The wolf is not always a feared and hated creature. In the medieval village of Utrecht, Netherlands the symbol of justice is the wolf.
The courtyard of the criminal justice center displays a magnificent statue of a blindfolded white wolf. Why the blindfold? Because as the saying goes “justice is blind”. This is done in order to indicate that justice is (or should be) meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness.
The irony is that today in America we are struggling to treat the wolf in this same frame of context and blind objectivity.
Utrecht was created almost 2,000 years ago by the occupying Roman army. The Romans introduced many cultural changes and advancements. They were ultimately “run out of town” by the invading germanic tribes.
The city was never bombed in World War II and still retains it’s old world charm and unique architecture.
The Methow Valley’s wolf pack is back from their summer range in the high mountains of the Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness and Twisp River Valley.
A collaboration of agencies and conservation groups are monitoring the seven-member Lookout Pack by air and by ground using radio telemetry, verified sightings, howling surveys, remote cameras and follow-ups on reports by the public.
The pair of radio-collared wolves is being followed by a sub-adult wolf and four pups, as they inhabit a territory that reaches from the Wilderness to the valley floor. As the snow deepens in the mountains, biologists were expecting the pack to return to lower elevations.
They showed up the first week in November, similar to last year, said John Rohrer, wildlife biologist for the Methow Valley Ranger District. “They made bigger moves until the snow got deeper,” said Rohrer. The pack last year roamed the far reaches of the Twisp River Valley before settling in the Lookout Mountain area in late December.
Just because they did it last year, doesn’t mean they’ll do it this year. The pack has been unpredictable, staying later this year in their winter and denning range, according to Rohrer. “Last year, they moved to the Wilderness a lot earlier,” he said.
“There continue to be sightings all along the Cascades, but nothing documented,” said Andrea Lyons, Forest Service wildlife biologist for the Entiat Ranger District. She said there have been visual sightings, people seeing tracks and scat and hearing howling. The reports are not concentrated in a certain area or time.
Lyons has been tracking the wolf pack from the air all summer, flying every 10 to 14 days. Antennae are attached to both struts on a fixed-wing airplane to get directional signals from the radio-collared adults. The monitoring will shift to more ground telemetry during the winter, said Lyons.
To report wolf sightings call the state wolf reporting hotline at (888) 584-9038.
Public review of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, as required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), will begin on October 5, 2009.
This is the public’s opportunity to meet with WDFW staff and give input to the draft plan prior to the release of the final version.
The content of the plan is published on the WDFW website for review prior to the meetings. A minimum goal of 15 breeding pairs of wolves would be neccessary to remove the wolf from the Washington endangered species list.
The gray wolf (Canis lupus) is the most widely distributed of all land mammals and one of the most adaptable. The wolf’s ability to survive in a variety of habitats, including forests, tundra, mountains, swamps and deserts, mimics our own ability to adapt, leading to our long complex history.
Tens of thousands of years ago, humans began the domestication of the gray wolf. As we migrated around the globe, a variety of dog types developed, each type exhibiting certain traits of the wolf while suppressing other wolf behaviors. While domesticated dogs provided early humans with guard animals, sources of food and fur and beasts of burden, wolves themselves provided a more complicated relationship.
Many Native American tribes consider wolves to be spiritually important, even including them in their creation stories. These tribes respect wolves for their close-knit pack relationships, intelligence and hunting skills.
Wolves were generally revered by the tribes who survived by hunting but were feared by those who survived through agriculture. Some tribes such as the Numamiut of northern Alaska respected the wolf’s skill as a hunter and attempted to emulate the wolf’s ways in order to successfully hunt down prey. The Tanaina of Alaska believed that wolves were once men and viewed them as brothers.
However, wolves were not always portrayed positively in Native American cultures. The Naskapis believed that a caribou’s afterlife was guarded by giant wolves, which killed careless hunters venturing too near. Wolves were feared by the Tsilhqot’in, who believed that contact with wolves would result in nervous illness or death. Early settlers in America, also learned to fear the wolf from folklore and myth and carried it with them to the Pacific Northwest. The gray wolf, once widespread throughout Washington State, was eliminated by the 1930’s by trapping, poisoning and shooting.
Wolf recovery and Management in Washington State
After more than seventy-year absence, the gray wolf is returning to Washington. Reports of wolves have been steadily increasing in north-eastern and north-central Washington and in the Blue Mountains in the south east. In 2008 and 2009, breeding packs of wolves were confirmed in two locations in Washington: the “Lookout Pack” in Okanogan County, and the “Diamond Pack” in Pend Oreille County.
In 1973, gray wolf populations in the 48 U.S. states were listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, which made it illegal to kill, harm, or harass the species In Washington state, wolves were listed as endangered under state law in 1980.
Wolf Policy Update
Congress passed legislation on April 14th to delist Rocky Mountain gray wolves in Idaho and Montana, and in Washington. While all Idaho and Montana wolves will be managed by their state agencies, Washington wolves will be split into two management zones: wolves in the eastern third of Washington no longer have federal protection; wolves in the western portion of the state, namely the Lookout Pack, are not affected by the new law and will remain a federal listed species.
The Salmo and Diamond Packs, will continue to be listed as state endangered. Washington State law “protects endangered species from hunting, possession, malicious harassment, and killing, with penalties described ….” It also specifies state listing and delisting procedures for endangered, threatened, and sensitive species in Washington.
