch Fire, 7/31/14. Photo by Lee Winslow, ODF.

Oregon Gulch Fire, 7/31/14. Photo by Lee Winslow, ODF.

The USFWS continues to report that Journey and his family are living somewhere in southeast Jackson County and southwest Klamath county, in the very vicinity of the fire.

I drove from the Inn east for five miles to Copco Road, the gateway to the fire. Television news crews were setting up. Huge earth-moving equipment was being hauled in to build trenches to contain the fire. Single engine aircraft and helicopters buzzed overhead.  Firefighters poured in from neighboring Medford and Ashland. I spoke to someone from the  sheriff’s department about the fire. When I asked if she’d heard anything about the wolves, she gave me a blank look. Hard to imagine someone not knowing about Journey and kin, but it appears there are a few out there.

A dark orange sunset, color tainted by the spreading smoke, was ahead of me as I returned to the Inn. Finally, Dylan and Erick arrived and I breathed a deep sigh of relief. They came with tales of large, brown trout and of seeing deer bounding to safer parts of the forest. They’d watched helicopters repeatedly dunking huge buckets into the Klamath river to help fight the fire.

By the time we finished two platefuls of nachos, over 5,300 acres had burned. The fire had traveled south into California and east into Klamath county. We heard that 500 more firefighters were arriving the morning. The folks at the Greensprings Inn were also concerned about Journey and his family. They’ve long been avid wolf supporters. When Journey first entered the area, the Inn threw him a party, complete with a talk by Amaroq Weiss and large pins sporting a picture of a grey wolf and the words, “Welcome to the Greensprings!”

Oregon Gulch Fire 7/31/14, Photo by Lee Winslow, ODF.

Oregon Gulch Fire 7/31/14, Photo by Lee Winslow, ODF.

By this morning, the fire has consumed over 7,500 acres of land. Journey and the  new pack may be miles away. Let’s hope so, and let’s hope the families and firefighters in the Greensprings are safe as well.

Jouney's mateAs if the threat of fire isn’t enough for the wolves in southwestern Oregon, they stand to lose their territory to logging as well.

The Bybee Timber Sale was originally proposed in 2012, has gone through several appeals and revisions, and is now on hold thanks to the ever diligent folks at Oregon Wild. Yet if this appeal doesn’t hold, the The Bybee logging project would drastically affect 1,300 acres in the proposed Crater Lake Wilderness, just north of where Journey now resides.  The logging efforts and the twelve miles of roads they would construct would sever several intact wildlife corridors, the very pathway Journey used to travel to southeast Oregon in the winter of 2011.

Area of Bybee Timber Sale, photo courtsey of Oregon WIld

Area of Bybee Timber Sale, photo courtesy of Oregon Wild

I spoke about the logging issue with Morgan Lindsay, Outreach Director for Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, better known as KS Wild. Morgan educated me about the details of the Bybee sale. She told me that no trees have fallen in the project yet, and hopefully, none will. KS Wild, part of the Pacific Wolf Coalition, is very active in protecting forest land in the area as well as the animals that live in them. Check out their website and join the KS Wolf Pack for updates on Journey and the status of wolves in the area.

Life is never simple, especially if you’re a wild wolf, doing everything you can to survive in a world that seems hell-bent on destroying you. But there is always hope, especially with the individuals and organizations who continue to put time and energy into raising their voices to protect our natural resources. Thanks to all of you who strive to make this a better world, not only for the wild creatures and the environment, but for those humans who appreciate these elements as well.

 

 

 

 

Kristi Lloyd on Michigan Wolves

wolf image

While our new wolf pack here in southern Oregon is apparently thriving, I’d like to shift to other locations and discuss how wolves are doing elsewhere.

This post was written by Kristi Lloyd, who provides a powerful voice for wolves in her home state of Michigan. Kristi is also an advisor for Wolves of the Rockies, a Montana based advocacy group.  Kristi is a wonderful individual, one I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know during a couple of trips to Yellowstone. Besides being dedicated, passionate, and well-informed about all things wolf, Kristi is a blast to hang out with!

The text will inform you on the status of wolves in Michigan. At the same time, it may surprise you as Kristi recounts some of the hard to believe details of the fight to protect Michigan’s wolves. Seems those who want wolves gone will go to extremes to win their case, no matter what it takes…

 

Kristi Lloyd, Kim Bean, Kc York, and myself at Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park in June of 2013.

Kristi Lloyd, Kim Bean, Kc York, and myself at Trout Lake, Yellowstone National Park in June of 2013.

