Update on Journey and the Rest of the Pack

I tend to worry when I don’t hear about Oregon 7. My fears are of poachers, speeding cars, leg-hold traps, and cyanide poisoning. And there are more natural threats too, injury sustained while hunting, disease, or starvation, like the Alaskan wolf whose radio collar tracked his 2,000 mile travels then served to locate his emaciated body beneath a spruce tree.

But Journey is alive and apparently well. The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) has devoted a website to him and provides an update on his whereabouts nearly every day. Journey has of late moved south from Modoc County into western Lassen County, near Nevada. While there are still no wolves in this location there are tons more humans. Modoc County boasts the lowest population in the state with just under 10,000 counted in the last census, while Lassen County has over 30,000. More potential for conflict, but on the other hand, perhaps there are more folks who see Oregon 7’s arrival on a positive note.

Oregon Wild is a non-profit that does so much to support wolves and was the group that sponsored the contest that won Journey his name.  Their intern, Elizabeth Medford, reported on Journey on the Oregon Wild Wolfpack website last week.  She discussed the recent doings of Oregon 7, including his feasting on a deer carcass that may have been killed by a cougar, his consorting with coyotes, and the much shared photo of him taken by a CDFG biologist.

It’s nearly summer and at first glance, it appears the wolf-wars are in a cease fire in celebration of the warm sun, the birth of new creatures, and the sudden greening of our surroundings. The wolf slaughter in Montana has ended after 166 wolves were killed, and Idaho’s season is closed except in the Lolo and Selway units, with 379 wolves already killed. The order to destroy two members of the Northeast Oregon Imnaha wolf pack is still on hold.

However, behind the scenes, much is going on and most of it puts wolves on the chopping block. Plans are finalizing for the first wolf “harvest” in Wisconsin to begin in the fall with a plan that “keeps wolf numbers above the recovery goal.” Wyoming hopes to kill 52 wolves in the flex zone around Yellowstone National Park, meaning any wolf stepping foot out of the park can be legally killed. Wolves in the rest of the state would be classified as predators that could be shot on sight year-round. The owner of the Flat Top Ranch in Idaho allowed his sheep to lamb unguarded in the open fields, and of course, predation occurred. Wildlife Services is now on the hunt, flying over the ranch in their Killer Bee Super Cub, hoping to kill the wolves that did what was natural but what was also preventable.

The news of impending fall hunts and the unnecessary killing of wolves due to the unwillingness of some humans to understand them is discouraging. But I believe our diligent efforts to speak on behalf of the environment and its inhabitants will, in the long run, be heard. Small victories are being won, Journey is still alive and traveling, the first wolf in California for 90 years.  And wolf advocates are a committed group, giving up is simply not an option.

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