Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What should you do if you encounter a wolf?

Recently, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife published a video to educate folks about wolf encounters as the Oregon wolf population grows. It shows a video taken by an ODFW summer intern when she encountered a wolf while hiking alone. The video shows a wolf trotting toward the intern, unaware that she is standing there at the edge of the field. However, the wolf runs away when the intern says something to let it know she's there. 
(Turn on the volume and watch in full screen!)

From the intern who took the video:

      "I have worked around wild wolves for a few years now, and there are a few questions that I’m frequently asked: 
      Am I afraid of encountering wolves? 
      Is it safe for me to be alone in an area where wolves might be? 
      Do I carry a weapon to protect myself from a wolf attack?
      I’ve had jobs involving tracking and monitoring wolves for the last three summers, and since 2017 I’ve had 6 encounters with wolves where the animals were aware of my presence (and there have been at least two times wolves were nearby and I didn't know until later). Even though I was hiking alone during two of those encounters, the wolves turned and went the opposite direction every time.
      Luckily, I was able to film this particular encounter with a wolf in Oregon. Being somewhat familiar with wolf behavior, it was clear to me that this wolf was unaware of my presence as it loped toward me. However, I can understand how someone with less experience with wild wolves could feel threatened in this situation. It seems that every year, stories surface about wolves “surrounding” or approaching people, especially during hunting season when folks are dressed in camo and imitating animal calls. Several wolves have been shot in Washington, Oregon, and other states by folks who felt threatened by their presence or approach.
      Wolves are often portrayed as man-eaters, whether as the Big Bad Wolf devouring Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma or a pack of wolves pursuing Liam Neeson in The Grey. These scary representations of wolves lead many people to believe that wolves view people as prey.
      I am always vigilant when I’m in the woods, and I always carry bear spray because I never know what situation I might walk into with any species. Where there are wolves, there are also bears and cougars (and people). However, I don’t fear a predatory attack from a wild wolf. Except under extremely unusual circumstances, wolves are simply not out to get us, and often all it takes is a shouted “hello” to scare a wolf away.
      By definition, wild animals are never completely predictable. Sometimes wolves, instead of fleeing, might be curious or defensive (especially if there are dogs involved). I can’t say that wolves pose zero threat to people – but that goes for any wild animal. Living, hiking, hunting, or otherwise recreating in the wild means being prepared for and accepting a certain level of risk. However, having wolves on the landscape does not make it any more dangerous.

If you are out hunting or hiking and you see a wolf or wolves near you, don't assume that they are coming to attack you. Stand up, wave your arms, and shout to make sure that they know you're there.

If you feel threatened by a wolf, act aggressively (look big, shout, throw things) and calmly leave the area. Never run from a wild animal."

-  The Salem Statesman Journal area published a great article about the video and what to do during a wolf encounter: 

-  This is a good video about hiking with dogs in wolf country:

-  The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has some excellent information on how wolves behave and what to do if you encounter them:

-  This video from local news station Central Oregon Daily has more great Oregon wolf footage and advice from ODFW Wolf Coordinator Roblyn Brown:

-  Learn more about Oregon's wolves: https://dfw.state.or.us/wolves/

More on wolf encounters: 

Wolf pups are extremely curious and, for lack of a kinder term, a little dumb. They may be more likely to approach a person or vehicle out of curiosity. NEVER FEED WILDLIFE. If a pup approaches you, do the young wolf a favor and shout or throw things at it to make sure it stays afraid of people. This will keep the wolf safer in the long term. A wolf that loses its fear of people is more likely to be shot or hit by a car. 

In the handful of cases where wolves have attacked people, it often turns out that they had been fed or had been finding food in campgrounds or dumps. Wolves that appear to have lost their fear of people are considered habituated and are often killed by wildlife managers for public safety. Keep wildlife wild.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wolves and Prey

Wolves have a reputation for killing needlessly or for fun, but in reality wolves work hard and rarely succeed when hunting large prey like elk, moose, bison, and deer. In Yellowstone National Park, wolves only successfully make a kill in about 1 of every 5 hunting attempts! 
Elk are large, smart animals, and they've evolved alongside wolves for thousands of years. It's extremely difficult for wolves to take down healthy adult elk. Wolves can be injured or killed by a kick from an elk. For this reason, wolves tend to target very young, old, or unhealthy elk. Even so, it takes a huge amount of energy for wolves to chase and (if they can) take down prey.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Working With The Wood River Wolf Project

