Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wolf Testicles On The Loose

We've had a lone wolf wandering around Oregon for several years now, purportedly trying to find himself a date. And all this time I've felt kind of sorry for him. I mean, I know that's what they do--they are allowed to hang around the pack for a few years as juveniles and then at some point they get punted out or they decide to leave on their own, and try to make a life for themselves. It makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, not that they're necessarily consulting that manual. You want to shake up the gene pool and have a lot more variability going for you as a species. That way, if anyone gets a particularly good genetic idea and there are stresses in play, they've got more of a shot.

Still, this one seemed kind of sad. We've got, like, 24 wolves in Oregon. They got brung in on purpose, and ranchers have been pissed off about it ever since. Ranchers are an introduced species, and like many other such, they and their charges have kind of taken over. The wolves were nearly eradicated in the 1940s. They get a lot of bad press. Some of the wolves do eat livestock. A couple dozen cattle have been killed by wolves in the last decade, in fact. And those were cattle we were planning to eat, ourselves, so. Wolves have also dented up the coyote population, which should come out as a plus to the cattle population, but whereas field biologists might be able to tease out the ecological strands here, reg'lar folk find it easier to stick with whatever idea they started with.

All our wolves are up in the northeast little corner of the state, and here this one wolf--OR-7, he's
called, because the gene for creative naming is associated with people who work with quarks and not with people who work with radio transmitters--off he goes, all over the place, right through the whole state and into northern California, and mind you, we don't have one of your piddly eastern seaboard states here. He's traveled a long, long way. Looking for a mate. That's what the biologists are assuming he's doing, but maybe he's just oversensitive to howling. Anyway, it's a long shot. It's like looking for a heart in Dick Cheney.

The farther he got away from northeast Oregon, the worse I felt for him. How does a wolf find another wolf in a state this big? If you crank your big wet nose in the air and find a female wolf scent molecule, and swivel it till you find two female wolf scent molecules, you're in business. You have a plan and a direction. You've got to believe that the female wolf scent molecule distribution is pretty diluted here, though. It's got to be hit or miss, and mostly miss.

And yet. Do not underestimate the power of underutilized testicles riding on a four-paw operating system. Looks like OR-7 has found his match. He's come back into Oregon and he's found himself a girl. Scientists suspect denning has taken place. Somewhere, maybe, is a snoozing rumple of fuzzy pups, dreaming of our hamburger.

33 comments:

  1. I was beginning to think he sounds a lot like me, but then I thought, no, the opposite is true. There are so many female scents swirling around that I'm perpetually confused, and therefore, just as lost.

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  2. And how old is he now? He must be the male equivalent of Warren Beatty.

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    1. I'm telling Warren Beatty you said that!

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  3. Whoops. WOLF equivalent of Warren Beatty. I really should wake up a bit before being set free on the internet.

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  4. Good ol OR-7. :-) Nature abhors a vacuum (as do I, but for other reasons) and I wish only the best for the fuzzy little bestid.

    Pearl

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    1. You know, vacuuming is the only chore I kind of like. When I was really really little, I used to crawl around behind Mom's Electrolux (on the little runners) because the exhaust was warm. The house was cold. I still have a warm spot in the front of my face for vacuums.

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  5. Is he any relation to the CA-7's.

    Great post on several levels.

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    1. The workmen's comp claim? I wonder if he filed one when he went into California.

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  6. Whoops...there goes the neighborhood!

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  7. Hah. I love this story. I hope he sires a magnificent pack.

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  8. I love this. This is WONDERFUL. Also, we could use some wolves back here in VA to take care of some of the ever increasing coyote population. I suppose it's too much to hope some wandering Oregonian wolves will eventually turn up here.

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    1. Don't count them out. Yeah, I just read a quote from some rancher who said something like "we have enough trouble from the coyotes, and now THIS." Not sure he understands the full predator picture.

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  9. Does this mean Dick Cheney might have a heart, too?

    Nah.

    Nice story, Murr. Is "rumple" the actual name of a group of wolf cubs?

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  10. I call my dog 'Mr. Molecule' because of his ability to locate even one teensy olfactory particle of whatever it might be, roadside, that I don't want him to eat.

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    1. He's got vulture sensibilities, then. Great.

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  11. Long (and prolifically) may they rumple.
    You have caused my heart to melt into a sentimental puddle this morning. Thank you.

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  12. He was in the California news when I was volunteering at Sacramento NWR. Thanks for the rest of the story.

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    1. I can't remember how far he got into California before turning back. I'm sure he heard the beer was better here.

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  13. Well, perhaps he visited Minnesota, and brought her back home to Oregon to settle down and rumple up some pups. We have lotsa wolves "up North" here. In fact, my husband has several cows which were being cared for in the northern area, and one of our sweet little calves was attacked by a wolf who was apparently craving a burger still on the hoof. Seems that mom and her gang of cow moms chased the wolf away and the calf survived-a little carved up, but in pretty good shape. The circle of life consists of concentric circles.

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    1. Eesh! I'm in favor of the circle of life without necessarily wanting to witness all of it. I like my meat on the little plastic tray with a tag on it.

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  14. May he and his genes ne'er fall foul of ranchers or traffic. Lovely story, Murr.

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  15. He's gorgeous!!
    I love wolves.
    Yes, I know the bad things they do, but people do bad things too and I still like them, so.
    I'm very glad for him if he has found a mate and made a family.

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    1. They don't do anything bad. Unless you're the chewee, of course. It's all a matter of perspective--everything in this life.

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    2. That's kind of what I meant, just worded it badly.

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  16. Interesting that he had to travel so far to find a mate. I do love reading your nature stories.

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    1. Thanks! Cool thing is, they're all true. Or true-ish.

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