Posts Tagged ‘wolves’

Aug17

Wolf Control in Idaho by Rubber Stamp and Shortsightedness

By Bob Ferris
 
 
As I look at the announcement from last month that Idaho Governor Butch Otter appointed the last two people to his wolf control committee, I am quite frankly torn. I am torn not because I want to support his good faith effort to follow science and do what is right for wildlife, but over which video clip I will use to parody this transparent attempt to make the human equivalent a rubber stamp that says “kill the wolves” look like a legitimate determinative body.
 

In the end I decided to use all three (so enjoy). I did so because each is as ridiculously silly as this shameful process in Idaho and each plays on the theme of too many people with the same name which mimics the Governor’s wolf team that is philosophically monolithic and congruently myopic when it comes to wolves.
 

Certainly this team gets the idea that wolves eat elk and certainly eat cattle and sheep occasionally, but the idea that wolves are driving this system becomes an interesting exercise when one looks at the relative numbers of players on the landscape. I have expressed the below verbally on numerous occasions but it seems to not hit home until you see it graphically and see the scale of it.
 
Cattle and Wolf Numbers in Idaho
 
 

Jul20

I am Wanda. Hear me Howl!

By Wanda
 
wanda
[Editor’s note: Wolves do not speak directly to humans nor do they type their thoughts on computers, but what if they did? What if Wanda spoke?]
 
I am the wolf you know very little about.  I came out of nowhere and jumped into the hearts and minds of people around the world by simply doing what wolves do: Traveling great distances during dispersal.  
 
I found the wolf known as OR-7 or Journey by doing the four-step wolf waltz so known to young wolves of walk, pee, sniff and howl.  It worked and now I have a partner.  And this spring I had Journey’s pups. 
 
I grew up in the wilds where the night air was sometimes filled with howls of others and now it is not.   We hear nothing but each other and soon our pups will learn to call in the manner of our pack.   
 
As our pups grow, we will roam where our noses and prey take us.  And we will still continue the waltz, but now it has a different purpose.  Now it defines our land, our home and our future.  
 
Follow me on facebook here
 
Contact me soon at: wanda[at]cascwild.org
 
 
 
 

 

Jul11

Of Race Cars and Banked Tracks (Elk and Wolves)

By Bob Ferris
 
“At issue is how wildlife is managed in this country. Our belief is based on more than 100 years of the most successful wildlife management model in the world that our state agencies are to manage wildlife within their respective borders. That includes management of gray wolves along with other predators.” David Allen letter to Congressman Peter DeFazio dated July 10, 2014 
Elk US FWS
 
An Open Letter to David Allen of the  Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
 
July 11, 2014
 
Mr. David Allen
President and CEO
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
5705 Grant Creek
Missoula, MT 59808
 
Dear Mr. Allen,
 
As much as I enjoy reading your declarative statements about complicated issues you clearly know very little about, I find that I must interrupt that pleasure and interject a few comments.  Again, as I have before (1,2,3,4,5).  
 
There is a lot to criticize in your letter starting with the disrespectful and unprofessional omission of the “Dear” in the salutation to a sitting Congressman (here are some helpful tips on writing to elected officials), but I want to set all of that aside and focus on this gem of a paragraph at the top of this page and also your general invoking of science.    
 
Ignoring the question about whether or not wildlife in your first sentence should be treated as a plural in this context (i.e., multiple species and in multiple settings) and setting aside the fact that the following sentence is poorly written, this whole paragraph demonstrates that you are laboring under a tall tower of misconceptions as jumbled as your second sentence.  And while it might seem advantageous for you to pull a state’s rights page out of the Cliven Bundy handbook at this point, you should take some time and actually look at conservation history in this country before acting the expert as you have.  
 
While completing that exercise you would come to understand that market hunting—what caused your elk to decline precipitously in the first place—was largely allowed or inaffectively opposed by the states. But it wasn’t until the federal government stepped in with the Lacey Act in 1901 and other similar federal legislation as well as international treaties (Heaven forbid, Edna, he’s talking Agenda 21) that market hunting finally took a powder.
 
