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Research: wolves beneficial to landscape

Wolves as they reclaim their role as top predators in Oregon may change the landscape in ways anyone can see, according to scientists who study wolves and their environment.Wolves encroaching from Idaho and Washington already live in Eastern Oregon in the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla national forests. But in terms of prime habitat, they may be more at home in central Oregon, on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, according to a 2006 study by Ted Larsen, at the time an Oregon State University graduate student in landscape ecology.

“Their habitat is confined to where there’s food available, where there’s prey, and where human density is at a minimum,” said Larsen, now a contractor for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “A study in Wisconsin found road density was a key factor.”

Road density? Not that wolves are fearful of crossing asphalt, but roads indicate human activity. The more roads, the more humans and the fewer wolves. The number of roads criss-crossing the environment, the number of prey animals present and the number of humans living in the area are all factors in determining good wolf habitat, Larsen said. But two factors rose above the rest, he said…

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