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CollaredJohn E. Riutta reviewed Collared on The Well Read Naturalist book review this week. In his summary of the book, Riutta wrote:

Collared is not only about wolves but people as well; people with astonishingly different views of the world in which they live, who are honestly trying to work together for their own as well as the common good of their families, towns, and the larger society, to establish a set of rules under which they all – and the wolves as well – can live together with a minimal amount of disruption to their respective ways of life.
To see the full review, and to find recommendations for other books within the genre, please check out, The Well-Read Naturalist.


We spent all of November fly fishing for Chinook on Oregon’s south coast. When we were done I wrote a feature story about the experience, the fish, and the weather. It came out today in the new issue of The Fly Fish Journal. Here’s a bit of the piece. I hope you’ll support small publishing and check out the rest at

Scratch Tickets, The Fly Fish Journal v4.3.

They come on the incoming tide. They come on the outgoing tide. A negative tide brings them in like seagulls on trash day. They’ll come when it rains. When it clears. When pigs fly and hell freezes over. The 14th is the peak. We’ll see them in December. You’re too late; they came in October. Try the mouth. Try upriver. Up coast. Up yours. There aren’t any fish in this river. They were rolling this morning. Last night 50 moved through and the wake trailed for miles. They were getting them at the bridge, at the Grange, at the snag hole. It’s like seeing Sasquatch. Pulling all cherries at the slots. Catching a unicorn. Finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s luck. It’s skill. It’s scratch tickets.

It’s March 12, 2013. A Tuesday morning of no great import. Despite the snow we received last night, it’s starting to feel like spring. Daylight savings left us with light until 7 p.m. last night, and today’s avalanche center’s forecast warned that “the danger of encountering spandex-clad road bikers will be elevated by later this week.”

With longer days comes the illusion of more time. More time to get after it, to take on new projects, make new goals, revitalize old passions. Before my plate gets too full, I’m prioritizing. For the next 30 days, I’m going to write something that’s not assignment-based every day. It will be an experiment, an honest effort, sometimes a trial. It’s not NANOWRIMO, but it is an exercise to build strength.

What are you working on as we move into spring?


I have a piece out in the new issue of The Fly Fish Journal. Full content of the journal is not available online, but it’s a beautiful book and worth picking a copy up.

In September 2012, I was fortunate to spend time with the group Casting for Recovery, and Steve Duda at the FFJ believed in the organization, and the story, enough to give a piece about the lives of women affected by breast cancer a home in a dominantly male-read publication.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece, The Courage to Cast:

Clad in dark scrubs and operating gowns a team of doctors clusters in the center of an operating room. The surgeon holds a scalpel in her right hand. She grips it as you would hold a steak knife. On the table is a woman’s draped body. We know it’s a woman because only her breasts are exposed. They are covered in smooth skin the color of cream with rosy nipples that stand erect in the cold room. They are perfect, gravity pulling them only slightly out of the round. They are also deadly.

Leaning over table and pressing down hard with the blade, the surgeon uses her 15 years of experience to carve a slice along the top of the breast. Blood wells from the cut and is daubed away by one of several assisting nurses. The surgeon shifts angles and moves along the bottom of the breast following its parabolic half moon curve. The cuts form an eye-shaped wound that surrounds the areola.

Over the next several hours these cuts will be repeated on the left breast. More than four pounds of tissue will be removed from the body during the course of the double mastectomy. In place of the nipples, which will be removed as just more bits of skin, there will be lines of black stitches.

In the morning, the woman who was on the table will rise from her recovery bed and unwind the ace bandages and gauze pads from her torso. She will stare at the concave surface that was once her breasts and she will cry. Friends and family will come to visit as she recovers and they will tell her she is lucky. Lucky that the cancer is gone. But she won’t feel lucky. She won’t even really feel like a woman.

After a month, the surgeon will call to see how she’s doing, and to see if she’s been doing her recovery exercises. She’ll be honest and say not good, and no. After a pause, the surgeon will ask simply, “Have you ever been fly fishing?”

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

A calm place to write. A view that doesn’t stop. Hot water and hope. This is home for the next four days. I am deeply indebted to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory for offering space without any expectation. This is going to be good.


I woke up at six this morning, made coffee, read and wrote notes for three hours, took care of office work, ate a peach, a banana, some strawberries, a handful of dry cereal, went to the library, stared at the screen, went to the office in the attic of what I’m pretty sure used to be a brothel, got a splinter from the sheet of plywood I set up as a desk, wrote for another three hours, had a cookie, a cup of coffee, wrote some more, called a friend, called a parent, came back to the house, stood over the sink and ate a salad of mostly spinach and broccoli, weighed the pros and cons of making a press pot of coffee at 9:30 at night, had some juice instead, and then sat back down in front of the keys. I figure I have another two hours in me before rinse, wash, repeat for the next seven days. Bad habits die hard and big projects bring them out like nothing else.


This graphic was part of a talk given at the recent Science Writers convention, “Science Writing In the Age of Denial,” hosted by the University of Wisconsin Madison. Wired Science has a good recap of the conference, the gist of which is that despite the best efforts of science and science writers, people will hold fast to the beliefs that bring them comfort. It’s interesting, if a little tweety, and worth a checkout.

“…You need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door. You need a concrete goal, as well. Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, He’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ‘til noon or seven ‘til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.” – Stephen King

Back in a few days.

ImageFrom The Source Weekly’s Outdoor Column:

They go from town. Pedaling down the shoulder, they ride side-by-side because traffic is minimal and the cars that do pass have bikes on top. The woman is local, the two men are from out of town. She takes a left toward the trailhead and they follow, passing a parking lot half filled with dirty Subarus and Toyota pickups. A 1984 VW Westfalia the color of burnt toast sits off in one corner with the sliding door open, giving the riders a quick glimpse of goose-bumped skin as someone shimmies out of their shorts.

On the trail there are still patches of snow. Rather than avoid them, the woman climbs out of her saddle and goes through them, keeping the single track single. A mile down the trail, she hears laughter from behind and knows what’s coming.

“What is that? A flaming chicken?”

For the whole piece, visit: Trail Blazing.