Tag: Oregon Wild

Our Oregon wolves

A very close relative to the domestic dog.

Indeed until a short time ago it was thought that the dog evolved from the grey wolf but recently I read that the dog evolved as its own species.

But the following is a republication of an article on Oregon Wild about wolves returning to the State of Oregon.

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Wolves in Oregon

Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were once common in Oregon, occupying most of the state. However, a deliberate effort to eradicate the species was successful by the late 1940s.

In fact, trouble for wolves began almost 100 years earlier, in the years before Oregon became a state. In 1843 the first wolf bounty was established and Oregon’s first legislative session was called in part to address the “problem of marauding wolves.” By 1913, people could collect a $5 state bounty and an Oregon State Game Commission bounty of $20. The last recorded wolf bounty was paid out in 1947.

After an absence of over half a century, wolves began to take their first tentative steps towards recovery. Having dispersed from Idaho, the native species is once again trying to make a home in Oregon. One of the first sightings came in 1999 when a lone wolf was captured near the middle fork of the John Day River, put in a crate and quickly returned to Idaho by government wildlife agents. In 2000, two wolves were found dead – one killed by a car, the other illegally shot.

In 2006, a flurry of sightings led biologists to believe a number of wild wolves were living in Northeast Oregon near the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Sadly, a wolf found shot to death near La Grande in May 2007 clearly indicated wolves had arrived in the area.

After that sad chapter, wolves began to establish a fragile foothold in the state. In July 2008 pups were confirmed to a wolf named Sophie by the Oregon Wild wolf pack (and B-300 to government biologists). Those pups represented the first wolves in Oregon in nearly 60 years! A second set of six pups were confirmed and videotaped in November 2009. The following July, a third litter of pups was confirmed.

Unfortunately, the news was tempered with additional poaching and heavy-handed state management. After peaking at 26 confirmed wolves, wolf recovery stalled out in 2011. While some wolves dispersed from the Imnaha Pack, only one pup was confirmed to Oregon’s best-known pack, and two pups were confirmed in one of the state’s other two packs (the Walla Walla and Wenaha). Oregon’s confirmed wolf population fell to 17, and then to 14, when the state killed three more wolves (two on purpose) and poachers killed a fourth.

In 2011, wolves in Eastern Oregon lost their federal protections due to an unprecedented congressional budget rider sponsored by Montana Sen. John Tester. Hours later,  Oregon used their new authority to kill two wolves and issue dozens of landowner kill permits at the request of the livestock industry.

Meanwhile, anti-wildlife interests and their political allies pushed over half a dozen bills in Salem aimed at making it easier to kill wolves and undermine wolf recovery. Most of the bills were defeated, but a compensation fund and new predator killing fund were approved.

Wolf hunts in nearby states also threaten the region’s fragile recovery. When wolves were federally delisted the region was home to an estimated population of about 1,700 wolves. Over 1,000 were killed in the first two seasons alone.

The large tracts of pristine and unspoiled Wilderness and roadless areas in Northeast Oregon are vital components in the successful recovery of wolves, and other wildlife too. (Ed: see the photograph below of the wild lands of Oregon.) The reappearance of wolves, wolverines, and other endangered wildlife in Oregon further underscores the importance of protecting those roadless areas that remain on public land.

Anticipating the eventual return of wolves, the state of Oregon completed a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in 2005 aimed at making rational decisions in the light of day that would lead to wolf recovery. Though state polling put support for wolf recovery at over 70 percent, the plan was weak, allowed the state to kill wolves, and set scientifically indefensible recovery goals.

Even so, the plan was actively opposed by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. They argued in their minority report that “wolves are being used as a biological weapon” and that wolves are a non-native species that citizens should have the right to shoot without permits. 

Oregon Wild and other conservationists generally – if reluctantly – agreed to honor the compromise embodied in the plan. Most believed lethal control would be an option of last resort and conservation would be a priority.

After the state shot two young wolves in response to the first livestock depredations in over half a century, it was clear the state was willing to address the concerns of the livestock industry by killing wolves.

In 2010, the plan was reviewed and revised. The public process took the better part of a year and demonstrated that support for wolf recovery had grown. Over 90 percent of a staggering 20,000 public comments were in favor of stronger protections for Oregon’s endangered gray wolves. Oregon Wild joined other conservationists and the Oregon public in defending the plan against continued attacks. Though the plan survived relatively intact, most of the approved changes made it easier to kill wolves. 

In 2011, a lone wolf from the Imnaha Pack generated international headlines when he became the first in Western Oregon since 1947, and then the first in California in nearly a century. The story of Journey (OR-7) provided a welcome opportunity to step away from the unnecessary controversy manufactured by those opposed to wolf recovery and instead reflect on the positive story of a native species retaking its rightful place on the landscape.

