Why our Earth needs her Wolves

How Wolves Change Rivers


Amazing Facts
Thank you to White Wolf Pack


Reason 1: Without wolves and other large predators, ecosystems can go haywire. A 2001 study  found that when wolves went extinct in Yellowstone, for example, the moose population ballooned to five times its normal size and demolished woody vegetation where birds nested. As a result, several bird species were eliminated in the park.

Photo credit: Moose of Yellowstone National Park ~ www~dot~nationalparktravel~dot~com 


Reason 2: Scavengers thrive when wolves are around. The species that help themselves to wolves' leftovers include (PDF) ravens, magpies, wolverines, bald eagles, golden eagles, three weasel species, mink, lynx, grizzly bear, chickadees, masked shrew, great gray owl, and more than 445 species of beetle.
Photo credit: Cougar - Puma concolor carnivoraforum~dot~com 


Reason 3: Wolf kills are also good for the soil. A 2008 study in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park found that wolf-killed moose carcasses dramatically enhanced levels of nitrogen and other nutrients.
Photo credit: Yellowstone Wildflowers | Field Journaling www~dot~fieldjournaling~dot~com 

Reason 4: Wolf kills feed more animals than hunting by humans, since wolves scatter their carrion over the landscape. Wolf kills benefit (PDF) three times more species than human hunting kills. The carcass above was a bull elk killed by a pack of eight wolves in Agate Creek, Yellowstone. The skeleton was picked clean by wolves and scavengers in less than five days.
Photo credit: 
Wolves Taking Down a Moose | King's Outdoor World Blog

Reason 5: When wolves disappeared from Yellowstone, coyotes preyed on pronghorn almost to the point of no return. But since wolves have returned, the pronghorn have come back. In fact, pronghorns tend to give birth near wolf dens, since coyotes steer clear of those areas.
Photo credit: Pronghorn Antelopes. www~dot~westyellowstonenet~dot~com 


Reason 6: Deer and elk congregate in smaller groups (PDF) when wolves are around. This helps reduce the transmission of illnesses like Chronic Wasting Disease.
Photo credit: Yellowstone deer www~dot~digital-images~dot~net


Reason 7: Chronic Wasting Disease is a major threat to elk and deer in the West. Wolves can help by reducing sick animals' lifespans, in turn limiting the amount of time they can spread infections.
Photo credit Wolves and elk : en~dot~wikipedia~dot~org


Reason 8: Yellowstone elk are less likely to overgraze near rivers and streams—damaging fragile ecosystems—when wolves are in the neighborhood.
Photo credit:Elk, Cervus canadensis ~ www~dot~oceanlight~dot~com


Reason 9: Wolves help protect against climate change. A 2005 UC Berkeley study in Yellowstone concluded that milder winters, a product of climate change, have led to fewer elk deaths. This left scavengers like coyotes and ravens scrambling for food, but the problem was far less pervasive in areas where wolves were around to hunt elk.
Photo credit: An Elk Carcass Becomes a Snowy Buffet for a Coyote and Two Ravens Photographic Print by Michael S. Quinton  www~dot~allposters~dot~com


Reason 10: Wolf tourism is an economic boon (PDF). Restoration of wolves in Yellowstone has cost about $30 million, but it's brought in $35.5 million annual net benefit to the area surrounding the park.
Photo credit: Yellowstone National Park - Wikipedia en~dot~wikipedia~dot~org


Photo credit: Wolf Pack ~ yellowstone national park on Tumblr www~dot~tumblr~dot~com




Posted on December 21, 2013

How do wolves play an important role in ecosystem balance? There is a huge body of research that points to this and it is constantly growing. Here is a very user-friendly graphic from EarthJustice illustrating this very point. Click hear for full-sized graphic.

Reposted from Exposing the Big Game


Please watch this lecture video to learn about the role that wolves play in our world, and why we need to continue to work to ensure that they remain safe, instead of heading for extinction.


Barbara Byron originally shared: 
Why Wolves? - David Parsons
_Published on Dec 4, 2013
The Santa Fe Science Café for Young Thinkers presents David Parsons, Carnivore Conservation Biologist at the Rewilding Institute in Albuquerque, discussing "Why Wolves?" Date: November 12, 2013. The Café is sponsored by the Santa Fe Alliance for Science, the Santa Fe Public Schools, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the Fractal Foundation and the Santa Fe Institute._
#wolves #mexicangraywolfrecovery #mexicangraywolves 
#environment #conservation

RePosted on December 12, 2013
from Exposing the Big Game

The following letter from a friend and fellow blogger/photographer, Ingrid Taylar, completely annihilates Time Magazine’s recent anti-wildlife article, “America’s Pest Problem…
Coyote Photo©Jim Robertson

Dear Editor:

David von Drehle’s piece, “America’s Pest Problem,” barely touches on the crux of the issue which is our own exponentially growing population combined with our gluttonous appetite for land and resources, all of which present wild animals with fewer options. He describes our ecological role in heroic terms, without delving into the much more complicated morass of human intrusion. We encroach on wild spaces, sterilize formerly complex habitats with subdivisions and lawns, raze and trample forests to provide grazing lands for cattle, pollute water sources with our industrial production of food and materials, poison critical plants like milkweed out of existence for Monarch butterflies and bees, build roadways through critical migration corridors, produce trash to the degree that there is no feasible way to dispose of it all, plasticize the oceans, and so forth. But what conclusion does von Drehle derive? That we kill too rarely. It takes a lot of gall to argue for lethal methods against wildlife as a solution when we are, in fact, the most damaging and lethal ecological presence ourselves, literally altering our ecosystems and forcing other species to survive and seek out food sources within the realm of hazards and limitations we impose.

To present the issue as simplistically as David von Drehle does is lazy journalism. The piece ignores important environmental considerations while also leaving out the known problems with lethal control. He doesn’t grapple, for instance, with the paradox that despite unregulated and often brutal killing and trapping of animals like coyotes, their populations explode nonetheless. He ignores the biological principles which suggest that killing meso predators leaves gaping niches which are then filled by even more animals. He engages fear mongering over the presence of apex predators, not seeming to fully grasp that animals like wolves help balance our ecosystems more effectively than any human management plan. He doesn’t mention, for instance, the concept of trophic cascades, where healthy wolf populations lead to numerous benefits for plants and animals which now thrive because of this restored balance. At the same time, he leaves out information about state wildlife programs which actually work to keep deer abundant for hunting purposes, or which promote habituation by allowing hunting over bait. He makes little issue of the fact that populations of feral pigs in many cases were encouraged for sport hunting. These are but a few examples that point to a much murkier underbelly and even a deliberate complicity by humans in these problems.

There are success stories about urban and suburban coexistence with wildlife that don’t involve mass slaughter. Marin County in California is one such place, replacing lethal predator control with creative ideas about managing our lives, our needs, our farms and our lands in the context of a more compassionate, progressive and sound ethic toward wildlife. Von Drehle argues for an archaic, 19th century model of wildlife “management” which drastically underestimates what we can achieve through more thoughtful and advanced paradigms of understanding and conflict resolution. Von Drehle says it’s time for a new perspective on hunting and wildlife control in the 21st century. On this, I agree. What he misses, however, is that better models do exist and are being improved based on our increased scientific awareness of wild animals and their inherent value. Instead, he looks backward for answers, to an era and an ethic when killing and exploitation were the applied solutions for almost all issues involving wildlife. As a species and as individuals, we are much better than this. But you’d never know it from this article.



Dinner for two: Each evening after a hard-day's hunting this pair of unlikely friends met for supper
Photo by: Lassi Rautiainen

By Anna Edwards
Published: 10:12 EST, 4 October 2013 | UPDATED: 05:28 EST, 5 October 2013

A She-Wolf and a Brown Bear .
The profound partnership between a she-wolf and a brown bear in the wilds of northern Finland. For days, he witnessed the strange pair meet every evening to share food after a hard day of hunting. No one knows when or how this relationship was formed, but it is certain that by now each of them needs the other. Photo by: Lassi Rautiainen

Both are meant to be isolated hunters that strike fear into everything they meet.
But this male bear and female wolf clearly see the  softer side in one another and eat dinner with one another.
Each evening after a hard-day's hunting this pair of unlikely friends could be seen sharing a romantic deer carcass meal together as the sun set over their wilderness home. 

Rare pictures show how the young brown bear and grey wolf would sit down to eat together and even enjoy romantic views over the landscape for up to two-hours

The unlikely friends could be seen sharing a romantic deer carcass meal together as the sun set over their wilderness home

These best friends were spotted meeting up every night for ten days straight

Share with me! The predators would happily share their spoils with each other

Welcome to the club: The bears seemed to welcome the lone wolf into their company in Finland

The heart-warming pictures of this unusual partnership were captured by nature photographer Lassi Rautiainen, 56, in the wilds of northern Finland.
'No-one can know exactly why or how the young wolf and bear became friends,' said Lassi.
'I think that perhaps they were both alone and they were young and a bit unsure of how to survive alone. 

'It seems to me that they feel safe being together, and so every evening met up for their dinner.'
These best friends were spotted meeting up every night for ten days straight for the time Lassi spent with them.
From between 8pm and 4am they would stay in each other's company for hours.
Lassi said: 'When I realised that no one had observed bears and wolves living near each other and becoming friends in Europe, I concentrated more and more on getting pictures to show what can happen in nature.
'Then I came across these two and knew that it made the perfect story.
'It's very unusual to see a bear and a wolf getting on like this.
'It is nice to share rare events in the wild that you would never expect to see.'

Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Reposted from Canis Lupus 101
November 28, 2013

What is the Difference 
Between Red Wolves 
and Coyotes?

Take action for the Endangered Red Wolf. Petitions below the article. 
~ Stop Wolf Hunts Community
Red Wolves and Coyotes are very closely related and in fact share a recent common ancestor.  The two species do hybridize and produce fertile offspring.  It is usually impossible to distinguish between a Coyote – Red Wolf hybrid and a Red Wolf just by looking at it.  Wildlife Biologists that work with the only known wild population of Red Wolves at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina have to do DNA tests to be sure.

Red Wolves are a critically endangered species with only about 100 individuals existing in the wild in the world, all of them in the Alligator River NWR area of North Carolina.  Coyotes, although not found East of the Mississippi River prior to 1900, are now very common in the wild.

Red wolf female 1287 at MLS. Photo credit: B. Bartel/USFWS.

Red Wolves, as a species, are larger in both height and weight.  Coyotes usually weigh between 25 and 35 pounds while Red Wolves usually weigh between 50 and 80 pounds.  Red Wolves are more massive in the head, chest, legs and feet. There can be size overlap between the species.  Some Red Wolves are in fact smaller that some Coyotes.

Coyotes tend to have a longer, narrower, muzzle than Red Wolves do.
Red wolves are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs; there is sometimes a reddish color behind their ears, on their muzzle, and toward the backs of their legs.  However, many Red Wolves can have the same colors as coyotes which tend to be light gray with some black on the tips of their outer hairs.

Red Wolves howls are similar to Coyotes but tend to be of longer duration and lower in pitch.  Coyotes tend to have more yapping intermixed with the howls.  Again, it can be almost impossible to tell the difference in some individuals.

It used to be believed that Coyotes didn’t hunt in packs like wolves but pack hunting coyotes have now been observed in the wild.

The Eastern Coyote is different from the Western Coyote in size, genetics and behavior.  This is due to interbreeding with wolves.  Eastern Coyotes have wolf genes and therefore are taking on wolf characteristics.  This happened when the wolf population in the Eastern United States was hunted almost to extinction and had dwindled to a small enough size that they would breed with Coyotes instead of chasing them off or killing them.

