On the subject of Wolves

The internship has been going well. I have a few projects I’ve been working on. I’m keeping up-to-date with the related news articles via the web and newspaper clippings – so we know what other people are thinking and saying about all these conservation issues. I have been looking over the website for updating-needs. I’ve written a report about Washington State population growth and spread (human, not wolf) to relate previous populations, to present and future growth. The expansion of just one state is fascinating…and worrying. Between 1973 and 2013 the population has more than doubled, to say but one fact. The population continues to grow at about 10% a year (if you sort-of average it out). There has been an explosion in the development of small farms, which are increasingly fragmenting the already fragmented landscape. Not good news for wolves or anything much else in the ‘wild’. But that’s a blog all of its own… This report could be used to inform future habitat connectivity projects and to generally let people now the state of human growth in Washington (interesting to workers at Conservation Northwest).

I’ve summarised the effects of hunting on wolf pack dynamics to inform future policy and discussions. It always amazes me how social and bonded these animals are to each other, just like a human family (I know, I’ve said it before). Taking out the breeders of a pack can cause dissolution, lone wolves then disrupting other harmonious packs and potentially leading to more human based conflict – the list of effects goes on. We’d be in disarray too if our family members were taken out – but again, that’s a whole other discussion of its own and one that needs to be had.

On Friday (16th August) I finally, after a lifetime of waiting, made it into grey wolf territory. Jasmine and I left for Cle Elum on Thursday night to stay in a hotel before having an early start to look for wolves. We ended up arriving pretty late and got to bed at about 12.30am, before getting up at 5.30am. We met Paul, who originally won the trip at the Conservation Northwest annual auction (which is coming up again on September 18th http://www.conservationnw.org/hope – go if you can!), who was with friends Alan, Gary, and Fred. Once the team had gathered, had our fill of coffee and breakfast, we began our search. The search started earlier than the others expected, after advice to scan the forest edge on the way to our destination. After parking up, we headed into the forest. I was struck by the openness of the area – and just the multitude of cows, roaming free throughout the landscape. The track was essentially a road leading up to the first area where GPS data was clustered, highlighting Teanaway pack activity – maybe even a rendezvous site (where the pups are left or looked after by sub-adults whilst the pack is hunting). I also recognised this place – part of the BBC Lost Land of the Wolves had been filmed in this exact spot, where pups had been seen.

It was an eerie and beautiful feeling to be in wolf territory and to know they had been where I was standing and walking. We found a place to sit for a while at the top of the meadow surrounded by trees. There were cow there, which would have been a good indication if there was any wolf movement nearby. We were all waiting with baited breath, and became suspicious of something moving out of sight as the cows stopped eating to stare in a particular direction. Nothing happened, We decided to try to head towards where they were looking, which unfortunately didn’t work as the road went in the wrong direction. We tried going through the woods but ended up going in a circle back to where we started. We then left that are to try a few other areas which could have been possible rendezvous sites – again no luck. We even tried howling, which was funny for us and probably the wolves who weren’t going to show their faces. We tried – but that’s just the way of these things. There’s luck involved, but also a lot of waiting. Hours and hours of waiting to see the wolves. Maybe next time?

Some good news for Wolves in the Cascades: The Lookout Pack, previously poached from 9 down to 2 wolves, has had 3 pups this season! There is some amazing footage caught by Washington Department of Fish & WIldlife (WDFW) remote cameras which can be seen here:

Absolutely gorgeous – and even more so with their devastating background story.

Good things are happening! See more news on the Conservation Northwest blog, Scat! (http://www.conservationnw.org/news/scat)