Since 2012, wolf recovery in Oregon has slowly started to get back on track. Although the population has increased over the last several years, in 2015, and with only 78 known adult wolves in the state, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Commission decided to prematurely strip wolves of state Endangered Species Act protections — despite what peer reviewed, independent scientists recommended. Shortly after, lawmakers in Salem passed HB 4040: a bill that statutorily affirmed the delisting of Oregon’s wolves. The passage of HB 4040 essentially blocked the ability of conservation organizations to bring forth a lawsuit challenging the merits of the Commission’s decision.

The latest update to the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan — which was approved by the Commission in June of 2019 —  significantly erodes protections for wolves by lowering the threshold for when the state can kill wolves, removing requirements for non lethal conflict deterrence, and opening the door toward public hunting and trapping. 

For many, wolves are a symbol of freedom, wilderness, and the American west, and Oregon’s wolf country contains some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Science continues to demonstrate the positive impacts of wolves on the landscape and the critical role played by big predators, and interest in their return is fueling tourism in Oregon’s wolf country and elsewhere in the west.

Still, wolves are threatened by a purposeful campaign of misinformation and fear. This webpage shoots down many of the common myths about wolves. A small number of vocal anti-wolf activists, along with industry lobbyists and their political allies, continue to work to undermine already weak protections for wolves and other wildlife.

The Future

For a state that prides itself on its green reputation, the extermination of wolves is one of our greatest environmental tragedies. Their return represents an opportunity at redemption.

Most Oregonians value native wildlife and believe wolves have a rightful place on the landscape. We are happy to know the silence of a hike in the Eagle Cap might be broken by the lonely howl of a wolf. If that howl is to remain, it’s critical that those who value wolves and other native wildlife stand up and speak up on their behalf.

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Plus there were photographs embedded within the text that I thought would be better appreciated if they were offered separately. Here they are:

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Finally a collection of wolf photographs from a link on Oregon Wild that is no longer in use. I downloaded these pictures in 2016!

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Long may they prosper!

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.

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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.

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Enough said!

Reaching out to the wilderness.

This is where our solace is.

Jean and I are members of the Oregon Wild organisation. As their home page states:

Oregon Wild supporters help us protect and restore our wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.

In their last Newsletter (Volume 43, Number 2) there was a heart-breaking item about the killing of a wild wolf. I asked them if I might have permission to republish that and it was promptly granted.

Then early yesterday morning, around 7am, the early morning sunlight picked up two deer, a young stag and a doe, who had come to feed on the molasses cob that we put out twice a day.

I grabbed my camera and went quietly out to where they were feeding. Although both creatures were familiar to Jean and me, and they are not too uncomfortable with us out there putting cob down, this time my different behaviour and especially the cold, dark ‘eye’ of the camera lens made the two deer pretty twitchy.

So I’m putting off the sad eulogy of the shot wolf until tomorrow and offering up the magic of being trusted by these beautiful creatures.

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The young stag in the foreground and the doe feeding on the cob both without being freaked out by my presence.

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But two further steps towards them by yours truly had them instantly watching me very closely.

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Now I’m on the verge of getting too close.

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One last photograph grabbed before they disappear into the forest. But what a magnificent, beautiful animal is that young stag!

See you tomorrow and the sad story of wolf OR-4

The happiness of wolves

Loving dogs must mean, surely, loving and protecting our wolves.

In yesterday’s post, George Dvorsky wrote:

Unlike a certain companion animal that will go unnamed, dogs lose their minds when reunited with their owners. But it’s not immediately obvious why our canine companions should grant us such an over-the-top greeting—especially considering the power imbalance that exists between the two species. We spoke to the experts to find out why.

Call of the Wild

In order to gain an appreciation for dog behavior, it’s important to understand that dogs are descended from wolves (or at least a common wolf-like ancestor). Clearly, the two species, separated by about 10,000 to 15,000 years, share a lot in common.

Like dogs, wolves greet each other with vigorous face licking (Credit: Sander van der Wel CC A-SA 2.0)
Like dogs, wolves greet each other with vigorous face licking (Credit: Sander van der Wel CC A-SA 2.0)

That reference to wolves seemed like as good a reason as any to write further about the wonderful wolf. Or more specifically about the wolves of Oregon.

Such as this from a recent newsletter from Oregon Wild:

Dear Oregon Wild Supporter,

It’s been a busy last few days for Oregon’s wolves and those working to protect them, with new places, new dates, and new pups!

When I wrote to you last, it was about an important Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission meeting in Seaside. But there’s been a change! The agenda for that meeting has moved and the ODFW Commission will now be taking comments on whether to delist gray wolves on Friday, Oct. 9th in Florence, Oregon. Please sign up to attend and testify on behalf of Oregon’s wolves. After all, they can’t testify for themselves!