Red Wolves howls are similar to Coyotes but tend to be of longer duration and lower in pitch.  Coyotes tend to have more yapping intermixed with the howls.  Again, it can be almost impossible to tell the difference in some individuals.

If you are anywhere in Eastern North America, outside of coastal North Carolina, and observe a large wolf-like animal, it is almost certainly an Eastern Coyote or possibly a Gray Wolf  that someone had as a pet and dumped in the wild.

Source :

RedWolf Websites :

Some Red Wolf Facts

Historical Range

The red wolf’s historic range covered the southeastern portion of the United States, reaching as far west as Texas and north to Illinois.

Current Range

One managed wild population of approximately 200 Red Wolves in the Outer Banks area of North Carolina covering 1.7 million acres of private and public land known as Alligator River. Additional site at St. Vincent’s Island National Wildlife Refuge near Apalachicola, FL.


Preferred habitat is warm, moist, and densely vegetated; although they were also present in pine forest, bottom land hardwood forests, coastal prairies, and marshes.

4 - 5 feet in length from tip of nose to tip of tail; approximately 26 inches tall at the shoulder; 40 - 75 lbs 

Red Wolves are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs, often with a reddish, cinnamon color on their ears, head and legs.  Red wolves are smaller than gray wolves and larger than coyotes.  They have tall pointed ears and long legs with large feet.


High pitched howl, low grunts or barks. 

Eating Habits

White-tailed deer, raccoons, and smaller mammals such as rabbits, rodents, and nutria.


Breeding season is once per year, January through March.  1 - 9 pups are born 63 days later in April or May. Their eyes open at about 10 days, and it is another few weeks before the sire and dam allow the pups to emerge from the den.  Pups remain with their parents until they find a mate of their own, usually at about 2 years of age.  Red wolves are generally monogamous, and will remain with the same mate for many years.

Life Span

7 - 8 years in the wild; Up to 15 in captivity

Interesting Facts

Some credit can be given to red wolves for control of nuisance species.  Two dietary studies show that red wolves are known to feed on deer, nutria, raccoons, marsh rabbits, and small rodents.  We can assume red wolves contribute to the control of these nuisance species with respect to crop damage by deer, rabbits and rodents; with respect to levee, road and farm equipment damage via nutria; and with respect to predation upon nesting ground birds (quail, turkey, etc.) and sea turtle nests by raccoons.

The red wolf is an umbrella species. Ecosystems which support and conserve Red Wolves are likely ecosystems which maintain a diversity of other wildlife, plants, habitat and landscape features. This creates a balanced ecosystem, its predators included, which means relatively healthy prey populations (deer, etc.) available for hunting, wildlife viewing and outdoor recreation, diversity and other functions on the landscape.  In the same respect, red wolves help control over-population of prey species.  There is data showing evidence that sea turtles’ hatching success increases when there are lower numbers of nest raiders like raccoons.  Duke University has a research study, in partnership with Defenders of Wildlife, evaluating “ecosystem services” - air and water purification, flood control, climate regulation and plant pollination - provided by conserving red wolf habitat in North Carolina.

The following is from a quarterly report written by David Rabon, Jr., PhD, Recovery Coordinator for the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

The Red Wolf is one of the most endangered canids in the world.  Once occurring throughout the eastern and south-central United States, Red Wolves were decimated by predator-control programs and the loss and alternation of habitats.  By the 1970s, these activities had reduced the Red Wolf population to a small area along the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana.  To protect the species from extinction, the US Fish and Wildlife Service initiated efforts to locate and capture as many Red Wolves as possible for the purposes of establishing a program to breed the species in captivity and one day reintroduce the species into a portion of its former range.  More than 400 canids were captured in coastal areas of Texas and Louisiana, but only 17 were identified as Red Wolves.  14 of these Red Wolves would become the founding members of the captive breeding program and the ancestors of all the Red Wolves existing today.

The first litter of Red Wolves born in captivity occurred in 1977.  Within a few years Red Wolves were successfully reproducing in captivity, allowing the US Fish and Wildlife Service to consider reintroducing the species in the wild.  In 1987, four male-female pairs of Red Wolves were released in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR) in northeastern North Carolina and designated as an experimental population.  Since then, the experimental population has grown and he recovery area expanded to include 4 national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state owned lands, and private lands encompassing about 1.7 million acres.  However, interbreeding with the coyote (a species not native to North Carolina) has been recognized as a threat affecting the restoration of Red Wolves.  Currently, adaptive management efforts are making progress in reducing the threat of coyotes to the Red Wolf population in northeastern North Carolina.  Other threats, such as habitat fragmentation, disease, and premature mortality, are of concern in the restoration of Red Wolves.  Efforts to reduce the threats are presently being explored.

via Center for Biological Diversity

Petitioning North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission 



Pack pride ~ Missoula Independent


by Marybeth Holleman

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to delist gray wolves nationwide is flawed because it's based on the total number of wolves, a statistical approach that, according to wolf biologist Gordon Haber, is "ecological nonsense."

Haber spent over 43 years observing Alaska's wild wolves, mostly in Denali National Park, before dying in a plane crash while tracking wolves. To locate wolves, he snowshoed, skied and flew in winter; he backpacked and hiked in summer. He endured temperatures 50 below zero, blizzards, thunderstorms, mosquitoes, and the risk of grizzly and moose attacks. Few modern biologists have such unassailable experiential authority.

Haber's take-home message was this: You can't manage wolves by the numbers. You can't count the number of wolves in an area and decide whether it's a "healthy" population, because what really counts is the family group, or pack, as some still call it.

"Wolves are perhaps the most social of all nonhuman vertebrates," wrote Haber. "A 'pack' of wolves is not a snarling aggregation of fighting beasts, each bent on fending only for itself, but a highly organized, well-disciplined group of related individuals or family units, all working together in a remarkably amiable, efficient manner."

Haber devoted his career to studying intact family groups, especially the Toklat wolves of Alaska. First made famous by Adolph Murie's 1944 The Wolves of Mount McKinley, the Toklats rank with Jane Goodall's chimpanzees as the two longest-studied mammal social groups in the wild.

Wolves go to great lengths to stay with family; when important members are lost, families can disintegrate and remaining individuals often die. Haber knew this firsthand after an alpha female wolf, who, after her mate was killed in a botched government darting study, died of starvation, alone. Relocated wolves travel hundreds of miles to return home. And the first wolf seen in California in 90 years, OR7, has never stopped moving: He's searching for a mate, for family.

Left unexploited (that is, not killed) by humans, wolves develop societies that are astonishingly complex and beautifully tuned to their precise environment. Once, Haber observed the Toklat wolves moving their den because heavy winter snow had decimated the moose population; a week before pupping, the wolves shifted to another den closer to caribou. He also recorded unique hunting methods, among them moose hunting by the Savage River family that he called "storm-and-circle."

Family groups develop unique and highly cooperative pup-rearing and hunting techniques that amount to cultural traditions, though these take generations to mature and can be lost forever if the family disintegrates. After the entire Savage River family was shot illegally in the winter of 1982-'83, Haber never saw the storm-and-circle technique again.

A healthy wolf population is more than x number of wolves inhabiting y square miles of territory. The notion that we can "harvest" a fixed percentage of a wolf population corresponding to natural mortality rates and still maintain a viable population misses the point. According to Haber, it's not how many wolves you kill, it's which wolves you kill.

Natural losses typically take younger wolves, whereas hunting and trapping take the older and more experienced wolves. These older wolves are essential because they know the territory, prey movements, hunting techniques, denning sites, pup rearing—and because they are the breeders. Haber observed this many times: Whenever an alpha wolf was shot or trapped, it set off a cascade of events that left most of the family dead and the rest scattered, rag-tag orphans.

It happened again in April 2012. A trapper dumped his horse's carcass along the Denali National Park boundary, surrounded it with snares, and killed the pregnant alpha female of the most-viewed wolf group in Denali. With her death, the family group had no pups, and it disintegrated, shrinking from 15 to three wolves. That summer, for hundreds of thousands of park visitors, wolf-viewing success dropped by 70 percent.

This is not unique to Alaska. In 2009, Yellowstone National Park's Cottonwood group disappeared after losing four wolves to hunting, including both alphas. In 2013, the park's Lamar Canyon family group splintered when the alpha female—nicknamed "rock star"was shot.

So it's never about numbers. It's about family. A wolf is a wolf when it's part of an intact, unexploited family group. Wolves are no longer endangered when these groups have permanent protection, and when we manage according to this essential functional unit. If we leave wolves alone, we'll be the ones to benefit.

The government has extended the comment period for delisting gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection to Dec. 17, 2013. Go to and click on Gray wolf: Docket N. (FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0073).

Marybeth Holleman is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( With Gordon Haber, she is the author of Among Wolves: Gordon Haber's Insights into Alaska's Most Misunderstood Animal. She also runs the blog Art and Nature ( and lives in Anchorage, Alaska.




11/05/2013 @ 2:36PM 
James McWilliams, Contributor
If the October headlines were any indication, the quickest way for a wolf to make the news is to get shot. The Jackson Hole News and Guide reported 
the story of a Wyoming hunter who bagged a wolf, strapped him atop his SUV, and paraded his trophy through Town Square. A Montana landowner shot what he thought was a wolf (it turned out to be a dog hybrid) amid concerns that the beast was harassing house cats. The Ecologist speculated that hunters were chasing wolves from Oregon, where hunting them is illegal, into Idaho, where it’s not, before delivering fatal doses of “lead poisoning.”

Predictably, these cases raise the hackles of animal right advocates and conservationists alike. Both groups typically view hunting wolves as a fundamental threat to a wolf population that, after a history of near
extermination, is struggling to survive reintegration into the Northern Rockies. According to Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, 
“Hunting is now taking a significant toll on wolf populations.”

While the anger directed toward irresponsible wolf hunters makes perfect sense, it should not obscure the essential reason for the wolf wars in the first place: livestock. Michael Wise, a history professor at the University of North Texas and the author of a forthcoming book on wolves on the Canadian border, says that “The challenge of wolf recovery is reintegrating the animals within a region that was transformed by industrial agriculture during the carnivore’s sixty-year absence.” Protecting migration corridors, expanding habitats, and fostering genetic diversity are integral to this goal. But, as Wise notes, “Opposing the wolf hunts does not address these larger issues.”

Understanding what would address these larger issues requires momentarily looking backward.

Historically speaking, wolves got the shaft. When Lewis and Clark explored the American west at the dawn of the nineteenth century, thousands of wolves thrived across the Northern Rockies. Lewis admiringly called them “the shepherds of the buffalo.”

But the systemic destruction and commodification of their natural prey–including the  buffalo, deer, elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep–as well as the subsequent replacement of wild animals with domesticated livestock, effectively transformed wolves–who wasted no time attacking helpless livestock–from innocent wildlife into guilty predators. Federally sponsored extermination programs–which included the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey (later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) hiring hunters to kill wolves en masse–succeeded so well that wolf numbers dropped to virtually nil by 1930. In such ways was the West won. (A similar battle continues, to an extent, in the attempt to remove wild horses today).

Six decades later, buffeted by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the emergence of a modern environmental movement, conservationists were working diligently to restore wolves to their former climes. But the livestock industry had, throughout the century, radically altered the old terrain, not to mention the rules governing it. Twentieth-century grazing practices denatured the wolf’s traditional habitat, reducing the landscape to ruins while securing ranchers’ presumed right to continue exploiting the wild west for tame animals. Michael Robinson, noting that the process of land degradation began in the nineteenth century, puts it this way:  ”the west was picked clean of anything of value.”

