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.