I also shared with you a video of the Rogue Pack yearlings playing, caught by trail cam. These were Journey’s pups from last year, but it was also reported that he and his mate had produced another litter this year. Thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we have a look at these new pups.

Here’s that video:

Published on Jul 8, 2015
A camera captured images of three yearling wolves playing in June, providing biologists with confirmation the offspring of Oregon’s wandering wolf OR7 and his mate have survived.

I can well imagine that the majority of the readers of Learning from Dogs will not be able to attend that ODFW Commission meeting in Florence, OR, on the 9th October (as we can’t) but that doesn’t stop you from wanting to support wolf recovery here in Oregon by signing and sharing the Oregon Wild petition.

Thank you.

Reintroducing ourselves to the wolf

A guest essay from Karla Powell.

A couple of weeks ago, an email arrived in my ‘in-box’, as follows:

Hi Karla and Paul,

I hope this email finds you both well. I recently met Karla on an Oregon Wild hike last weekend in the Gorge. Karla is a longtime Oregon Wild supporter, passionate wildlife advocate and published author. She recently wrote a really lovely article on the human connection to wolves that I found quite inspiring.

I wanted you two to connect as Paul is also a wildlife advocate, now living in southern Oregon with his wonderful partner Jean. Paul, I thought you might be able to recommend a place, online or otherwise, Karla might be able to submit this article. I think you’ll quite enjoy it.

Thank you both for supporting our work for so many years,
Bridget

Clearly, I was able to recommend a place where Karla could submit her article! Here on Learning from Dogs!

Karla and I made contact and, bingo!, here is her remarkable essay.

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Reintroducing Ourselves to the Wolf

Karla Powell

Is it possible that by reconciling our troubled relationship with the North American wolf, we may come to better know our own nature as well as theirs? In the realm of natural history, wolves have long been left to myth and superstition. “Well into the 20th century, even science lagged behind in its knowledge of wolves and retained certain biases,” says award-winning nature writer, Barry Lopez, in his definitive book Of Wolves and Men. Even in the 21st century, science still can be skewed towards special interests. Yet the relative merits of facts notwithstanding, it is opinions about wolves that hold sway, points out Lopez.

As a lifelong urban creature, I had neither opinions nor knowledge when it came to the existence of wolves. Then in mid-life I found myself living alone in a cabin in rural Oregon and running a Junior Rangers program for the local state park. I also oversaw the weekend evening family programs. One such program featured hybrid wolves who’d found shelter in a nearby sanctuary and were presented for educational purposes. It was the closest I’d ever come to the real thing. So the next day I incorporated the theme of wolves into my Jr. Ranger activity.

I began by encouraging my young charges to howl along with me. I’d been practicing in the car on the way and it felt great! (I can see why they say wolves may howl at times for sheer pleasure.) My Jr. Rangers eagerly entered the fray, and every dog in the campground soon followed. Contrast this youthful exuberance to the dispiriting recollection of Joseph Marshall, author of The Wolf: A Native American Symbol. Marshall’s tale is recounted in the book War Against Wolf. “As a seven-year-old, I knew that there were no wolves left in my world, and I knew why. One day my grandfather… told me that the spirits of all the dead wolves … would wait until the time was right for them to return and walk again on the earth.”

Marshall, a Sicangu Lakota, believed that the 1995 reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone heralded that this day had arrived. Yet we’re still a far cry from the sustainable recovery of a species we nearly annihilated. Reintroduction efforts in several western states contend with tired old beliefs. This vocal minority seem to me not far removed from those distant ancestors whose hysteria about the animal went so far as to conjure human “werewolves,” who were hunted and burned alive.

The folklore that led to such extremes was ultimately carried to our shores. In the book Vicious: Wolves and Men in America, the author tells of “Euro-American colonists who captured live wolves and tortured them for fun, ignoring the animals’ cowering for clemency.” Yet canines at home could display similar signals, which their masters sympathetically interpreted.

None other than John James Audubon casually recorded the maniacal torture and vicious killing of a pack of wolves by an Ohio farmer in 1814. Audubon and other observers, including trappers, sometimes noted the meek submittal of wolves to human aggression. Yet even a naturalist at that time couldn’t extrapolate this to meaningful analysis of wolves’ socialization, which includes “signaling” postures as a plea for mercy.

“This is not predator control,” says Lopez in his chapter on the gruesome excesses of “wolf fever” in the settling of our continent. “It is the violent expression of a terrible assumption: that men have the right to kill other creatures not for what they do, but for what we fear they may do.” Lopez then goes on to discuss “theriophobia” or “fear of the beast as an irrational, violent, insatiable creature.” The author continues: “At the heart of theriophobia is the fear of one’s own nature.”

