Wild Encounters & Info

Thorofare expat lobo lives on

Wolf 1084M, pictured, traveled from the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to Colorado’s Jackson County over the last year. The animal is alive and sticking tight to the area, Colorado biologists say.COURTESY / COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE/

A former Teton County wolf whose southerly travels beyond the Wyoming border made headlines this past summer is mostly staying put, biologists say.

Colorado seems to attract dispersing wolves every few years, but their presence is usually confirmed under different circumstances.

“The wolves that we know about that are confirmed are ones that are dead,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Eric Odell said. “They’ve basically been hit on the highway or poisoned or unintentionally shot by legal coyote hunters.

“We haven’t had this scenario yet,” Odell said.

In “this” scenario, the Centennial State’s species conservation program manager referred to wolf 1084M, formerly of the Snake River Pack. The animal is living and breathing and can be located anytime courtesy of a tracking collar that would change its signal if the wolf were to die.

In July, the 3-year-old male black wolf made headlines after he was captured on video near North Park, a nearly 9,000-foot-high basin in north-central Colorado. Confirmation of his arrival was announced on Twitter by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who posted a video of the black lobo trotting through the grass and sagebrush.

In the three-plus months since, Colorado biologists have kept tabs on 1084M’s whereabouts when they have had the opportunity, and he has largely stuck to North Park.

“Because he has a VHF [tracking collar] on him, we’ve flown for him periodically,” Odell said. “He’s not really localizing any place, but also not really moving broad distances.”

Odell didn’t want to get into the specifics of where the wolf has been located, but he said there have been “six or seven” occasions when a pilot has picked up the signal, all within 25 to 30 miles of each other.

One year ago, 1084M was located by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department roaming the Thorofare country just south of Yellowstone National Park. Near Hawk’s Rest, he was marked with his pack, listed at six animals early in 2019.

In subsequent months the pack disbanded and 1084M dispersed. His collar was detected on the other side of the Absaroka Range in the South Fork of the Shoshone River drainage last winter, and in February it was marked again near South Pass at the tip of the Wind River Range.

Then, at some point, 1084M took off.

Wolf 1084M’s tracking collar, supplied by Grand Teton National Park, uses a “very high frequency” technology that does not send GPS signals or record past locations, so its exact route to Colorado will remain a mystery. Regardless, the wolf would have had to cross southern Wyoming’s high deserts, which all fall within a “predator zone” where wolves can be killed indiscriminately without rules or limits. Once in Colorado, 1084M became fully protected by the Endangered Species Act and under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wildlife biologists have not tried to locate 1084M on the ground, Odell said. The animal has not been implicated in any livestock deaths. Although its signal has been detected half a dozen times, no biologist has laid eyes on the wolf, and nobody has produced evidence of the wolf to Parks and Wildlife since the video was shared with the state wildlife agency over the summer, he said.

Others with an interest in wolves in Colorado are also trying keep up on the animal, whose species was extirpated from the Southern Rockies in the 1940s. John Murtaugh, the Rockies and Plains representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said he spent time in North Park setting camera traps this past summer and even managed to catch a fleeting glimpse of his black fur in late August.

An activist who is pushing for wolf reintroduction to Colorado, Murtaugh said that, knowing wolf biology, he expects the lone lobo to push back north toward Wyoming sometime soon.

“I’d say over the next month or two, he’s going to get on his way,” Murtaugh said. “You don’t tend to see wolves being alone for long.”

Wolves And Coyotes Feel Sadness And Grieve Like Humans


Angell Williams / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

We have much in common with wolves, coyotes, red foxes, and domestic dogs. These social species – and other animals – have emotional lives, can experience emotions such as joy and grief. That’s Marc Bekoff’s conclusion after many years of studying these animals.

In his book, “The Emotional Lives of Animals,” Bekoff writes that while animals may experience emotions that humans can’t understand, we can understand many of their feelings. Observing is the key to understanding. Bekoff observes, for example, that wolves “have more varied facial expressions, and that they use these expressions to communicate their emotional states to others. Wolf tails are more expressive, and wolves use more tail positions than do dogs or coyotes to express their emotions.”

Such body language revealed the grief a pack of wolves felt after losing a low-ranking female. He describes how the grieving animals lost their spirit and playfulness. How they no longer howled as a group but rather sang alone in a slow mournful cry. How they held their heads and tails low and walked softly and slowly when they came upon the place where a mountain lion had killed their packmate.

If wolves and coyotes experience many of the emotions that humans feel, can they also become mentally impaired? Bekoff asks and answers this intriguing question. “Because there are autistic humans, there likely are nonhuman animals who suffer from what might be called autism.” He concludes that since many psychological disorders have been diagnosed in dogs, “there’s no reason why this couldn’t be true for their wild relatives.” He describes a coyote and a wolf that exhibited what might be called bipolar behavior.

