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PRESENTATION DRAWS LARGE TURNOUT AT EOU

LEASHED WOLF: Bruce Weide brought a 100-pound black wolf named Koani to a presentation in Zabel Hall at Eastern Oregon University Tuesday. Kneeling next to the wolf is Tom Buckley of Defenders of Wildlife. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
LEASHED WOLF: Bruce Weide brought a 100-pound black wolf named Koani to a presentation in Zabel Hall at Eastern Oregon University Tuesday. Kneeling next to the wolf is Tom Buckley of Defenders of Wildlife. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

It is not as if Godzilla is coming over the mountain to eat us all up, Buckley said Tuesday at Eastern Oregon University.

Still, Northeast Oregonians should not plan on adopting the animals as pets, according to Buckley and Bruce Weide, a member of the Montana-based Northern Rockies Ambassador Wolf Program.

Wolves are not noble demigods which cultivate the sick and weak, Weide said.

Weide and Buckley spoke at EOU Tuesday. Both stressed that wolves will be moving into Northeast Oregon from Idaho, which has between 220 and 270 wolves. There have been three confirmed sightings of wolves in Northeast Oregon over the past three years.

People do not have to fear for their lives because there has never been a documented case in North America of a healthy wild wolf killing someone, said Pat Tucker, Weides wife.

Each year people die from being kicked by hooves of deer, Weide said. You dont hear tales of killer Bambi. People are not afraid to walk in a forest if deer are lurking.

People are leery of walking in the woods with wolves present. Tucker attributes this to folklore. Famous tales like Little Red Riding Hood have taught children to fear wolves.

Wolves were once found throughout the United States except in the Southeast and desert areas. By the 1940s wolves had virtually disappeared from most places including Oregon because of intense extermination campaigns.

People fear what they do not understand, Tucker said.

Tucker and Weide, who live in Hamilton, Mont., said people need to realize that wolves in captivity do pose a threat. They own a 10 1/2-year-old black wolf named, Koani. The 100-pound wolf was brought into Zabel Hall on a leash during Tuesdays presentation. Tucker and Weide bring Koani to all of their presentations.

She is not a pet. She is a socialized wild animal, Weide said.

Weide and Tucker keep Koani in a double-fenced area to protect people from situations where the wolfs predatory instincts might take over.

If she (Koani) was chained in a backyard and a small child walked by and tripped she would be on that child like a cat on a chipmunk, Tucker said.

Koani is typical of other wolves in that she is not confrontational.

Aggressiveness is not what wolves are about, Weide said.

He noted that wolves in captivity think of their owners as the leaders of their pack.

They expect you to protect them, Weide said.

This means they are not waiting to fend off intruders.

They are not great guard dogs. If (Koani was inside) and a burglar came in at night she (Koani) would be right behind us, Weide said.

Wolves, however, will quickly confront dogs.

They are extremely aggressive with dogs. They will kill them, said Tucker, a wildlife biologist.

Wolves look upon dogs as a threat to their territory, Tucker said. But they will accept dogs they have grown up with. Tucker and Weide have such a dog and brought it to Tuesdays program at Zabel Halls auditorium. The dog ran around the auditorium in close proximity to Koani and did not appear to annoy the wolf.

The wolf, though, was in an irritable mood. She growled at Buckley and tried to nip him. Buckley, who had been sitting 3-4 feet from Koani, was not shaken by the incident.

She was hot and uncomfortable in a crowded room. She was just trying to tell me to move away, Buckley said.

Wolves are Big-game hunters

Koani has been in captivity her whole life and has not hunted. Wild wolves subsist by taking big-game animals such as deer, elk and moose. Wolves hunt in packs and are careful to stalk only the old and weak members of herds. For a wolf, hunting hoofed animals is dangerous because kicks can be lethal.

Wolves can be killed by animals they are attacking, Weide said.

They are thus very selective and aware of which animals are weak, he said.

Weide noted that at Yellowstone National Park the elk that wolves take are usually 15- to 16-year-old females. More older elk are available at Yellowstone because they are not hunted by people.

In addition to wildlife, wolves can kill cattle and other livestock, but they dont do so as a first option, Weide said.

He acknowledged that wolves do kill livestock, which is why Defenders of Wildlife helped start a program that compensates ranchers who have lost livestock to wolves. Through the program, which is still being developed, ranchers in some areas will be paid by Defenders of Wildlife for their losses. A government agent must confirm that wolves killed their livestock.

The program is far from perfect, though.

It is not always possible to prove that wolves killed livestock, Weide said.

Tuesdays program was put on by Defenders of Wildlife, the Hells Canyon Preservation Council and Easterns Biology Club.

Tucker said wolves are apparently crossing the Snake River to get into Oregon and establish new territory.

Stories about wolves will be abundant as they move into this region, Weide said. He urges people to be wary of spreading exaggerated tales.

Be careful before you pass on rumors, Weide said.

WOLF PUBLICATION CHRONICALS ATTACKS

There is no record of a healthy wild wolf killing anyone in North America.

However, there have been a number of documented attacks, according to the March 2001 edition of Wild Sentry. This publication is put out by The Northern Rockies Ambassador Wolf Program by the husband and wife team of Bruce Weide and Pat Tucker of Hamilton, Mont. Weide and Tucker spoke Tuesday at Eastern Oregon University.

Following is some of the information Wild Sentry published on recent wolf attacks.

In Ontario, Canada, where many people see wolves at Algonquin Provincial Park, five people have been bitten in the past 12 years. The five people include a 12-year-old girl who was dragged from her sleeping bag by a wolf in 1996. The girl needed 80 stitches to repair facial, ear and mouth wounds.

On April 26, 2000, a 6-year-old boy was attacked near a logging camp in Southeastern Alaska. The boys wounds needed seven stitches and five surgical closure staples.

On July 1, 2000, a 23-year-old man was attacked on the shores of Vargas Island, B.C., at 2 a.m. while in his sleeping bag. Fifty stitches were needed to repair the mans head wounds.

The wolves responsible for the above attacks were killed. Autopsies indicated that they were healthy.

Stories by Dick Mason

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