This wolf was from Washington. Recently, he wandered 700 miles only to be killed in Montana.
Wolves are amazing animals, and in the American West they still continue to survive as a species, despite all the adversity we throw at them.
Dispersal is a mechanism by which wolves can keep the species healthy throughout their range. Individuals will often leave the pack to which they were born, sometimes traveling hundreds, even thousands of miles in search of a mate. If they succeed, they keep populations of wolves, which are otherwise geographically separated, healthy through genetic exchange. But this exchange relies on dispersing wolves to do the job and we, humans, make dispersal very difficult for wolves to achieve.
This wolf was born in 2014 to the Huckleberry pack in NE Washington. The State of Washington is home to just 90 wolves. That summer his mother, the pack’s mother, was killed by a federal sharpshooter from a helicopter for feeding on domestic sheep. The cost of that operation to taxpayers to kill one wolf was more than $53,000.
This summer, one of the survivors from the Huckleberry female’s final litter dispersed from his pack, joining for a moment, the 536 wolves that live in Montana. That amazing journey took him across Idaho, into British Columbia, and down into the center of Montana. But his epic journey and life were cut short when a federal Wildlife Services agent shot the wolf for attacking sheep.
Sheep and cattle are literally scattered everywhere across the West. In many states, like Idaho, they far outnumber people. But, unless a dispersing wolf can manage to navigate through over 20 million head of cattle and nearly 2 million sheep that graze the lands of the American West, without ever killing or even scavenging on a dead domestic animal, then the wolf will often meet the same fate.
Wolves don’t kill a lot of domestic livestock. In 2015, in Washington and Montana, wolves killed 46 head of cattle and 21 sheep, very small numbers considering the millions that are out there. Yet, in response, 39 wolves were killed.
The vast majority of the public does not want to see 22+ million domestic cattle and sheep living in the West (mostly grazing unguarded on public lands) given priority over our small population of roughly 1,800 wolves living on the same land. When will policy (especially on lands owned by the American people) reflect the interests of the American people?
See the two articles below to read more about the story of this Washington wolf.