It’s after midnight, and Alyssa Mahaney is standing at the edge of a pasture, howling.
If a wolf responds in kind, she’ll know better where to focus her nightly patrol. Perhaps she’ll set up a “scare box,” which blasts music unpredictably, or shoot off a few blanks from her pistol to scare it away. Mahaney is a conflict prevention specialist for USDA Wildlife Services; she works with livestock producers in southwest Oregon who hope to avoid losing cows to an infamous group of wolves known as the Rogue Pack.
The tools must be appropriate for the landscape and the livestock operation, says Mahaney. In the Wood River Valley, where the Rogue Pack has struck several times as of late, livestock operations are sprawling, which makes fencing off an area with fladry impractical. Mahaney’s main strategy has been night watches with hazing.
A typical shift starts at sundown and ends around 9:00 a.m. Mahaney uses a pickup truck or four-wheeler to cover ground, hugging the fence or treeline and doing her best to make sure wolves know she’s around. "We’re losing sleep but not losing hope and heart,” says Kamal of the federal delisting. “We’re hoping the courts will uphold science.” Defenders of Wildlife is just one of several conservation organizations that have pledged to challenge the move.
For many, OR-7 was a symbol of hope that humans can coexist with the wild creatures we once called our enemies. Whether his legacy will be one of successful collaboration or of missed opportunity remains to be seen.