Cattle had indeed wrecked havoc. They destroyed watersheds, trampled riparian vegetation, and turned grasslands to hardpan, triggering severe erosion. To top it off, the livestock industry spent the twentieth century securing cheap access to public lands through thousands of grazing permits now granted by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Today, ranchers enjoy tax-supported access to 270 million acres of public land. Seventy-three percent of publicly-owned land in the west is currently grazed by privately owned livestock. Some of that grazing might be done responsibly. Most of it, according to the BLM itself, is definitely not.

No matter what the quality of prevailing grazing practices, one thing remains the same as it did a century ago: ranchers have a clear incentive to kill wolves. As environmental groups worked to form a united front in support of wolf reintegration in the mid-1990s, anti-wolf advocates articulated their opinions with vicious clarity. Hank Fischer, author of Wolf Wars and an advocate of wolf reintroduction, recalled the arguments he confronted as he pushed the pro-wolf agenda in Montana. “The Wolf is the Saddam Hussein of the Animal World,” read the placard of one protester. “How Would You Like to Have Your Ass Eaten by a Wolf?,” asked another.

Politically sanctioned release of pent-up vituperation against wolves came in 2012. It was then when gray wolves were completely removed from endangered species lists. Hunting season commenced with a bang in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Recreational hunters and ranchers–not to mention the federal Wildlife Services–have since shot hundreds of wolves that ostensibly posed a threat to livestock. At times, such as last week, hunts have evinced grotesque, vigilante-like displays. 
According to James William Gibson, writing in The Earth Island Journal, “The Northern Rockies have become an unsupervised playpen for reactionaries to act out warrior fantasies against demonic wolves, coastal elites, and idiotic environmentalists.”

Fortunately, as the debate over wolf hunting rages, cooler heads are trying to prevail. Camilla Fox , Executive Director of Project Coyote, 
an organization dedicated to the peaceful coexistence of humans and animals, advocates policies that promote, in her words, “predator conservation and stewardship.”

Working closely with ranchers, she encourages them to have “tolerance and acceptance of wolves on the landscape.” She highlights several non-lethal methods of management, including using guard animals (such as Great Pyrenees and llamas) to deter wolves and coyotes from attacking livestock, better fencing, range-riders, fladry (flags that whip and flap in the wind), and grazing allotment buyouts,
has already had a dramatically successful impact on resolving conflicts between sheep owners and coyotes in Marin County, California.

Whatever techniques are eventually used to keep wolves off the headlines and in the wilderness, critics of wolf hunting should not lose sight of the fact that, while hunters are an easy (and perhaps legitimate) target for their ire, a lead poisoned wolf in 2013 is ultimately the victim of a century of disastrous decisions regarding land use–specifically, the use of livestock on the landscape. Eliminating grazing permits for western cattle ranchers would negatively impact no more than 10 percent of the beef industry in the United States. Ten percent! 
Seems a modest tonnage of flesh to sacrifice in order to save a species that symbolizes the beautiful essence of a landscape we have lost.

As Camilla Fox notes, “they do a lot better when we leave them alone.”

One of the six Canadian timber wolves
Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife


Wolf Hybrids are Bad for the Wolf,

as a Wolf is wild.
Bad for the Dog, as the Dog is domestic. 
Bad for the Wolf Hybrid, 
who does not know who they are ~ wild or domestic? 
They don't stand a chance.
Wolves and Dogs bred together 
are going to result in 
getting their pups killed. 
What is good about that?

‘Wolf’ shot by Lolo resident was a dog hybrid
Posted on October 24, 2013

 Wolf-dog hybrid shot 
Courtesy photo/Bill Scullion
This photograph was posted on social media by Bill Scullion of Lolo, who shot a wolf-dog hybrid last weekend, believing it was a wolf.


3 hours ago  •  By Rob Chaney
LOLO – What appeared to be a white wolf threatening a Lolo resident’s horses on Sunday was really something else.

“It turned out to be a wolf-dog hybrid,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf biologist Liz Bradley said on Wednesday. “It looked very wolfy, but it was neutered.”

The landowner shot and killed the dog after seeing it eyeing his horses Sunday morning. Bradley said she also got reports from a resident in Florence of a similar animal chasing her house cat up a tree.

“It’s a concern if somebody is releasing hybrids in the area,” she said. “Sometimes they can be more troublesome than wolves. They come a lot closer to people and can be dangerous.”

Bradley said she hadn’t had any other wolf incidents reported near homes in the Missoula or Bitterroot valleys this fall.

However, hunters have killed 12 wolves in FWP Region 2 since the 2013 season started on Sept. 15. The kills have been in the Bitterroot, lower Clark Fork River drainage and in the Blackfoot River drainage.

Statewide, hunters have taken 36 wolves this season. That number should grow rapidly when general big-game season opens Saturday.

In past seasons, most wolves have been shot by deer and elk hunters who encounter them by chance. Wolf hunting in Montana requires a $19, over-the-counter license.

FWP updates wolf hunting results online daily at

[I don't normally peruse the comments section in newspaper articles like this (my stomach is queasy enough already lately). This kind of comment is the reason why]:

onetwopunch – 4 hours ago As a hunter and an anti wolf advocate [hmm, he comes right out and admits it] I am pleased to see that even the hybrids are being shot here. I don’t own a ranch but my elk [what makes them "his" elk?] are suffering and it makes it really hard for us hunters to sell out of state hunters Montana elk when the dang wolfs [by "wolfs," I assume he means "wolves"] are eating them up!! outfitting is one of the most important industries in Montana and we don’t need stupid wolfs killing off our children and our elk. Get with it Missoula and join us in eradicating these vermin! At $2000.00 per elf [by "elf;" I assume he meant "elk";)] we cannot afford to lose any to predators.

Posted in Wolves | Tagged anti-wolf, Montana, wolf | 6 Replies



By Maddie Oatman and Kiera Butler

Reason #1
Without wolves and other large predators, ecosystems can go haywire. A 2001 study (PDF)  found that when wolves went extinct in Yellowstone, for example, the moose population ballooned to five times its normal size and demolished woody vegetation where birds nested. As a result, several bird species were eliminated in the park. Photo courtesy Gary Kramer/US Fish and Wildlife Service


Reason #2
Scavengers thrive when wolves are around. The species that help themselves to wolves' leftovers include (PDF)  ravens, magpies, wolverines, bald eagles, golden eagles, three weasel species, mink, lynx, cougar, grizzly bear, chickadees, masked shrew, great gray owl, and more than 445 species of beetle. Photo courtesy Colby Anton/National Park Service

Reason #3
Wolf kills are also good for the soil. A 2009 study in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park found that wolf-killed elk carcasses dramatically enhanced levels of nitrogen and other nutrients. Photo courtesy Brendan Oates/National Park Service

Reason #4
Wolf kills feed more animals than hunting by humans, since wolves scatter their carrion over the landscape. Wolf kills benefit (PDF) three times more species than human hunting kills. The carcass above was a bull elk killed by a pack of eight wolves in Agate Creek, Yellowstone. The skeleton was picked clean by wolves and scavengers in less than five days. Photo by Brendan Oates/National Park Service

Reason #5
When wolves disappeared from Yellowstone, coyotes preyed on pronghorn almost to the point of no return. But since wolves have returned, the pronghorn have come back. In fact, pronghorns tend to give birth near wolf dens, since coyotes steer clear of those areas. Photo courtesy Brendan Oates/National Park Service


Reason #6
Deer and elk congregate in smaller groups (PDF) when wolves are around. This helps reduce the transmission of illnesses like Chronic Wasting Disease. Photo of elk in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area courtesy the US Fish and Wildlife Service


Reason #7
Chronic Wasting Disease is a major threat to elk and deer in the West. Wolves can help by reducing sick animals' lifespans, in turn limiting the amount of time they can spread infections. Photo courtesy Colby Anton/National Park Service


Reason #8
Yellowstone elk are less likely to overgraze near rivers and streams—damaging fragile  ecosystems—when wolves are in the neighborhood. Photo courtesy the US Fish and Wildlife Service


Reason #9
Wolves help protect against climate change. A 2005 UC Berkeley study in Yellowstone concluded that milder winters, a product of climate change, have led to fewer elk deaths. This left scavengers like coyotes and ravens scrambling for food, but the problem was far less pervasive in areas where wolves were around to hunt elk. Photo courtesy Rich Kirchner/ZUMA Press

Reason #10
Wolf tourism is an economic boon(PDF).  
Restoration of wolves in Yellowstone has cost about $30 million, but it's brought in $35.5 million annual net benefit to the area surrounding the park. Photo shows a Yellowstone Wolf Project biologist securing a VHF (very high frequency) tracking collar on a sedated wolf. Photo courtesy Colby Anton/National Park Service




By Ron Meador | 03/07/13 Earth Journal

Oregon has proven that livestock can be protected from wolves by means other than killing the animals.

From Oregon comes a hopeful little success story about raising cattle in wolf country, wherein ranchers are protecting their herds with colorfully nonlethal alternatives to trapping and shooting.

From the AP science writer Jeff Barnard, as published over the weekend in the Christian Science Monitor:

As long as wolves have been making their comeback, biologists and ranchers have had a decidedly Old West option for dealing with those that develop a taste for beef: Shoot to kill. But for the past year, Oregon has been a "wolf-safe" zone, with ranchers turning to more modern, nonlethal ways to protect livestock.

While the number of wolves roaming the state has gone up, livestock kills haven't — and now conservation groups are hoping Oregon can serve as a model for other Western states working to return the predator to the wild.

Leading the list of those techniques appears to be the practice of fladry, an apparently antiquarian word but a new one to me. It would seem to be pronounced kind of like "philandery" without the N. Sometimes it's written as flaggery.

Anyway, it's a preventive strategy that consists of decorating the perimeter of a livestock enclosure with flapping, bright-colored plastic streamers that hang like socks from a clothesline. Except for being about four feet off the ground, in the photos I saw, they look rather like the pennant streamers our species uses to attract roaming packs of consumers to a new gift shop, filling station or takeout pizzeria.

Fladry is a preventive strategy that consists of decorating the perimeter of a livestock enclosure with flapping, bright-colored plastic streamers that hang like socks from a clothesline.
To Canis lupus, however, fladry is a proven and powerful repellent.

A 2003 research paper published in the journal Conservation Biology documented fladry's effectiveness as a barrier to both tame and wild wolves, and in areas where high livestock losses indicated that wolves weren't intimidated by human proximity alone.


In Oregon, ranchers often use the streamers with other means, like electrified fences and motion-detecting alarm systems that greet approaching wolves with bright lights and  recorded gunshots.

Of course Oregon's wolf population is much smaller than ours — perhaps 46 at the end of last year. But it's also growing fast, up from 29 a year earlier. And while the confirmed livestock losses of a dozen or so per year are small in absolute terms, they would scale up to 800 animals a year in Minnesota if this state's 3,000 wolves were taking livestock at the same rate.

Minnesota's new trapping and hunting seasons are often justified as a response to livestock predation. But there is widespread skepticism that farmers with wolf problems can count on much benefit from these, driven as they are by sport and trophy-seeking rather than by geographically focused removal of the problem wolves.

Whether solely nonlethal means can be sufficient is debatable, too, but some Minnesota farmers are using alarms, guard dogs, even donkeys, and there doesn't seem to be anything about fladry that would make it inherently unsuitable or ineffective here. And the price might be appealing — 19 cents per meter of fenceline, according to the 2003 study.

(By the way, the main impact of Oregon's "no-kill" policy, which has been in effect since September 2011, was to halt trapping of wolves by government agents as an anti-predation measure. There, as here, farmers and ranchers can legally shoot wolves to protect livestock, but sport hunting and trapping remain illegal.