Some 200 years before Christ, the Roman dramatist Plautus pithily depicted the beast we humans carry within by saying, “Man is wolf to man.” A glance at today’s headlines reveals that man’s dual nature is far from reconciled. Our legacy with the wolf is equally dualistic. In conquest, labels of savagery or demonization of the “other” are commonly projected by the oppressor onto those whom they, in turn, savagely treat. Wilderness and wildlife also are targets of such dominating impulses.

The most basic familiarity with human psychology recognizes that if we repress or deny our own capacity for shadowy motives, we invariably project such motives onto scapegoats. In America’s nation-building, the 19th century campaign to exterminate the wolf indicates we were far more guilty of depradation upon them than they upon us.

The ever-popular Saint Francis of Assisi also lived in a time of conquest run amok. An allegory about a wolf in Gubbio, Italy, has Francis and this village interloper come to an amical agreement that restored harmony for all. A contemporary visionary can be found in environmental activist George Monbiot. His 2013 TEDGlobal talk addresses the trophic cascade that resulted from the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone.

This phenomenon begins at the top of the food chain and tumbles down, says Monbiot. The return of wolves to Yellowstone has restored the entire ecosystem to a more healthful balance, recalling the “complex, lost, natural food chains that once prevailed,” explains Monbiot. This trophic cascade brought about by wolves simply being wolves has regenerated entire valleys and even changed the behavior of a river, he points out.

Just as St. Francis struck a deal with the wolf of Gubbio by promising he’d be fed by the villagers, we moderns too might benefit from a more cooperative pact. The wolf was a source of fascination to Homo sapiens when they also existed as communal hunters. Some theorize that prehistoric man’s social structure was modeled on how effectively wolves assured their packs’ common good.

The advent of an agrarian society disrupted this complex food chain that formerly prevailed. An agrarian society also emphasized the notion of property. The most common argument against wolves in agricultural communities is they kill animals that are human property. Yet since we’ve eradicated the natural habitat and prey of our indigenous wolf, their only guilt is they must eat to survive. This is no sin, as St. Francis demonstrated at Gubbio.

Top predators such as wolves needed time to adapt to such “quirky and aggressive killers {as man},” says Vicious author Jon T. Coleman. “The short supply of energy at the top of the food pyramid denied them this time. Euro-American colonists attacked animals in a vulnerable niche, creatures stuck with few options in a thermodynamic dead end.”

Consider that the very term “civilizing forces” is an oxymoron. Judging from how we have in some ways devolved into morbid obesity and epidemic diet-related diseases (many of them induced by altering food’s integrity), is it not possible for us to restore more wonder into our world by “rewilding” somewhat, as Monbiot and others propose? Not a return to the Stone Age. But perhaps a truly evolutionary step. One that restores us to a future that can reimagine coexistence as an effective survival strategy.

As an archetype in differing cultures, the wolf has been both revered and demonized. Yet whether seen as good or evil, it is still being objectified. Can we not instead view it as a living being worthy of both reason and regard? Despite more data about wolves than ever before, reason still lags behind, Lopez notes in the afterword to his original book. “Some folklore is so deeply entrenched that its adherents completely shut out emerging insights … In their rigid stances, they are impervious even to reason.”

As for regard, I suggest some discernment that takes us beyond even the necessary rational analysis. No less than Kepler, Darwin and Einstein have said that intuition is key to the scientific process, Lopez points out. He then suggests that we remind ourselves, “There could be more, there could be things we don’t understand.” Such a reminder may be our only hope for the wolf— as well as for us.

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I have no doubt that everyone who reads Karla’s wonderful essay will be enthralled by the beautiful messages.

Only one way to close today’s post.

The long-awaited return of the Yellowstone wolf!
The long-awaited return of the Yellowstone wolf!

Making sense of who we are?

The psychology of self.

One of the huge differences between humans and our beloved dogs is that dogs live entirely in the present and do not engage in abstract thinking. Indeed, one of the most glorious aspects of owning a dog is being able to lose oneself in those moments of intimacy between yourself and your dog. Here’s a wonderful example of that when Bridget from Oregon Wild visited us recently and enjoyed a moment of bliss with Hazel.

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So with that in mind, I am now going to be very un-dog-like and very human by offering an essay that is most abstract in manner.  Not my essay, I should hasten to add, but a recent essay from George Monbiot, republished here with his kind permission. Then tomorrow, I want to stay with the abstract theme and include a recent essay from Terry Hershey.

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A Small and Shuffling Life

Why, in this age of freedom, are we so confined? And what can we do to reclaim our lives?

By George Monbiot, published in the New York Times, 19th January 2015

Live free or die: this is the maxim of our age. But the freedoms we celebrate are particular and limited. We fetishise the freedom of business from state control; the freedom not to pay taxes; the freedom to carry guns and speak our minds and worship whom we will. But despite – in some cases because of – this respect for particular freedoms, every day the scope of our lives appears to contract.

