Wolf, © Michael S. Quinton, National Geographic Stock

First Washington Wolf Goes West: The first gray wolf known to travel west of the Cascade Crest in Washington State was confirmed this week after local officials found it killed by collision with a vehicle on Interstate 90 between North Bend and Snoqualmie.

Despite this wolf’s unfortunate death, we see its dispersal this far west as an encouraging sign of progress in wolf restoration. There is ample suitable habitat for wolves in western Washington including throughout the Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest and Olympic National Park, but there has been no confirmed wolf activity there since the population was largely eliminated by the early 1900s. At the end of 2014, Washington reported a minimum number of 68 wolves and 5 breeding pairs in the state.

Gray wolf, © Sandy Sisti

Congress’ Third Attempt to Remove Federal Protections for Wolves Since January: Since Congress convened in January, elected officials have proposed three different bills to remove federal protections for wolves in select states. The third bill was proposed last week by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) which, if passed, would federally delist wolves in Washington, Oregon and Utah. Not only would this bill strip federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in these three states, it would prohibit the states from offering wolves certain vital protections…even if they wanted to! We feel strongly that science, not politics, should guide listing decisions. And, we oppose all congressional attempts to interfere with the species listing process. You can help us by also telling Congress it must keep politics out of wolf recovery!

Wolf Advocates Show Their Support in Oregon: As you may recall, last week the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission was briefed by wildlife officials about the status of Oregon’s wolves. Based on the information presented, the commission will evaluate several policy options, including whether state Endangered Species Act protections are still warranted for the species. In addition to being briefed by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the commission also welcomed testimony from Oregon’s residents. We were thrilled – and grateful — to see the number of wolf advocates that came to testify in support of continued protections for wolves! In fact, wolf supporters overwhelmingly outnumbered opponents, 35-5. Suzanne Stone, Defenders’ senior Northwest representative, was also there to provide testimony. She told the commission that continued protections for wolves are needed to maintain a healthy population in eastern Oregon, and in order to increase the likelihood that wolves will continue to disperse from east to west and establish packs in western Oregon. While the commission is not expected to make a final decision until August, the support from those who attended and testified is critical as the commission evaluates the policy options on the table for wolves.

Gray wolf in Denali, © Didier Lindsey

A Third Lone Male Makes His Way to Central Oregon: Almost all of Oregon’s wolf population lives in the eastern part of the state. However, bachelor “OR-25” is making headlines this week for his arrival in central Oregon, confirmed by data transmitted from his satellite tracking-collar. This is great news because it suggests wolves are continuing to spread to suitable habitat throughout the state…and ever closer to California!

How did wolves become dogs? Dogs are direct descendants from gray wolves; in fact dogs and wolves share 99.9 percent of their DNA. But, to this day, researchers are still in disagreement over where and when wolves evolved to become human’s most loyal companion. Anyone who wants to dig a little deeper into the current theories should look no further than a new feature published in Science this April. This question has been on the forefront of research for decades; the more we can learn about how dogs became associated with people, the more we can learn about the origins of civilization. Researchers are now using technology to compare ancient dog and wolf skeletons to determine when differences started to appear. Another team of researchers from Japan is studying how dogs and humans form connections. They’ve found that when humans and dogs look at each other, each experience a rise in a hormone called “oxytocin,” the same hormone produced when mothers and infants stare at each other and linked to maternal bonding. All in all, this field is exploding with new discoveries, and this article is well worth the read!

Melanie Gade

Melanie Gade, Communications Specialist

Melanie handles press coverage for wildlife in the Pacific Norwest and Rockies and Plains, as well as Defenders' national work on the Endangered Species Act.