The wolves of Southern Oregon have certainly been making headlines lately, and this event, sponsored by KS Wild, will be a chance to learn about and discuss what is going on down here. The guest speaker will be Richard P. Thiel, a wolf biologist from Wisconsin. Thiel has studied wolves since the 1960s and has published numerous peer reviewed articles and two books on the subject. His decades of work in Wisconsin promise to bring insights to our current wolf situation in Oregon.
We will also hear from Lyndsay Raber with the Pacific Wolf Coalition and Lilia Letsch who will present the new Oregon wolf family tree. I will be on hand to discuss my book, Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7, the Oregon Wolf That Made History.
The event will be this Friday, October 21st, from 6-9 at the Medford Public Library in the large meeting room. Light refreshments will be served and several local conservation organizations will be present. Click here for details. We look forward to seeing you there!
(Featured image-OR-14, ODFW photo. Sketch by Hannah Hartsell)
News of the livestock deaths most likely caused by the Rogue pack has traveled fast. Yet, there are still many unanswered questions. I don’t have any inside information to offer, but here is what I know of the facts.
On Monday, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) released news of three confirmed livestock attacks by wolves in Klamath County. The incidents occurred in the Wood River Valley and all were on private land.
The depredation investigation reports discuss the examinations done on the three calves, which ranged in weight from 300 to 800 pounds. Two were dead and mostly consumed while one was badly injured. The attacks were estimated to have occurred on 10/2, 10/3 and 10/5/16. Wolf tracks were seen around the site and the specific details, which I won’t go into here, indicate that wolves were clearly involved. The ODFW report states “The Rogue Pack is known to frequent this general area this time of year.”
Other wolves also spend near the Wood River location, including OR-33 and OR-25. Both are from the Imnaha pack and unfortunately, have previously been involved in livestock deaths, OR-33 just outside of Ashland and OR-25 at a ranch along the Williamson River. However, from what we know, these were isolated incidents and non-lethal actions have helped prevent further problems.
USFWS biologist John Stephenson is quoted as saying it is “very possible” the Rogue pack is responsible for the attacks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who held out hopes that OR-7 and his pack would continue to steer clear of cattle. They had for so long. Journey left northeast Oregon in September of 2011, and thus far, had not been implicated in any livestock deaths. What changed? The growing size of his pack (possibly up to 9 now) and the need for more prey? Perhaps the shift had something to do with Journey’s age. Seven is old for a wild wolf and maybe his hunting skills are ebbing.
What’s the Good News?
Oregon wolves living west of Highways 395-78-95 are protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act. So, the Rogue family has that on their side, and they also have John Stephenson, who when asked if the attacks would lead to lethal control, said, “That’s not being contemplated at all. We’re trying to stop it from continuing.” Newspapers report that Stephenson put up special fencing (fladry, I assume) and increased human presence in an effort to keep the wolves away. He also plans to keep tabs of the wolves by renewing efforts to capture and collar members of the Rogue pack.
What Can We Do?
The Oregon Wolf Plan, as you may know, is currently under review. Changes made to this plan will affect the future management of wolves statewide. Keep an eye out for future public comment meetings or contact ODFW regarding the importance of providing continued protection for wolves.
These recent depredations, as well as the Profanity Peak pack fiasco in Washington and the lethal removal of the Imnaha pack this spring, are reminders that wolves need large areas of land to roam on, land that is free of the temptations of free-ranging cattle and sheep. The Rogue pack lives near the nearly 9,000 acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and if the current efforts to expand the monument succeed, thousands more acres of primarily BLM land would be added to the monument. This land is free of livestock and is just what wolves need to stay out of trouble. While we can’t keep wolves from leaving the monument, at least there would be a safe space for them. KS Wild and Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument are two groups working for the expansion. There will be a public hearing in Ashland on October 14, click here for details.
While we’ve witnessed a lot of livestock producers that have failed to protect their livestock and have pushed for lethal control of wolves, from what I’ve read the ranchers in the area of the current issues have been quite proactive and patient regarding wolves. When OR-25 killed a calf in western Klamath County, the rancher there put forth a lot of effort in hazing to prevent further problems. And the livestock owners outside of Ashland who lost two goats and a lamb to OR-33, from all appearances, chose to support the use of non-lethal measures on their land rather than raise a stink about the losses.