Half a century ago, we were promised that rising wealth would mean less work, longer vacations and more choice. But our working hours rise in line with economic growth, and they are now governed by a corporate culture of snooping and quantification, of infantilizing dictats and impossible demands, which smothers autonomy and creativity. Technologies that promised to save time and free us from drudgery (such as email and smartphones) fill our heads with a clatter so persistent it stifles the ability to think.

Public spaces in our cities are reduced to pasteurised piazzas, in which loitering without intent to shop is treated as suspicious. Protest is muted by dozens of constraining laws. Young people, who have no place in this dead-eyed, sanitised landscape, scarcely venture from their bedrooms. Political freedom now means choosing between alternative versions of market fundamentalism.

Even the freedoms we do possess we tend not to exercise. We spend hours every day watching other people doing what we might otherwise be doing: dancing, singing, playing sport, even cooking. We venture outdoors to seek marginally different varieties of stuff we already possess. “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers / Little we see in Nature that is ours,” wrote William Wordsworth (1), and it is truer today than it was then.

We entertain the illusion that we have chosen our lives. Why, if this is the case, do our apparent choices differ so little from those of other people? Why do we live and work and travel and eat and dress and entertain ourselves in almost identical fashion? It’s no wonder, when we possess and use it so little, that we make a fetish out of freedom.

Perhaps we have forgotten the bitter complaint made by Benjamin Franklin in 1753. “When an Indian Child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return.”(2) But when European Americans “have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life … and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.” In 1785 Hector de Crèvecoeur asked two European refuseniks why they would not come home. “The reasons they gave me would greatly surprise you: the most perfect freedom, the ease of living, the absence of those cares and corroding solicitudes which so often prevail with us.”(3)

We arose in a thrilling, terrible world. The African savannahs on which the first hominims evolved were dominated by sabretooth and false sabretooth cats, giant hyaenas and bear dogs. When human beings arrived in the Americas, 14,000 years ago, they found ground sloths the weight of elephants; a beaver eight feet from nose to tail; armadillos like small cars; giant lions and sabretooths; short-faced bears whose shocking armoury of teeth and claws suggests they drove giant lions and sabretooths off their prey. A bird in Argentina had a wingspan of 26 feet. Fanged salmon nine feet long migrated inland from the Pacific coast.

We carry with us the psychological equipment, rich in instinct and emotion, required to navigate that world. But our survival in the modern economy requires the use of few of the mental and physical capacities we possess. Sometimes it feels like a small and shuffling life. Our humdrum, humiliating lives leave us, I believe, ecologically bored.

At times this sensation has overwhelmed me. It happened in a newly-discovered bone cave in southern England. The walls and floor were encrusted with calcite crystals, that glittered in the torchlight. One of the archaeologists with whom I was exploring it handed me the atlas vertebra of a Bronze Age cow. Then he picked up another bone, this time with both hands: another atlas vertebra, but monstrous. “It’s the same species as the first one. But this is the wild version. The aurochs.” As I turned it over in my hands, feeling its great weight, I experienced what seemed like an electric jolt of recognition. It felt raw, feral, pungent, thrilling. The colour seemed to drain from modern life.

I felt it again when stalking up a tidal channel with a trident, trying to spear flounders. After two hours scanning the sand intently for signs of the fish, I was suddenly transported by the fierce conviction that I had done it a thousand times before. I felt it most keenly when I stumbled across the fresh corpse of a deer in a wood. I hoisted it onto my shoulders. As soon as I felt its warmth on my back, my skin flushed, my hair stood on end and I wanted to roar. Civilisation slid off like a bathrobe. I believe that in these cases I accidentally unlocked a lumber room in the mind, in which vestigial faculties shaped by our evolutionary past are stored. These experiences ignited in me a smouldering longing for a richer and rawer life than the one I lead.

Unless we are prepared to reject civilization altogether and live in the woods, there is no complete answer to this predicament. But I think there is a partial one. Across many rich nations, especially the United States, global competition is causing the abandonment of farming on less fertile land. Rather than trying to tame and hold back the encroaching wilds, I believe we should help to accelerate the process of reclamation, removing redundant roads and fences, helping to re-establish missing species, such as wolves and cougars and bears, building bridges between recovering habitats to create continental-scale wildlife corridors, such as those promoted by the Rewilding Institute(4).

This rewilding of the land permits, if we choose, a partial rewilding of our own lives. It allows us to step into a world that is not ordered and controlled and regulated, to imagine ourselves back into the rawer life from which we came, to discover, perhaps, the ecstasy I experienced when I picked up that deer. We don’t have to give up our washing machines and computers and spectacles and longevity to shed our ecological boredom and recover some measure of the freedom that has been denied to us. Perhaps we do need to remember who we are.

George Monbiot’s book Feral: rewilding the land, the sea and human life is published this month by the University of Chicago Press.

