“Like humans, wolves aren't saints and they aren't sinners. What they are is a complex and highly individuated animal whose social behavior mirrors our own in many ways. And to our great good fortune, wolves are making their way from Idaho to the wilderness areas of far Northern California.”
I wrote those words 10 years ago in a letter to the editor published in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was true that the wolves were making their way, but it took another 10 years for the first wolf to make it into California’s hinterlands. This wolf’s mother was born in Idaho and had traveled to Oregon; he was born in Oregon and traveled to California. Guess a love of travel runs in the family.
Our wolf even has a name because he’s so famous: Journey, or OR-7 — as though that’s not a name, too. But what does it mean for Journey to be here? And what if he finds a mate and brings her here, too, and they have a family? Right now, Journey is traveling back and forth across the state borders, which mean nothing to him, so he could very well return to Oregon, find a honey, and bring her back to beautiful California.
Carter Niemeyer is a wolf specialist from Idaho. He actually radio-collared Journey’s mom when she was in Idaho, too, and he’s done a whole lot more than that. Basically, the whole wild wolf recovery program in Yellowstone and Idaho got off to a successful start because of him. And then the wolves prospered, too, in large part because of him.
You could read all about those tumultuous years in the Rockies when wolves were reviled by the ranchers and welcomed by everyone else in Carter’s book Wolfer. I highly recommend it. But even better would be to meet this guy in person and hear his amazing stories from the frontlines of the most anticipated endangered species recovery in U.S. history — and what it will mean for California when wolves colonize here, too.
He’ll be speaking this Sunday, May 6, from 4-5:30 at the Marin Humane Society (171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato). Your $10 admission fee will take you to a world where what wolves are and what people think they are end up being two vastly different things.
Hope to see you there!