Wolves are a natural predator, bound to necessitate change as they return to lands they have not inhabited for decades. Let’s hope this part of Oregon will continue to support this return and learn ways to live with Canis lupus.
If you live in or near Portland don’t miss the upcoming opportunity to hear wolf biologist and writer, Carter Niemeyer, speak about his latest book, Wolf Land. The event is sponsored by the Audubon Society of Portland and will be held on October 11, 2016.
Wolf Land is Niemeyer’s second memoir based on his experiences with wolves in several settings, including Alberta, where he led a major role in capturing subjects for the Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho reintroductions. We also read many of Niemeyer’s compelling stories about wolf interactions in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
Below is my review of Wolf Land that appeared today in The Oregonian. This is a fascinating book, one everyone with even a spark of an interest in wolves will enjoy and learn from.
Years ago, biologist and trapper Carter Niemeyer’s job was to kill problem wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. Since then, he’s become a supporter of wolves, a consultant when wolf and livestock issues arise, as well as an interpreter to a curious public of what goes on behind the scenes in the controversial world of wolf management…
In an all to familiar deja vu, another wolf pack in Washington state is targeted for extermination due to livestock depredation. Four years ago it was the Wedge pack–six of them killed by Washington Dept. Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the rest got away. Now, the decision has been made to eliminate the entire Profanity Peak pack , consisting of eleven wolves. Two or more have been killed already, including the breeding female. WDFW is not sharing much information on their progress. According to Donny Martorello, wolf policy lead for the department, “We are kindly asking for a little space and understanding so we can maintain the highest level of safety for the public, the staff and our producers.”
In both cases, cattle were on their summer range in heavily forested public lands, making it difficult to protect them against natural predators. And in both cases, at least most of the cattle were owned by the Diamond M ranch. About a month ago the Stevens County Cattleman’s Association requested that WDFW lethally remove the Profanity Peak pack. The president of this organization happens to be Justin Hedrick, co-owner of the Diamond M ranch. WDFW responded to Hedrick and on August 5, 2016, two female wolves were shot in the Coleville National Forest. When two more calves were killed by wolves last week, the plan shifted to removing the entire pack. Apparently, groups that one might expect would protest this lethal removal have thrown in the towel and publicly agreed with the actions of WDFW. This includes Conservation Northwest and Defenders of Wildlife.
But other conservationists disagree. Amaroq Weiss of Center for Biological Diversity said in their press release on August 24, 2016, “We can’t keep placing wolves in harm’s way by repeatedly dumping livestock onto public lands with indefensible terrain, then killing the wolves when conflicts arise. These allotments should be retired by the U.S. Forest Service — or livestock losses should simply be expected, and wolves shouldn’t have to pay for it with their lives.” In the same release, Tim Coleman, executive director for Kettle Range Conservation Group, is quoted as saying, “We believe the wildest areas of our national forests should be a place where wolves can roam free.”
Other issues are contestable as well. For one, killing wolves, especially by helicopter, is not cheap. Removal of the Wedge pack in 2012 cost Washington over $77,000. With eleven wolves in the currently targeted pack the expense could be much higher. Also, there are only about 90 wolves in Washington according to WDFW’s April 2016 report. While the elimination of one pack will not likely send the population into a decline, it is a 12% reduction, a rather larger percentage for what is still considered an endangered species in the state.
Killing off packs of wolves is not what the majority of us feel is the best solution. WDFW knows this, yet our voices are ignored. I found this quote in an article about the Wedge pack removal: “Future department actions to remove an entire pack are likely to be extremely rare if they occur at all, said Madonna Luers, a Fish and Wildlife department spokeswoman in Spokane. “Our director (Phil Anderson) has said that he never wants to do this again,” Luers said. “… The social acceptance is just not there.”