Certainly there were actions from both levels of government, but it is a complicated relationship.  And my sense is that you seem to have problems with these complex relationships like, for instance, why wolves and elk are seemingly at odds but really need each other to prosper in the long run.  All this led me to believe that perhaps no one has taken the time to explain these relationships in terms that you can understand—you do, after all, lack grounding in ecology and any direct experience in conservation or natural resources policy.  I have taught ecology, worked as a biologist and participated in policy for more than 30 years, so let me take a stab at that. 
 
You come from NASCAR so let’s start there.  NASCAR is a sport born out of bootlegging and running from federal revenuers.  The best initial drivers were the ones that ran more ‘shine faster and kept it on the road.  So we have a good example of natural selection here as those who did not were removed from the population by running into trees, rocks or handcuffs.  
 
In essence this sport involves running a car at high speeds around a banked track (my wife’s family once owned a tire company and stock cars so she is coaching me).  The car, driver and engine provide the speed and excitement while the banked track—for the most part—keeps cars and drivers from spinning out of control with potentially fatal repercussions.  If you think of the cars and drivers as the "states" and the banked track as the "federal government," this analogy works for the North American model of wildlife management and why it has functioned as it has over the years.  As much as you want to invoke the 10th Amendment you cannot have a successful model without both parties playing and it is folly to think so (see also this analysis on the North American Model).
 
But there is more.  In the western states a lot of the wild habitat is owned by the federal government so they become even more important in this relationship, not less, as your paragraph has characterized.  In addition when you look at Montana, Wyoming and Idaho where the flow of federal money is positive (i.e., more federal monies flow into the states than flow out in federal taxes) the folks who are paying to maintain and keep those habitats are from all over the country and therefore federal in nature.  And since what we are talking about in this proposal by Congressman DeFazio is mostly federal forest lands perhaps a more open and welcoming attitude in this should be exercised by you.  (Just a suggestion.)  
 
The funny thing is that the relationship between elk and wolves is very similar and the NASCAR model works here too.  Wolves prevent elk populations from spinning out of control by overshooting the carrying capacity of their habitat; being too numerous or concentrated thus more subject to disease; and accumulating too many of the wrong kind of alleles (variants of genes) that normally would be selected against just like the bad bootleggers referenced above by the process of natural selection.  These seem to be foreign concepts to you as you continually mischaracterize what is happening in Yellowstone though your organization has paid for and been briefed on the science by folks like Dr. Arthur Middleton. 
 
Moving on to the topic of science, your condemnation of Congressman DeFazio’s lack of scientific justification is ironic coming from someone who has called for a reduction of all predator populations in the absence of any scientific justification for that collection of actions.  This is made even more ironic given your organization’s tight relationships with the cattle and timber industries both of which through grazing and herbicide use displace elk and degrade elk habitat.  And the science on the increased likelihood of disease transference when wildlife populations are concentrated at supplemental feeding stations that are supported by you and RMEF further calls into question your dedication to science, scientific principles or even prudent wildlife management.
 
Perhaps you and others in your organization have trouble with complex analyses or dealing with data in general.  That was certainly apparent when you rolled out your page on wolves and elk using truncated graphs that were purposely misleading.  Your constant arguing that wolf populations are too high because they are well above minimum recovery goals may sound like science to you and many of your adherents, but it is not.  These were simply numbers indicating when the shift from federal recovery management to state recovery could happen.  Nothing more, nothing less.
 
Are wolf numbers too high in the Northern Rockies states as you have repeatedly claimed and inferred? Probably not.  Right now the wolf densities in these states are about one fifth of what we see in British Columbia with about the same land area.  Certainly there are habitat and human density differences between BC and the Northern Rockies states but there is unlikely a five-fold carrying capacity differential and there are many in BC who think that their wolf density is too low.  
 
And while you are madly trying to claim this scientific high ground, there is nothing in your rhetoric that shows any acknowledgement of the ecological value of wolves, their impact on other predators such as cougars and coyotes, and any appearance of a mental governor on your talking points as evidence emerges of the importance of maintaining social structure in packs and the need for large numbers of wolves across a broad landscape in order to realize the promised benefits of trophic cascades and meso-predator release.  
 