For thousands of years, since humans first began to raise domesticated animals for meat, milk, wool and skins, we have waged war against wolves and other carnivores which inflicted (and continue to inflict) damage on livestock and sometimes human lives, so why now, in the twenty-first century, are we trying to bring back those same animals?

The post-ice age European flora and fauna that forms the environment in which we live today evolved with large predators – wolves, bears, and lynx. Living alongside these large predators were herbivores such as deer, horses, aurochs (wild cattle), wild boar, elk (moose), and European bison. 

Some of these herbivores grazed the grasslands, keeping open meadows and glades from becoming forested by eating tree seedlings, and some browsed the lower shoots and leaves of trees and shrubs, keeping the under-storey open for a variety of woodland plants, including important berry crops, which provide food for many species. 

Wild boar dug up the ground rooting for bulbs and tubers, and created ideal conditions for many seeds to germinate. Even beavers, which were once common throughout Europe, influenced the landscape by flooding streams to create ponds, encouraging water plants and vegetation associated with water, such as willow, to grow, which in turn provided food for herbivores.

Around 5-6,000 years ago, humans began to clear forests for fields and settlements, and hunting of both herbivores, for food, and carnivores, as competitors for game and a threat to livestock, intensified. Aurochs and wild horses were hunted to extinction, and elk, bison, beavers and wild boar were lost from the British Isles, along with wolves, bears and lynx. Across Europe, these species were also persecuted until only wild boar and the three species of deer – red, roe and fallow – were common, and carnivores were restricted to remote, often mountainous areas by the middle of the twentieth century. The resulting change in the landscape is strikingly evident in Britain, with over 90% of forest cover being lost, leaving vast areas of grassland, moor and heath. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the Scottish Highlands, with its thousands of square kilometres of denuded hillsides.

With no natural predators to keep them on the move and prevent over-browsing of one area, deer have contributed to the failure of the natural process of regeneration of woodland by nibbling tree shoots and destroying saplings. Complete exclusion of deer is not necessarily the answer. Our native forests evolved with browsing herbivores keeping the more vigorous understorey plants in check and allowing slower growing plant to compete. When these browsers are excluded, for example by deer fencing in forest regeneration schemes, the understorey that grows back is dominated by the faster growing species and diversity is much lower than in the original forest. Seed germination is also affected by the lack of wild boar to disturb the ground. Berry bearing shrubs rely on a certain amount of ‘pruning’ by browsing deer to promote denser shoot growth and abundant berry production, but over-browsing will also reduce berry crops.

Thus, forest biodiversity and productivity benefits from the presence of deer and wild boar, but relies on the presence of predators to prevent overgrazing. In Britain, hunting can be argued to have replaced the pressure of natural predators, but the pursuit of economic gain rather than ecological benefit has meant that deer numbers remain high and there is very little forest regeneration.

Examples of how predators can regulate the impact of herbivores on vegetation can be found in the USA. Shortly after wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, biologists noted that willow growth along streams and rivers began making a recovery, after years of over-browsing by elk. Beavers began to re-colonise areas of the park where willow was recovering, in turn creating wetland habitat for a number of other specialist species of plants, insects, amphibians and birds. This effect is known as a trophic cascade, where a change affecting one species higher up the food chain indirectly affects those lower down. Another example of a trophic cascade that has occurred in Yellowstone is the availability of carcasses to other species, from ravens, magpies, eagles, coyotes and small mammals and birds, down to beetles and flies.

The presence of large carnivores then, can influence the flora and fauna of an ecosystem and help to keep it in a more natural and diverse state than areas where there are no predators.

Just how important is wildlife and a natural landscape to people? Before the eighteenth century, wilderness was regarded as something to be conquered and tamed. In the late 1700s, the Romantic poets, writers and painters ushered in a new appreciation of wild places; Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote “Nature flies from frequented places. It is on the summit of mountains, in the depths of forests, on deserted islands that she reveals her most affecting charms.” Today, an ever-growing number of people are turning to nature as a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle and pressures of modern life, and the benefits of this are now being backed up by science. An English Nature report published in 2003, titled Nature and Psychological Wellbeing, cites research that shows people who have regular encounters with wildlife had better mental health than those who did not. In a MORI poll for the National Trust, more than 80% of respondents regarded encounters with nature as vital in helping deal with the stresses of modern life. In the USA, mental health recovery programmes often include wilderness excursions and counsellors recognise the therapeutic and stress relieving effects of time spent in nature.

The psychological benefits of wildlife can also translate into economic benefits. In the USA, some $17 billion is spent on wildlife watching each year, and eco-tourism and wildlife watching holidays are becoming more and more popular. People remain particularly fascinated by predators; it has been estimated that wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone benefits the local economy by some $23 million each year, such is the appeal of wolves in a wild landscape. This has positive implications, particularly for some of the less economically developed countries in Europe, where the majority of the continents remaining large carnivores live.

Even though they do not necessarily need true wilderness for survival, apex predators such as wolves and bears have become symbols for protection of the last wild places. The value of such symbolism has started to be more widely recognised, even by scientists, who are beginning to talk about the role of our emotional response to the wolf and what it represents, as a driving force behind much scientific research and conservation. The reasons for this emotional response are many and complex, but in a world where we increasingly control our environment and become isolated from nature in our everyday lives, environmental activist and author Edward Abbey best sums up our sometimes contradictory attitude to wild places and animals; “Why wilderness? Because we like the taste of freedom. Because we like the smell of danger.” Without large carnivores, some of that ‘smell of danger’ is lost, and there is a sense that the wilderness is no longer truly wild. That in itself is surely a good reason to conserve what is left before it is all gone.

There are persuasive arguments for the continued presence of large carnivores and their herbivore prey. If we can find a way to reconcile the physical, economic and psychological needs of human beings, and the requirements of wolves, bears and other predators it will be to the benefit of both, and also a multitude of other species with which we share the planet.


Peter Taylor “Beyond Conservation”, Earthscan 2005

Douglas W Smith “Decade of the Wolf”, The Lyons Press 2005
Stephen Moss “Wild Therapy”, BBC Wildlife, February 2005
Edward Abbey “Beyond the Wall”, Holt & Co 1984
Geral T Blanchard “Grizzly Lessons”, iUniverse 2004
Matt Cartmill “A View to a Death in The Morning - Hunting and Nature Through History”, Harvard 1996


All information contained here 
originates from White Wolf Pack

Amazing Facts

Reason 1: Without wolves and other large predators, ecosystems can go haywire. A 2001 study (PDF) found that when wolves went extinct in Yellowstone, for example, the moose population ballooned to five times its normal size and demolished woody vegetation where birds nested. As a result, several bird species were eliminated in the park.
Photo credit: Moose of Yellowstone National Park ~ www~dot~nationalparktravel~dot~com

Reason 2: Scavengers thrive when wolves are around. The species that help themselves to wolves' leftovers include (PDF) ravens, magpies, wolverines, bald eagles, golden eagles, three weasel species, mink, lynx, grizzly bear, chickadees, masked shrew, great gray owl, and more than 445 species of beetle.
Photo credit: Cougar - Puma concolor carnivoraforum~dot~com 

Reason 3: Wolf kills are also good for the soil. A 2008 study in Michigan's Isle Royale National Park found that wolf-killed moose carcasses dramatically enhanced levels of nitrogen and other nutrients.
Photo credit: Yellowstone Wildflowers | Field Journaling www~dot~fieldjournaling~dot~com 

Reason 4: Wolf kills feed more animals than hunting by humans, since wolves scatter their carrion over the landscape. Wolf kills benefit (PDF) three times more species than human hunting kills. The carcass above was a bull elk killed by a pack of eight wolves in Agate Creek, Yellowstone. The skeleton was picked clean by wolves and scavengers in less than five days.
Photo credit: 
Wolves Taking Down a Moose | King's Outdoor World Blog

Reason 5: When wolves disappeared from Yellowstone, coyotes preyed on pronghorn almost to the point of no return. But since wolves have returned, the pronghorn have come back. In fact, pronghorns tend to give birth near wolf dens, since coyotes steer clear of those areas.
Photo credit: Pronghorn Antelopes. www~dot~westyellowstonenet~dot~com 

Reason 6: Deer and elk congregate in smaller groups (PDF) when wolves are around. This helps reduce the transmission of illnesses like Chronic Wasting Disease.
Photo credit: Yellowstone deer www~dot~digital-images~dot~net

Reason 7: Chronic Wasting Disease is a major threat to elk and deer in the West. Wolves can help by reducing sick animals' lifespans, in turn limiting the amount of time they can spread infections.
Photo credit Wolves and elk : en~dot~wikipedia~dot~org 

Reason 8: Yellowstone elk are less likely to overgraze near rivers and streams—damaging fragile ecosystems—when wolves are in the neighborhood.
Photo credit:Elk, Cervus canadensis ~ www~dot~oceanlight~dot~com

Reason 9: Wolves help protect against climate change. A 2005 UC Berkeley study in Yellowstone concluded that milder winters, a product of climate change, have led to fewer elk deaths. This left scavengers like coyotes and ravens scrambling for food, but the problem was far less pervasive in areas where wolves were around to hunt elk.
Photo credit: An Elk Carcass Becomes a Snowy Buffet for a Coyote and Two Ravens Photographic Print by Michael S. Quinton  www~dot~allposters~dot~com 

Reason 10: Wolf tourism is an economic boon (PDF). Restoration of wolves in Yellowstone has cost about $30 million, but it's brought in $35.5 million annual net benefit to the area surrounding the park.
Photo credit: Yellowstone National Park - Wikipedia en~dot~wikipedia~dot~org 


Photo credit: Wolf Pack ~ yellowstone national park on Tumblr www~dot~tumblr~dot~com








By Geoff Norcross

September 9, 2013

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the wandering gray wolf (click on wolf picture to hear audio report) has spent the summer in Southeast Jackson County and Southwest Klamath County.

“What that tells you is, I think, he’s found some good habitat,” says Michelle Dennehy, Wildlife Communications Coordinator for ODFW.

It’s a rare bit of stability for a wolf whose travels have caught the imagination of at least two states. In September of 2011, OR-7 left the Imnaha Pack in Northeast Oregon and wandered hundreds of miles across the Cascades, becoming the first confirmed wolf sighted west of the mountains since 1937. He’s been roaming around Southern Oregon and Northern California ever since.

Officials believe OR-7 came to the region to find a mate. There’s no evidence he’s been successful. But he’s young – nearly 3.5 years old – and he may not be alone.

Dennehy says, “Where there’s one wolf, there’s another.”
“Of course, everyone would like to see OR-7 mate,” she says. “And you know what? It could happen.”

- See more at:

Photo credit : news~dot~discovery~dot~com 

SINCE 1924

Soon, the howls of gray wolf packs may once again serenade the moon above the Golden State.

On Dec. 28 of last year, a lone male gray wolf, known as OR7, entered California after roaming from his homeland in northeastern Oregon, according to the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG). Young male wolves (Canis lupus) often move away from where they were born, in a behavior known as dispersal. But OR7′s dispersal made history.

Two-and-a-half year-old OR7 is the first wolf observed in California since 1924, when the last wolf in the state was shot. OR7′s arrival isn’t a surprise.

“With growing wolf populations in Oregon and Washington, it’s inevitable wolves will be moving back into California in the near future,” Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told Reuters.

BLOG: A Wolf in a Jackal Disguise

Previous claims of wolves in the Golden State all turned out to be just coyotes, dogs, or wolf-dog hybrids. Wildlife biologists know OR7 is the real deal because he sports a tracking collar and has been monitored since he was in Oregon. A map traces his trek through northern California and can be viewed on the DFG website. To protect the wolf, public mapping of his movements are delayed.