A pattern seems to setting in northeastern Washington, one that is not conducive to ranchers, conservations, cows and certainly not wolves. Cattle are roaming, primarily unprotected in rugged country on public grazing allotments. Wolves are hungry. Deer and elk may be sparse so livestock becomes the target. It seems a major shift needs to occur or wolf packs will be exterminated routinely, and this only after significant livestock loss. Coming from Iowa, I realize that those who work the land and raise critters on it have a lot of forces to deal with; flood, drought, the take over of corporate farms, and an unreliable market. I saw some Iowa farmers close up shop. But others made major changes to keep going. They diversified, rather than putting all their eggs in one basket. They tried contour farming in order to hold onto the rich topsoil, most of which had been lost by old farming practices. In the decades I lived there I witnessed tremendous change in that industry. The farmers seemed to know that some things were simply not in their control and that no one was going to bail them out. Perhaps this should hold true for cattle ranchers as well.
Happy 4th of July!
While folks around the country are celebrating the Nations’s independence with parades, fireworks and BBQs, the movement continues to create a new state out of southern Oregon and northern California. The State of Jefferson is not a new idea. It was going strong in the 1940s and probably would have succeeded if World War 2 hadn’t interrupted things.
The reasons behind the current movement have to do with taxes, water rights, concerns about regulation and proper representation, which all sounds reasonable. But one of the goals listed on the SOJ51 website tells me the environment may come in a far second to humans. It calls for “Utilization of our natural resources – timber, water, farming, mining, hunting and fishing.” Sounds like old-fashioned dominion over nature to me. Some proponents of the state split have been quite vocal about their disapproval of creatures like wolves and spotted owls. And their social viewpoint leans way to the right, blurring at times with the Tea Party.
As the secession is a tremendous long shot that would require approval from both the California Legislature and the U.S. Congress, I don’t think we need to worry about this just yet. But if the State of Jefferson ever does become a reality, let’s hope the leaders have the foresight to protect their natural resources, rather than just deplete them.
Meanwhile, the majority of us are thrilled when we read of yet another wolf dispersing to the State of Jefferson. One of the newcomers is OR 33, a black male from the Imnaha pack of northeast Oregon. He recently earned the dubious distinction of being the first wolf to prey on livestock in Jackson County (quite close to Ashland) since wolves were extirpated from our state in the 1940s. Nonlethal measures have been taken and so far, seem to be working.
Last I heard, OR 25, also a black Imnaha wolf, had trotted back into Oregon from a short stay in Modoc County, California, and is now roaming Lake and Klamath Counties. He dispersed from his natal pack in March of 2015. OR 25 killed a calf on the 5,000 acre Yamsi Ranch along the Williamson River last fall. No new depredations have been reported. I spoke with Gerda Hyde, the matriarch of the Yamsi Ranch, shortly after OR 25 had been spotted on her land. She was quite blasé about the matter, saying the wolf didn’t bother her a bit. Dayton Hyde, Gerda’s former partner, now runs the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota. He is a writer and long-time conservationist. Over 40 years ago, Dayton first spoke up against randomly killing predators to prevent livestock depredation, believing that lethally removing predators that were not killing cattle was counterproductive and unnecessary. We have a lot to learn from some of our ranchers.
OR 7, or Journey, has maintained a clean record, as has his Rogue Pack, as far as I know. The first litter born to Journey and his mate would be two years old now, their second litter are yearlings, and likely they had pups born in mid-April. Journey is the sole wolf collared in this family group and only the VHF aspect of his collar still functions. I imagine the Fish and Wildlife officials know the whereabouts of members of the Rogue Pack, but the rest of us are wondering if the young adults have dispersed or if they still hanging out and helping with the pups.
OR 3, a black Imnaha wolf that had not been seen or heard from since 2011, has reappeared in Klamath County. This older brother of OR 7 may be paired with OR 28, a radio-collared female from the Mount Emily Pack. Her area of known wolf activity (ANWA) includes the Fort Rock and Silver Lake management until of Klamath and Lake County. If they are a couple, there are likely pups.
The Keno wolves showed evidence of inhabiting their area during January, March, and August of 2015. ODFW lists no new information for 2016 for these wolves. They may have dispersed into northern California to form the state’s first pack in nearly a century.