Bekoff also believes there is “honor among beasts,” As he puts it: “Based on my long-term detailed studies of play in social carnivores – including wolves, coyotes, red foxes, and domestic dogs – I believe we can make the stronger claim that some animals might be moral beings.”

If we believe that animals can experience emotions such as grief, can become mentally impaired, and can be moral beings, then, as Bekoff writes, we must make sure that our actions match our beliefs. He says that when he talks to researchers who conduct invasive research or to people who work on factory farms, he asks them: “Would you do that to your dog?” He says that some people are startled by this question, but that it’s an important one to ask.

Once we believe that animals other than ourselves – animals such as wolves and coyotes – have emotional lives we must relate to those creatures in a certain way. We must, as Bekoff says, “treat other beings with respect, appreciation, compassion, and love. There’s no doubt whatsoever that, when it comes to what we can and cannot do to other animals, it’s their emotions that should inform our actions on their behalf, and we can always do more for them.”

Rick Lamplugh is a wolf advocate and author of the Amazon Bestseller “In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter’s Immersion in Wild Yellowstone.” Available as eBook or paperback or as a signed copy from the author.

Study suggests monogamous wolves make better parents

By Eli Francovichelif@spokesman.com; (509) 459-5508

September 15, 2019

A male and female wolf, along with their pups, are photographed near Salmon, Idaho in 2017. (Idaho Department of Fish and Game / Courtesy)

In the rugged, sometimes violent world of the wolf, it pays to have mom and dad around.

The longer wolf couples are together, the more likely their offspring are to survive into adulthood, according to new research from the University of Idaho.

According to the study, which will be published in the journal Behavioral Ecology, for each year a wolf pair stays together, the odds of their pups surviving into adulthood increased 20%.

Put another way, “they get 20% better at what they do every year,” study author David Ausband said.

The study used nine years of scat data collected by Ausband and others from wolves throughout Idaho.

A male and female wolf play near Kelly Creek on the Idaho/Montana border in 2017. (Idaho Department of Fish and Gam / Courtesy)

Ausband started collecting the data as a graduate student at the University of Montana.

He then worked for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game before taking a job at the University of Idaho last year. His research examines a relatively understudied area: the impact of monogamy in mammals.

“Remarkably, I could not find a study that measured pair bond duration and its effects on reproduction in a mammalian cooperative breeder,” Ausband writes in the study.

In particular, he wanted to see how legal hunting impacted monogamy in wolves, how monogamy impacted pup rearing and how monogamous relationships changed the overall social structure of a pack.

He expected to find that hunting reduced monogamy, possibly fraying pack dynamics.

“I thought … harvest would reduce pair bonds. And that’s not what I found,” he said. “And it’s because pair bonds are super short. They only last a couple years.”

On average, wolf pairs stayed together for 2.2 years, although there was wide variance. For instance, one wolf couple documented by Ausband stayed together for at least nine years, basically an eternity for an animal that is considered ancient at 13. The average of 2.2 years found in Idaho aligned with rates “measured in a recolonizing wolf population in Sweden that experienced relatively high rates of human-caused mortality.”

“There are some (pairs) that last a long time and those that do (last) stomp,” Ausband said. “They’re super good at what they do.”

Why the pairings are, on average, so short isn’t clear. But Ausband believes it has to do with the vicissitudes of wolf life, whether that’s younger wolves trying to establish themselves as alphas, the inherent danger of trying to kill large, panicked ungulates with your face, or human hunting.

“Wolf packs are dynamic,” he said. “There is more drama in a wolf pack than in a middle school dance. There is always stuff going.”

Overall, wolves were monogamous about 72% of the time, he found.

In addition to increasing pup survival, monogamy also stabilized pack dynamics. Monogamous pairs reduced the occurrence of “sneaker males” and decreased polygamy in the group.

Sneaker males are males who mate and then leave the hard work of rearing offspring to others.

Monogamous wolf pairs were, overall, better at maintaining control of their packs, although pack size played a big role. Possibly, smaller wolf packs (partially caused by hunting) are easier for an alpha male and female to maintain control over, he said.

“If a pair is together, and their group size is large, it’s harder to police sneaker males. If you have 20 wolves to keep track of, it’s really hard to keep sneaker males out,” he said. “It’s a lot like human families. Or a big classroom at an elementary school. If you have a lot of kids, it’s harder to police.”

The study builds on, and adds to, research done in Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park suggesting that wolves learn, rather than relying solely on instinct.

There, scientists observed wolves lying in wait along known beaver paths, often picking their ambush site far from the water. In fact, according to National Geographic, some wolves appeared to specialize in killing beavers.

