“What Can I Do?”: The Inspiration Behind the Wolf OR-7 Expedition

To this day, I wonder how I happened to stumble upon the harebrained idea of retracing the dispersal route of a wolf. Before the Wolf OR-7 Expedition, I knew little about wolves.

With a background in conservation research, restoration and education, I have long been interested in the interface between civilization and wilderness, an interface that could also be described in many places as a war zone. The news that scientists believe we have entered a 6th mass extinction of species worldwide, not new to planet earth but new to humans, haunts me with a single question, “What can I do?”

When an old college friend from South Africa, Galeo, sent me a Facebook post about his long walk to raise awareness for the endangered rhino, I thought that’s what I want to do.

I was in-between jobs (still am), and was planning a long wilderness trek to test my outdoor skills anyway. Why not combine my passions, go for a trek and learn about an endangered species in my own state? There are about 50 endangered or threatened species in Oregon, many of which I’d never heard of, including the Short-tailed albatross, Oregon spotted frog, and the Rough popcornflower.

One day in mid-September, I was out for a walk in Berlin, Germany where I was living at the time, and remembered a former co-worker telling me about Wolf OR-7. I had looked up Wolf OR-7 just once, but remembered enough to wonder what it would be like to cross the entire state through the lens of a wolf. I mentioned the idea to my husband Jaimes, a more practical person than I, and to my surprise he was supportive.

I contacted my friend Galeo in South Africa for advice, and coincidentally he was forming an idea he called the Wild Peace Alliance, a collaborative platform of individuals and organizations working to transform human-wildlife conflict. He told me that if I retraced Wolf OR-7’s route he would come, and I replied that if he came, I would do it. Through the power of a “yes” from both Jaimes and Galeo, the expedition took root.

The recent release of the Living Planet Report 2014 signals that in the last 40 years alone we have lost 52% of the wildlife on this planet. The question “what can I do?” seems no less relevant, but through learning about the history of wolves in the Northwest, I’m also confident that humans can change. Now I ask myself “Are we willing to do for other species what we have done for the grey wolf, grey whale and bald eagle?”