The Shasta Pack, a family of seven all-black wolves (not counting this years pups), have the good fortune to live beneath and to the east of the majestic Mount Shasta. A June, 2016 update to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website reports that both the female and male breeding animals of the Shasta pack are from the Imnaha wolves. It’s heartening to know that OR 4 and OR 2 are still living through the many offspring they produced.
Northern California has a new resident, this one to Lassen County. A young male, grey coated wolf has been spotted on trail cameras in the area, meaning he is probably not related to the black Shasta wolves. DNA tests of hair samples have not proven conclusive, but it’s likely this is another disperser from NE Oregon.
I am grateful to live in the area that is becoming a destination for so many wolves. And to have wonderful people like Amaroq Weiss, Wally Sykes, Pam and Randy Comeleo and Lilia Letsch to go hiking with in search of wolf sign. There are many folks hiking and camping in the wilds of the State of Jefferson, enjoying the opportunity to surround themselves with a nature that now includes wolves. As wolves are keystone predators, we can look forward to the positive effect they may have on the environment. And we can appreciate the chance we have, at long last, to live in a world that contains the presence of at least one more element of it’s natural state.
If he only knew how many people thought about him, talked about him, read about him and watched movies made in his honor, Journey, our famous wandering wolf, would no doubt delve even deeper into the wilderness. Fortunately, he doesn’t know and his life continues as it should, without untoward interference by humans.
This Wednesday, May 18 at 7 pm, the documentary entitled Wolf OR 7 Expedition will be shown in Ashland, Oregon at the Meese Auditorium at Southern Oregon University. You may have heard about this expedition. It’s the story of six adventures who followed the trail of Journey, all the way from his home in the far northeastern corner of Oregon to places he visited in northern California. After the film there will be a question and answer period emceed by Lilia Letsch. On the panel will be myself, Wally Sykes, wolf advocate with Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, and Joe Kreuzman of Coyote Trails School of Nature. KS Wild (Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center) and SOU Outdoor Program are hosting the event. Tickets are $15. Please join us if you can!
I am also happy to report that my book, Journey: The Wandering Wolf is (finally!) complete and will be out by the end of this summer. I started working on this project over three years ago and it has evolved into what I hope readers will agree is an educational and interesting portrayal of Journey’s life so far. The book is geared for middle to high school readers but is accessible for all ages. Enlisting the tool of narrative nonfiction, I’ve written the story in a personable yet accurate manner, including sections that are through the point of view of the wolf. There is information about the history of wolves in Oregon and elsewhere, how biologists study these animals, the importance of wildlife corridors to their movement, and what we can do to improve life for Canis lupus. Journey: The Wandering Wolf will be available in both hard and soft cover. I’ll keep you updated as the date approaches. Thanks to everyone who made this possible including those I interviewed and my patient and encouraging family and friends who read the text. I’m indebted to my sister Helen Hill and Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild for their help. And of course, thanks to Journey for creating this amazing story for all of us to learn from and enjoy.
When I left home on Thursday morning, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had released a statement saying they intended to kill four wolves from the Imnaha pack, including OR 4, the sire of Journey and other wolves that have spread to southern Oregon, where I live.
The snow on Clover Creek Road was as high as my car as I drove toward territory that Journey and his family have been known to travel. It brought a much needed sense of calm to be there, surrounded by sixty foot Ponderosa pines and not a human in site. I strayed off on a logging road to walk. There were no sign of wolves, no surprise, but there were lots of wide, wet tracks left by some huge log-moving machine. I recalled a statement in Timothy Egan’s book, Lasso the Wind, saying there is nowhere in the lower 48 where a road is any farther than 25 miles away. Wilderness, not much of it left.
And wolves, soon there would be four less of them in Oregon. I understand that removing the core of the Imnaha pack will not likely affect the survival of the species in our state. At last count there were over a hundred, enough to keep them going. And I understand that OR 4, his mate Limpy, and their two pups, did break the law of the Oregon Wolf Plan by preying on cattle. I don’t doubt that Russ Morgan and his staff were meticulous in their examinations of the carcasses. They wouldn’t say these were wolf kills if they weren’t certain.