In Idaho, Ausband found that when an older wolf mated with a younger wolf, the older appeared to teach the younger how to parent. Pups born to those pairings were more likely to survive than pups born to two first-time parents.

Understanding how wolves live and breed is important information for scientists and managers.

“If we don’t understand the truth about how an animal breeds, we’re not going to be very good at managing and conserving them,” Ausband said.

Puppy Howls!

On the weekend of August 16-18th, I participated in a Wolf Ecology and Conservation program that included a howl study held by the Timber Wolf Alliance.

In 1987, only eighteen wolves were estimated to live in Wisconsin and fewer in Upper Michigan. That year, the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute began the Timber Wolf Alliance to assist twenty-one organizations and many private individuals in promoting wolf recovery in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through public education, citizen science, and volunteer activities.

The Timber Wolf Alliance is committed to investigating the facts and relies on research to dispel myths and unfounded fears associated with wolves. TWA provides training in wolf biology and ecology, develops and disseminates educational materials on wolves, and supports volunteers to help with wolf monitoring efforts.

The TWA Mission

To use science-based information to promote an ecologically-functional wolf population within areas of suitable habitat, and promote human coexistence with emphasis on Michigan and Wisconsin.

So, you may wonder why focus on this group since they are not western-based. One is because I believe we can learn from other’s efforts to protect our wildlife and resources but also because there is something in participating hands-on. In this program, we not only had wolf biologists presenting, but we got to hike in national forests to find evidence of wolves, learn how to plaster cast prints, see traps close up, and try our hand at telemetry. But the highlight for me was the evening howls.

We went out into the evening as a group into the forest. We would stop where we had earlier seen evidence of wolves. Three volunteers were chosen to perform a set of howls. Volunteer 1 would howl a softer howl 4-5 times and then pause to listen for a response. Then volunteer 2 would howl 4-5 louder howls and again a pause. If still no reply, volunteer 3 would howl 4-5 loud howls. Now while wolves can hear a howl from about 6 miles away, humans can only hear about a mile or so away. On one such stop, we had adults reply!

We subsequently moved on to where we had seen evidence of puppies in both scat and tracks on the forest road. Prior to getting there, I had tried my hand at howling and was told I had a beautiful howl of which I found amusing given that I can’t sing! So, when we got to the area where we hoped to hear puppies, I howled. In the middle of the third howl, the puppies went off, it was amazing! I cannot begin to explain the feeling in that beautiful setting.

I share this experience because I encourage everyone to participate in various programs. Learn, enjoy, and share. It’s through education that we can help others care about wolves. You can bet I shared my experience at work and got folks intrigued.

You can look up the TWA at: https://www.northland.edu/sustainability/soei/twa/ . There you can find info on programs, a podcast by Adrian Wydeven (he was a speaker in our program and an author) and more!

Paw Print

Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

Not far from Calgary in Alberta, Canada, is a wonderful wolfdog sanctuary – Yamnuska. The sanctuary is located on 160 acres on a rolling hillside. I arrived on a sunny Saturday morning shortly after they opened. Upon entering the area to register for tours, I was greeted by a Giant Alaskan Malamute named Skookum. I have a malamute and she is not near his size, but what a big love!

The sanctuary offers various tours to suit the levels of engagement a visitor would like. The most inclusive tour is known as the Interactive Tour and it requires advance booking. I was fortunate to score one of these tours. The tour started out with our guide Scott who was very knowledgeable about wolves and wolfdogs. We were taken into an enclosure of high-content wolf dogs. We were instructed to sit and were given treats to toss to the wolves. Because they are high content, they are not likely to come up and want to be pet. Wolves are naturally wary of humans and you could see that attitude with these wolfdogs. It’s one reason why they don’t make good pets. While we sat and observed, Scott informed us about how to tell whether an animal is high. mid, or low wolf content by phenotyping as well as asking questions such as when was the animal born? Wolves only come into heat once a year usually around February and give birth in April-May. We also got to spend time in a low content wolfdog enclosure and I could immediately tell the difference in interaction. These individuals wanted contact with us.

The enclosures at the sanctuary are 1 to 2 acres and contain usually two individuals – a male and female (no breeding though). This is to keep interactions positive between individuals. I spent the entire day there participating in the introductory tour, watching individuals get feed, as well as howling along in a pack howl. It was hard to leave at the end of the day!

Please visit their website at: https://yamnuskawolfdogsanctuary.com/. It is well done and chock full of information. And of course, if you get the opportunity to visit, please do! I think their mission of educating folks about wolfdogs is an important one.

Nova – High Content Wolfdog

A Canadian Wolf Centre

I recently got back from a wonderful trip to Canada! I spent time in Alberta as well as British Columbia. During my trip, I visited the Northern Lights Wolf Centre in BC.

