Gray Wolf

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced their recommendation to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List.*

Last fall, I wrote a post on gray wolves, illustrated with the sketch shown below. Given the news from the USFWS, I thought this would be a good time to revisit wolves with a few updates.


This is a watercolor I did of “Journey”, the lone wolf that left Oregon’s Imnaha Pack and crossed into California last year. Journey was the first wild wolf in California in nearly a century. It was almost Halloween when I painted this, and I was in a dark and spooky mood!



Why do we need gray wolves?

Among other reasons, the gray wolf is a keystone predator, which means it is fundamentally important to the entire ecosystem. Also called a top predator or apex predator, these species are important in keeping predator-prey populations in balance. Without top predators, smaller prey species like birds, small mammals or reptiles can decline.


What happened to Journey? Did he find a mate?

After spending the winter in the Sierras and southern Cascades, Journey, the first wild wolf in California in almost a century, finally decided to ditch the golden state. Last March, his radio collar showed he had crossed the border back into into Oregon. Apparently, since he had been unable to find a mate in California, Journey saw no reason to stay there. You can find out more about Journey here.


What’s going on with wolves in Washington State?

•According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in Washington State (as of April 2012) there are 43 wolves in 7 packs, with 4 breeding pairs. That is much lower than Montana (625 wolves) or Idaho (683 wolves).

Conservation Northwest has since tallied 9 Washington packs in fall of 2012.

•The proposed delisting of gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act will particularly affect wolves in the Washington Cascades, where there are less than 20 individuals and 2 breeding pairs.

•Last year, the pilot program Range Rider, a partnership between the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Conservation Northwest and cattle ranchers went into effect. Essentially a guard, a cowboy or cowgirl rides with the herd in the open range, keeping the animals together, treating sick or injured ones, and just by their human presence…discouraging wolf attacks. The results were good: all the cows came home safe and sound this year.

•The on-going construction work on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass includes wildlife crossings that might help wolves and other animals move between the North Cascades and Mt. Rainier National Park, the two largest areas of wildlife habitat remaining in the state. Gray wolves, wolverine, lynx, grizzly bear, and cougar are some of the large mammals that wildlife biologists hope will be able to safely cross I-90 into these areas.

•In February 2013, Rep. Joel Kretz of Wauconda, Washington, proposed a bill to move gray wolves west over the Cascades to the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands. (so funny, I forgot to laugh)

•Read more about the Proposed Delisting of Gray Wolves.


What do you think? Do you think wolves should be removed from the Endangered Species Act, or kept on it?


*There is a 90-day public comment period, starting Thursday, June 13th.



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11 thoughts on “Gray Wolf

  1. Pingback: Wild Things | Denise Dahn, artist/writer

  2. My husband and I went to the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre here in Ontario this past weekend. It’s an interesting program they have, with a 15-acre enclosure within the forest to keep rescued wolves. They’re fed on a randomized weekly pattern that resembles their natural hunting routine. I learned a lot about wolves, such as how playful they are and how they have fascinating relationship with ravens. Apparently they love to play together and no traces of ravens have ever been found in their scat, though wolves eat many other kinds of birds. They are fascinating creatures.

    • How cool! The more the biologists are able to study wolves’ natural behavior in the wild, the more they realize that wolves are a lot more complex than the “killing machines” they have been branded as. Wolves kept in captivity exhibit all the legendary “Alpha Male” aggression, etc, but in the wild, “packs” function more like close-knit family groups, with lots more cooperation and subtlety to their relationships with each other.

      The hatred so many Americans have for wolves is astounding…I’ve wondered if it’s different in Canada. You guys didn’t kill most of them off like we did, after all.

  3. This is crazy, really. Although I think that the US F&W has good biologists, I just can’t understand the rush to “de-list.” How can we know, now that their populations are recovering, that they will survive under the pressure of human predation (which is what got them on the list in the first place)?

    • Maybe they are getting so much pressure from hunters who think their elk and deer will be harder to find. There are lots of people who simply hate wolves, that’s for sure.

  4. ……..ON…….The Gray Wolves must be kept ON the Endangered Species List

    ……AND the Range Rider Program should be expanded.

    …..AND, Yes to the I-90 Wildlife Crossings.

    (The public comment period is an important opportunity to respond to the question of gray wolves on the Endangered Species List. Let’s make ourselves heard)

  5. Wonderful information, and beautiful painting…. How we view our apex predators is tragic. Beyond tragic. Their story and plight continues to bring tears to my eyes — what we as a species, in our ignorance and fear, are doing to them. I honestly have no words.

    Thanks for this wonderful post.

    • Thanks, Christina. I guess there’s no question how you’ll be commenting tomorrow to the USFWS! (although, you don’t have wolves in Florida, right?)

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