But the legalities of the matter are not everything. They speak nothing about the questionable morality of the decision. They speak nothing of the worth of this family of animals, one of them an icon, a wolf that has been instrumental in the return of a valuable species to the wilderness of Oregon and California. And sterile legalities don’t utter so much as a whisper to the feelings we have about the shooting of these wolves. Feelings. Emotions. There, I’ve said it. Now I can talk about it.
My father, in his decades of directing a small zoo in Iowa, cared for animals with a compassion I’ve rarely seen since. But at the same time, he taught his kids that people came first, that meant us and everyone else, even the ones we didn’t particularly like. This was at times a hard pill to swallow, but I believe he was right. Humans count, a lot. Yet my dad was a man who thought widely and deeply and if he were still with us, he would have seen that the removal of the Imnaha pack is a very human issue indeed, one that impacts many.
For the killing of the Imnaha Pack happened not only there, in a remote corner of Oregon, but everywhere, in all parts of the planet where sentient beings feel. The ripples of the actions of ODFW, so clearly serving only a very vocal minority, are spreading as we speak, infiltrating hearts and minds with the injustice of this eye for an eye mentality.
Our reactions to this event are worthy, reasonable and incredibly important. How else have humans invoked change in this world but by voicing their feelings about atrocities and inequities? Feelings, followed by science, are behind our efforts to preserve what’s left of our old growth forest, to protect endangered species, to fight against climate change. Our emotions about wrongs leads to action, which leads to legislation and laws. We cannot and should not dismiss the importance of how we feel.
Several years ago when visiting NE Oregon, I heard and absorbed the emotional appeal of a rancher when she spoke of how attached ranchers became to their cattle, especially the old cows that return year after year from the grazing allotments, helping to guide the herd back to the ranch. I understood the rancher when she spoke on this level, her fear of wolves made more sense to me. However, expressing feelings about the protection of wolves remains a stigma, something we’ve been conditioned not to express.
It’s important for advocates to educate themselves on the facts and to stay steady while stating our case. And the facts of wolf protection are clearly on our side. Look at the numbers, at last count there were 110 wolves in the state and according to a January 2016 survey, Oregon houses 1,320,000 cattle. Meanwhile, wolves are still absent from 90 percent of their potential habitat. Last year, a bill was passed to provide Oregon ranchers with a tax break for livestock losses and they are still receiving compensation for verified depredations. The Wallowa County Depredation Committee will most likely reimburse the ranchers whose cattle sustained the Imnaha wolves for a short time. And these are the very ranchers who pushed for the elimination of the pack. Besides all of this, the positive impact of wolves on other species as well as the environment has been documented repeatedly by researchers who spend years studying the issue. Yet science alone is not allowing us a solution to the battles we continually face.
I don’t know what the answer is but I do know how I feel about the loss of the Imnaha pack and all of the wolves that continue to be killed for ranching and hunting interests, or just because of fear. And these feelings are what keep me writing and digging deep for faith that the world can somehow become less about extraction of resources, including wolves, and more about preserving the vestiges of nature we have left.
The snow diminishes as I travel back home. The tall pines shift to Manzanita bushes and scrub oak. Lines of heat waves dance on the road before me. This is the time of year when horses are hot in their long winter hair and wolves pant, warm with their thick winter undercoat. When I arrive the news is there. The wolves are dead, OR 4, Limpy and their two yearling pups. I realized I had harbored hope that somehow, a last minute order would prevent this.
Journey’s mother, Sophie, disappeared about two years ago and is assumed to be dead. My wish for Journey, now in his sixth year, is that he ends like her, a fading signal followed by stillness, followed by his disappearance. In my estimation, this would be a far better end than to have a small group of humans determining the hour of his death.
I’m rebloggging this thorough update on wolves in Oregon. Thanks Sarah, of Wolves in California.
