Around the Walgamott house these days, wolf is a four-letter word.
As populations of Canis lupus have expanded in Washington and Oregon the past few years, I’ve been doing my damndest to get up to speed on the species, their biological realities, the likely limits of their expansion, human tolerances, state plans, game predation and more.
I’ve got my Google Alerts set to capture every mention of “Rocky Barker wolves,” “wolves Pend Oreille County,” “Judge Donald Molloy,” “Carter Niemeyer wolves” and “Twisp wolves” that pop up on the net.
I’ve been pestering biologists from Oly to Pendleton to Clarkston to the Okanogan and the Okanagan to Helena.
And I have been devouring reams of material — articles, books, Web sites, magazines, PDFs, TV shows, any and everything wolf-related.
The past few months I’ve been nattering about them so much at home that Amy finally got fed up and said I was only allowed to tell one wolf-related vignette per breakfast — never mind at the dinner table.
And then two weeks ago, she barred all mention.
I don’t blame her. This particular species and all its baggage are a freakin’ headache that I wish would go away.
It won’t, of course, and could go to migraine strength in the years ahead if what’s happened to our east is any indication.
Amy’s ban came as I sent a massive story on the wild dogs in our May issue to press and thought I’d be done with them for a good long two or three minutes at minimum.
Indeed, just as I clawed my way out of the wolves’ den, I was dragged back into it.
That same week the president signed the budget with the delisting rider. Today, wolves in the Northern Rockies are officially recovered and — though wolf advocates filed two lawsuits — states took over management.
(ODFW immediately notified everyone they were taking up the gun to deal with a pair in the problematic Imnaha pack; IDFG began selling tags at $11.50 for residents, $186 for out-of-staters.)
Not only that, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also announced it would do a status review for the western two-thirds of Washington and Oregon to figure out if wolves here should be included in the overall population roaming around Idaho, Montana, the Selkirks, the Blues and Wallowas, or should be their own distinct segment.
Public comment is on now. You can do so at regulations.gov; put “Pacific Northwest wolves” in the subject line.
And now to the comedic part of this blog.
True, wolves are a topic of great interest and great angst in our region, one that must be dealt with seriously. But every now and then you gotta come up for air, people, and have a good laugh.
This morning as I performed due diligence on the latest and greatest dispatches from the Wolf Wars, I somehow stumbled across the tweets of “Lookout,” a wolf from North-central Washington’s pack.
Or, at least someone impersonating one, in 140 characters or less of course.
In case you haven’t been following these wolves as closely as I have — they set up shop in the valley I deer hunt — they’re Washington’s first confirmed pack in 70 years.
They officially showed up around Lookout Mountain in 2008 and had six pups, then four in 2009, but may have been in the area the year before based on two sightings of large groups of wolves.
The alpha female was pregnant last spring, but mysteriously disappeared in mid-May. A pair of biologists believe it was illegally killed. At least three others — and possibly more than four, according to a high-ranking game warden — have been poached. Members of one family, the Whites, face potential federal charges. And so now, a pack which once numbered 10 is down to two or three members, according to the latest official estimates.
(What’s going on? Well, see the aforementioned May issue of Northwest Sportsman.)
But about Lookout’s Twitter posts — 111 since the first in mid-March — they purport to show the thinking of the slightly naive though culturally aware, lovelorn and always hungry alpha male as it hunts the Methow Valley for something to eat, grumbles about the too-soggy weather, salivates about a female wolf which turns out to not only be a crazy bitch but possesses some really big, scary teeth, and paws through the Internet with amusing results.
I have no clue what smart-ass is behind the tweets, but in a light-hearted way it plays off of fairy-tale references, rumors and goings on in the Methow Valley. I think that even the most hard-bitten of the antis might get a chuckle out it.
Here are some of the best tweets, in my opinion: