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Working with wolves: who will protect the predators?

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Who is Wolf OR-7?

As humans continue to expand outward from their urban population centers, indigenous species are forced to flee, somehow adapt, or simply perish. And, as awareness of this potential genocide—along with recognition of the ecological importance of natural diversity—continues to rise, increasing efforts to save certain endangered species are growing in strength. But it’s one thing to champion the cause of loveable, cute, popular critters like mule deer, puffins, or whales. Who will look out for beasts like wolves that roam the remaining wilds with predatory intent and a bad reputation to boot?

Enter Amaroq Weiss, West Coast Wolf Organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. Prior to the incursion of western Europeans three hundred years back, roughly two million wolves called North America home. Still, “despite human population growth and land development in this country these past 300 years,” notes Weiss in a recent email interview, “there still exists suitable wolf habitat where wolves could thrive, if given sufficient protection.” Several such sites have been suggested by scientists right here in Washington state.

Yes indeed, wolves are what is referred to as “apex predators”—at the top of their food chain—hunting the same kinds of creatures that humans prefer to hunt, such as deer, elk, and moose. But wolves act as agents of natural selection, seeking out and culling only the most vulnerable members of a group. This process of predation helps maintain healthy herds. “Wolves,” Weiss observes, “are…an integral part of this complex tapestry we call nature, and for that tapestry to remain resilient and diverse…we need wolves.”

Like humans, wolves are family-oriented, territorial animals, defending their far-reaching ranges from rival clans. But they have a hard time defending themselves from humans. Especially in America. “In other parts of the world where wolves were not driven to near-extinction like the U.S.,” says Weiss, “ranchers and farmers have been living with wolves for centuries. “ Normally, wolves don’t see livestock as prey. But, as their natural prey population has been decimated by our plowing of fields and cutting of forests (along with the aforementioned hunting), wolves of necessity may turn to domestic livestock as a food source. The solution, employed all over the world, is simple: wolves can be warded off by humans with guard dogs regularly accompanying a herd.

Amaroq’s grandparents were Russian immigrants, fleeing government-sponsored pogroms designed to wipe out Jews. Her parents are deeply committed to the cause of social justice. And, for the past 17 years, Amaroq has followed the family tradition by providing greater awareness of wolves and promoting the just treatment of their species. “My parents taught me that silence is complicity and that if you see a wrong being perpetrated it is your obligation to right that wrong,” she says.

How can others assist with wolf repopulation efforts? First, take the time to learn more about wolves. Weiss suggests reading books like Of Wolves and Men and Wolf Wars. Connect with a local or regional conservation organization or two, volunteer to help out or show support in any way you can. Speak out; there are a plethora of government agencies, appointed commissions, and elected officials whose duty it is to ensure the welfare of threatened species, so make your voice heard. They do listen.

Who is Wolf OR-7? Find out. Help others survive and thrive.

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