The ODFW released their 2015 annual wolf report, and the news is good: at least 110 wolves called Oregon home at the end of last year. 12 packs, 11 breeding pairs and three new pairs were documented. A total of 33 pups survived the year. Of the known packs, only southern Oregon’s Rogue pack could not be confirmed as a breeding pair, due to difficulty in locating them now that OR-7’s collar is dead. And the number of livestock depredations has dropped as well, despite a 36% rise in the wolf population.
Most of Oregon’s wolves are still clustered on the eastern side of I-84, and that region is quickly approaching, if not already at, carrying capacity. At least 91 of Oregon’s 110 wolves live east of I-84. Only two packs are confirmed to reside west of that man-made barrier, OR-7’s Rogue pack and a new, as-yet unnamed pack (locals…
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Brett Haverstick, creator of the annual Speak For Wolves event held at Yellowstone National Park, has organized yet another rally. This one was held yesterday in Boise. Read Brett’s account of the very successful event below.
Also, please review this post from Oregon Wild on the status of HB 4040, the bill that will finalize the removal of state protections for wolves in Oregon. The bill has passed the House and is now being discussed in the Senate. We still an opportunity to shut this down, so please call and speak up. The Oregon Wild link provides details.
On Monday February 15 a demonstration took place on the steps of the capitol building in Boise, Idaho consisting of 70 people and multiple wolf advocacy organizations representing thousands of their members- including Friends of the Clearwater, Defenders of Wildlife, Predator Defense, Western Watersheds Project, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Wildlands Defense, and Center for Biological Diversity. The event was coordinated to show support for wolf recovery in Idaho and opposition to Idaho’s Wolf Control Board and last week’s aerial gunning of wolves in the “Lolo Zone” of north-central Idaho.
The Idaho Fish & Game Department recently announced the completion of an aerial gunning exercise by the USDA Wildlife Services that resulted in the killing of 20 wolves on the Clearwater National Forest. There was no public notice of the operation and funding for the operation came from the Idaho Wolf Control Board. Funding for the control board comes from state taxpayer dollars, hunting license fees and money from the Idaho Fish & Game Department and livestock industry.
The Wolf Control Board was awarded $400,000 in 2015. A total of 72 wolves were killed with money from the Wolf Control Board in 2015. That equates to roughly $5,500 per dead wolf. The Idaho Wolf Control Board is now requesting an additional $400,000 for further wolf “control” actions in 2016.
Once again, I’ve compiled wolf news highlights for the past year. This is a challenging task and I’m sure there are many news worthy events that I’ve missed. Feel free to add events in the comment section. I appreciate your help! Thanks to Defenders of Wildlife, Oregon Wild and Wally Sykes for their posts on wolf news. This has made my work much easier. For an update specific to Great Lakes wolves read Rachel Tilseth’s post on her blog, Wolves of Douglas County. Rick Lamplugh has also written a state by state review of wolves in the lower 48. With all of these offerings, readers have a thorough update on what has been going on, and what is in the future, for Canis lupus.
January 2015: This month marked the twentieth anniversary of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The auspicious event was commemorated at YNP with a gathering of some of the folks responsible for the reintroduction, including Carter Niemeyer, Dr. Doug Smith and Suzanna Stone.
In Oregon, Journey’s pack was officially named the Rogue Pack, not because they’re rogues but because they range in and near the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Also, a new adult male wolf was seen via trail camera in the Keno area just north of the Oregon-California border, marking further progression of wolves to southern Oregon. Later in the month, another wolf was spotted in the Keno Unit, this one a large black animal. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) reports that there are now nine known wolf packs in Oregon, all of them breeding except for the Imnaha pack. These numbers triggered a move to phase two of the state’s wolf recovery plan.
February 2015: The North Carolina wildlife commission calls for an end to the 27 year old Red wolf project, requesting that the US Fish and Wildlife Service capture all wolves that were released on private property. Reasons given include wolves eating too many deer and breeding with coyotes.
March 2015: Some grim statistics: Wolves killed so far this season in Idaho total 116 by hunting and 94 by trapping. Montana reports 127 lost to hunting and 77 to trapping. This comes to a total of 420 for the season. The total number of wolves killed since Federal delisting (not including lethal control by Wildlife Services) is 2,323.