Circling back to the original premise for your letter, I will not tell you that Yellowstone wolves killed outside the Park will cause population calamity as that would be just as disingenuous and unfounded as  your claims that science dictates that predators—particularly wolves—need to be controlled and that their current levels are too high.  That said, these near-park boundary mortalities do impact the population.  
 
My concern, which is science-based, has to do with the value of these animals as part of a well-studied population free from interference.  Now you might—having never conducted scientific research yourself—not consider these animals and the data their continued existence contributes to our overall understanding of complex predator-prey relationships valuable but many of us do.  And quite frankly I long for a day when the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is once again led by someone who might similarly value research and understand that successful conservation is more about appreciating the complexity of these natural systems and all their parts and less about marketing fear and innuendo like a pair of jeans or stock car race.  
 
Now granted some of the above is certainly facetious in nature and somewhat patronizing.  And I would be annoyed and offended if something similar was done to me.  But at some point, Mr. Allen, you have to ask yourself which is the greater sin, the facetiousness and patronizing tone I employ or your misstatements and missteps that make this sort of response not only appropriate but necessary?  
 
Sincerely,
 
bob's signature
 
 
 
Bob Ferris
Executive Director
 
 
 

Jul08

US Fish and Wildlife Service: The Leadership and Vision Vacuum

By Bob Ferris
 
"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac, 1948
 
WolverineSnow
I have been spending a lot of time lately reading scientific justifications and policy statements emanating out of the US Fish and Wildlife Service such as the new policy on “significant portion of its range” (see Society for Conservation Biology Comments) for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the leaked documents on the wolverine ESA listing tangle.   This is a painful process because these documents and other related works are often so tortured and mind-numbing.  
 
Well worded and grammatically correct these pieces are so covered with political fingerprints, cripplingly bent by special interest hip-checks and too liberally doused with an absence of courage that you have to keep going back to the title page to remind yourself that these were written and issued by an agency with public trust responsibilities (i.e., the folks who are supposed to protect our natural resources for future generations, including making sure that species do not blink out and that ecosystems still function naturally and not like grand, but woefully inadequate, zoo enclosures.)
 
Being older I have the opportunity in all this for hindsight and vision.  And what we are seeing in these type-rich decrees is not reflective of the former and shows little or none of the latter.  They are, in short, the ministrations of bureaucrats told to fit a square and wondrous peg into a hole of a disastrously diminishing diameter and taking pride in the process.  
 

Being older I also remember the peril we were experiencing in the 1960s and the promise expressed in our cornerstone environmental laws—The National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act as well as the cavalcade of initials that followed.  These were supposed to take us from peril to promise and beyond.  They were meant to stop the rivers from burning, help us breathe, bring back declining and disappearing species and basically stop Iron Eyes Cody (above) from crying.  And they made progress for a while.  But older folks forgot that diligence is always required and younger people never knew what was lost or what could be recovered.  
 
Before I charge off in some too obscure reminiscences, let me return to the Aldo Leopold quote at the top of this piece.  Because when you carve away all of the extraneous parts of any of these documents and melt them down in the crucible of intent they should always have as their immutable backbone the sentiments espoused above by Dr. Leopold.  Always. 
 
If they do not, we should not accept them.  If they do not, we should challenge them until they do.  If the leaders of this agency and others are not insisting that under their watch more is going to be protected and recovered in their quest to do what is right then why would we accept them as leaders?  Any fool can continue to accept species declines, dilute the intent of the ESA, embrace inaction, and make things worse, but we should really expect more from our leaders.    
 
Now the US FWS will claim there are reasons for not taking the above position and ignoring or significantly softening Dr. Leopold’s dictum.  Congress will cut our funding.  The ranchers and timber interests will not like us.  The wolf-110006Koch brothers will finance another anti-wolf video.  But these are not reasons, they are excuses.  The bad news is that while excuses give us comfort and shelter, experience tells us that waiting or avoidance only makes the eventual consequences worse.  
 
