Washington Wildlife Officials Issue Kill Order for Huckleberry Wolf Pack: Wolves in Washington are getting airtime this week, but not because of any good news. Last week, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) authorized a kill order for up to four members of the Huckleberry wolf pack in response to a series of livestock-wolf conflicts that occurred on a sheep grazing operation in southwestern Stevens County. While the WDFW should be commended for making an effort to implement nonlethal control methods before issuing the kill order, these strategies were put in place too late and ineffectively. Earlier in the season the operator of the sheep herd declined to participate in conflict-avoidance programs offered by Washington State University and WDFW. These programs have been very successful elsewhere in the state and likely could have minimized the problems now unfolding in Stevens County. And once the conflict did begin, WDFW failed to use numerous nonlethal options before shifting course and prematurely authorizing the killing of some members of this wolf pack.
Washington’s residents and Defenders’ members are responding. This week over 5,000 members flooded Governor Inslee’s phone lines urging him to rescind the kill order for the Huckleberry pack. Defenders staff also met with the Governor to press him for swift, nonlethal actions to keep the wolves and sheep apart. Wolves are territorial by nature and wolves will move into the vacated territory of the wolves that are killed. We are confident that nonlethal tools are the future of wildlife management, and that simply killing wolves will not solve problems in the long term. Using nonlethal methods to avoid conflicts before problems occur is the best way to protect both livestock and wolves. This situation is far from being resolved; we’ll continue to keep you updated on our progress here.
Illinois Adds Wolves as a Protected Species: Some good news from Illinois! This week the state added gray wolves (along with black bears and cougars) to the state’s list of protected species. Until now, there was no state law in place to protect any of these species. In other words, anyone could have shot a wolf in Illinois without a state penalty for doing so. This law gives wolves a fighting chance as they slowly reclaim habitat in this state. Illinois does not currently have a wolf population, but wolves from the Great Lakes have been known to venture into Illinois from time to time. Illinois’ move to protect wolves under state law is particularly important if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nationally delists wolves later this year. If such a delisting occurs, all states in the lower-48 — except for Arizona and New Mexico — will gain control of wolf management. The majority of states currently have zero protections for wolves on the books, and this could be a death sentence for dispersing wolves that cross into these states after federal protections for the species are lifted. We are thrilled by Illinois’ proactive efforts and hope that additional states will follow its lead.
Keeping our Sights on OR-7: A few months ago, we thought we’d lost track of OR-7 — the wolf with wanderlust who made headlines for being the first wolf to cross into California since the 1940s. But happily, we were wrong! In the past few months, OR-7 has found a mate and fathered pups. OR-7’s new family is thrilling for wolf advocates since his pups are the first known wolves to be born in the Oregon Cascades since their extermination in the 1940s. Wildlife officials certainly don’t want to lose track of OR-7 now, so they’ve made plans to replace the battery on his radio collar, which is long overdue. This is a costly process, so wildlife officials put strong consideration into which wolves they’d like to monitor and collar. We’re glad we won’t be losing track of you, OR-7 — your life is just too exciting!
Yawning is contagious – even in wolves! Japanese researchers studying wolves outside of Tokyo found that a wolf’s yawning is likely to cause other pack mates to yawn, too. Until now, researchers thought that “contagious yawing” was restricted to humans and primates. According to this research, the more time wolves spend together, the more likely they are to yawn in harmony. Just like yawning in humans, researchers think that “contagious yawning” is a form of empathy; wolves feel tired when seeing another pack mate who is tired. Yet another example of wolves’ complex social behaviors!