Rethink wolf reintroduction

 

Last updated 5/14/2024 at 10:02am



Let me start off by stating I’m not anti-wolf, nor am I a “wolf hater.”

There are issues that need addressing in regards to Ander Rhoades’ article “Recreating with wolves in Central Oregon’s forests,” from April 24, as the article was naive and unrealistic, especially with “what to do” if you see a wolf, and its author has probably had little if any real life experiences with close predator encounters. I also question the info he was given by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

Here’s some little known wolf facts: Wolves were not shot out in Oregon by the mid-1940’s as stated. I once thought that too, but an old timer in the Sisters area told me over 35 years ago that there was still a small remnant of the original Oregon wolves present in the Three Sisters wilderness and adjacent areas. Don’t believe it? I know two folks who saw our native wolves well over 25 years ago before the current wolf replanting began, one of whom was my own father who saw one at close range near a wilderness area and as he put it, “it was no coyote!” The other person who saw one in the Three Sisters Wilderness area years ago reported it to ODFW, but, sadly, they discounted it as a “dog sighting.”

I’ve been informed by knowledgeable folk that our native wolf males could get up to 90 pounds in size. However, the bigger wolves brought down from Canada, and introduced into Yellowstone, that are now spreading here, are much bigger, as a large male can get up to 200 pounds. Those big Canadian wolves can run caribou herds for miles across tundra, bring down a moose, and are much larger and much more aggressive than our native ones were.

I’ve had some dispute that, saying “wolf DNA is all the same,” but there are lots of variations in sizes and sub-species of various animals; for example the small-sized black “lava bears” we once had in Central Oregon that are, sadly, now extinct. But the real tragedy is that we have probably long lost our original strain of Oregon wild wolf DNA with the introduction of the bigger Canadian wolves who will either kill or breed out the original gene pool. I’ve seen several wolf-killed coyotes ripped to shreds, which is what wolves do to coyotes or any other lesser canine they see as competition, and our original wolves may have suffered that same fate by now.

Given what we used to have here, these new larger Canadian wolves now spreading in Oregon are more of an invasive species, and I can tell you for a fact the deer and elk populations are being severely impacted — and yet the ODFW continues to over-sell tags. Hunting in some regions should be closed until game populations rebound.

One rancher northeast of Sisters spotted several wolves a couple winters back early one morning, running out of his field where they had just killed, and mostly eaten, four mule deer does, one of which was still steaming in the winter cold. That wasn’t done by a pair of wolves; it was a pack of wolves. Do the math; how long will it take to wipe out our local deer herds which are already in trouble?

Someone in Harney County observed a large, transplanted female wolf kill a pregnant cow elk, pull its unborn calf out of it and trot it off to her den to feed her pups. I found a wolf-killed elk 16 miles north of Sisters about a year ago, and while the carcass was dismembered and scattered, you could still see the massive wolf tracks present.

Is this what we really want here? Its tragic that the ODFW couldn’t have protected our original wolves and managed them better while we still had them. ODFW needs to seriously re-think the wolf reintroduction program, and get back to better wildlife management as these larger Canadian wolf transplants simply do not belong here, are essentially an invasive species, and are very detrimental to our currently strained wildlife eco system.

 

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