I spent most of August around the West learning about wolves, wolf recovery, and livestock.
A big highlight was volunteering for the Wood River Wolf Project, which is based in the middle of wolf and sheep country in Idaho. The project, with Lava Lake Lamb, works collaboratively with livestock producers in the community to prevent depredations (killing of livestock) by wolves and other predators. They work with ranchers to implement proactive, nonlethal deterrents including livestock guardian dogs, foxlights, starter pistols, and fladry. They have found that the comprehensive and correct use of these tools has led to a direct decrease in attacks on livestock by wolves - as well as other predators like bears, cougars, and coyotes.
Not only do these methods help ranchers, they also help wolves. When ranchers and their livestock can successfully share the landscape with wolves, it means that less wolves are killed through "lethal control actions" in response to wolf depredations on livestock. Proactively preventing depredations often works much better than reacting after attacks happen.
While volunteering with the Wood River Wolf Project, I helped to conduct howl surveys. Howl surveys involve playing a recorded wolf howl in the backcountry and listening for responses. Responses can determine where and how many wolves might be in a particular area. This helps herders and range riders know where it's safe to move sheep bands and when particular proactive tools should be used.
The Wood River Wolf Project and the livestock producers who put time and energy into living with wolves are a model for wolf/livestock coexistence across the country and world. It was a privilege to work with them and Lava Lake Lamb and to learn more about ranching in wolf country!
Help support other ranchers taking on predator coexistence here: http://www.predatorfriendly.org/
Specific breeds of Livestock Guardian Dogs help to discourage wolves from approaching livestock during certain times of the year.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Springtime for Wolves and Livestock

Springtime means a new generation of wolf pups, but it also means a new generation of sheep and cattle for the summer grazing season. This can lead to conflict between wolves and livestock, as wolf families work to feed their growing pups and young livestock are especially vulnerable. This time of year, it's especially important to use proactive tools like range riders, foxlights, fladry, and others to protect livestock from wolves. About 80% of wolves in a population don't cause problems for ranchers. But it's important to be proactive and make sure those wolves don't start associating livestock with food as they hunt wild prey for their pups.

Photo of Spruce at Wolf Haven International.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Meeting with the Washington Wolf Advisory Group

       Yesterday I had the opportunity to address Washington state's Wolf Advisory Group, or the WAG. The WAG is a group of stakeholders (hunters, ranchers, and conservationists) that provides different perspectives and recommends strategies for reducing conflict with wolves to the Department of Fish and Wildlife as wolves return to Washington. 
       Because the members of this group have radically different views on wolf management, they had had trouble being productive and respectful towards each other when the group first started out a few years ago; so the department brought in a professional human/wildlife conflict facilitator to help improve the process and build trust between the members. As part of that, the facilitator is having the WAG meet with members of the public with various perspectives on wolves and how they should be managed. In May, the WAG met with some ranchers in wolf territory; yesterday, I voiced my opinion as part of the conservation community; and later, they will meet some hunters. 
        When I spoke to the WAG, I talked about my experiences studying wolves in the wild, why I think wolves are important, and what I think about the conflicts in Washington and in other places. I also talked about my experiences here on Kids4Wolves, interacting with you guys on Instagram and Facebook but also hearing from kids who are hunters and ranchers and have a different opinion about wolves than I do. I talked about how nasty these online conversations sometimes start (as some of you guys may have seen), but also how often we can get to a place where we respect each other's views even if we disagree. I think respect is essential if we want to accomplish anything. Hopefully the members of the WAG can respect each other and get something done for wolves and the communities that live alongside them. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kids4Wolves on Instagram

The main branch of Kids4Wolves is on Instagram; there, we post facts, photos, videos, ways to help, and updates on wolves around the country almost every day. We are up to over 12,000 followers as of September 2015! Please follow us to learn about wolves and to get involved!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gray Wolf at the Grand Canyon - Naming Contest!

UPDATE FEBRUARY 11, 2015  -  10-year-old Zachary Tanner from Oregon won the naming contest with the beautiful name "Echo." Zachary thought of the name Echo "because she came back to the Grand Canyon like an Echo does." 
    Unfortunately, on December 28, 2014, Echo was shot and killed in southern Utah - apparently mistaken for a coyote by a hunter. Her incredible journey south from the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population ended tragically.

 **Naming Contest Now CLOSED**
  Recently, a large, collared canine was spotted in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona; DNA results just came in confirming that the lone animal is a wild gray wolf!

     This wolf is the first to roam the Grand Canyon  area since the 1940's!

   Conservationists are now holding a naming contest for the incredible Grand Canyon wolf, just for kids! You must be younger than 18 to enter: http://www.mexicanwolves.org/index.php/news/1340/51/Enter-Now-Grand-Canyon-Wolf-Naming-Contest 


     The female wolf had to travel 450 miles from either Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming to reach the Grand Canyon. Check out the map below to see how far south she had to travel to reach northern Arizona (the occupied wolf range in southern Arizona is a small population of Mexican gray wolves; the Grand Canyon wolf was a gray wolf):

     This female wolf traveled an amazing distance to find a mate and start a family, just like Oregon's famous wandering wolf OR-7, affectionately named "Journey" by the public.

          Let's help give this astounding wandering wolf a name!