Perhaps in reference to the above, the US FWS should consult with their sister Interior agency the Bureau of Land Management and ask them if they could go back in time and remove Cliven Bundy’s cattle in the early 1990s whether that would have brought a better result than our current situation.  Certainly rolling over and peeing on oneself saves you a little immediate grief, but in the long term it just earns you more bullying and beatings—both literal and figurative.  
 
Am I asking for the impossible here, that a director of the US FWS would embrace the above quote and try to brave the “slings and arrows” shot by Congress and industry?  No.  When I first worked in DC I spent time with John Turner, Mollie Beattie and Sam Hamilton—all former directors of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and all folks who stood up for species even when it was less than comfortable.  
 
John Turner
 
“John Turner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director under the previous Bush administration, said in a telephone interview, he and others developed the program that Babbitt carried out to reintroduce wolves and allow killing of problem animals.
 
Other Republicans, going back to William Penn Mott, National Park Service director under Reagan also pushed for wolf reintroduction.
 
"This is a bipartisan issue," said Turner, a friend of President-elect Bush and president of The Conservation Fund.” In Official urges West to find space for wolves:
Babbitt confident animals will thrive
by Rocky Barker 
 
turner_eagle_500I met John Turner roughly 20 years ago when we sat together on a wolf panel at a National Cattlemen and Beef Association forum in Washington, DC—the two of us in suits surrounded by a sea of cowboy hats.  While it was logical that I was there because I had recently taken over the wolf programs at Defenders of Wildlife and was administering the organization’s compensation program, Mr. Turner’s presence was a little less logical.  You see, John was a Republican who had just left the director’s position at the US FWS to take the leadership slot at The Conservation Fund and he was also a multi-generational Wyoming rancher and outfitter complete with a missing finger joint from a roping accident.  Yet he was voluntarily there talking with ranchers (his peers) about the need to protect and recover wolves.  
 
"Economic incentives are the bridge between what we are doing now and what we should be doing for endangered species," said Bob Ferris of Defenders of Wildlife
 
As we are both biologists, our messages were largely similar in that we each argued that the wolf had a place in the West.  Our messages were also similar in that we were simultaneously looking at traditional and creative ways to minimize friction.  I was new to this arena and John helped me through some of the tougher questions on administrative details and history where I had some gaps.  We later collaborated on our shared interest in creating economic incentives for endangered species conservation on private lands.   
 
Mollie Beattie 
 
“In the long term, the economy and the environment are the same thing. If it's unenvironmental it is uneconomical. That is the rule of nature.” Mollie Beattie in Woman of the Woods: Mollie Beattie, a Natural as Fish and Wildlife Chief by Ted Gup  
 
My interactions with Mollie were too few and mainly were more conversations than working together in any traditional sense.  We sat next to each other at a few events and talked about wolves, but I will say that she DirmollieBeattiesimultaneously exuded serenity and a principled nature.  More importantly she was courageous—not only through her illness—but when dealing with Congress.  
 
"What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.” — Mollie Beattie, former Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (1947-1996) 
 
My strongest memory of Mollie was during some hearings in the newly re-named Resources Committee in the House (nee Natural Resources) chaired by Don Young of Alaska.  All during the hearing Congressman Young  (R-AK) who referred to his female colleagues Barbara Cubin (R-WY) and Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) as his “sled dogs” waved a walrus baculum (i.e., penis bone) at the then Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  But Mollie held her ground, defended the Endangered Species Act and stood up to those in Congress attacking this and other bedrock environmental laws.  
 
“So Mollie calmly informed Congressman Young that the ESA was basically a good law, and that she intended to uphold and improve it. Did the Chair have any constructive suggestions?”  Vermon Law School Lawyer and Faculty member Patrick Parenteau in She Runs With Wolves: In Memory of Mollie Beattie  
 
Sam Hamilton
 
Sam Hamilton Phil Kloer Tenn NWROf the three I probably spent the most time with Sam Hamilton (at left at left) who also had the shortest tenure of the three as Secretary succumbing to a fatal heart attack while skiing in the Rocky Mountains mere months after his confirmation.  
 
I met Sam initially through the Black Bear Conservation Coalition that met each year in Louisiana.  Our meetings about black bear conservation when he worked for the US FWS out of the Atlanta office eventually led to other discussions at professional meetings like North American’s and those of the Wildlife Society.
 