In Washington state, an overly friendly wolf was caught up and relocated to Wolf Haven International in Tenino. Ione, the only remaining member of her family group, sought company with dogs near her namesake town of Ione. Rather than euthanize the wolf for her potentially problematic behavior, state officials trapped her and took her to safe refuge where she happily resides with a wolf-dog hybrid named Luca.
Idaho Fish and Game reports the completion of a wolf cull program in the Lolo zone in the northern part of the state. Wildlife Service agents killed 19 wolves in late February. The costs for this helicopter extermination was not released. The expense was financed with Wolf Depredation Control Board money funded through the purchase of hunting licenses. Defenders revealed that in 2014, “31 wolves (were lethally removed) between July and January – which comes out to $4,516 per wolf.” In the press release, Fish and Game justified their actions with this statement: “The overall objective is to maintain a smaller, but self-sustaining, population of wolves in the Lolo zone to allow the elk population to increase.”
April 2015: Two Mexican wolves were released by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, boosting the number of Canis lupus baileyi in the southwest to over 100. The wolves released were a mated pair and the female was pregnant. This new family group will bring much needed genetic diversity to the Mexican wolf population.
The BBC reports that five Norwegians were sent to prison for organizing an illegal wolf hunt. The sentences ranged from six months to a year and eight months as well as the revocation of hunting privileges for various time periods. The article states, “They were tried under Norway’s organised crime laws following a high level police operation involving telephone wiretaps.” There are only 30 known wolves living in Norway.
Montana wolf population declined about 12%, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Their count at the end of 2014 was 554 wolves. They also reported that depredations were down 46% from 2013 making cattle losses due to wolves the lowest in 8 years.
May 2015: USFWS confirmed that the animal shot (I thought it was a coyote!) outside of Kremmling, Colorado was indeed a grey wolf. This is the second disperser to travel over 500 miles to Colorado and then be killed. Echo, a female grey wolf was seen near the Grand Canyon late in 2014, but she died in Utah when shot by a hunter. No charges were filed. The Grand Canyon has been without wolves for over 70 years.
A letter signed by 36 Representatives to Sally Jewel, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and to Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, requested that federal protections be removed for wolves in much of the lower 48. The decision was delayed, perhaps due to the fact that they received over one million comments opposing the delisting.
June 2015: An article by Taylor Hill explains the sad situation of wolves in Southeast Alaska. Known as the Alexander Archipelago wolf, these animals live in SE Alaska, British Columbia and the Prince of Wales Island. Their territory includes the Tongass National Forest. Due to pressure from hunting and trapping, as well as habitat loss and timber harvest, their numbers have declined over 60% in just one year. Hill reports a decline of 221 to 89. Greenpeace and Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the government to obtain an endangered species status for these wolves. Some believe they are genetically distinct enough to be considered a distinct subspecies. (While writing this I learned that the USFWS denied endangered species status for the Alexander Archipelago wolf, despite admitting that populations on Prince of Wales Island went from 356 in 1994 to only 89 in 2014. The article mentions that timber sales would have been restricted if the wolves had been granted endangered species status.)
OR 25, a large black male wolf from northeast Oregon’s Imnaha pack, disperses to Klamath County in the southern part of the state. His GPS collar located him near or on the 5,000 acre Yamsi Ranch at the headwaters of the Williamson River. Jerri Yamsi is quoted as saying, “I don’t care if the wolf is here. It doesn’t bother me.” She also said that she believes wolves have been on the ranch in the past.
July 2015: ODFW finds scat to verify that OR 7 and his black mate (determined to be from the Snake River and Minam packs in NE Oregon) have had a second litter of pups. Elsewhere in the state, the Umatilla pack killed three sheep near Wester Mountain. Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says, “There has not been a depredation of this pack for some time. We are in phase two of our rules and that does have a different criteria for when lethal control of problem wolves is an option, but we’re really not at this stage yet with this pack.” Washington state reported its first wolf depredations of 2015. Two cattle were determined to be confirmed wolf kills on a grazing allotment in Stevens County in the northeast part of the state.
