Journey: End of an Era

In wildness is the preservation of the world.

Henry David Thoreau

Eleven years is a long, long time for a wild wolf to live, so for the past year or so I’ve contemplated the loss of Journey and how it will feel to know that this iconic, larger than life figure is no longer trotting through the forests of Southern Oregon. Sadness is there, of course, but also a feeling of celebration, of lifting a glass of good wine to a life well-lived.

Journey survived for nearly a dozen years in a harsh and dangerous world. Several of these years were spent alone, subsisting on carrion or whatever game he could bring down by himself. When he first dispersed to lands not far from my home, I traveled to places he was reported to have been, hoping to see a track, hear a howl, or perhaps catch a glimpse of him. Maybe, just maybe, I spotted him one day, a grey, quick-moving canine, balancing the long hind leg of what looked like an elk in his mouth as he ran across an open field. I’ll never know if it was Journey or not, but I still see that image whenever he comes to mind.

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OR-7’s mate. USFWS photo.

When it was reported that OR-7 had finally found a mate I cheered for him. And then litters were reported, and news of other dispersing wolves following his trail into this region. There was a constant concern for his safety. Would he be poached? Would he be lethally removed for livestock depredation? Would bills be passed that would allow for trophy hunting of wolves, putting him at even higher risk than others of his kind because some would love to have the hide of this famous wolf on their wall? But none of these things happened. Journey survived, reproduced, and led the return of Canis lupus to Southern Oregon and Northern California. If he has passed, it appears it was not at the hands of humans.

Cheers, Journey, and thank you from all of us who deeply appreciate what you accomplished, as well as the noble spirit of wildness that you graced us with.

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Rogue Pack pups. These images were caught on remote cameras in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest on July 12, 2016 and are courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Available from Powell’s, Amazon, and bookstores. Online Teacher’s Guide with Next Generation Science Standards correlation can be accessed at: http://journeyor7.com