It was at The Wildlife Society meeting one year when I ran into a bob white quail and turkey biologist from the Southwest who talked to me about issues of game bird recruitment and expanding coyote populations.  The biologist and I brought Sam into the equation when we started discussing red wolves as a possible solution in Mississippi.  As a result, Sam helped us set up a meeting in Yazoo City, Mississippi with local landowners and decision-makers.  We picked this site because of this area’s proximity to large tracts of public lands (i.e., Delta National Forest, Panther Swamp Wildlife Refuge and the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge), the low human density and the absence of a significant livestock population.   Sam worked hard on this and we got very, very close to pulling it off.  He saw the opportunity here as he did in the Everglades to do something remarkable for willdlife in the true spirit of cooperative conservation.  Who knows what Sam would have accomplished if he had lived (or Mollie for that matter), but if his past was a mirror of his future we expected great things.  
******
These are three people from three very different parts of the country and with different experiences and political persuasions.  Yet all three of them took their jobs at the USFWS seriously and while there supported the Endangered Species Act—including taking affirmative and courageous actions for wolves.   Perhaps the current leadership—many of whom were present during the tenures of these three—will use this and them as an empowering touchstone for their own leadership.  Maybe then they will remember that their jobs should be looking for ever-increasing ways to save species rather than looking for ways to avoid taking steps needed to “preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community” under their stewardship. 
 
Send a message to Director Dan Ashe by clicking this button:
 
 
 
 

Jun24

The Hopes in a Howl and Science

By Bob Ferris0462_wenaha_male_wolf
 
One of the distinct advantages for me of working in a small organization versus a large one in DC with security doors and receptionists, is that I get to talk with people and see how they are impacted by our work.  Yesterday was a prime example. 
 
About mid-day yesterday an animated woman came into our office semi-out-of-breath and beaming. She had a story to tell.  She had just come back from camping in rural part of Cascadia about 150 miles from where a certain very famous wolf couple (i.e., Journey and Wanda) is currently thought to be tending to their pups.
 
“We heard them,” she said. 
 
OR-7And what followed was a discussion about wolves and wolf howls—how they sound and how they differ from coyotes or dogs.  We talked about the deceptiveness of distance and a little wolf biology and then I asked her, “Did this enhance your camping experience?“
 
Of course I knew what her answer would be even before it came bubbling out because I’d had this conversation hundreds of times before.   I did not have to listen to words because excitement was written all over her face and in the tone of her talk.  I cannot say for certain what she heard and whether or not it was a wolf, wolves or “the wolves” and it really does not matter.  She—like so many before her and many to follow—was excited simply by the hope of wolves.  

This concept of excitement over the existence of something that is not seen and often not experienced has been discussed and debated for the two decades that I have worked on this creature of myth and mystery.  The concept of existence value, though demonstrated repeatedly by hundreds of people lining the roads in Algonquin Provincial Park near the US-Canada border hoping to hear a wolf howl (you have to listen very, very closely) or thousands sending comments from New York City on wolf recovery, is a little like the wolf itself; either you get it or you don’t.  
 
The above operates on the emotional and my wife frequently ponders why we even bothered to hire a wedding photographer, because my expression is always the same. It is her way of saying I am a scientist and while I like the howls, I am excited on a deeper level by the ecological implications of the wolf and all that we are learning about this amazing critter. And I may not have been at that campground and heard that howl but I have been reading the literature and the last month or so has been pretty amazing with four papers of note.
 
The first one out of the chute is that paper about the BC coastal wolves and how diet and habitat might be creating genetic separation between fish-eating coastal wolves and their inland neighbors.  I am still digesting this but had a short conversation with one of the co-authors, Paul Paquet, about this when we were writing our piece on the ill-advised delisting proposal by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This is an interesting and thought provoking development and it brings to mind long ago, rancorous arguments in the scientific community about the possibility of species living with or near each other diverging in a process called sympatric speciation.  Good stuff.
 
