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.





9 thoughts on “What’s Worrying Journey?

  1. Safe travels Journey! Thank you for sharing your travels with Journey Beckie, from many miles away we are wishing we could be there to help in the recovery from the fires.


  2. You aren’t doing Journey and his family any favors by writing about his location. You must be aware of how many wolf haters are gunning for him? Displacement by the fire might be a mixed blessing at this point.


    • Your concern is appreciated, however, the location I mentioned is one that has been shared by the USFWS and ODFW for quite some time now. It is intentionally vague, and believe me, if you go up there looking for wolves you have miles and miles of rugged and remote terrain to travel through. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Thanks for your comment.


  3. Thank you for sharing. The welfare of OR-7 and his pack was first on my mind when the fires started near Crater Lake. Now the fires have expanded and I fear for the welfare of this lovely wolf and his family. We are long time wolf supporters and champion their successful return to the western US. I know I have heard Journey’s lonely howl from our cabin in northernmost CA and I hold out hope he is surviving these wildfires now and we will hear the howl of wolves again in California.


  4. Beckie thank you so much for this post on OR-7 and his family. As stated it simply is not easy being a wolf under any circumstance. Let us hope and pray that the appeal of the Bybee Timber Sale by Oregon Wild remains on hold. The drastic affect this would have on OR-7 and his family, as well as all wildlife would be devastating.


  5. I wouldn’t worry about fires and OR-7 too much. In the great fires of ’88 in YNP, very few large mammals died. It’s the small mammals that have a much harder time.


  6. Leslie you bring up a good point, one I failed to mention in my post. Nearly all animals, especially the larger ones, are able to escape from fire. Journey and his family will most likely be fine, and in fact, the fire will benefit them in the long run.

    As we know, but tend to forget when they are raging around us, fires are essential to the welfare of the forests and everything that lives in them. We need to able to look past our own innate fear to remember how important fires are. They clear out dense vegetation which is quickly replaced by new growth, providing feed for herbivores, which feed predators. Invasive plant species are controlled by fire. Some trees are unable to spread their seeds unless they are exposed to intense heat created by forest fires.

    The timber industry uses our fear of fire to promote their alleged need to manage the forest, saying that if they don’t log, we’ll suffer from uncontrolled burns. We need to be wise to their ways. They aren’t being altruistic, the unsustainable logging industry is making a ton of money at the expense of the forest.


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