In 2007, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began developing a conservation and management plan to address wolf conservation in Washington, in cooperation with a governor appointed Wolf Working Group. The Washington Wolf Working Group includes stakeholders from livestock, timber, sportsmen, local government, recreation, and conservation interests. The plan will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for consideration (see new timeline). Since January of 2010, the WDFW has received over 60,000 comments and can be reviewed at WDFW’s website.
Transplanting wolves is not part of the recovery plan as wolves are likely to come in on their own from Canada and neighboring states like Idaho.
To assist in wolf conservation and management efforts in Washington State, please report all suspected wolf and wolf track sightings to the Wolf Reporting Hotline at 888-584-9038.
Photo courtesy of USFWS, a Kenai Alaska wolf
To report a suspected livestock conflict, notify the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for eastern Washington or for western Washington contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 360-753-9440. Both sides of the state can also call the USDA Wildlife Services at 360-753-9884 or your local State Patrol office.
Wolves avoid humans, but encounters sometimes occur when humans and wolves use the same habitat. Wolves that approach people, buildings, livestock, or domestic dogs are either habituated to humans, unhealthy, wolf-dog hybrids, or former captive animals. Wolf-dog hybrids can be especially dangerous because they lack the shyness of wild wolves.
Even though wild wolves rarely threaten human safety, they are wild animals that should be respected and never approached.
Report all suspected wolf and wolf track sightings to the Washington Wolf Reporting Hotline at 888-584-9038.
At your home or ranch:
Never let wolves become comfortable around you or your home, or they may lose their fear of people.
Never feed wolves or other wildlife.
Garbage can attract wolves and other wildlife. Keep garbage in a secure location.
Do not leave any food outside, including scraps, pet food, or livestock feed. When possible, feed animals inside.
Keep dogs under supervision. Wolves can be highly territorial toward other canids.
Wolves can be scavengers, so bury dead livestock and pets.
To prevent livestock depredation, consider the following:
At night, use range riders or dogs with cattle and herders or dogs with sheep.
Remove sick or injured livestock.
Delay cattle turnout until after calves are born and weigh at least 200 pounds and after elk calves/deer fawns are born.
Avoid areas near wolf dens and wolf rendezvous sites during spring and summer.
Use permanent or portable fencing, including electric fencing.
When possible, keep livestock well-fenced and closer to human dwellings, wolves avoid these areas.
While camping, hiking, and hunting in wolf country:
Never feed, approach, or encourage wolves to come near, or they may lose their fear of people.
Stay away from fresh wolf kills, dens, and rendezvous sites.
Keep a clean and orderly camp. Cook and store food away from sleeping areas. Suspend food, toiletries, garbage and other loose objects on a rope between trees, or in secured kayak hatches, out of reach of wildlife. Wolves have been reported removing personal and other non-food items from campsites.
Do not bury garbage. If you pack it in – pack it out!
Wash dishes in a container and dispose of grey water.
Near the coast use areas below high tide mark, away from camp, in an area of high tidal exchange for toilets – do not use the upland areas, wolves will feed on human excrement.
Wolves and Dogs:
The gray wolf is the ancestor of domestic dogs. They are actually the same species, Canus lupus. That is why wolves view dogs as competitors or territorial intruders and have attacked and killed them. Owners of dogs need to be aware of the potential risk to their dogs if they are in wolf habitat, especially when guarding or herding livestock, hunting, accompanying hikers, or running at large.
In areas occupied by wolves, homeowners should not allow dogs to roam at large or leave dogs outside overnight unless kept in a sturdy kennel. Dogs should be kept on leash or in visual/auditory range and owners should vocalize frequently, including use of whistles. Dogs should be trained not to chase or approach wildlife and to return on commands. Homeowners should not leave dog food outside and avoid feeding wildlife near their homes.
Hikers should consider leaving their dogs at home when visiting sites with wolves. Hikers with dogs should keep them on leash or closely controlled. Hikers should make noise and equip dogs with bells or other noise-makers to alert wolves to the presence of people. If a wolf is encountered, bring dogs to heel and leash them, and stand between them and the wolf; wolves avoid humans and this often ends the encounter. Don’t try to break up a physical fight between a wolf and a dog.
Hunters who use dogs in areas where wolves are known to exist (either to find game birds or, where allowed, to find other game animals), should avoid releasing dogs in areas with fresh evidence of wolves (tracks, scat, howling, etc.) Stay in close range of hunting dogs, communicating with them by voice or whistle, and use bells or beeper collars on dogs to alert wolves to the presence of people. Hounds used to tree game should be released only on fresh sign to avoid long chases, and when treeing game, reached as soon as possible so they are not unattended for long.
Be alert and aware of the potential risks when recreating or living in wolf country. To prevent problems with wolves and other wildlife, always keep a clean camp or home site to avoid attracting wolves that might scavenge for food, or more likely prey upon other animals that are attracted to both intentional and non-intentional feeding opportunities. (Source: USFWS 2007)
In your community:
Remind your neighbors to never feed wolves and other wildlife.
Promote the reduction of potential wolf food sources in and around your community.
Notify authorities about wolves that seem comfortable around people, seek human food, or frequent human areas. Early intervention can keep a problem from getting worse.
Not often does one find a Brown (aka Grizzly) Bear and a wolf fishing across from each other on the same river. These amazing shots of a wolf fishing in the interior of Katmai National Park were taken at Brooks River Falls.