Our expedition set out to explore wolf country from Wallowa County to Lassen County on Wolf OR-7’s heels with our own two feet.
We were duly warned that the subject of wolves in the Northwest is so polarized that both anti-wolf and pro-wolf camps have received offensive threats from the other. We questioned our own biases and backgrounds, and decided to retrace Wolf OR-7’s steps not as an organization, but as unique individuals in search of a slice of common ground.
In conversations with livestock producers, wildlife advocates and biologists, the need for funding became a consistent theme. A wolf returning to areas unaccustomed to their presence for decades is a change, and change takes time to adjust to, and time can cost money. Funding is needed for more research of ecological impacts of wolves, livestock depredation deterrent strategies, and a compensation fund for livestock lost to carnivores. The Oregon Wolf Compensation Bill currently compensates ranchers for confirmed losses of livestock due to wolves, but as wolves populate new areas, this fund will need to increase to avoid county to county competition for limited funds.
Our beef with wolves so to speak, may stem from a sense of competition for the same resource, i.e., elk, deer, cow, and lamb. Wolves, mountain lion and many humans including myself, appreciate tasty meat. Can we all eat meat and coexist too?
Conservation of Energy:
If a road was the easiest way through to wherever we were headed, we found we weren’t the only ones using it. Some roads had the tracks of rabbit, squirrel, snake, lizard, mountain lion, bear, deer and coyote all in the same 100 ft stretch of dusty road. All animals, including the human animal, will conserve valuable energy when possible and take the easiest route. Conservation of energy is a matter of survival for wildlife, and among humans it can also mean a matter of economic survival. For centuries, exterminating wolves may have been easier than using nonlethal deterrents like hazing, fladry, sheep dogs or range riders. As consumers, are there ways to support livestock producers to use nonlethal carnivore deterrent methods before considering lethal means?
We all literally share the same ground. There is nothing like moving continuously by foot across a landscape to appreciate that the Wallowa Mountains are connected to the Cascade Mountain Range. A line on a map can’t show the beauty or diversity that defines the Northwest. Standing at the top of a fire lookout south of the Strawberry Mountains, with 360 degree views of nothing but forest and grasslands out to every horizon, I was overwhelmed by what it means to consider the generations to come in land-use planning; and what it means to share the same ground with generations to come. Many of our public lands, state and national parks are a legacy from people long gone who worked hard to protect these places. I didn’t realize we still had such vast wild places left in Oregon, but the wolves, bears, and mountain lions clearly do.
Image from Lookout Tower – by Daniel Beyers