Conservationists believe gray wolves in California will need more than time delays to protect them. The Center for Biological Diversity and three other conservation groups sent a petition to the DFG asking the agency to develop a management strategy for gray wolves in California, reported Reuters.

Gray wolves are still federally protected in California under the Endangered Species Act. But some humans want to maintain their own unchallenged status as the top predators in the American West. Hunters and ranchers complain that wolves attack livestock and big game.

“It’s something we would be watching very closely, and potentially something we would be opposed to,” Stevie Ipsen, spokeswoman for the California Cattlemen’s Association, told Reuters regarding the movement to increase protection of wolves in California.

Photos credit: www~dot~capitalpress~dot~com 




Published in the September/October 2013 issue of Orion magazine

THE NIGHT IS DARK on a narrow slip of canyon floor alongside the North Fork Feather River. The mountains are big and close, their steep, tree-covered slopes tall enough to block out the moon and stars. Flashlight in hand, I follow the sound of roiling water toward the river, though my chances of finding what I’m looking for are slim. My objective is a moving target, one that’s highly elusive by nature and even more so under the cover of a black night.

It is hard to tell at this point whether my path to California’s remote Plumas County has been one of fortune or folly. Online, the “lodge” where I’m staying in Belden, population twenty-two, is an appealing, rustic western Sierra getaway. In real life, it’s a trailer park hotel. But I may well be on the right track. When I checked in and asked about the object of my obsession, the thickly bearded innkeeper with the feral, blue eyes nodded and told me that his dog went crazy about a week ago. “I’ve never seen him like that before,” he said, gazing out the window across the river and into the forest.

I hurried to my assigned trailer, where a large buck camped out front was munching on flower bulbs, and checked my laptop. I scanned back through the reports posted online by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and sure enough he was in the area when the innkeeper’s dog went barking mad. And has been since.

Just being close to where he’s been—may still be—is enough to send me out into the night. Maybe he is up on the bluff across the highway where the hydropower pipe climbs eight hundred feet up the mountainside like a giant snake disappearing into the trees. Maybe he’s tracking that buck with eyes honed for picking up the slightest of movements from great distances, even in the dark. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll catch a glimpse of him—the first wild wolf to enter California in more than eighty years.

NEARLY TWO YEARS AGO, when I first read a small news item about the wolf with the blandly scientific designation of OR7—the seventh wolf collared in Oregon—crossing into California, I was caught off guard by the intense affinity I felt for him and his journey. It wasn’t just the grand scale of his adventure, with the late summer and fall months spent traveling the length of Oregon, his Christmastime crossing into California, the subsequent seven-hundred-mile midwinter foray through the state’s remote northern counties, only to cross back into Oregon in March before doubling back to the Golden State in April. Having logged thousands of miles in search of my own place in the world, I could relate. But the awareness OR7 sparked in me of a moment’s wild possibility had to do with something bigger, deeper, and older than all that.

It was the winter of Occupy, a time for reckoning with the past decades’ economic, spiritual, and environmental betrayals. I had hopes that bankrupt paradigms might fall and something new, better, and more honest might take their place. My own reckonings and rebellions had mostly left me out of money and ideas, and frankly I needed something to believe in. And then came this wolf—this long-toothed shadow of our bastardized best friends, a thing we tried our damnedest to eradicate—trotting insouciantly into California. 

OR7’s return struck me as a singular act of defiance—by god, nature, fate, whatever words you prefer. I rejoiced at his coming south, so far that he was now howling at the backdoor of our failing civilization, forcing us by his very presence to consider the question, how are we going to live? Can we surrender some of what we’ve taken? Can we accept that OR7, nature’s foot soldier, the vanguard wolf of California from the clan of creatures we couldn’t tame but could only kill, deserves some of this, too? Or, will we continue to insist the land and all that’s on it, under it, and over it is ours to do with as we please? Who better, I thought, to stalk our hypocrisies and upend our delusions than the most mythologized and demonized animal in history?

I felt compelled to try and get closer to this young wolf, formidable at 105 pounds, measuring nearly three feet at the shoulder, six feet in length, and possessing jaws that can crack an elk femur the way a nutcracker can crack a walnut. So, early last September, I drove into Plumas County, California, following the North Fork Feather River, which begins auspiciously near Lassen Peak, the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range. The river drains some twenty-one hundred square miles of western-slope Sierra into Lake Oroville, one of the largest reservoirs in the country. It has carried countless dreams downstream: gold dreams, ranching dreams, hydropower, rail, and timber dreams—each a tributary in the larger river of dreams that settled the American West and tamed wild California.

Many of these dreams are dead or dying, but I could still see their vestiges as I drove downslope through the Feather River Canyon where defunct railroad tracks cut into the hillsides and shorn mountaintops peak through low clouds and fog. The occasional Sierra Pacific lumber truck rumbles along the Feather River Highway past mining cottages that dot the riverside and stare down diminishing prospects with the occasional splash of fresh paint and flower boxes.

Except for a few stubborn holdouts, the era of man seems just about done in Plumas County. It’s an eerie, forgotten landscape, and there’s a certain poetic justice in OR7’s arrival. Bounty hunters killed OR7’s last remaining California cousin near here in 1924, back when wolves were considered to be an enemy of manifest destiny. OR7, though, doesn’t seem to have revenge in mind. He has yet to take sheep or cow from the descendants of those who shot, trapped, poisoned, and burned his kind to extinction in the West.

But this hasn’t stopped some locals from greeting his arrival as if the devil himself were paying a visit. As soon as his epic trek signaled a wolf with Golden State aspirations, the hysteria began. To calm local fears of pending doom, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted public meetings featuring wildlife officials, celebrity wolf experts, government resources managers, and a highly agitated public—all awaiting the imminent arrival of a solitary, thirty-month-old Canis lupus.

After one meeting, Marcia Armstrong, a supervisor for Siskiyou County, where OR7 dallied briefly before moving on, told the Los Angeles Times that she would like to see all encroaching wolves “shot on sight.” Adding to the tinder were ranchers warning that a wolf repopulation would be “catastrophic.” Other folks spread rumors of conspiratorial wolf smuggling by federal agencies, and of a government out to trample rights and make it harder to log, mine, and dam the rural West.

Those sympathetic to OR7’s plight had very different demands. Some even pleaded with officials to import a mate for the lone wolf, who was clearly looking for love in all the wrong places.

BACK ALONG THE BANKS of the North Fork Feather River, the water is just a moving silhouette. I turn off the flashlight and crouch down at the river’s edge, scanning the area without moving my head, trying to be as still as possible, looking for movement the way OR7 might, though at 120-degrees of arc my visual field is only two-thirds of his.

Wolf stories, like ghost stories, emerge through insinuation and grow into their own kind of lore: large tracks in the mud, a moonlit howling that is too resonant to be the nattering of coyotes, a tingle down the spine. Or, if you’re an unlucky rancher, a hollowed-out rib cage where once was a sheep or calf. A wolf seen is a wolf seen mostly by accident, happy or otherwise.

I turn my back to the river and face the other way, toward the hillside, where that buck outside my trailer probably came from. The air is still. Nothing moves but gnats and mosquitoes. No sounds but the gurgling river. I feel exposed, not so much hunted as haunted. And I like it.

The next morning, I drive further north, into territory OR7 may be claiming for himself. The road passes through Lassen National Forest and eventually skirts under the 14,179-feet-high Mount Shasta, just about an hour from where OR7 crossed over from Oregon. The route travels a California rarely seen by those who live within the clutches of the coastal megalopolises. Here, salmon run in the rivers and bald eagles fly so low you can almost look them in the eye.

OR7 crossed this road and others many times as he traveled south. I scan the valley floors, farms, and ranches, picturing him loping along the edge of the highway at night, filled with the curiosity and the courage of one whose only experience of fear is that which he inspires. I see him stealing through private property where easy meals and misguided liaisons with canine cousins tempt his hungry soul. I imagine all the itchy fingers waiting for a shot at his shadow.

The air feels wild and dangerous and alive in a new way. So do I. And I begin to understand even more why OR7’s incursion matters, why the land is so relieved to feel his feet pushing down into its soil once again. The land knows what I know driving into the untamed night—that we’re less than we can be without him.

KAREN KOVACS, the wildlife program manager for California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s northern region, has agreed to meet me at her office in the coastal town of Eureka. When I arrive, it is damp and foggy and Kovacs says she’s exhausted. OR7’s arrival has put a mountain of to-dos in her threadbare department’s inbox. Foremost among them is the petition filed by several environmental organizations to get gray wolves—this gray wolf—protected under the California Endangered Species Act. The petition triggers a taxing process of studies, peer reviews, hearings, and a series of votes, beginning with whether or not it is even warranted.

It’s hard for Kovacs to imagine another animal getting this much attention. She points out that a wolverine, absent from California for as long as wolves, has recently made it into the Sierra with little fanfare. “People go cuckoo over wolves,” she says. “We’re not managing wildlife; we’re managing people and people’s perception of wildlife to a large degree. With OR7, you can almost draw the lines politically.”

Those lines are basically drawn at how far we will go to accommodate wolves. How many entitlements—from hunting to heehawing in the backcountry on snowmobiles to grazing livestock on public lands—are we willing to forego to ensure that they are also part of the landscape?

From the beginning, the answer was the least number possible. Gray wolf reintroduction in the West was so controversial when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began bringing wolves back into Yellowstone in 1995, that the agency had little choice but to define Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves as an “experimental, nonessential species.” That meant that no critical habitat would be set aside for them, and no restrictions on economic interests would accompany the recovery effort. The prevailing logic was that since wolves came with so much baggage—as fabled beasts revered and feared in folklore and fairytale, and as supposedly depraved killers of livestock—the species couldn’t withstand the backlash against land-use restrictions the way the spotted owl could. But as apex predators whose domain once covered all of North America, wolves are indeed a land-use issue. We got rid of them and Native Americans at around the same time and for roughly the same reason: they were in the way.

It wasn’t long after the questions of wolves (eradicated) and Native Americans (mostly eradicated) were resolved that settlers had license to do just about anything they wanted with the land. Not surprisingly, this led to the extreme overgrazing that culminated in the Dust Bowl, and which spurred Franklin Roosevelt to sign the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, a modest initial attempt at reining in free-range ranchers. This was followed by the establishment of the Bureau of Land Management, as well as nascent notions that public lands were for more than cattle, logging, mining, and railroad interests. Then came expansions to the National Park system, the creation of the Endangered Species Act, and, from a rancher’s perspective, lawsuit-happy tree huggers making it harder and harder to earn a living off the land.

As wolves like OR7 move farther west from the Northern Rockies, they do, in fact, give conservationists a powerful new weapon with which to relitigate a number of policy wars over the disposition of public lands. Returning wolves are the canaries in the coal mine for other decimated species—brown bears, bison, and the once-vast herds of ungulates that grazed the land before cattle displaced them. As such, they carry much of the weight of the past, and the fight for the future, on their backs.

It’s a fight the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service evidently hoped to duck out on as soon it could declare the gray wolf “recovered.” In order to do that, the agency determined there must be a minimum of three hundred wolves and thirty breeding pairs spread across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Of course, how many wolves are enough to ensure the survival of a species practically wiped from the lower forty-eight states is a question without a real answer. Nonetheless, based on those numbers, federal protections on wolves in those states were lifted in 2011, and responsibility reverted to state agencies.

Gray wolves still enjoy Endangered Species Act protection in Washington, Oregon, and California, where their numbers are negligible—or just one. But that may be fleeting as well. The Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced its intention to lift all federal protections for gray wolves, except for the tiny Mexican gray wolf populations in New Mexico and Arizona, thus leaving California to decide for itself how it wants to deal with OR7 and his brethren.