References:

1. http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww317.html

2. Benjamin Franklin, 9th May 1753. The Support of the Poor. Letter to Peter Collinson.

http://www.historycarper.com/1753/05/09/the-support-of-the-poor/

3. J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, 1785. Letters from an American Farmer and Other Essays. Letter 12. Edited by Dennis D. Moore. Harvard University Press.

4. http://rewilding.org/rewildit/

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So tomorrow, the second part with Terry Hershey and a short talk by Professor Dan Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Havard University.

Loving life unreservedly!

The appalling attitudes of those who kill wild animals for fun!

You will recall that in yesterday’s post, I referred to the fact that Jean and I are supporters of Oregon Wild. If you drop in on the OW blog, one of the items you will read is A New Year for Oregon’s Wolves.  Here’s how it starts:

Jan 12, 2015 | Rob Klavins

Photo of a young wolf from the Walla Walla Pack taken on Feb 5, 2014. Photo courtesy of ODFW.
Photo of a young wolf from the Walla Walla Pack taken on Feb 5, 2014. Photo courtesy of ODFW.

A new year provides opportunities for reflection – and prognostication. For wolves in Oregon, 2014 was a good year. Journey finally found his mate and Oregon continued a management paradigm where killing remained an option of last resort. The result was a small but expanding wolf population and a continued decrease in conflict.

However, it’s not an understatement to say that 2015 is poised to be among the most consequential years for Oregon’s wolf recovery since the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

After a hard-fought legal settlement, Oregon’s fragile wolf recovery is back on track under the most progressive plan in the country. Though the plan is working for all but the most extreme voices, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) is re-igniting old conflicts by caving to political pressure and giving serious consideration to weakening basic protections for wolves.

Moving on but staying in theme; so to speak.

For a few months now, I have been subscribing to a blog called Exposing the Big Game.  Here’s a little from their About page.

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This blog site is a haven for wildlife and animal advocates, a wildlife refuge of sorts, that’s posted “No Hunting,” as any true sanctuary should be. Just as a refuge is patrolled to keep hunters and poachers from harassing the wildlife, this blog site is monitored to keep hunters from disturbing other people’s quiet enjoyment of the natural world.

It is not a message board or a chat room for those wanting to argue the supposed merits of animal exploitation or to defend the act of hunting or trapping in any way, shape or form. There are plenty of other sites available for that sort of thing.

Hunters and trappers: For your sake, I urge you not to bother wasting your time posting your opinions in the comments section. This blog is moderated, and pro-hunting statements will not be tolerated or approved. Consider this fair warning—if you’re a hunter, sorry but your comments are going straight to the trash can. This is not a public forum for animal exploiters to discuss the pros and cons of hunting.

We’ve heard all the rationalizations for killing wildlife so many times before; there’s no point in wasting everyone’s time with more of that old, tired hunter PR drivel. Any attempt to justify the murder of our fellow animals will hereby be jettisoned into cyberspace…

Well two days ago, Lydia Millet wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times that was republished on Exposing the Big Game. It was about the American Gray Wolf.  I asked permission to republish it in full here.

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Opinion: High Noon for the Gray Wolf

By LYDIA MILLET JAN. 18, 2015

In December 2011, a wild gray wolf set foot in California, the first sighting in almost a century. He’d wandered in from Oregon, looking for a mate. In October 2014, for the first time in almost three-quarters of a century, a gray wolf was seen loping along the forested North Rim of the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. She had walked hundreds of miles, probably from Wyoming or Idaho.

The return of these animals to the homes of their ancestors — however fleeting — was a result of their 40-year protection under the Endangered Species Act.

OR-7, or “Journey,” as schoolchildren named the first wolf, had been born to the Imnaha pack, the first one in Oregon for many decades. When he wandered south, his brother, OR-9, wandered east. Shortly after he crossed into Idaho (where wolves are not protected), he was shot dead. OR-7 lived on, after his repeated incursions into California (where wolves are protected), to sire a litter of pups just north of the state line. He became the subject of a documentary — in California, even a wolf can be a star.

The story of the Grand Canyon wolf, though, may be over: Three days after Christmas, it appears, she was shot and killed in Utah by a man media outlets have called a “coyote hunter.” (A DNA test is pending.)

For almost two centuries, American gray wolves, vilified in fact as well as fiction, were the victims of vicious government extermination programs. By the time the Endangered Species Act was passed, in 1973, only a few hundred of these once-great predators were left in the lower 48 states. After numerous generations of people dedicated to killing wolves on the North American continent, one generation devoted itself to letting wolves live. The animals’ number has now risen to almost 5,500, thanks to their legal protection, but they still occupy less than 5 percent of their ancient home range.

Since 1995, the act has guided efforts to raise wolves in captivity, release them, and follow them in the wild. Twenty years ago this month, the first gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park.