An article in The Spokesman-Review reveals how dogs rescued from shelters are being trained to locate scat from wild animals, including wolves. The University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology spearheaded the Conservation Canine program that is aiding scientists in locating scat that helps determine the distribution of wildlife, their diet, hormone levels and other useful information.
August 2015: California has its first wolf pack since 1924! Named the Shasta Pack, five pups and an adult pair were photographed in the area near Mount Shasta in north central California. Protected under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts, these wolves will hopefully avoid harassment as their numbers grow.
The second annual Speak For Wolves event was held at Yellowstone National Park. The event hosted speakers including Oliver Starr, who educated the audience on the need for a safe boundary zone for wolves leaving Denali National Park, and Kim Wheeler who spoke on behalf of the Red wolf. There was music and movies and a good time had by all. We look forward to the event again in 2016. Thanks Brett Haverstick for creating and organizing Speak For Wolves!
September 2015: News is released that two wolves were found dead only 500 feet apart from each other in the Sled Springs area of Wallow County in NE Oregon. One of the wolves was collared and a mortality signal alerted ODFW personnel of the death. The cause of death is being investigated.
In British Columbia the controversial wolf cull program makes media news as pop star Miley Cyrus speaks up against the action. In reaction, BC Premier Christy Clark choses insults over science-based evidence to support the government program to eradicate wolves in order to preserve endangered caribou herds. Nothing is said by Christy of the environmental degradation created by logging and oil extraction in the lands where the caribou herds and wolf packs exist.
October 2015: Oregon Wild hosts its first ever Crater Lake Wolf Rendezvous. The event is held near Crater Lake National Park and included visits with the park’s terrestrial ecologist, Sean Mohren and US Fish and Wildlife Service wolf biologist, John Stephenson, as well as several informative hikes and long evenings around the campfire. We expect this will be an annual event, one you won’t want to miss!
An article in BBC News Magazine reports that a rewilding process may see the return of wolves to Scotland. Written by Adam Weymouth, the story ventures south, following Weymouth’s 200 mile trek. He takes us to where the last wolf in Scotland was killed and to villages in the Scottish Highlands, where wolves would have adequate food and habitat to make a comeback. Hopefully, next year we’ll be reporting progress on this endeavor.
November 2015: The big news in Oregon this month is that the grey wolf loses protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act. After eleven hours of testimony from both sides, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Commission voted 4 to 2 to delist wolves. Oregon’s wolves remain covered under the federal ESA in the western two-thirds of the state, and ODFW officials report that the state wolf management plan remains in effect to protect wolves at this time. Within a month, environmental groups file suit against the decision.
Only sixteen wolves remain on Isle Royale, and a decision is in the making whether to intervene or not. “Wolves would restore balance to the system, and their numbers on Isle Royale should be augmented now,” 47 top conservation scientists wrote in a letter to the Park Service last month, stating that wolves are essential to balance on Isle Royale and that wolf numbers should be augmented now. In their words, “Delays in acting will only worsen the situation.”
December 2015: I must add this article that discusses how wolves may well return to my home state of Iowa, via Minnesota and Wisconsin. Of course, the ones that have dispersed there so far have been shot. Let’s hope Iowan’s will educate themselves and understand the benefit Canis lupus can bring to their environment.
We end on a good note! The congressional wolf delisting riders were removed from the Federal Budget Bill, ensuring protection for wolves that have not lost Federal protections before. Hopefully, this will regain some good feelings toward the Obama administration that was compromised due to their previous passing of the Budget Bill that delisted wolves.
I hope this post has been helpful and will inspire you to continue to do whatever possible to speak up for wolves and the environment. Our help is needed everywhere and in all capacities, from contributing to wolf advocacy groups to writing editorials and calling public officials to educating others on the facts about wolves. And don’t forget to get out there and enjoy the wilderness whenever you can. There is no better form of therapy!
This is a link to my recent article in Earth Island Journal, called Hounding the Hunters. The article reviews the work of vigilante groups such as Wolf Patrol and Wildlife Defense League as they endeavor to protect wolves and other species.