Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Wolf Named Journey

While browsing the local newspaper during a recent visit with friends in Oregon I came across an update on the travels of a very famous gray wolf. First, a little background for those who haven't kept up with the efforts to re-introduce gray wolves into the Oregon wilderness.

The male wolf known as “OR7” was born in northeastern Oregon in spring 2009. He weighed approximately 90 pounds when collared with a radio transmitter by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in February 2011. He is designated "OR7" because he was the seventh wolf radio-collared in Oregon. The collar transmits location information to satellites daily and is expected to continue to function until at least 2013. In an attempt to draw attention to the success of efforts to reestablish the wolf population, Oregon Wild sponsored a kids art and naming contest. On January 4, 2012 OR7 got a new name - "Journey." (More background info here and here)

In the Fall of 2011 "Journey", the now two-year old wolf from the Imnaha Pack in Northeast Oregon, made history. After an epic journey across Oregon and into California, including time spent in the Sky Lakes Wilderness area south of Crater Lake, Journey became the first confirmed wolf west of the Cascades since 1947. You can visit the Oregon Wild website for photos, maps, and other resources related to the Wolf Recovery program.

Biologists suggest Journey is traveling in hopes of finding a mate. I hope he does, though chances are slim in the area he visited in California. Wolves really have a bad rep with lots of folks, possibly due to their size and yes, they do occasionally kill livestock, so they aren't too popular with ranchers and farmers. The links above include a lot of information, primarily in support of the wolf, and as I'm not a rancher or farmer I can't begin to speak on their views, but the controversy over wolves and the restoration project did remind me of a story my Aunt Roberta used to tell. This is from her writings about her early years in South Dakota.

In the early 1920's, in the far south east corner of South Dakota, our parents developed acreage that had been homestead land, turned back to the government when the owner never “ proved up” on it as the law required for ownership. The nearest school was a little more than 3 miles away, and the way there was mostly level except for a couple of gullies. I walked to school and no distractions except watching out for rattlesnakes. A lone wolf often traveled one of the ridges along the deepest gully. I had father’s assurance that the wolf would mind his own business and I was to keep on walking my usual route. We got along very well and it was a bit like having silent company on the long walk.

Kenai relaxing in the Portland zoo
Aunt Roberta was probably in 3rd grade at the time, and one can certainly understand a bit of trepidation where a wolf is concerned, but instead of fearing the wolf she learned to view it as a companion. What a fantastic memory, one that undoubtedly colored my aunt's appreciation for wildlife for the rest of her 93 years.  Few of us will ever have that kind of opportunity - actually there's little chance of ever seeing a wolf in person considering their small numbers. For that reason I was grateful my Oregon hostess suggested a trip to the Portland zoo, where we did get to see a wolf trio in residence there. Cheyenne, Yazhi, and Kenai lounged comfortably in the rain while we shivered in our coats and mittens. (A little about each of them here on the Wolf Quest game page) Now I have a face for Aunt Roberta's shadowy traveling companion.