Articles have appeared telling us that efforts to trap OR 7, better known as Journey, have so far been unsuccessful. U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, John Stephenson along with another biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, recently backpacked into the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and stayed there for a week with the intention of trapping Journey, his mate, or their pups in order to collar them. All wolves eluded their efforts. The battery on Journey’s collar is due to expire soon and his signal will be lost, making future capture of the pack even more difficult. Besides, its getting pretty chilly for backpacking.
The reasons given for the collaring effort are so the USFWS and the ODFW can continue doing research on the wolves but also to help them monitor for the pack’s involvement in livestock losses. Stephenson is quoted as saying “ranchers in southern Oregon are worried,” and “Generally, wherever you have wolves in proximity to livestock you do get some level of depredation.” Radio collared wolves are much easier to locate. They often become the infamous “Judas wolf” by giving away the location of their pack so they can be lethally removed by Wildlife Services or other entities. There are dozens of examples of this, including the Wedge and Huckleberry packs in Washington.
But there are other, perhaps more far-reaching reasons to put those heavy, unattractive collars on at least a handful of wolves. Imagine if Journey had been a wolf without a collar, like his mate, known as Wandering Wanda. The world would know little to nothing about his amazing 3,000 mile venture from NE Oregon, into California, and back into Oregon. We would not have gained a vast amount of knowledge about the dispersal of wolves, nor would we have this poster child for the importance of wildlife corridors that enable animals to traverse the back country with some element of safety. Journey also represents how Oregon and California are doing a good job in preserving wild and open spaces so that an apex predator like the wolf can repopulate their native territories. And if Journey had been collarless, he may well have been shot and his death never revealed. Who knows how many dispersing wolves this happens to? The one who recently made it all the way to the Grand Canyon is one lucky wolf.
The argument for and against collaring wolves is an interesting one. Do we need to manage them as much as we do, or should wolves be allowed to lead a less accountable life? What are your thoughts?