Local wildlife instructor follows track of a wayward wolf
November 27, 2013
By Sam Barbee
North Bend resident David Moskowitz can think like a wolf. He walks into a forest and follows a trail left by a wild canine. He sees the prints, the scrapes, the markings. To be honest, he could probably think like most animals because he works as a professional tracker, an “outdoor educator” at the Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall and a nature photographer.
Moskowitz photographs everything from bears to herons and tracks of all sorts. He leads educational expeditions and travels up and down the coast working in the field.
He is also an author.
For his second book, “Wolves in the Land of Salmon,” published by Timber Press, Moskowitz tracked and photographed wolves. He uses them to show how humans affect ecosystems as well as how the ecosystems function.
“Wolves are a charismatic species, one that people are interested in,” Moskowitz said, “and one that really helps teach the story about how different parts of the natural world interact with each other—and how we as humans affect these natural systems.”
Moskowitz weaves his own field experiences with interviews with people from all over the region. The book is a mix of wolf activity in the natural environment and general information about wolves, including diet and biology.
“Wolves in the Land of Salmon” recently received an honorable mention from Idaho State University’s Outdoor Book Awards in the Natural History Literature category.
Emily Gibson is the summer programs director at the Wildness Awareness School and helped Moskowitz conceptualize the book and was involved in the project from the start.
“It’s a beautiful book,” Gibson said. “The photography is stunning and I think the way he addresses a very controversial and difficult, complex topic is very balanced and fair and thorough and interesting.
“It’s a combination of those things, the writing and the pictures; it’s just, really, a huge accomplishment.”
In recent decades, the wolf population has severely declined. There haven’t been wolves in California since 1924, and wolves are scarce in western and southwest Washington as well as western Oregon. One wolf, named OR-7 recently expanded his territory into Oregon and California. It’s typical for a wolf to “burst” or leave its pack to find more food or a place more ideal for living.
Moskowitz will use all the skills he’s developed in May 2014 when he joins a party tracking OR-7. Moskowitz, Rachael Pecore-Valdez, also an outdoor educator; Galeo Saintz, a conservation ambassador; and Jay Simpson, a multimedia documentary producer, will track the wolf, part of the Imnaha pack. They expect to follow it from the northeast corner of Oregon across the Blue Mountains, past Crater Lake, and into California as far as about 50 miles south of Mount Shasta.
Pecore-Valdez was a student of Moskowitz’s in the Wilderness Awareness School and has a background in natural resources and biology. She has done water quality monitoring and other ecological research.
Because she’s from western Oregon, she says she was never that interested in wolves because “we never had wolves here,” she said.
But she is a storyteller and became interested in wolves when OR-7 took off across Oregon.
“I think that’s what really piqued my interest,” Pecore-Valdez said. “The idea of: Are wolves returning? Are there going to be wolves in the western side of Oregon and all of Oregon and Washington? What’s the story of wolves here? And the more I dug in and read more and more and more, the more interested I seemed to get.”
Pecore-Valdez invited Moskowitz to come along because of his expertise and experience in wolf tracking.
His book is about how wolves are interacting with the modern ecosystem and how humans have affected both wolves and the ecosystem as a whole. OR-7’s trek, Moskowitz says, will give them a look at what OR-7 saw.
“We thought it would it an interesting route to retrace,” Moskowitz said, “to kind of see what a wolf encounters in the modern world as it finds a new place to set up shop and interact with people who are living, working, playing in those landscapes.”
“Wolves in the Land of Salmon” can be purchased at www.davidmoskowitz.net, some independent bookstores and other online retailers.
Sam Barbee is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.