“Gray wolves once inhabited all of Michigan’s eighty-three counties, which include both the Upper (UP) and Lower Peninsulas.  In 1838 Michigan began a bounty program for wolves. In 1922, a trapping system was implemented and the bounty program ended. But it resumed in 1935, the same year the last wolf was killed in Yellowstone National Park by government trappers.  By 1960 the only wolves in the lower 48 were in Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park. Only one wolf was reported in Michigan in 1959.

In 1965, Michigan gave the gray wolf protection under state law. They were then added to the Federal Endangered Species List in 1974.  Also that year there was an attempt to reintroduce wolves to the UP of Michigan, but the four wolves brought from MN were illegally killed and the decision was made to let wolves migrate and colonize on their own.

Michigan’s wolves were removed from the Federal Endangered List in January 2012.  On December 27, 2012, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed the bill that approved a wolf hunt in Michigan. This hunt went from November 15 through December 31, 2013 and was held in 3 separate areas in the UP. Twenty-two wolves being killed out of a quota of forty-three. Trapping was not allowed but trappers are pushing for a trapping season in 2014.  The hunt was said to make wolves more wary of humans (a typical, nonsensical excuse) and to reduce livestock conflicts.

Shortly after wolves the hunt was approved, an organization called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP) was created to fight the wolf hunt that was politically motivated, as it is in all of the wolf-hunting states.

KMWP

KMWP put together a petition drive for a ballot initiative to repeal the designation of wolves as a game species which opened the door to a hunt. A minimum of 225,000 signatures from MI registered voters had to be collected and submitted within ninety days from December 27, 2012. The petition drive began in January of 2013. Throughout the winter MI residents were circulating and signing the petition. (I was one of them, brrrrr!!)

Some of us took abuse from those in favor of the wolf hunt.  It seems just the mere mention of the word “wolf” makes some people think they can talk to others in any fashion they like. Of course we heard the usual UNscientific, UNdocumented “facts”…wait ‘til they eat one of your kids, they are killing all the deer, they are taking babies from strollers (yes, this was actually said), as was, kill ‘em all!  But, before March 27, 2013 there were enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot which would repeal the designation of wolves as a game species.  Over 256,000 signatures were collected in two months and submitted to the Board of Canvassers (BOC) office.  KMWP had also garnered support from residents and organizations from across the state.

wolf drawing

While awaiting the signatures to be verified through the BOC, the GOP-dominated legislature came up with a way to keep the ballot proposal from being voted on.  A new bill, created by Senator Tom Casperson to intentionally head off the proposal, was introduced and passed. This bill gave the unelected, appointed Natural Resources Commission (NRC) the authority to designate game species and they promptly took action.

The MI Constitution gives MI residents the right to referendum laws so what the legislature did was cut off the voices of 256,000 registered voters. The new bill would deflect the ballot proposal since the NRC is not an elected body.  The goal was to ensure that there was no public support against the wolf hunt.

KMWP again went to work and created another petition for yet another ballot proposal. This one would repeal the law in which the unelected NRC is given the authority to designate game species. Originally, the authority was granted to the Senate in 1996 with the passing of Proposal G.

Once again, this petition drive took place during one the coldest, snowiest winters on record. 160,000 signatures were needed to repeal the law, and once again that goal was attained and exceeded with 183,000 signatures collected. There will be two ballot proposals for MI residents to vote on in November, 2014.  One is to repeal the wolf being designated a game species and the other to repeal the law of giving the NRC authority to designate game species.

A coalition of “conservationists” called Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM), consisting of hunters, hounders and trappers was created and drew up its own ballot initiative.  This organization is backed by state legislators, out-of-state organizations like the Safari Club International, Rocky Mt. Elk Foundation (even though ALL the wolves are in the UP and ALL the elk are in the LP), as well as the National Turkey Federation.

Professional and scientific evidence demonstrating that wolf hunts are not effective to minimize conflicts between wolves and livestock was offered by Michigan Technological University’s Dr. John Vucetich and Dr. Rolf Peterson (both of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study and have studied wolves for decades) to the NRC and to the legislature in the spring of 2013. This information went out the window. The wolf hunt was based on lies, MISinformation and fabrications—and one particular cattle farmer in the UP.