But this fragile progress has been undermined. Since 2011, the federal government has moved to remove federal protection for gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) and in the western Great Lakes (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan), the two population centers. Management of the species was turned over to these states, which responded with a zeal that looks like blood lust.

Relying on the greatly exaggerated excuse that wolves threaten cattle and sheep, the states opened their doors to the killing of wolves. (In some states, bait can be used to lure the animals to their deaths; in Montana, private landowners can each kill 100 wolves each year; in Wisconsin, up to six hunting dogs on a single wolf is considered fair play.) Legions of wolf killers rose to the challenge, and the toll has been devastating: In just three and a half years, at least 3,500 wolves have been mowed down.

There’s been an outcry from conservationists, ecologists and people who simply like wolves, but this has not stopped the killers. Some say wolves are a threat to their livestock investments (despite the existence of generous rancher-compensation programs in all wolf states save Alaska); others invoke fear of wolves; still others appear to revel in killing. Online, you can find pictures of wolf carcasses held up proudly as trophies and men boasting of running over wolves with their cars. Judges have started to step in. In September, a federal court decided that wolf management in Wyoming — which had allowed people to kill as many wolves as they wanted, throughout 84 percent of the state — should be returned to the federal government. In December, also in response to a lawsuit, another federal court reinstated protections for wolves in the western Great Lakes. These decisions should make clear that the states alone simply can’t be entrusted with the future of our wolves.

In Washington, the threats persist. The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a proposal that would strip federal protection from almost all gray wolves in the lower 48 states, not just the ones in the Rockies and the Midwest. Meanwhile, right-wing Republicans in the new Congress are champing at the bit to remove the wolves from protection under the act — politics trumping science.

President Obama should direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to retain protection for wolves; if it doesn’t, they could be wiped off the face of the American landscape forever. A unified wolf-recovery plan for the nation is required. Not only do wolves play an important role in keeping wilderness wild, but they were here long before we were, and deserve to remain. Not for nothing was the environmentalist Aldo Leopold transformed by the sight of a “fierce green fire” in a dying wolf’s eyes.

I’ve seen wild gray wolves only once, as they trotted across a dirt road in front of my own family car in a New Mexican forest. There were three of them on the road, no doubt a wolf family, and three of us in the car: my husband, my daughter and me. In the back seat, my little girl was engrossed in a picture book and didn’t look up fast enough. I want her to have another chance; I want her to keep living in a world where something beautiful and wild lurks at the edge of sight.

Lydia Millet is the author, most recently, of the novel “Mermaids in Paradise.”

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Going back to that blog post over on Exposing the Big Game, I was inspired by many of the comments. Here are two examples:

From Rosemary Lowe (who blogs over on EARTH for Animals)

I so agree with your comments, Roger. Here we are, staring at the Faces of Extinction, while, so-called “wildlife groups” grovel, hat in hand, to these agencies, and to the ranchers and hunters, offering yet another “collaboration” or “compromise” so we “can all work together.” I am sickened as to how many of these groups make no apology about having hunters/ranchers on their boards and on their staff. An all out War against these special interests, and their agencies does not seem to be on group’s agenda. So much has already been lost. As you stated, so little is left: the massive slaughter of native wild animals & wild habitats since the 1800’s is criminal, yet there seems to be little passion about it.

Here from Sharon Lee Davies-Tight (who blogs over on Word Warrior Davies-Tight)

Thanks for the article. Strange isn’t it – the killing spree for sport against the wolves for their predatory behavior, yet these same people aren’t calling their behavior or the behavior of hunting dogs predatory?

Finally, here’s the trailer to that film about the wolf OR7

Please do all you can to ensure that federal protection for gray wolves in all US states is maintained.

How we treat wild animals defines how we treat the planet – the only one we have!

The poetry of nature

A repeat of a post from last October.

A few days ago, we had a visit from the Wilderness Campaign Coordinator from Oregon Wild. Bridget, that being her name, took the opportunity of saying ‘hi’ as a consequence of her coming down from Northern Oregon to Ashland. Bridget was giving a presentation in Ashland regarding securing more wilderness areas in Oregon; a very worthy ambition. Jean and I have supported the organisation since we moved up to Oregon.

Anyway, I offered to use Learning from Dogs to support and promote any campaigns from OW that would be of interest to LfD readers.  I sorted out some recent posts that would give Bridget and her colleagues an idea of what was published in this place and sent her the links.

One of the links that I forwarded was this post from last October.  I just wanted to share it with you all again.

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Embracing the poetry of nature.

The beauty of poetry.

In yesterday’s post, where I wrote about how Jean and I had the wonderful privilege of feeding a wild deer from our hands, I closed it with a p.s. This is what I wrote: “P.S. It is at times like this that we need poetry.  So how about it: Sue? Kim? How would you describe in poetry what Jean and I experienced?

