Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Searching For Love In All The Wrong Places

Wandering wolf inspires hope and dread

Nov 28 2011 03:39AM CST

JEFF BARNARD, Associated Press

This Aug. 4, 2010 photo provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a male wolf from the Wenaha pack after being fitted with a radio collar in northeastern Oregon. A young male from the Imnaha pack has become a celebrity since striking out for a new territory in search of a mate in September. His position has been tracked by GPS transmissions from his collar, showing he zigzagged 730 miles to end up 320 miles from home. Lately he has been in the southern Cascade Range. (AP Photo/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A young wolf from Oregon has become a media celebrity while looking for love, tracing a zigzag path that has carried him hundreds of miles nearly to California, while his alpha male sire and a sibling that stayed home near the Idaho border are under a death warrant for killing cattle.

Backcountry lodge owner Liz Parrish thinks she locked eyes with the wolf called OR-7 on the edge of the meadow in front of her Crystalwood Lodge, on the western shore of Upper Klamath Lake, and hopes someday she will hear his howls coming out of the tall timber.

"I was stunned — it was such a huge animal," said Parrish, who has seen her share of wolves while racing dog sleds in Alaska and Minnesota. "He just stopped and stared. I stopped and stared. We had a stare-down that seemed like a long time, but was probably just a few seconds.

"He just evaporated into the trees. I stayed there awhile, hoping he might come back. He didn't."

Cattle rancher Nathan Jackson has not seen or heard the wolf, and hopes he never does.

"In this country, we worked really hard to exterminate wolves 50 years ago or so, and there was a reason," said Jackson, who ranches on the other side of Upper Klamath Lake from Parrish's lodge.

"A lot of people who don't have a direct tie to the agricultural community tend to view wolves as majestic, beautiful creatures. They don't seem so majestic and beautiful when they are ripping apart calves and colts."

Last February, OR-7 was in a snowy canyon in northeastern Oregon, when a state biologist shot him with a tranquilizer dart from a helicopter, then fitted him with a tracking collar and blue ear tags. State biologists have been able to chart his journey from GPS positions transmitted from the collar. They show he has traveled 730 miles on his meandering route, getting as far as 320 miles from home. And each time he crosses a county line, OR-7 makes it into the newspapers and on TV news.

The conservation group Oregon Wild has begun a contest to give OR-7 a different name, hoping to make him too famous to be shot, either by a poacher, rancher or government hunter. One entry came from as far away as Finland. The first came from a little girl in OR-7's home territory of Wallowa County, who suggested "Whoseafraida."

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