A Eulogy for OR-4

Wolves in the wild.

Humanity has such a strange view of its earliest beginnings.

In the last few weeks there has been much publicity surrounding the science about the earliest domestication of dogs. I’m sure you have seen this but if not then read it over on the Science Mag website; an article that opens:

Asian dogs like this Tibetan mastiff have been separated from European breeds such as Labradors for more than 6000 years. Darko Vrcan/Alamy Stock Photo
Asian dogs like this Tibetan mastiff have been separated from European breeds such as Labradors for more than 6000 years. Darko Vrcan/Alamy Stock Photo

Dogs may have been domesticated more than once

For years, scientists have debated where dogs came from. Did wolves first forge their special relationship with humans in Europe, or in Asia? The answer, according to a new study, is yes. This week in Science, researchers report that genetic analysis of hundreds of canines reveals that dogs may have been domesticated twice, once in Asia and once in Europe or the Near East, although European ancestry has mostly vanished from today’s dogs. The findings could resolve a rift that has roiled the canine origins community—but the case isn’t 
closed yet.

Read the full article here.

David Grimm‘s words in that second sentence points to the fact that, irrespective of where on this Planet, wolves forged a “special relationship with humans”. In my book I offer evidence that this special relationship may have been crucial in our, as in humanity’s, ability to evolve from hunting and gathering to farming and thence the long journey to modern times.

Ergo, across the world we should recognise the wonders of that relationship and the magical qualities of the wolf.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Jean and I are supporters of Oregon Wild and that in the current newsletter author Rob Klavins had written a eulogy for an Oregon wolf and given me permission to republish it.

ooOOoo

A Eulogy for OR-4

Rob Klavins Mar 31, 2016

or4We met three times, but I imagine that I barely registered in his life.

To him I was no more than an occasional scent on his trail or the source of a tortured imitation of a howl.

But to me, no nonhuman animal ever has been or likely ever will be as important or consequential in my life as OR4.

He escaped kill orders and poachers. He endured at least 4 collarings and he beat the odds. There aren’t many ten year old wolves out there. Today there is one less.

OR4 was shot and killed today. And it hurts. Anyone celebrating his death, the killing of his likely pregnant partner, and two of his pups, must have a hardened heart indeed.

He became a symbol for those who revere wolves as well as for those who hate them and hate the wild. Even some of the most cynical wolf haters paid him begrudging respect.

He was imperfect. He challenged us. He was loud. But he was tough and he was tenacious. He was resilient, and he was a good father.

OR4 and his partners OR2 and a wolf known as “Limpy” leave behind an unparalleled legacy. His offspring include OR7, the first pups in California in nearly a century, OR3, and wolves both known and unknown quietly living their lives and retaking their rightful place on the Oregon landscape.

He never set paw in Salem or DC, but for better and worse, he had more impact on policy and politics than any animal I know of other than Cecil the Lion.
He also leaves behind questions. Lots of questions. Questions about our future – the future of his offspring…and ours.

Above all, as I heard the helicopter take off near my home this morning, I wondered if our society will leave room for the wild on the landscape…and in our hearts.

Despite his collars and dayglo ear tags, OR4 was wild. alpha2

OR4 is dead, and we killed him.

But we’ll keep fighting for his legacy as imperfectly and tenaciously as he did.

The story of Oregon’s biggest and baddest wolf didn’t end in “happily ever after”. But the story for wolves and those of us who value the wild is still not fully written. It’s a new chapter. I’m no starry-eyed optimist. So I’ll stubbornly cling to hope and tenacity.

The alternative is surrender. OR4 was no quitter. And we shouldn’t be either.

He was loud.

And he was annoying to those who hate the wild. We should be too.

ooOOoo

Enough said!

11 thoughts on “A Eulogy for OR-4

  1. I read your article and I just wanted to cry and I did. Wolfs are a vital part of who we are as humans and they have been essential in human development. They are amazing animals. Thank you for your beautifully written eulogy for OR-4.

    1. Your thanks to Rob and the wonderful team at Oregon Wild will be passed on to them.

      Karen, all you/we can do is to use our tears to good effect and stand up for these amazing animals, and hope. Feel free to share the message widely.

  2. Are we/humans going to kill every last bloody thing that is the least bit wild? Then we, too, will perish. I can’t say why this is, only that it feels to my bones that it is so. Nice tribute.

    1. Bela, my emotions are very close to yours. However hard I try to rationalize away such negative emotions I don’t find a positive, as in emotional, alternative. I say this as someone who tends generally towards positive attitudes. Interesting times!

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