No, we haven’t seen or heard any wolves—but they are here! This week our work has taken a full 180; we’ve transitioned back to our diurnal habits and away from fisheries work. We’ve pivoted to helping out two female biologists at Fish and Wildlife, and we’re diving head on into two very different endangered species from the Shortnose and Lost River suckers: the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) and the no less majestic, and significantly underrated Applegate’s milkvetch (Astragalus applegatei.)
We began the week on or new project getting to know how to ID the astragalus, in hopes that by the time we were out in the field monitoring polygons from previous years we’d be able to get through each plot relatively efficiently. Using our handheld GPS to mark the outermost points to each polygon, we split the area into transects that we would then visually scan for individual plants. Jenny, Brianne, and I are working together to formulate a sampling plan for those polygons that contain more than 11,000 individuals. More on that later!
I sat here trying to think of a clever transition between astragalus and wolves, but after five minutes of staring at the cubicle wall, I found that there really is no easy segway. So I’ll just dive right in!
The Rogue River Wolf Pack is led by Alpha male OR7, named such as he was the seventh wolf to be radio collared in Oregon. Born into a litter in Northeast Oregon, OR7 left the pack he was born into, wandering as far south as Lassen, California—becoming the first known wolf in California since the last wild wolf was shot in the very same area in 1924. Eventually OR7 made his way back north into the east Cascades of southern Oregon, where he’s been denning and raising pups with a female (also linked to Northeast Oregon) since 2014.
As we drove to the site, we were reminded that the pack dens just six miles from the property, and that their range spans across the county line between Jackson and Klamath Counties. The ranch itself is found just northeast of Klamath Lake, in Jackson county, and because the pack has chosen to make its denjust east of Klamath Falls, ranchers in the area are inevitably affected by the range the wolves wander as they hunt. As a result, we’ve been spending time de-commissioning fladry (wire line fitted with red flags that flap in the wind that have historically been used to deter wolves from entering onto ranch land) and electric fencing for a ranch just southwest of Crater Lake. Both had originally been installed last year by Oregon Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) in response to calf depredation on this ranch (just last year three calves and one of two Tibetan mastiffs were killed by the pack.) Now that the landowner is rotating his cattle to another field, the fladry is no longer needed and we were the lucky ones called upon to remove it!
All in all, it was pretty labor intensive work, seeing as the fencing spanned the area of the property, but we were able to roll up the entirety of the flagging, collect the motion detector lights (also used to deter the pack at night), and pull the hundreds of fiberglass posts the wire line was attached to, all before the workday ended! Needless to say, even with gloves on, those fiberglass shards found their way into the palm of your hand. But despite the long day, we feel pretty lucky to be involved with the project.
Next week we’ll be conducting more milk vetch surveys, and heading out to check camera traps for the pack; we’ll be sure to update you if the wildlife cameras have captured any more exciting photos!