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Wolf Moon

Coastal Wolf prints in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia.

We watched for a full morning, heard wolves, saw tracks, but no sightings (2017).

Earlier this week, January 17th, was the first full moon of 2022, the Wolf Moon. Originally, people thought a full moon was the most likely time to hear wolves. We now know that wolf vocalizations (and chorus howls from packs) define territory, help communicate with pack members and other packs, reinforce social bonds, and assist with hunting. It seemed like perfect timing to discuss an issue very important to me and others who love wildlife.

Thanksgiving weekend, 2016. Wells Grey Provincial Park, British Columbia.

This edition of my web log will showcase local photos that I captured in early January of 2022 (with a favorite snow shot from an earlier trip in 2016), but I also want to talk about the recent and widespread attempts to eradicate wildlife, especially wolves and bears, both keynote species and apex predators.

“The return of the wolf is just one of many budding wildlife success stories in the American West today. But without buy-in from the people who live with and around wolves, that success is tenuous. Reasonable compromise on all sides will always be necessary.” Mitch Friedman, Conservation Northwest

Great Blue Heron, Skagit Flats, Washington.

It is not enough to love wolves and bears or want to see them – it also requires an understanding of each species, how others perceive them, the huge social disconnect across the nation, the history behind that, and science if we want to separate fact from fiction. Education is the first necessity if we want to conserve land, water, and/or species. And if we want to make a difference!

Winter Morning Sunrise, Skagit County. Washington.

Protecting wild places, and wild species, is important to me. It is one of the prime motivations for my starting Northwest Rivers Photography, and as I said in my last blog ‘Storyline 2021’ one of my biggest goals and wishes is to see and photograph wolves in the wild. That may become increasingly hard to do, even within our national parks, if state bureaucracies in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Utah and South Dakota continue down their present road.

Northern Flickr, Nooksack River. Washington.

This is not about hunters or ranchers. There are many of both who love nature, conservation and even wolves (see article below) and who are working hard on these issues. It is about the divide that is affecting our nation now in values (especially rural vs. urban), science, politics, conservation, and yes, wolves, bears and other species. Often is it nearly impossible to see how we can stop shooting, poisoning, and trapping wolves if we cannot find a way to speak civilly to one another.

Sunrise & Snow, Skagit Flatlands. Washington.

There is good news. Here in Washington State (where wolves are a native and recovering species), the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), nonprofits, ranchers, hunters, and native communities are working on a different strategy, one focused on creative solutions, conflict deterrence, collaboration, and co-existence. Does it work? Well, in Washington there have been only five wolf removals in the past two years. Not perfect for those who love wolves, but far better than the number of wolf kills and the methods now legally allowed in the states listed above.

Immature Bald Eagle, lower Chuckanut Drive. Skagit County, Washington.

Washington State has implemented a citizen-developed grey wolf conservation and management plan to address conflicts with livestock and impacts to other wildlife. While this plan provides a variety of nonlethal and lethal measures, the emphasis is on nonlethal. Wolf removal happens only when a long list of criteria is met. Again, maybe not perfect, but a 180-degree difference from states where wolf management now means killing, trapping, baiting and night hunting. And unlike some of these other states that have created a ‘bounty’ for a wolf carcass, Washington has created an award fund for information helping to convict anyone who illegally kills a wolf in the state.

Great Blue Heron 2, Skagit Flatlands. Washington.

So, if you are like me and want to see the needless killing of wolves stopped? What can you do? Like the issue itself, the answer is complicated. Certainly, you can’t write to the Governors or legislators in those states where wolves are listed as vermin, as in most cases they are the problem.

You can write to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and request that she restore federal protections of the grey wolf under the Endangered Species Act. She could enact an emergency relisting and stop this overnight -- and that might be necessary just to stop the killing short term. But that could just widen the divide between those who love and those who hate wolves. That rarely works. It provides almost no chance for long term recovery and public acceptance of wolves in today’s divided society.

Perhaps the best answer (?) is to support and get involved with those agencies, nonprofits and others who are working on recovery of wolves, bears and other species through collaboration and conflict deterrence. This way, you can better understand other perspectives, so your protection efforts are successful. You can also communicate more effectively and knowledgably when you are outraged. And keep loving wolves and bears and telling and showing others why you do.

End Notes

And finally, after all of this dark and heavy reading, here is a video link from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation on BC’s coastal wolves to brighten your day:

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Laura Brauner
Laura Brauner
Jan 21, 2022

Thank you for this important information. I hope we are able to help save these magnificent creatures and help others learn about the benefits these apex predators provide in our ecosystem.

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