The second piece in this series has to do with a theme of much interest and debate: trophic cascades.  Thomas Newsome and William Ripple out of Oregon State are the authors of a study that looked at fur trapping records across a broad expanse of Canada to see how wolf populations impact coyote and fox populations.  This article puts the punctuation mark on the idea that trophic cascades—the trickle-down economics of the animal world (only this actually works)—need lots of apex predators across a broad area to work.  
 
Cristina Eisenberg and I have had discussions about this idea that there is a critical mass required for trophic cascades.  It seems key when we look at how broadly we have to recover wolf populations to get the benefits that we need to accrue.  
 
The third article is the one on cougars and wolves.  The research found that cougars tended to avoid areas occupied by wolves.  This makes sense and addresses, in part, the concern that wolves act as an additional predator on the landscape when the story is likely more complicated than that.  Here again, the functional outcome probably has a lot to do with density and distribution and argues against the notion that a few wolves in a few places is sufficient.  
 
The last piece is fun.  It looks at the speculative function of face design and eye prominence in the dog family or canids as it relates Sierra_Nevada_Red_Fox_Keith_Slausen_US_Forest_Service_2010to sociality.  Wolves are the hands down, look-me-in-the-eye champs in this followed by foxes (at right) where we see the eyes but not pupils and then solo wild dogs where it is even hard to see the eyes.  Who knew “gazing” could be so interesting and what are the possible implications here for the social function of face and eye make-up in humans?  All very interesting so enjoy!
 
Without your help, wolf recovery will remain a shrinking shadow of a promise.  We need your help to move beyond this concept of isolated wolf refuges surrounded by hostile territories.  So whether you gravitate towards wolves because of the howl or hopes of howls or the science grabs you or both, get engaged in the process and please get active.
 
 

Jun09

Press Release: Petition Filed to Require Nonlethal Steps to Control Washington Wolves

For Immediate Release, June 9, 2014
 
Contacts:
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 844-8182
Mike Petersen, The Lands Council, (509) 209-2406
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 525-5087
 
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Eight conservation groups filed a petition late Friday requesting that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enact rules that sharply limit the use of lethal control of wolves to respond to livestock depredations. Most prominently the petition asks the state to require livestock producers to exhaust nonlethal measures to prevent depredations before any lethal action can be taken. In 2012 the Department killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack despite the fact that the livestock producer who had lost livestock had taken little action to protect his stock.2019372475
 
“The killing of the Wedge Pack in 2012 was a tragic waste of life that highlights the need for clear rules to limit the killing of wolves, which remain an endangered species in the state,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are effective nonlethal measures proven to protect livestock that can, and should, be used before killing wolves is ever considered.”
 
The groups filed a similar petition last summer. They withdrew it based on a promise from the Department to negotiate rules — in an advisory committee established to help implement Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan — that would encourage the use of nonlethal measures by ranchers as well as produce standards for the Department to adhere to before itself resorting to lethal control of wolves. But livestock producer and sports-hunting groups on the committee refused to consider the petitioners’ proposals, and the Department has indicated it plans to move forward and introduce its own far-less-protective lethal wolf-control rule.
 
The groups also argue that rules are needed to ensure adherence to Washington’s wolf plan, which was crafted with input from a 17-member stakeholder group, more than 65,000 written comments from the public, and a peer review by 43 scientists and wolf managers. Despite the plan’s formal adoption by the Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2011 as official state policy, Department officials and the Commission have publicly stated they view the plan as merely advisory and key provisions of the plan were ignored when the Wedge Pack was killed. The Commission also adopted a rule last summer that allows wolves to be killed under circumstances the wolf plan does not permit, and the Department has proposed additional changes and definitions of terms to allow even more wolf killing.
 
“The return of wolves is a boon for Washington,” said Mike Petersen, executive director for The Lands Council. “Not only is it good for the forest and mountains of Washington that need the balance provided by top predators, but a fledgling tourist industry is developing around the viewing of this majestic creature.”
 
Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. They began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to 52 wolves today. Yet Washington’s wolves are far from recovered and face ongoing threats. Last fall a wolf in Pasayten was killed by a deer hunter, and in April of this year, a reward was offered by state officials and conservation groups for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the illegal shooting of a wolf found dead in February in Stevens County. 
 