Meanwhile, OR7 goes about his business. A prodigious traveler, he has already covered roughly three thousand miles in his peripatetic existence, indicating estimable strength and endurance. He’s a first-rate hunter who dines mostly on deer and small game, and has now made it through two winters alone. When chasing prey, he can achieve bursts of nearly forty miles per hour, covering fifteen feet in a single bound. He has also shown a knack for taking over elk kills from mountain lions—a wise choice since a lone wolf is much more vulnerable to mortal injury than a pack wolf.

OR7 spends a good amount of time communicating with one leg lifted, marking trees, game trails, and carcasses, and covering other animals’ marks—delineating a vast territory and sending out messages. Some are warnings, others invitations. Wolves are gregarious by nature and often monogamous, so OR7 is likely scattering calling cards of a sort, expressing his desire to settle down with a mate and start a pack of his own. Given the dearth of eligible companions, he’s mostly talking to himself.

I ask Kovacs what might be motivating OR7’s prolonged travels. “You were young once,” she says. “What were you thinking? This is normal behavior for young wolves.” But OR7 isn’t exactly young anymore. He’s creeping up on middle age for a wolf, and this wolf is without the safety, structure, and society of a pack. Kovacs doesn’t deny that every day OR7 turns up on her radar is a surprise.

“It’s a hard life out there,” she concedes. “Wolves that move this great of a distance are usually a genetic dead end.”

A YOUNG GRAY WOLF stands on the Idaho banks of the Snake River on a fall day in a land where winter comes early and leaves late. The wolf contemplates taking the leap. What would make him or her plunge into the cold current and swim for the other side? It’s what young, would-be alphas do. They disperse in search of new mates and new territory, thereby strengthening the gene pool and reducing habitat stress.

A wolf could do worse than Oregon’s Wallowa County. It’s a beautiful, rugged patch twice the size of Rhode Island with only seven thousand humans, dominated by the Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, and the Zumwalt Prairie, one of the largest savannas on the continent. For an ungulate-eating apex predator, the area—with an estimated 22,400 mule deer, 2,500 white-tailed deer, and 15,600 Rocky Mountain elk—is a promised land.

If the wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone nearly twenty years ago were going to continue their westward expansion, that river needed to be crossed. But when it was, the other side was less than welcoming. The first known wolf to brave the crossing was captured in 1999, put in a crate, and shipped back to Idaho. The next year, two more wolves from Idaho were found dead, one hit by a car, the other shot.

Wolves, though, are nothing if not intrepid, and in January 2008, a radio-collared female wolf from Idaho, soon to be known as OR2, found a fellow traveler soon to be christened OR4. They crossed the river successfully, and together they started the Imnaha pack, named for a spot they favored along the Imnaha River. OR7 was born into their second litter in 2009, one of five pups in a family of immigrants. By 2010, the pack had at least fourteen members.

The usual howls of ruination greeted the arrival of Idaho’s wolves in Northeast Oregon, even though the Imnaha pack averaged only about a cattle kill a month. In May 2011, two members of the pack were killed, and an order to kill two more was issued by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife that September, until legal challenges put a stay on wolf executions in Oregon. Nonetheless, OR7 decided it was time to go and started off on his walkabout.

The Imnaha pack’s territory cuts a vast, crescent-shaped swath around the small Wallowa County town of Joseph, Oregon, nestled in the lap of Sacajawea Peak. It’s one of the key battlegrounds in the wolf wars, and a local named Dale Potter, with a flair for the dramatic, has his sights set on OR7’s relatives. Potter, who flew helicopters in Vietnam, and says he still craves excitement, leads rallies encouraging folks to “smoke a pack a day” and to “shoot, shovel, and shut up.” He posts signs around the area proclaiming wolves to be “sadistic killers” smuggled back into the area by their brothers-in-arms, the Nez Perce tribe, which, he says, wants to reclaim its land. “The wolf has kept me busy,” says Potter. At the frenzied height of his wolf demonizing, a panicked local rancher reportedly got down on his knees in church and prayed that wolves wouldn’t kill him and his family.

Potter’s paranoia and demagoguery may seem practiced, but they articulate genuine anxieties that began in earnest when the sawmills started shutting down. The mills, says Potter, were the thread that stitched the fabric of this community together. When the jobs left, families left, schools closed, and things began to unravel in ways that cappuccino drinking second-home owners couldn’t quite put back together. For him, the reappearance of wolves symbolizes the sort of governmental interference and environmental regulations that he believes kill jobs and destroy a way of life he wants to preserve.  “I don’t hate the wolf,” says Potter. “I hate the politics that brought this invasive species here.”

I ask him if he’s ever seen a wolf. “To tell you the truth,” he replies, “I have not seen a wolf.”

AT FIVE THOUSAND FEET, Joseph is blanketed in fresh snow on the weekend before Halloween. With its quaint, Old-West ambience, the town already feels like a Christmas card come to life, and when Wally Sykes walks into one of the few restaurants open after eight p.m., he looks like an undersized Kris Kringle. We sit down for dinner at a wood table near the bar as burly men with thick beards give us the stink eye. Sykes is used to this by now. “It’s strange to be actively involved in a schism within a community,” he says.

Sykes is Joseph’s most outspoken wolf advocate, and he has agreed to take me into Imnaha pack territory the next morning. Before he started trying to save wolves, Sykes rescued his Malamute, Kumo, who had wandered into a fur trapper’s snare. The explicit cruelty of trapping spurred him to start TrapFree Oregon, and it was only a matter of time until he was dragged into the wolf wars.

Sykes became a full-fledged activist after coming upon tracks near his home at the base of the Wallowa Mountains. They were canine for sure, but the animal’s gait and paw size dwarfed those of his hundred-pound dog. “I never thought I’d be seeing wolves in my lifetime,” says Sykes. “I was thrilled.”

Now, he spends a lot of time in the backcountry, tracking the Imnaha pack as it moves around the Wallowa Mountains, Eagle Cap Wilderness, and Zumwalt prairie. When he’s not in the field, Sykes is often working on his Wolf News Update, a weekly newsletter from the frontlines of the wolf wars featuring news, studies, blogs, and, since states recently started issuing wolf-hunting licenses, the grim body count.

He is one of the few people to see Wallowa’s wolves up close and is adamant they belong here. “Oregon is not a hunting preserve, it’s not a game farm, it’s a functioning ecosystem and its wildlife is supposed to be managed as a public trust for all its citizens,” he says. “Not just certain hunters and ranchers.” 

Sykes shares the belief of many ecologists and biologists that the absence of these apex predators resulted in a sloppy crumbling of the ecological pyramid that eventually trickled down to vegetation. This idea is one that wolf-hunter-turned-pioneering-conservationist Aldo Leopold expressed in his 1949 classic A Sand County Almanac:

I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddle horn.

The return of wolves to the West has indeed resulted in a trophic cascade of benefits to the ecological landscape. In Yellowstone, for example, the absence of wolves meant the park’s elk and deer were fat, slow, and stupid. They destroyed streambeds, overgrazed grass, and overbrowsed the shrubs and aspens. When wolves were reintroduced, the days of deer and elk lazing around riparian areas like hoofed couch potatoes were over. Yellowstone’s aspen groves made a comeback, streambeds are in better shape, shady shrubs have increased oxygen levels in creeks and streams, thus improving fish habitats, berries are dropping, seeds are scattering, grasses are growing. A case can be made that wolves are far better wilderness managers than humans will ever be.

But for Sykes it’s a moral issue as well. “For one hundred years, wolves were hounded, hunted, trapped, hacked, and poisoned until every single one was exterminated. They were extirpated in a brutal, vindictive, ignorant campaign,” he says. “I would like to see this wrong righted. I would like to see some compassion and understanding for our most persecuted wildlife.”

THE NEXT MORNING we’re up early and packed into Sykes’s car. Kumo is in the back, looking out the windows. We pass a large gravel pit on the outskirts of town that used to be a bone yard for livestock carcasses. Sykes says this may have been what attracted wolves to the area in the first place. The pile was removed and government agencies now work with ranchers to better dispose of bone piles, as well as to put up red pennants that seem to scare wolves, and other hazing programs to keep wolves away from livestock. When predation does occur, ranchers are reimbursed for their losses. Sykes is on the committee that doles out compensation.

We skirt the edges of the Zumwalt, “the wolf highway,” and continue up into higher elevations to a spot Sykes won’t identify. He points out deer tracks in the snow along the side of the road—a calving area for deer and elk. “In the spring and summer, there are wolves all over here,” he says.

When the road runs out at the top of a hill, we get out of the car and trek into the snow wearing bright orange hunting caps. Even with a heavy sky hiding the highest peaks from view, the land is dramatic in white, green, and gray, marked by deep gulches, rolling hills, and formidable mountains. It doesn’t take long for senses to sharpen. You see things you might otherwise miss—a rabbit darting into some shrubs, a tiny spider sitting on the snow crust, deer climbing the other side of a gulch. We inspect coyote and deer tracks in the snow.

This is where OR7 learned how to be a wolf. This is where he first saw deer like the ones I spotted on the opposite hillside. This is where he became part of the everything we’ve lost our connection to, the everything that we desecrate so casually. Sykes says he can see people transform when he takes them into wolf country, that simply being where wolves roam does something special to humans. “Wolves are good for our souls,” he says.

We continue along the timbered edges of ravines and through meadows covered in shin-high snow periodically marked by tracks. Eventually, we reach a destination deep in the woods. It’s the rendezvous point the Imnaha pack used for its previous summer’s litter—where the alpha female nests with the pups and other members of the pack bring food or report for nanny duties. OR7 was likely nursed near here a few summers ago.

“I’m proud of him,” says Sykes of the pack’s current alpha, OR4, who picked this spot with its abundant game. “He chose well.” At 115 pounds, OR4 is the biggest wolf in Oregon. In five breeding seasons, OR4 and his mate, OR2, have never failed to deliver a litter or keep their pups alive. “He’s a helluva wolf,” says Sykes, of OR4.

I wonder if Sykes thinks the same of OR4’s famous offspring. He contemplates this for a minute and chuckles. “OR7’s certainly determined and he’s certainly self-confident,” he responds. I ask him why OR7 would leave such a beautiful, wild, and abundant place. “I think wolves have ambitions,” Sykes explains. “They want to get out on their own. To a wolf, a land with no wolves is a vacuum. It’s not unusual for a wolf to go into a vacuum and keep going.”

WHEN WE KILLED OFF all the wolves from the West, we told ourselves a lie—that we were separate from, or superior to, all that with which the wolf communes; that we knew better what to do with the land than did the wolf. The return of wolves to our landscape has delivered us with a rare opportunity to make amends with that lie and to embrace the simple truth: how we live with wolves is how we live with nature—either in harmony or discord. The choice is ours to make and, as this hyperactive era of floods, fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes shows, the stakes are high.

My search for OR7, I came to realize, was a quest for insight into what we’d do with the opportunity wolves presented. Right now, we’re mostly killing it. Since the feds lifted protections, nearly 1,200 wolves out of a population of almost 2,000 in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho have been slain by hunters and trappers. Hunters in Minnesota and Wisconsin, home to more than 4,000 wolves, have killed nearly 500 since hunts were sanctioned. Michigan became the sixth state to approve wolf hunting. It’s scheduled to take place during the winter holiday season. Guns, crossbows, and foot traps are all permitted.

The hunting lobbies say the killings are necessary “management” to reduce livestock predation and to relieve pressure on game such as deer and elk; federal wildlife experts say there are enough wolves to withstand the slaughter. I don’t buy either argument.