Out of nine hundred working livestock farms in the UP, this farm, owned by John Koski, was the site of 80% of all of the livestock depredations. Koski was in violation of the law by leaving cow carcasses on his property and using deer legs to attract wolves onto his (uninhabited) farm. He was given kill permits by the DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) and he used them to give to friends to kill wolves on his property.  Twenty-two wolves were killed on this property. wolf drawing 2

One of the agents involved with this  lethal removal was a judge who had written (along with Senator Tom Casperson) the resolution to delist MI’s wolves…which was based on a fabricated incident regarding wolves and a day care center. The judge, Anders Tingstad, called the resolution one of his best writings. Senator Casperson said in a news article in November, 2013 that if the information was found to be inaccurate he would rescind the resolution.  But in December, when he apologized for lying about the information in the resolution, he said he would not rescind the resolution.  In his apology for lying, Casperson pointed fingers and laid blame at others, further spewing MISinformation saying that wolves can and will attack people (there are no recorded wolf attacks on humans in MI). How sincere is that apology?  He also says wolves live in “herds” and called Dr. Rolf  Peterson Dr. Wolf.

John Koski was finally charged with animal neglect after an investigative news series revealed the carcasses and deer legs. Mr. Koski made a plea bargain and pleaded no contest to a charge of attempted animal neglect regarding the deaths of two guard donkeys and the removal of another one. He was found guilty and ordered to pay approximately $1,900 in court costs/fees. Koski had received over $30,000 in compensation for livestock losses and the DNR/Wildlife Services used another $200,000 in resources (tax payer $$) to work with Mr. Koski.

Since then, Mr. Koski has sold his cows and is in the process of selling his farm property. 70% of the wolves killed for his benefit were not involved in livestock attacks within five miles of where they were killed, and some had not been involved in a livestock depredation in one, two or three years.

An employee within the DNR, Adam Bump the fur bearer specialist, fabricated a story saying that wolves were peering into homeowners’ sliding glass doors and not being scared off when the owners banged on the doors. Through a FOIA request it was found this never happened and Mr. Bump apologized for his statement where he “misspoke”. The apology also came out after the investigative news story.  He “misspoke” in May but it was not addressed by the DNR or corrected until November of 2013. One of the NRC Commissioners, JR Richardson, tossed thousands of public comments and a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (that were solicited by the DNR/NRC but never opened) into a dump file.

Over 2,000 comments were against the wolf hunt, only thirteen were for the wolf hunt. And yet this organization, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management, swears up and down that the wolf hunt is based on science. And why are they now asking for “professional” wildlife management? Why is their initiative being called the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act? They collected over 300,000 signatures for their initiative, which will NOT go to the voters of MI. It will go to the very same legislature that rammed the wolf hunt through in the first place.  The legislature will have forty days after signature verification to take up this proposal or reject it. The signatures were turned in toward the end of last month and might take six weeks or so to be verified.

Those who circulated this petition used the “your hunting rights are being taken away!” line as well as “protect your right to hunt!” and mostly everything was against KMWP and/or the Humane Society of the United States. This organization also wants $1 million to fight the invasive Asian carp, which is really an appropriation. Appropriations attached to a citizens initiative make it referendum proof…there will be no recourse if this bill is not rejected by the legislature. They also want free hunting and fishing licenses for military members and while they do deserve that perk, it will result in the loss of millions of dollars in grants for conservation, preservation via Pittman-Robertson and Johnson-Dingall funding. There will be no taxes paid on those licenses.

Wolf hunts are based on science, eh? They are if you ask Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota and now Michigan. Where is this science? I have asked that question many, many times and I get the same answer….silence. Sometimes I get insults and personal attacks. I’d rather have the silence. One more time…where is the science? “

Kristi at the Lamar River, YNP.

Kristi at the Lamar River, YNP. Photo courtesy of Wolves of the Rockies.

 

Trap Free Montana Public Lands!

Beckie Elgin, Freelance Writer:

Reblogging so everyone can read the wide range of comments that have come up regarding this post.

Originally posted on Wolves and Writing:

trap_free_montana_public_lands

Trap Free Montana Public Lands (TFMPL) has until this Friday to gather enough signatures to get Initiative 169 on the ballet. I-169 allows the public to determine whether they want recreational and commerical fur trapping on public lands. This is a fair and reasonable measure. It applies only to trapping and only on public lands, which make up 1/3 of Montana. Hunting and fishing rights are not affected by I-169.