The petition to increase protections for wolves was filed by groups representing tens of thousands of Washington residents, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.
 
Today’s filing of the petition with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission starts the clock ticking on a 60-day statutory period within which the state must respond. If the petition is denied, groups intend to appeal for a final decision by Governor Inslee.
 
                                                              ####
 

Jun04

OR-7 and Wanda are Parents!!

By Bob FerrisOR7+pups (1)
 
We are very, very pleased as new parents to announce that OR-7 (Journey) and Wanda actually do have pups this year.  This is so, so exciting and makes it even more important to contact the California Fish and Game Commission regarding state Endangered Species Act listing of gray wolves because now OR-7 and Wanda have young and so we have a group of wolves whose Alpha male has visited California three out of the last four years.  
 
 

May20

California Needs to Get Off the Dime on Wolves

By Bob FerrisOR7_odfw
 
Now that we have had time to get our elation at least a little under control, there are a lot of implications and questions that should come out of this situation with OR-7, Wanda (our name for the wandering wolf that has likely become OR-7’s mate) and the potential pups in the southern Cascades of Oregon.  We should first take some time to be grateful for this happenstance but also to think about what it means. 
 
 
What questions? For instance, we often characterize OR-7 as a wanderer, but what about Wanda?  Where did she come from? The likely options are Idaho, northeastern Oregon and the Northern Cascades—either from the Rockies or the coastal genetic units.  Any of these options are good as they show that OR-7 is not an anomaly and that our work to protect these important corridors yields results.  
 
As mentioned in the above CBC piece, her origins could be determined by genetic markers found in her scat.  I have to admit that part of me hopes that she came to the southern Cascades from some direct pathway originating in British Columbia or was the offspring of wolves that had migrated down from BC.  It would be nice to see a demonstration of how this mixing zone we have been speculating about works or does not work.  
 
Also given what we are learning about the importance of maintaining social structure in packs in reducing human/wolf conflicts, we should be glad that this pack—if it is to be—will be led by two wolves that have histories of staying out of trouble with livestock.  Perhaps also we can learn lessons from Oregon’s good example and Idaho’s bad one in terms of proactive livestock measures and enlightened wolf management leading to positive results versus a war on wolves leading to bad results for wolves and ranchers.  
 
Potential OR-7 mateThe simple presence of this squatting, narrow-nosed wolf should radically change agency thinking in California. The California Fish and Wildlife Department and the California Fish and Game Commission’s list or not-to-list fence-sitting has to end because there is a huge difference between the novelty that was the lone wolf Journey (OR-7) and the reality that we might have a pack whose alpha male claims dual state residency in Oregon and California.  
Oregon Wolf Use Map
Hopefully the linear, north-south configuration of OR-7s well documented home range, which likely holds clues for future use as well as future dispersal of any young wolves resulting from this pairing or others will be obvious to decision-makers in California.  If it is not I can almost picture a future cartoon with images of Journey and Wanda’s offspring flipping coins in a few years with Oregon on one side and California on the other.  Please join us in urging that California officials get off the dime (i.e., stop dancing around) and list this species under the California Endangered Species Act.  Even if you do not live in California, please speak up now!  
 
 
 

 

May13

Oregon’s Wandering Wolf May Have Found a Mate

By Jeff Barnard
The Associated Press/Register-Guard
May 13
 
MEDFORD — Oregon’s famous wandering gray wolf, dubbed OR-7, may have found the mate he has trekked thousands of miles looking for, wildlife authorities said Monday. It’s likely the pair spawned pups and, if confirmed, the rare predators would be the first breeding pair of wolves in Oregon’s Cascade Range since the early 1900s.
 
Officials said cameras in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in the southern Cascades captured several images of what appears to be a female wolf in the same area where OR-7’s GPS collar shows he has been living.OR7_odfw
 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist John Stephenson said it is not proof, but it is likely the two wolves mated over the winter and are rearing pups that would have been born in April. Biologists won’t start looking for a den until June, to avoid endangering the pups.
 