In the $79 billion cattle industry, there were 94 million head of cattle tromping around the lower forty-eight states in 2010, the most recent year for which there are statistics. Wolves killed 8,100 of them, or 0.000086 percent. Even vultures killed two thousand more cattle than wolves. And while any livestock loss to an individual rancher can be significant, it’s worth noting that respiratory illness, digestive issues, calving complications, weather, and plain negligence killed about 3.8 million cattle in 2010, costing the industry $2.35 billion. By comparison, wolves cost it $3.6 million, most of which was reimbursed by taxpayers.

Similarly, the cry from hunters that wolves decimate deer and elk populations isn’t borne out by fact. Ungulate numbers are up in most game management areas across the West where wolves live, and slightly down in just a few. Deer and elk are just harder to find. Wolves have made them more alert and elusive—made them better at being deer and elk, and us at being hunters.

As for the argument that there are enough wolves now to withstand the hunts, there were a hundred times more back when we almost exterminated them. These hunts wreak havoc on the highly developed social structure of wolves, tearing families and communities apart, and orphaning ill-prepared adolescents, who are then more likely to get in trouble. Hunting and trapping wolves serves no purpose for sustenance or profit. It’s done for the basest of reasons, for a trophy that is nothing more than a token of shameful ignorance and folly. After all we’ve done to them, wolves deserve better. We deserve better, too.

WHILE WOLF-HUNTING season was just getting underway in neighboring states, California’s wildlife commissioners met in Sacramento to vote on whether or not to consider protecting California’s lone wolf under the California Endangered Species Act. The room was packed, and the battle for hearts and minds went on for hours. Conservationists, wolf lovers, ranchers, cattlemen associations—all had their say, although neither side seemed much moved by the other. Not surprisingly, no one there had actually seen the wolf in question.

In the end, the commissioners agreed by a narrow margin that the petition to list the gray wolf, this gray wolf, as an endangered species did indeed warrant consideration. The vote triggered numerous studies, reviews, and meetings that should result in a decision any day now about whether to protect wolves in California. If approved, it’ll be largely symbolic until more wolves wander across the border, prompting perhaps a new moniker to consider: CA1. But for anyone looking to make amends with the truth, it would be a welcome symbol, a small bit of progress in the tortured dance between humans and what’s left of the wild.

Meanwhile, OR7 just keeps moving. In late February, he left Plumas County, where I crouched in darkness beside the river with naïve hopes of seeing him, and started retracing his long-ago steps north. By mid-March, he had crossed back into Oregon. Maybe he wants to know if you can, indeed, go home again. Or maybe he’s hopeful yet that he’ll find what he’s looking for.

The only thing we know for sure is that time outruns even a wolf. And as every new day dawns unfulfilled, the epic story of OR7’s journey to find a place for himself, to start a family and be the first of his kind so that others may follow, takes a turn toward a more familiar fate: that of a lonely middle age spent on the outside looking in while death does double time to chase you down.

Support for this article was generously provided by the Summerlee Foundation.

< O >


Alaska Science Forum

June 10, 2004 ~Article #1702 ~ by Ned Rozell

This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute.

People who study animal behavior think they may have found out why wolves hunt in packs—because ravens are such good scavengers.

Scientists who have watched wolves on Isle Royale in Lake Superior came up with the raven-wolf pack theory after puzzling over a question—why do wolves hunt in large groups when a single wolf is able take down a moose on its own?

To find a possible answer, John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson of Michigan Tech and Thomas Waite of Ohio State University examined 27 years of wolf observations on Isle Royale in northern Michigan. Isle Royale, 45 miles long and up to nine miles wide, sits in the northwest lobe of Lake Superior. Designated a national park, the island supports a population of a few dozen wolves and hundreds of moose. Peterson has studied the wolves for more than 30 years, and the group of researchers used his observations and those of his coworkers in the present study.

Peterson’s team has seen a single wolf kill a moose 11 times, which weakens the notion that wolves hunt in packs because of the difficulty of killing a moose without help. Vucetich, Peterson and Waite used the years of data from the Isle Royale wolf study to calculate that—in terms of energy burned and meat gained—wolves would do best hunting in pairs.

A 1,000-pound moose is much more than two wolves can eat right away, and that’s where the ravens come in. In a study published in Animal Behaviour, the scientists detailed these facts about ravens found by others: individual ravens can eat and carry away up to 4 pounds of food per day from a large carcass and ravens removed half of a 660-pound moose carcass from a kill site in the Yukon Territory.

During the 27 years of Peterson’s wolf observations used in the recent study, ravens were present at every wolf kill, often within 60 seconds of a moose’s death. Noted raven researcher Bernd Heinrich of the University of Vermont has suggested that ravens evolved with wolves, with ravens possibly leading wolves to moose or caribou, and then later feeding upon the carcasses torn open by wolves.

That the wolf pack exists because of ravens is a new idea, supported by the group’s “conservative assumption” that wolves can lose up to 44 pounds of food per day to ravens while feeding upon a carcass. They estimate that a pair of wolves loses about 37 percent of a moose carcass to ravens while a pack of six wolves loses just 17 percent. Ravens sneak in to eat or carry away scraps of moose flesh and organs while wolves are feeding or resting away from the carcass, and the more ravens there are (researchers have counted up to 100 near kill sites), the harder it is for wolves to chase them off.

The urge to avoid starvation may drive wolves to kill “approximately twice as many large prey as would be needed in the absence of ravens,” the scientists wrote. They also wrote that 85 to 90 percent of carnivore species hunt alone, and the wolf pack might not exist if not for the pesky, bold raven.

via weheartit~dot~com



What’s at stake in wolf conservation? It isn’t just the survival of the species but the survival of wilderness, writes Ros Coward.
“Beware the wolves of Chiantishire,” warned a recent Daily Mail headline. Tuscany’s “idyllic landscape of rolling fields and poplar-lined hills”, the article continued, which in the past “proved irresistible to the great, the good and the very rich”, have in recent months become “home to a savage predator – packs of marauding wolves which are growing increasingly brazen”. Politicians in Chianti-country, we are told, “have called on the government to take action. There are growing fears that the wolves could attack humans.”

Even by the Daily Mail’s usual standards of scaremongering, this scenario is pushing it. In spite of their mythically savage status, proven attacks on humans by wolves are very small in number: globally since 2000 there have only been around 20 confirmed attacks. By comparison, in an average year there are 26 deaths caused by domestic dogs in the United States alone. The risk to humans of an unprovoked attack by a wolf is minuscule in comparison, even taking into account the vastly greater number of dogs.

Exaggerated though this report is, there’s a grain of truth: wolves are on the increase, a conservation success story of sorts in some parts of Europe at least. Reintroduced colonies have been fanning out, faster than anticipated. In Italy there have even been occasional wolf sightings within 50km of Rome. In France a growing wolf population (which spread naturally across the Italian border) is now established in 14 departments. The wolves in these countries owe their survival to the strong conservationist lobby establishing protection in the face of cultures deeply committed to hunting. Even in more populated areas, wolves have made occasional appearances, with packs establishing in Eastern Germany and occasional sightings in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The Daily Mail article also contains another grain of truth. While this expansion holds very little threat to humans, the threat to livestock is obviously very real. In Italy it is estimated that 1,000 livestock were killed last year; in France in 2011 alone, wolves are thought to have killed 5,000 sheep; and in Spain’s Asturias region wolves killed 1% of the stock reared between 2000 and 2004.

In some front-line wolf territories there are considerable tensions in spite of huge efforts by conservationists to make protection work. In France a Wolf Plan, created in 2004, pays generous compensation for livestock killed by wolves and subsidises farmers to buy and train dogs (the Patou or Pyrenean mountain dog) that traditionally protected herds against wolves. But shepherds in the Alps are complaining that these dogs can attack tourists, causing more problems than they solve, and that wolves, losing their fear of humans, are becoming more menacing.

Environmentalists believe that wolves will not approach humans, and that livestock tended with properly trained dogs will not be attacked. They are sceptical too about how many livestock are actually killed by wolves and about the compensation claims. But views have become so polarised that in the French Alps the stand-off has been described as ferocious pastoral warfare.

We only have to look at the Daily Mail piece to see why these conflicts escalate so fast and why dialogue around wolves is so charged. The language is loaded with emotive terms describing wolves as ‘savage’, ‘marauding’ and ‘brazen’, and the expansion of their population as a campaign to expand their territory. These terms imply not just that wolves are natural predators but that they have a conscious, malign intent on humanity. This is the archaic symbolism of fairy tales, which emerged in earlier times and in wilder places where the harshness and savagery of Nature is as apparent as its blessings and where people exposed to this harshness (in which the wolves’ arbitrary depredations of their stock would figure large) would have good reason to imagine the ‘cruelty’ of Nature embodied in certain creatures.

Even though societies (even remote ones) are much better protected, connected and resourced, this ancient symbolism is easily reactivated. Indeed it plays a huge part in the ongoing persecution of wolves. When George Monbiot recently wrote about the treatment of wolves in Norway – a country that, although blessed with many wild and remote areas, has nevertheless hunted wolves to the point of extinction – he met with a barrage of accusations. At the forefront was the charge that Monbiot was a sentimental urbanite who simply didn’t understand the true malevolence of the wolf.

And wolves are not only laden with symbolism by their opponents: they are also heavily endowed with symbolic attributes by their supporters. This is not so obvious, but it is an important factor in why the stakes are so high on both sides. Of all species, wolves can, and do, scavenge, but they are primarily a hunting species needing to range far and wide in pursuit of both prey and mates. Wolves need space – vast, non-urbanised areas – and a healthy environment with ample big prey, as all top predators do. What’s at stake for conservationists isn’t just the survival of the species but the survival of wilderness, of unmanaged spaces big enough to sustain the wolf; in short, as close to an imagined natural state as it is possible to be. Recent research on their social structure, loyalty and sophisticated hunting communication has added hugely to the wolf’s charms, but fundamentally their charisma lies in their embodiment of Nature without human interference.

I understand the pull of this symbolism. I often choose my holiday destinations because of the presence of wolves in an area. Last summer I went to Transylvania, attracted by an environment that still supports top predators such as wolves and bears. Their existence signals that this environment is relatively pristine or at least tended in traditional low-impact ways. I didn’t see any wolves – indeed I didn’t even come across recent scats like I had in Poland’s Bialowieza Forest (another destination I chose for the presence of wolves). But in the remote Carpathians they never felt far away, their presence signalled by sheep tended in the tightest of tight groups by the traditional sheepdogs and always with a shepherd present who would warn off any tourist intent on approaching the dogs. These animals are not in the business of making friends. This is an environment where the wolf is present, a robust environment therefore, an environment where Nature is not dominated or controlled entirely by humans.

But if the wolf is valued because its presence implies Nature unsubdued, then suggestions of ‘managing’ wolf populations are inherently problematic. Management implies Nature on human terms. Of course, resistance to wolf management has some strong rational grounds because ‘management’ covers a multitude of sins. At its softest end, it can mean supporting traditional pastoral techniques like working with the dogs, and allowing farmers to fire warning shots, or even kill wolves that threaten their flocks. But at the other end, management can sometimes be used to justify wolf persecution. Monbiot has pointed out that this is not only the case in Norway but in Canada too, where the killing of wolves is explained as part of a management plan for caribou. In fact it appears the level of threat to caribou has been entirely exaggerated and is being used to support another agenda, namely the exploitation – and destruction – of the wolf’s environment.

It’s also hard not to feel repulsed by some of the language employed around ‘managing’ wolves. Some of the American states – even very enlightened ones like Minnesota – use the term ‘harvest’ for the sporadic culling of wolves. Sweden, which has just controversially given the go-ahead to the culling, repeatedly uses the expression ‘managing at sustainable levels’, even though the Swedish wolf population is already considerably reduced. In both cases these feel like euphemisms for – certainly in Sweden’s case – unjustified killing.