But reasonable and fair is not how the opposition to this initiative are behaving. Members of the Montana Trappers Association (MTA) have continually bullied signature gatherers across the state, upsetting some volunteers to the point that they have given up. The MTA has also openly harrassed citizens into not signing the initiative. Signed signature pages have been stolen from veterinary clinics and other locations. Recently, at the Hamilton County Farmer’s Market, a very large trapper verbally assaulted two female TFMPL…

View original 471 more words

Trap Free Montana Public Lands!

trap_free_montana_public_lands

Trap Free Montana Public Lands (TFMPL) has until this Friday to gather enough signatures to get Initiative 169 on the ballet. I-169 allows the public to determine whether they want recreational and commerical fur trapping on public lands. This is a fair and reasonable measure. It applies only to trapping and only on public lands, which make up 1/3 of Montana. Hunting and fishing rights are not affected by I-169.

But reasonable and fair is not how the opposition to this initiative are behaving. Members of the Montana Trappers Association (MTA) have continually bullied signature gatherers across the state, upsetting some volunteers to the point that they have given up. The MTA has also openly harrassed citizens into not signing the initiative. Signed signature pages have been stolen from veterinary clinics and other locations. Recently, at the Hamilton County Farmer’s Market, a very large trapper verbally assaulted two female TFMPL volunteers. At the same event, members of the MTA showed up pulling a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks trailer and using their materials, violating campaign ethics and giving the distinct impression that the state agency is going along with the efforts to sabatoge I-169.

wolf trotting

Not all of the battle has been so public. Last month an official complaint was filed by TFMPL with the Commissioner of Politcal Practices against MTA and their cohorts, Montanans for Effective Wildlife Managment. The allegation is that the MTA, a nonprofit, has been raising large amounts of unreported funds to fight I-169, including an auction that brought them nearly $25,000. The complaint is currently under investigation.

With this knowledge, it takes a stretch of the imagination to see the MTA as an ethical and responsible organization. Their efforts to squelch I-169 appear desperate and self-serving. Perhaps their actions are so extreme because they realize that much of the population wants to see trapping go the way of the musket.

While it can be acknowledged that some trappers are true naturalists who value their time in the wilderness and take pride in the heritage of trapping, no one can honestly dispute the cruelty of their sport. And the supposed role of trapping in managing wildlife is a story few believe any longer. Chronic trapping of beaver has desecrated riparian habitat throughout the US. Rare and endangered species, such as lynx, wolverine, golden eagles and kit fox fall prey to traps. Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that each year, an average of fifty dogs are indvertently trapped in Montana alone. Many of these deaths and injuries go unreported because the pet owner fears retaliation by the trapper. Or they simply know nothing will be done.

wolvering

At least two wolverine were caught in traps during the last Montana furbearer season.

The effort to end trapping won’t go away. States and nations across the world are realizing that fur is no longer a needed entity and that we can do better than to impose suffering on our native wildlife. Steel-jaw traps have already been banned in 88 countries. Their use is banned or restricted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington. The European Union forbids the use of steel-jaw traps as well as the importation of pelts from countries that use these devices to trap and kill fur-bearing animals.

We still have a few days to do what we can to put trapping on Montana public lands to the vote.  If you live in Montana, or know someone who does, hurry to the TFMPL website to see how you can sign the initiative! Each vote counts. Our persistence and patience will pay off. Eventually, public lands will be a place that can truly be enjoyed by all, including the native species that reside there.

Kit fox

Kit fox

 

 

 

Reward!

 

Reward

OR 18 had been in the Bitterroot for just over a week when biologists from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MtFWP) picked up a mortality signal from his GPS collar. He is the first collared wolf known to make the journey from Oregon to Montana.

The two year old grey wolf from the Snake River Pack had dispersed from northeast Oregon, crossed the Snake River and managed to survive his cross country trip through Idaho, the state notorious for shooting Oregon wolves.

Snake River wolf. Photo from ODFW

Snake River wolf. Photo from ODFW

OR-18 entered Montana’s Big Hole Valley sometime in May, headed north into Rock Creek and then into the North Sapphires.  It was Saturday evening, between six and nine, on May 31,  that OR-18 was illegally shot from a road between Sawmill and Ambrose saddles in upper Haacke Creek in the Burnt Fork area of the Bitterroot Valley, east of Stevensville.

Marc Cooke of Wolves of the Rockies told me that the spot where OR-18 was shot is only (as the crow flies) five miles away from the Cooke’s house. He and his wife Lorenza were shocked to learn that the Oregon wolf had been poached so close to their home. They spoke with other Wolves of the Rockies advisors and the decision was made to raise a reward for the arrest of whoever shot OR 18.  The money will accompany the $1,000 reward put up by  Montana Fish and Wildife.