“It’s amazing that he appears to have found a mate,” Stephenson said.
 
“I didn’t think it would happen. It makes me more impressed with the ability of wolves to survive and find one another.”
 
Young wolves typically leave their pack and strike out for a new territory, hoping to find a mate and start a new pack.
OR-7 has been looking for a mate since leaving the Imnaha pack in Northeastern Oregon in September 2011.
 
His travels have taken him thousands of miles as he crossed highways, deserts and ranches in Oregon, moved down the spine of the Cascade Range deep into Northern California and then back to Oregon, all without getting shot, having an accident or starving.
 
Federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves have been lifted in Eastern Oregon, where the bulk of them reside, but they remain in force in the Cascades. Protections for the animals have also ended in the past several years in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes.
 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed ending the listing across most of the rest of the country as populations have rebounded. A final decision is expected later this year.
 
If a wolf was going to start a pack in a new part of Oregon, ranchers should be glad it is OR-7, who has no history of preying on livestock, said Bill Hoyt, past president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. The group supports Oregon’s wolf recovery plan and is looking forward to the day the predator’s numbers and range expand enough for their protections to be removed.
 
Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild, said the news was “spectacular.” The conservation group won a court ruling barring the state from killing two members of OR-7’s home pack for preying on livestock and later won a settlement strictly limiting when wolves can be killed.
 
“It goes to show that when we act on America’s best impulses for the environment, amazing things can happen. We can bring endangered species back,” he said.
 
Stephenson expected the battery on OR-7’s GPS collar to die soon, so the biologist set up trail cameras based on the wolf’s most recent whereabouts. The GPS locations also showed OR-7 was staying within a smaller area, common behavior when wolves have pups to feed.
 
When he checked the cameras last week, Stephenson said one had recorded a black wolf he had not seen before. An hour later, OR-7 was photographed on the same camera.
 
The black wolf was confirmed to be female because she squatted to urinate.
 
Officials had planned to let OR-7’s collar die, but now that he appears to have found a mate, he will be fitted with a new one this summer to monitor the pack.
 
Stephenson said officials had no idea where the female came from.
 
Josh Laughlin, campaign director with Cascadia Wildlands, a Eugene-based nonprofit agency, hailed the news about OR-7 as “an incredible new chapter for wolf recovery in Oregon.”
 
This would be the first wolf pack in Oregon’s Cascades since they were “systematically exterminated” from the state more than 60 years ago, Laughlin said.
 
Today, Oregon is home to nine confirmed wolf packs and at least 64 wolves, he said.
 
“If confirmed, this is incredible for the wildlands and communities of Southwest Oregon, which have been devoid of wolf packs for too long,” Laughlin said in a statement.

 

May12

Press Statement on Famous Wolf OR-7 Likely Finding a Mate and Fathering Pups in Southern Oregon

For immediate release
May 12, 2014
Contact: Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, 541.844.8182
 
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, OR-7, the famous male wolf that traveled from the Imnaha pack in northeast Oregon all the way to northern California nearly three years ago, has likely found a mate in southwest Oregon and could be fathering pups. This speculation is based on GPS collar data from OR-7 and remote camera images of a black-colored female and OR-7 in the same area. The camera is located in a remote area of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest east of Ashland.
 
If ultimately confirmed, this would be the first wolf pack in Oregon’s Cascades since they were systematically exterminated from theOR7_odfw state over 60 years ago. Today, Oregon is home to nine confirmed wolf packs and at least 64 wolves.
 
The following are press statements from Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director with Cascadia Wildlands:
 
“The news of OR-7 likely finding a mate and fathering pups is an incredible new chapter for wolf recovery in Oregon. If confirmed, this further sets in motion wolf recovery across the Oregon Cascades and into northern California.”
 
“The wildlife recovery success story for the gray wolf in the Pacific Northwest continues with this news. The information we have suggests that OR-7 has likely found a mate and fathered pups. This is incredible for the wildlands and communities of southwest Oregon, which have been devoid of wolf packs for too long.”
 
High-resolution photos of the two wolves can be found here. More background on gray wolf recovery in Cascadia can be found here.

 

 

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