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“You need to learn to fall before we leave.”

“I don’t know how.”

“Dive like a penguin.”

“Okay.”

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Top: Pups from the Wenaha pack peer out from the den.
Above: A yearling female wolf from the Wenaha pack in northeastern Oregon. As of August 2012, there were a minimum of 9 wolves confirmed in the pack. All images are mine; please do not use without direct permission.

I’ve spent the last several months writing about the politics of wolves in Oregon, and to some degree the West. If everything proceeds as planned my book, Collared: Politics and Personalities in Oregon’s Wolf Country, will be published by OSU Press in Fall 2013. On the new “Collared: Wolves in Oregon” page on this site, I’ll share bits of that story, wolf-related news and my ongoing research.

… For the last eight-months since observing possible wolf sign during elk hunting season, the Oregon Department of Fish Wildlife state wolf coordination, Russ Morgan, has regularly driven deep into this forested area in northern Union County, cupped his hands to his mouth and let out long, loud, AAWWOOOOoooos.

The howls are part of bona fide scientific survey technique used by wildlife managers to identify the presence of wolves in areas too large to visually survey. Territorial wolf packs and individual wolves will often respond, and move toward, the human howlers, across distances of several miles. However, it’s not a perfect tool. Wolves have been known to ignore, or not respond, to the howls of humans and other wolves. In addition, when a response is elicited it provides only general information about whether or not a wolf, or wolves, are present. Deducing more specific information about exact numbers in the population, sex, and age can be a stretch.

Still a response is a response, and howling surveys are a practical, low cost option for trying to determine if wolves are in an area. That viability, and the potential for success no matter how slim is why Morgan’s voice is now hoarse enough to sand paint, and why he has spent the last two-days eating peanut butter sandwiches and sleeping in the dirt next to the truck. Staring blankly out the windshield, sweating, and swatting at bugs he plans for one more night.

Even at 15 mph Morgan can feel the vibration from the washboarded forest road in his kidneys. Dust from the dry fire road comes in through the vents in the truck’s dash coating the interior with the same fine brown film of particulates that covers the brush mallow and Douglas fir trees that border the road. Every ten minutes, Morgan stops, rolls down his window, and howls. He keeps it up for one hour, two hours, four. At about one a.m. he pulls the truck to the shoulder, switches off the engine, and being too tired to even pull out his sleeping bad, lets his head loll back. He sleeps for almost two hours propped in the driver seat. Waking at about three a.m. he decides it couldn’t hurt to howl into the darkness. When a responding howl comes immediately and from less than 25 yards away, he almost falls out of the open window.

Before the call tapers off it’s joined by another deeper howl, punctuated by higher pitched yips – the sound of pups.

– Excerpt from Collared: Politics and Personalities in Oregon’s Wolf Country, Chapter 3: Early Arrivals

I just wrote this email. It’s a follow-up question from an interview I conducted a few weeks ago.

Hi __________,

When you open the main body cavity, you said you make an incision from the jaw to the pubis. This is probably a ridiculous question, but, do you use a scalpel to make the cut?

Thanks! Aimee

I think sometimes it’s these little details that can really round out a story, and they have to be right. I only wish I had thought to clarify at the time, rather than realizing now as I’m trying to write the whole piece that I want the detail. The learning process continues.

Addendum: I’m envisioning a laser being used because then wouldn’t it also act to cauterize as it opened?  I’m 90% sure it’s my imagination going nuts, but I’d rather know for certain.