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Teanaway range rider meets with new wolf coalition

By Jim Fossett
North Kittitas County Tribune

After Johnson touched on the background of the state's recent involvement with wolves in the Teanaway, he entertained questions, one of which came from Conservation Northwest's Jay Kehne. Kehne wanted to know why Johnson, an obvious candidate for membership in the anti-wolf camp, would get involved with the Range Riding Program. "I took the job," Johnson said, "to see what the wolves are really doing. I wanted to sort through the politics of the issue and get to the facts. I wanted firsthand knowledge."

Teanaway range rider meets with new wolf coalition

TEANAWAY RANGE RIDER Bill Johnson briefs delegates from the newly formed Pacific Wolf Coalition on Wed., Oct. 23.

TEANAWAY - Last Wednesday in the Teanaway River Valley, just before range rider Bill Johnson mounted his horse to round up the last of the cattle grazing the 70,000 acres he covers, he paused to greet a delegation representing the Pacific Wolf Coalition.

The delegation made a special trip to the Teanaway to visit the area where one of Washington's ten gray wolf dens has been confirmed and to get Johnson's take on the wolf-cattle dynamic. "As far as we know, this grazing season, we've lost four calves to pneumonia," he told the delegation. "We also found a cow near Stafford Creek without its calf. We don't know what happened to it, but if it was a predator it could have been anything, cougar, wolf or bear."

Johnson went on to talk about his part in an agreement rancher Sam Kayser forged with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"Being a part of Fish and Wildlife's Range Riding Program I carry a tracking device with me and check the data it collects three times a day.

"These wolves really move around. Right now they're 40 or 50 miles from where we're standing.

"When I see they're clustering I usually ride out to see what they're eating. One time it was an old, sick elk cow. Lots of times I just find a collection of holes they've dug looking for food."

By the compass point, Johnson said his territory reaches north to Jolly Mountain, east to Red Top Mountain, south to Mason Creek Drainage and west to the West Fork Teanaway's Dingbat Creek.

Although he and fellow range rider Sharon Almberg can't be everywhere at once on horseback, Johnson told the delegation locals know who they are and frequently pass on what they see or hear.

"We get a lot of uncorroborated secondhand information," he said. "For instance, not long ago three adults and four pups were reportedly howling in Salmon La Sac. And an alpha wolf was seen on Cle Elum Ridge, but I couldn't tell you if that was actually a wolf or not."

After Johnson touched on the background of the state's recent involvement with wolves in the Teanaway, he entertained questions, one of which came from Conservation Northwest's Jay Kehne. Kehne wanted to know why Johnson, an obvious candidate for membership in the anti-wolf camp, would get involved with the Range Riding Program.

"I took the job," Johnson said, "to see what the wolves are really doing. I wanted to sort through the politics of the issue and get to the facts. I wanted firsthand knowledge.

"So far, I've learned a lot, but the most important thing I've learned is that politics originating from both sides of the issue really do blur the truth."

About the Pacific Wolf Coalition

One year after the appearance of California's first gray wolf in 2011 a diverse variety of stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest formed an alliance and named it the Pacific Wolf Coalition.

The Coalition's mission, presented in a December 2012 press release, is to see that "wolves are restored across-their historic habitats in numbers that will allow them to re-establish their critical role in nature and ensure their long-term survival."

The California wolf, known as OR-7 and as Journey, left its pack in September 2011 and since then has wandered more than a thousand miles through Oregon and California. On November 1, 2011 OR-7 became the first wolf detected in Oregon in 60 years, and then in December OR-7 crossed the border into northern California to become the first wolf detected there since 1924.

 The last sighting published online had OR-7 35 miles south of Alturas, California ... heading toward Nevada ... still in search of a mate, some experts say.

Coalition Members

The Pacific Wolf Coalition is composed of the following groups: Big Wildlife, California Wilderness Coalition, California Wolf Center, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice,  Endangered Species Coalition, Environmental Protection Information Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems- Oregon Chapter, Sierra Club, Oregon Wild, Predator Defense, Resource Media, The Larch Company, Training Resources for the Environmental Community, Western Environmental Law Center, Western Watersheds, Project, Wilburforce Foundation and Wolf Haven International.

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