Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wolves in Oregon

I believe that the long-term survival of wolves must include their expansion into more politically progressive areas. And that seems to be happening. Wolf packs have moved from their Idaho homes into the Ochoco Mountains of east central Oregon and even as far as the east edge of the Cascades. This means its almost inevitable that they are going to reoccupy the Cascades from Canada to northern California (and probably then the Sierra Nevada as well). It's possible the heavily developed Columbia River will block them, but no doubt wolves will head into Washington through Montana and northern Idaho regardless. The last wolf sighting in Oregon west of the Cascades was in 1946; bringing back wolves after over 60 years is a real success for rewilding efforts, or bringing a piece of pre-Columbian ecosystems back to the forests.

Getting to the Cascades and Sierra means they are in ranges dominated by large populations of environmentally-minded people. Ranchers in southwestern New Mexico and Wyoming want to wipe their wolf populations out, as we've seen from the failure of the Mexican wolves to reestablish and the recent hunting seasons on wolves in the northern Rockies. If it was up to these states, they would push wolves back to extripation as quickly as they could load their rifles.

But wolf reintroduction was a pet project of left-leaning environmentalists from the beginning and now they are on the cusp of lands people by those people. I am curious to see how this rewilding will proceed. When their own animals are taken out by wolves, will they care? Or will a lot of people see this as just part of the natural process? I suspect the latter and believe this is a huge development in wolf reintroduction.