Well, Sue, of Sue Dreamwalker, replied with a link to a poem of hers that she published back in 2012. I will say no more than republish, with permission, Sue’s beautiful words and close with one of the photographs from yesterday.

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SDBeatOne

Be at One with yourself

Be at one with the world

Be at One with Nature

And see your life unfurl

Close your eyes and imagine

The beginnings of a New Earth,

And Open your eyes to your beauty

Breathe in and give Birth.

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For you are One and part of the Whole

Not a separate Unit , but a Beautiful Soul

United within the One Divine love

And part of that cosmic hub.

Share your love along with your Light

And Rejoice in Gratitude

Use your sight

To see a world in Beauty and Grace

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You are stronger than you think you know

Spread a little Love where ever you go

Shower your peace and sprinkle your heart

Into the rivers of life send a ripple a spark

Be Calm, knowing all is well

Keep breathing in Peace for inside it dwells

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Know you are where you are meant to be

Open your eyes

Come on now See

For we are ONE and it’s time to Unite

Stop all your hating, and judging and strife

Find your heart and clear out your mind

Seek out yourself

And Wisdom you’ll find

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Let go of torments and allow the Joy in

Come on now people

It’s time to begin

Be One with yourself

Be One with the world

Be One with nature

And Let the Universe Spin

For the Spiral is turning and

Peace will Win..

© Sue Dreamwalker – 2012 All rights reserved.

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The trust between the deer and Jean then enabled the deer to feed from Jean's hand.
The trust between the deer and Jean then enabled the deer to feed from Jean’s hand.

Calmer thoughts.

A further reminder of the power of positive thinking!

So much for fine ambitions!  I’m recalling a post I published just one week ago; yes 7 tiny days past!  That was the post that I named ‘Staying positive – the test.‘  Where I opened it, as follows:

Where hope and inspiration meets the cold world of reality!

Yesterday’s post Don’t frighten the horses was all about reminding me that fear is a very bad motivator. I promoted the Transition message,  ”If we can’t imagine a positive future we won’t be able to create it.”

This small chastisement comes on the back of yesterday’s post where I had a ‘big dump’ of feelings about some of the madder aspects of our so-called modern life. 

Then later on in the day, I just happened to come across a flurry of positive stories that I wanted to share.

First, here’s a scan of the assessors map of our property, near Merlin, OR.

A little over 13 acres, orientated West-East.
A little over 13 acres, orientated West-East.

NB: The blue line is the course of Bummer Creek, that historically has had a year-round flow, albeit a low flow during Summer months.  The rectangular green area to the West of the open land was a tennis court, now removed.  The main house is 200 feet West of that tennis court area, completely hidden by surrounding trees.  It is a beautiful place for us and all our animals!

The first positive story was as a result of watching that TED Talk by Marla Spivak.  Jean and I thought that as we have well over 4 acres of open grassland, let’s see what we can do to attract and assist our local bees.

Jean and I are supporters of Oregon Wild and a quick call to them about assisting local bees elicited this:

Hi Paul,
Nice speaking with you this morning. For your inquiries on how best to attract bees to your acreage, I would recommend the Xerces Society, a local Oregon group with a Pollinator Campaign. They have a lot of great info on their website, and you could also give them a call at 855.232.6639.

Also, Representative Earl Blumenauer here in Portland has been a big advocate for bee conservation and recently introduced the Save America’s Pollinators Act if you’re interested in bee conservation activism.

Hope this helps!
Cheers,

It was then an easy step to contact the Xerces Society, that very helpfully produced the following advice:

Hello Paul-

Thank you for calling the Xerces Society with your questions today. We have many resources available to landowners who wish to conserve pollinators and create habitat on their land. Here are links to several of our resources:

Attracting Native Pollinators

Pollinator Habitat Installation Guides

Regional guidance on site prep, planting, and management for pollinator habitat. We have guidelines for creating pollinator meadows and flowering hedgerows. Each guideline has an appendix with regionally appropriate bee magnet plants.

http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/agriculture/pollinator-habitat-installation-guides/

Pollinator Habitat Assessment Guide and Form

Use this guide to assess the currently habitat available to pollinators on your property and how to protect and enhance that habitat.

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/PollinatorHabitatAssessment.pdf

Pollinator Conservation Resource Center

Regional information about plant lists, habitat conservation guides, and more.

http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center/

Conserving Bumble Bees

Specific guidelines for land managers for conserving and managing good quality bumble bee habitat

http://www.xerces.org/bumblebees/guidelines/

I hope this information is helpful! Feel free to email or call me with additional questions about conserving pollinators.

Best,

Finally, John Hurlburt emailed this, and I use it to close the post.

One Way or Another

What’s happening to Faith?
What’s happening to Love?
What’s happening to Nature?
Whatever’s happening
Is happening
To all of us.
       an old lamplighter

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil,

but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

Albert Einstein