Yet if the wolf population grows, ‘management’ will have to be addressed; the fears are too deep, and the losses too painful for some rural communities. But to be acceptable, a new, less loaded language may have to be found. There needs to be a way of talking about wolves without succumbing either to scaremongering and ethnocentric notions of human management on one hand, or impossible ideals of prehuman wilderness on the other.

There are signs this is happening. Jean-Marc Moriceau, a wolf expert and the author of Man Versus Wolf: A 2,000-year War, has advanced the idea of a ‘wolf parliament’, bringing together shepherds, ecologists and government. That would require a new unfamiliar language around beasts, a language of needs, rights and interests, mitigation of harm, and negotiated settlements.

Management by another name need not be disastrous. Take Romania, which, with 3,000 wolves, has the largest numbers in Europe. It is one of the few European countries that don’t pay compensation for wolf kills. Nevertheless the wolf isn’t particularly persecuted there and it’s easy to see why. Flocks are never left untended. They move with shepherds and dogs in close and continuous attendance. Insofar as money comes in from wolves, it’s not from compensation or bounties. It’s from tourism drawn to the idea of remoteness.

Language describing what’s happening there, namely “low-impact human activity in areas where wolves still have stronghold”, may not have the emotional resonance of the old polarisations, but it might just have a much happier outcome.

Ros Coward is Professor of Journalism at the University of Roehampton and is a long-time contributor to The Ecologist

Wolf Reintroduction

Wolves in France

via Olaf Janssen

The gray wolf or grey wolf (Canis lupus) is a species of canid native to the wilderness and remote areas of North America, Eurasia, and North Africa. It is the largest member of its family, with males averaging 43–45 kg (95–99 lb), and females 36–38.5 kg (79–85 lb). It is similar in general appearance and proportions to a German shepherd, or sled dog, but has a larger head, narrower chest, longer legs, straighter tail and bigger paws. Its winter fur is long and bushy, and predominantly a mottled gray in colour, although nearly pure white, red, or brown to black also occur. Within the genus Canis, the gray wolf represents a more specialised and progressive form than its smaller cousins (the coyote and golden jackal), as demonstrated by its morphological adaptations to hunting large prey, its more gregarious nature[6] and its highly advanced expressive behavior. It is a social animal, travelling in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair, accompanied by the pair’s adult offspring. The gray wolf is typically an apex predator throughout its range, with only humans and tigers posing a serious threat to it. It feeds primarily on large ungulates, though it also eats smaller animals, livestock, carrion, and garbage.The gray wolf is one of the world’s most well researched animals, with probably more books written about it than any other wildlife species. It has a long history of association with humans, having been despised and hunted in most agricultural communities due to its attacks on livestock, while conversely being respected by some Native American tribes. It is the sole ancestor of the dog, which was first domesticated in the Middle East. Although the fear of wolves is prevalent in many human societies, the majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. Non-rabid wolves have attacked and killed people, mainly children, but this is unusual, as wolves are relatively few, live away from people, and have been taught to fear humans by hunters and shepherds. Hunting and trapping has reduced the species’ range to about one third of its original range, though its still relatively widespread range and stable population means that the species is not threatened at a global level, and is therefore classified by the IUCN as Least Concern.

A black wolf is a melanistic colour variant of the grey wolf (Canis lupus). Black specimens are recorded among red wolves (Canis lupus rufus), but these colour variants are probably extinct. Genetic research from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California, Los Angeles revealed that wolves with black pelts owe their distinctive coloration to a mutation which occurred in domestic dogs, and was carried to wolves through wolf-dog hybridization.


Wolf, Power Animal, Symbol of Wildness, Social and Family Values, Intuition, Loyalty 

By Ina Woolcott 

Native American and Celtic custom regard Wolf as the way of find the deepest levels of self, of inner knowing and intuition. This is symbolized by the image of the wolf howling at the moon. Native Americans have long regarded wolves as teachers or pathfinders. In astrology, Wolf is represented by the Dog, Sirius, thought by many aboriginal tribes to be the home of the Ancients. 

Wolves are probably the most misunderstood of all wild animals. Stories of cold-bloodedness abound, in spite of their friendly, intelligent and social traits. The wolf, once a much feared and hated animal, has lately become much more appreciated. They now stand a better chance of survival, where they haven’t been hunted to extinction, or near extinction, in some countries. In the USA this culling of wolfs, who are a symbol of wildness, was down to the process of taming the wilderness. Especially where farms were trying to be founded. They were seen as the enemy, especially when they ate farm animals! Perhaps nowadays people are becoming more aware that keeping the harmony of nature and its inhabitants intact is necessary as wolf’s are being reintroduced back into the wilderness in the USA. Of course, farmers are protesting profusely. On a deeper level our emotions toward Wolf reflect our muddled feelings of ourselves as humans. Although we consider ourselves ‘civilized’ we are still animals with our own wild spirit. Wolf reminds us of this, often uneasily. 

The wolf, is a symbol of the night. This time can seem lonesome and scary to us. But it is also the time when through dreams, we may discover valuable things about ourselves. This is a lonely path. To truly come to understand yourself, you must be alone, undeterred by the beliefs, judgements and views of others. The wolf teaches us to learn about our inner self and to discover our inner power and strength. However, to achieve this, we must take risks and face our deepest fears. Wolf requires sincerity. Though demanding a lot of us, much is given in return; a spirit helper that is always there to help, giving us extraordinary powers of endurance. Learn to hear the voice within yourself, which in silence is as clear as the sound of the wolf howling in the night. 

Wolf is also an extremely gregarious animal, enjoying the company of others. Wolves mate for life. The clan has a solid social structure, in which all adults participate in the upbringing of the young. Wolves are fiercely loyal to their mates, with a strong sense of family whilst upholding individualism. Though their clans are highly organised, they are truly free spirits. They seem to go out of their way to avoid a fight. A shift in posture, a growl, or a glance gets the point across quite readily without violence. We are reminded not to waste resources and to learn how to avoid trouble and confrontations. People with Wolf as power animal have the ability to make quick and firm emotional attachments. Trust your insights about these attachments, wolf will be there to guide you. Take control of your life with Wolf’s assistance and do so with harmony and discipline. 

We can truly use wolf as an example in our lives. We can understand that there doesn't need to be a hard separation between the solitary and social paths. Wolf teaches you to balance between the needs your family has of you and the needs you have for yourself. Wolves are totally loyal to the pack but do not give up their identity to the pack. If wolf has come into your life you are must look at where you are being too dependent and where you may be too independent. 

Wolfs qualities, his medicine, are the ability to learn knew ideas and then teach them to others. Wolf is thought to be an independent explorer coming back to his pack to teach what he has discovered. We too in exploring the hidden paths of consciousness, may come across new truths to share with the rest of our clan, human beings. Wolf brings faithfulness, inner strength and intuition when he enters our lives, and also teaches us to live with ourselves. 

If Wolf finds you, this may be an indication that you are a great teacher or thinker. Or if this is not so, perhaps you need to ponder whether there may be something you need to expand your mind about. Be receptive to new concepts/ideas. By doing so you can gain more wisdom. To increase your Wolf power, you can utilise your newly integrated wisdom and also share it with others. Wisdom is gained through experience, by walking the path. Another way to put it - practise what you preach. 

When a lone wolf is spotted in the wilderness it embodies freedom. When seen in a pack it embodies a feel of community. If wolf appears to you alone or in a pack it is asking you to do the same within your own life. 

The Wolf's senses are highly developed. They are extremely intelligent with excellent hearing, sense of smell and strong feeling. As well as being determined animals they are also cunning. A wolfs howl is primal and penetrating. The howl is used to locate clan members or to let wolves from outside of the pack know their territory boundaries. If you hear a wolf howl, this may be telling you to stand your ground and defend your boundaries. 

Wolves express themselves a lot with body language. If angry, they may stick their ears straight up and show their teeth. A suspicious wolf pulls its ears back and squints. Fear is often indicated by flattening the ears against the head. A wolf wanting to play, dances and bows playfully. Their body language is symbolic to you. Humans also uses body language to send out messages. The study of this art can increase your perception of this power animal. 

Wolves hunt in packs, depending on endurance to run down weak and older animals. They have been known to cover 35 miles a day in pursuit. Wolf is a symbol of stamina and strength, teaching you to know who you are, and to develop strength and confidence in what you do. 

Wolf's medicine includes death and rebirth, facing death with dignity and courage, Spirit teaching, guidance in dreams and meditations, instinct linked with intelligence, social and family values, steadfastness, skill in protection of self and family, outwitting enemies, ability to pass unseen, taking advantage of change. 

Olaf's Wolves


8 years ago a friend gave me as a birthday present a one year adoption of a wolf pack in Poland, in the Beskid mountains. The pack was at that time four wolves, 2 males and 2 female wolves.

I was very happy with that present, it stole my heart reading about them through the reports that were sent about every 3 months. The pack grew from four to seven and everything was going very well with them.

I kept on renewing the adoption and after two years they said they could not renew it anymore, as there was trouble with the laws in Poland, resulting in more and more people falling off from adoptions of wolves. The cause of this trouble was because the countries surrounding Poland's borders were legally allowed to hunt wolves.This fact caused a conflict in Poland because the wolves were falling under protection of endangered species laws, but the boarders were so open and the laws were problematic to enforce. At that time, a conviction judgement for poachers or hunters carried a 2 year imprisonment sentence.

The wolf adoption agency said they did not want to waste money on animals that would be hunted anyway. I understood their point of view, but continued renewing the adoption, since I believed it was the safest approach to save the wolves. In my eyes, adopting wolves is almost the same as adopting a human child. You must look after that child, and consider that as for a child's future, the same applies to to the wolves and the future of the wolves' children.

One year later, I received a letter that informed me that two wolves of the pack were shot down and that the hunters were apprehended. They were set a court day for their trial. Seeing that I had nothing more important to do at that time, I traveled to Poland to witness the court marshall for the hunters that killed my wolves.

The hunters were both of Slovenian descent. The Wolf Advocate organization had lawyers as well, but their defense was not strong. So I approached one of the leaders of that organization and spoke with him about adopting wolves. I explained to him that I viewed the wolf adoptions akin to personal property, and that the hunters should be charged and sentenced under the laws addressing property damage. After a 24 hour delay from court, the property laws were investigated and the case resumed under a new pretext to convict the hunters. The result was that both men were now sentenced to six years in jail, versus the usual two year sentence for shooting and killing an endangered animal.

The laws in Poland now are the same as they are in most places in the EU. The wolves enjoy protection at the highest level there. Slovenia is now also in the EU, so those protective laws apply there as well. This is subject to change, but for now the wolves are happy and they are protected.

Adoption of wolves is always nice. It brings you something you can not imagine. There are many varied organizations sponsoring Wolf adoptions, all have their differences. The organizations in the USA are different than those in Europe, but they all have commonalities. You will know that you have adopted a wolf, you will receive portraits of your wolf child, their birth certificate, and their status updates.

In closing, when you adopt a wolf, you have changed not only their world, but their children's future and your own.
~Olaf Janssen

Adopt a Wolf:


Adopt a Wolfpack:

The History of Slovenain Wolves:

The SloWolf Project: Long term wolf conservation:

The Eurasian Wolf:

And we couldn't let you leave without asking you to sign a petition! Thank you for the Wolves in

Slovenia :


  1. The Gray Wolf

  2. O~ I saw the news about Delisting wolves from E.S.A. on Twitter literally 2 minutes after putting your link on the front page, so I added the news. Synchronicity maybe?

  3. Man wolves are my favorite animal and I can't stand what people are doing to them, and I'm even 14!!