West Coast groups form 'pack' to protect wolves

Share info, seek responsible recovery plans

PORTLAND, Ore. - One year ago this week, the lone wolf known as "OR-7" or "Journey" crossed the Oregon border into California. The public interest in the fate of this wolf -- and others in the West -- has prompted 25 groups to form the Pacific Wolf Coalition, to share information and advocate for responsible wolf recovery.

The coalition members include Oregon Wild. Rob Klavins, wildlife advocate for that group, says this year has already seen less livestock lost to wolves, and more dialogue on all sides of the issue.

"We've actually seen the amount of conflict decrease by quite a bit," Klavins said. "We're excited that we can show a new way forward, where we don't have to repeat the mistakes that we've seen in the past, and we don't have to have the controversy and conflict that we've seen in places like Idaho and Wyoming."

There are at least six confirmed wolf packs in Oregon and eight in Washington, but Journey's appearance in California is the only official wolf sighting there since the 1920s.

At the California Wolf Center, Northern California representative Amaroq Weiss says one role wolves play in the ecosystem is keeping deer and elk on the move, so they do not overgraze particular areas.

California does not have a wolf management plan, but Weiss says the coalition will track what other states are doing.

"We want to hold the state agencies to the state wolf plans -- and if there are ways to improve them, we want to work with them to improve them.," Weiss said. "But we also recognize that it's not just at the state level."

Diane Gallegos, executive director of Wolf Haven International in Washington state, says bringing all the groups together with a common voice and message can have a big impact. They are committed to working with livestock owners, she adds.

"This is a coalition of people who want to see wolves recovered in historic ranges where possible, with all those ecological benefits, while also allowing ranchers to survive in their business," she said.

Wolf Haven International is a sanctuary that is participating in a federal recovery program for the two most critically endangered wolf species: the red wolf and Mexican gray wolf.

In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering ending federal protections for wolves.

Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this story

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