As some of you may have noticed, HOWLColorado has been very quiet for a few months.
The reasons are numerous and not overly interesting to the average reader. Needless to say, however, that things are returning to where they should be, and while I haven’t posted, I have been watching, carefully, the various wolf-related news over the past months.
In many ways, our absence was bookended by a female wolf who traveled more than 750 miles and became the first grey wolf to see the Grand Canyon in a very long time. Her name was decided, through a contest held among school children, to be Echo.
Her journey, as with all dispersing wolves, is a tale of endeavor, and at least for the initial journey down, the fortune of not running in to someone with a gun and an itchy trigger finger. Or an unseemly end under the tires of a car.
But these stories of traveling lone wolves rarely end well, and with our return we received notification that confirmed that the wolf shot in Utah – after being reportedly mistaken for a coyote (not that I ever find that to be much of an excuse) – was indeed our Grand Canyon wolf, Echo.
DNA tests confirmed this. And we are sad.
There is some good to be taken from this story though.
For Colorado especially, the possibility of wolves dispersing in to this state is not only possible, but – it appears – quite likely to happen. We know of some wolves making it here. If a pair can make it here undeterred and not harassed, there is little reason to think that wolves wouldn’t be overjoyed to call this bountiful state home.
Along with Journey (OR-7), Echo was the second wolf in recent history to capture the imagination and interests of not just a nation of wolf-fans, but a world of them.
Unintentionally these wolves, seeking a new life, bring their species to the front and center of the public conversation, and it’s not a conversation guided by special interest groups, ranchers and politicians. These wolves speak not only to the optimism of the American people, cheering on these quite literal underdogs, or underwolves – if you will, but also they see something in these wolves of what they see in their own pets. And one of our greatest assets as we advocate for wolves is that people understand that Fido is not just related to a wolf, or perhaps tenuously evolved from a wolf. The domestic dog IS a wolf, and we and our canine companions have developed a bond that is hard to envision happening between two distinct and very different animal species.
So, we say goodbye to Echo, but we forge forward knowing that even if the politicians, and special interest groups don’t understand it, or want it, wolves know we have plenty of “our” landscape to share with them – and they will bring a healthy balance to an otherwise skewed ecosystem.
Echo represented many of the highs and lows of the time while we have been gone. The political landscape has changed for the worse. Obama’s veto pen is unlikely to be used to protect the interests of wolves – as busy as it will be – which opens the doors for some unpleasantness to be snuck in to essential bills which may target wolves directly. The USFWS is still threatening to strip wolves of essential federal protections in the lower 48, which clearly just based on Echo’s demise, is not something this country is ready for – the science doesn’t control the discussion, and the education is sorely lacking.
It’s still a rough road for wolves, and we are finally back here to help educate and keep cold science at the core of this discussion because we, the wolf advocates, are right.