Oregon Wild has pitched in, as have several individuals. Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild said in a recent press release, “We hope the killer of OR-18, like all poachers, will be brought to justice and serve as an example to those tempted to illegally kill wildlife.”

Marc Cooke is hopeful as well. He believes that whoever shot OR-18 lives nearby. There is a good chance someone will know who did it and will see the reward ad that Wolves of the Rockies has run in the local paper. People talk, as does money.

Perhaps we’ll never find out who shot OR-18. But the larger the amount offered the larger will be the statement that the indiscriminate killing of these animals will not be tolerated.

WofR logo

There are so many worthy places to send your spare dollars, but right now I can’t think of a better place to donate. With the help of Wolves of the Rockies, Oregon Wild, and people like us, we can raise our unified voice to stop the poaching of wolves.

To donate to the fund to catch the poacher of OR-18 contact Wolves of the Rockies via email, FB message or phone.

Email: Marc@Wolvesoftherockies.Org.  Phone: 406-493-5945.

Tips can be called in anonymously to 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668)

 

In the Presence of Journey

 

ODFW photo of OR 7, May 5, 2014

ODFW photo of OR 7, May 5, 2014

Wolves live in the quiet places of the world. They exist with the moose, the elk, the cougar, the bear and other creatures that likewise require terrain that is vast and clean and silent.  Our reality is so removed from theirs. Most of us live surrounded by cars, concrete, screens, flushing toilets and other dubious gifts of our evolved state.

Time outs from modern life are essential. Yesterday, I drove up the long, twisting Greensprings Highway from Ashland until I reached the junction of Siskiyou and Klamath Counties. This is now wolf country and if I don’t get up here at least a couple times a month I find my energy wilting, like a deprived plant in a dark room. I get out of my car at the Parker Mountain Road and begin my hike. I’ve come here in all seasons. The dirt road is rarely used and in the winter it is closed. That is the time I enjoy most, when no one is around and tracks and scat from resident mammals abound in the snow and the mud.

Black female wolf photographed in area of OR 7 by ODFW.

Black female wolf photographed in area of OR 7 by ODFW.

Journey and his new mate, the mysterious black female, are said to be in this area. I’m not looking for them but I do like being in their vicinity. When Journey left northeast Oregon in the fall of 2011 I was driving down from a visit to his home grounds at the same time. I envisioned him on the way, trotting parallel to my vehicle though the John Day Wilderness area, the Ochoco Mountains, and south, into the Cascades. When he entered northern California I followed him, staying in the periphery of where the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said he’d been. And when he settled into this part of the Southern Oregon, only a few miles from my home, I spent as much time here as I could. Last winter I rented a house at nearby Hyatt Lake and imagined hearing his howl as I stood on my porch. Since his exodus from Wallowa County I’ve seen his tracks on the outskirts of Crater Lake and perhaps caught a glimpse of him outside of Butte Falls, where his first photo was taken. What I saw was a large grey canine loping across a field with the leg bone of an ungulate in its mouth. I’ll never know if it was him, the sighting was too brief, but I was thrilled to know the possibility existed.drawing trees

Searching for Journey is not my purpose. I want nothing from him. And his privacy is something he deserves and desperately needs, especially now that he may have pups. Yet I am drawn here, as many of us are, wanting and needing to spend time in the world where he exists, to tread on ground that is still natural enough to host an animal as wild as the wolf. That is enough. To simply be in this environment, one that is as integral to humans as it is to animals, despite how detached from it we’ve become. Perhaps our efforts to save the wolf are not only because we love wolves, but because we realize, consciously or not, that they are determiners of the survival of a truly natural world. Canaries in the coal mine. If they perish, we know our future is bleak as well.

My hike meanders across trails and roads, though stands of Ponderosa pine interspersed with Manzanita and scrub oak. The ground is dry and hard. There are few tracks to be seen. The wind moves through the trees, cooling the air of this warm spring day. I sit on the trunk of a fallen tree and take in the earth’s scent, made richer by the afternoon humidity. There are wolves near here, their presence affects my awareness, sharpens it, gifting me with a fleeting but powerful sense of elements and instincts that lie buried deep, nearly out of touch but still there. Gratitude is not so much a feeling as it is a natural state of being here, away for a time, from the noise and pressure that is inherent to life in our human world. I stretch the day out for as long as I can.

forest

I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news. John Muir