Wolf, © James Brandenburg / National Geographic Stock

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

OR7 back in Oregon – According to a press release from state wildlife managers, OR7 is an Oregon wolf once again. That is, until he decides to do some more border-jumping. After two months in Northern California, OR7 crossed back into his home state yesterday. The lone dispersing male wolf left his pack in September and crossed into the Golden State on Dec. 28. He remains protected under federal law while in western Oregon and California, and under state law if he returns all the way home to eastern Oregon.

Wolves in the Jackson suburbs – At least three wolves have garnered much attention in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for the wolves. Local residents have been seeing wolves literally in their backyards on the outskirts of town for months now.

Here’s some footage from YouTube:

Even though the wolves haven’t caused any trouble yet, having them so close to people is risky. While wild wolves pose very little threat to humans, wolves that become habituated can become more dangerous to people and their pets. That’s why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that they will be taking action to lethally remove the animals before anything bad happens (see story in Jackson Hole News & Guide).

This sad incident is a good reminder that people living in wolf country must take an active role to keep wolves and other wildlife wild. Making sure that wild animals keep a healthy fear of us helps protect  animals from being harmed or killed. With wolves, simple hazing such as shouting, making loud noises or even throwing rocks can help make sure they don’t come around too often. It’s also important to remove any attractants like pet food or even garbage that might lure them in for a snack. Deer and elk should not be fed as they can attract predators as well. And of course, for those residents living adjacent to wild areas, keeping dogs and other pets on a leash and inside when you’re not with them is always a good practice.

“You just can’t let them lose that fear of people, because that’s what’s protecting them the most.” — Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative

Defenders is working to help educate residents about basic safety around wildlife, including wolves. Living near wolves and other wildlife can indeed be thrilling, but it’s our responsibility to help keep these animals in the wild and out of trouble.

Wolves hunt two bull elk in Yellowstone. Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service.

Elk propaganda in Oregon – Time and again we hear about how wolves are “decimating” elk in the Northern Rockies, despite the fact that there were an estimated 373,000 elk last year between Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and about 1,650 wolves. It appears this propaganda is now spreading to Oregon where there are fewer than 30 wolves and an estimated 125,000 elk (see story in The Oregonian).

There’s no denying that some herds in the region have declined from their historic highs in the days when hardly any predators remained on the landscape. But scapegoating wolves, or any native carnivores, is simply unjustified. The point our wolf expert Suzanne Stone was trying to make in the story, which the writer misinterpreted, was that habitat loss influences elk numbers far more than natural predation by native carnivores.  Elk and other ungulates like deer and moose evolved alongside wolves and other native carnivores for thousands of years. Historically, wolves have played a unique role in culling ungulate herds, removing the old, sick and weak. The presence of wolves also prevented ungulates from growing too numerous or spending too much time grazing in any one area. Wolves are filling this role once again in places like Yellowstone and can do so in Oregon if they’re given a chance.

Bad Idaho wolf bill abandoned – Idaho State Sen. Jeff Siddoway was brought to tears this week when he realized he wouldn’t see his radical anti-wolf bill become law (see story in the Idaho Statesman). A bill he had proposed would have expanded ranchers’ ability to kill wolves caught harassing their livestock by using live bait (like dogs and sheep), night vision scopes, motorized vehicles and even powered parachutes to gun down the offending wolves. Siddoway’s epiphany wasn’t that the methods were cruel and unusual, or that killing wolves was unnecessary. Instead, it was brought to his attention that taking such egregious measures might end up with wolves back on the federal endangered species list. I guess we should just be thankful that the bill is dead…for now.

sheepherder

A herder and his dog round up a flock of sheep in central Idaho's Wood River Valley.

Wood River Project heads to DC – We’re still a few months away from the summer proactive season when we help ranchers implement nonlethal deterrents that help wolves and livestock coexist. But our project partners in central Idaho are already gearing up. (see story in Idaho Mountain Express). Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen said his intention for calling the meeting was “to open lines of communication and new cooperative efforts.” Larry has served as a project member for the last three years and become a champion of wildlife coexistence measures that reduce livestock losses.  Suzanne Stone, our project coordinator, and other members of the Wood River Wolf Project team will also be meeting with Defenders staff and federal officials here in DC next week to help promote the project.

More delistings ahead? – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a five-year status review of gray wolves this week that could strip federal protections for the species across most of the country. Currently, gray wolves are protected as an endangered species all across the lower 48, except for specific populations that have already been delisted (i.e., most of the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes). That means if a wolf wanders into Colorado or California (which has already happened), it’s automatically protected under the Endangered Species Act. However, the status review indicates that the Service is now planning to remove protections everywhere that wolves don’t currently exist. Such a move could make it nearly impossible for wolves to ever recover in important parts of their historic range like the Southern Rockies, upper New England and other parts of the West.

The Service says it’s still evaluating the status of Mexican wolves in the Southwest and gray wolves in the Pacific Northwest and eastern United States. Those reviews are expected to be completed by the end of September. Our concern is that it appears the Service is getting ready to give up on wolf recovery and delist the species nationwide soon thereafter.

4 Responses to “Wolf Weekly Wrap-up”

    • Kathryn L Green

      Agreed. Why can’t they be removed by non-lethal methods and relocated?

  1. Maureen Canning

    I see in the photo about the a herder and his dog round up a flock of sheep in central Idaho’s Wood River Valley that there is either a Maremma Sheepdog or Great Pyrenees Live Stock Guardian dog (LGD) breeds (white dog in foreground). Given all the talk and debate on wolf culls and its ecological impacts why are not these ancient breeds (and others such as the Turkish Anatolian) used more by ranchers etc to protect their stocks from wolves and other stock predators. These special dogs work by warning predators off and will work in tandem with other such dogs to protect large flocks. Their ancient name is Wolf Slayer but they mainly act by bluffing and challenging the predator but will die protecting their stock. They also make amazing midwives. This would help save wolves and allow coexistence. As an owner of a Maremma I know their remarkable qualities. In Australia we use them to guard against the Dingo (wild dog), foxes and feral dogs and also to protect endangered wildlife such as the Little Penguin and sea birds in Victoria Australia. Australian primary industry has done cost benefit analysis of these dogs and the significant reduction in lost stock speaks for its self.

    Reply
    • John Motsinger

      Maureen, you are absolutely right about the Maremma. That is indeed one of the best nonlethal deterrents that ranchers have available and a bid part of where our money goes to support those efforts. Over the years we have helped many livestock owners purchase and raise guard dogs to keep watch over their animals. And the dogs are vital to the Wood River Project in central Idaho. Thanks for reading and please help us spread the word about this incredible dogs and their potential to minimize conflict.

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