The mission statement of the centre is as follows:

“Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf centre promotes wolf conservation throughout the natural environment. We value the role these carnivores play in nature. We strive to provide a one-of-a-kind, quality experience to the public as we support conservation through education. “

The center loves to educate the public about wolves! They do interpretive talks and interactive school presentations/field trips about wolves and their role in a healthy environment.

Their wolves live in a 1.25-acre enclosure. Their interpretive talks take place right at the fence. Plus, their wolves are exercised regularly, off-leash in the wilderness so they are happy and healthy ambassadors for their wild cousins.

It is during the exercise hikes through Blackwolf Photography they are able to offer people the unique opportunity to photograph and walk with wolves in their natural environment. Nestled between the Rockies and the Purcell mountains, we are blessed with plenty of wilderness around here, and the scenery is fabulous! A photo session with the wolves requires a reservation and some restrictions apply.

I was able to walk their grounds and hear their staff talk about wolves. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go on an exercise hike as they are booked until September! I highly recommend visiting their website at: https://northernlightswildlife.com/ to learn more. And if you get the opportunity to visit, even better! I know I certainly left with not only a great experience of seeing their wolves, but also taking a few unique items from their well-stocked gift store!

One thing I learned while at the centre is that British Columbia sells hunting licenses that are very inexpensive and allow for the bagging of several wolves on one license. Canadians were urged to contact their local government and ministers while non-Canadians were encouraged to contact Canadian Tourism to voice opposition. Take a few moments out of your day to do so and you could save many lives.

A Trip to the International Wolf Center!

The air was crisp and it looked to be a beautiful day. As I looked out over the lake from my window in the Grand Ely Lodge, I was filled with the anticipation of a visit to the International Wolf Center (IWC). The IWC is located in Ely, Minnesota. It’s a quaint little town full of friendly folks, trails, and natural beauty.

Upon arriving at the center, I anxiously awaited the doors opening. I have been a member of the IWC for many years. One of the founders of the center is Dr. Mech – a world re-known wolf expert. The mission of the center is: “The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.” It is through their educational efforts that they make a difference. In this day and age when folks are distanced from nature, the center hopes to open eyes by providing folks the information to do so.

Once in the center, I immediately headed to the back of the building where there, you can sit and watch the exhibit pack. The pack currently consists of four wolves. In 2020, two pups will be added to the pack – adhering to the cadence of adding new pups every four years. I could not help but smile at seeing Denali, Boltz, Axel, and Greyson. The viewing area extends to an amphitheater where every hour, on the hour, sessions are held for guests to learn some aspect of the center and wolves.

The center also just opened a newly refreshed exhibit on wolves that is both interactive and educational. A visitor can wander through at their pace. There are also films you can watch. But for me, the bulk of my time was spent glued to the windows watching the wolves. Their grace and beauty enthralls me. I spent the two full days I had there mostly watching them until the center closed each evening.

I highly encourage you to look them up at: www.wolf.org. Become a member, attend a webinar, read the news, and watch the webcams. I think you will be glad you did. If you have any questions about the IWC, please let me know (denise.hughett@gmail.com)

Denise Hughett

Wildlife stories, guest posts, and discussions. If you would like to have your story featured please contact us.

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Crow Hunt

In 2014, when the Utah Wildlife Board was considering instituting a crow hunt, I made related this true story as part of my testimony against the hunt.

In 2008, I was camping on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. For breakfast, I was toasting some bread over a camp stove. While setting up my cooking gear, I noticed a crow in a nearby tree but thought nothing of it. While the bread was toasting, I turned away for a few seconds to retrieve something out of my car. When I turned back to tend the bread, the bread was gone and so was the crow I had seen a little earlier in the tree. After a moment of puzzlement, I realized that the crow must have swooped down when I wasn’t looking and took my toast!

Though I was annoyed at having lost my breakfast toast, I was not angry at the crow. Rather, I was amazed at how smart, quick, and cleaver the bird was to snatch the bread from me in the few seconds I wasn’t guarding it. I admired the crow’s intelligence and skills.

I told the Wildlife Board that crows, like other animals, play an important ecological role, and there is no good reason to institute a crow hunt. I explained that since I wasn’t angry at the crow and I did not want to kill the bird that took my toast, the Board, who had less reason to be hostile toward crows than I did, should not authorize the hunt.

As usual, the Wildlife Board ignored my point of view and voted to start the crow hunt. Science does not matter to the Wildlife Board. Ethics do not matter to the Wildlife Board. Public opinion does not matter to the Wildlife Board. The only thing that matters to the Wildlife Board is “expanding hunting opportunities” for the “good old boys” who are the only constituents the Board cares about.

This sorry state of affairs is the direct responsibility of the governor who appoints the members of Utah Wildlife Board. This unhappy situation will likely remain until a governor is elected who is not beholden to the hunting lobby.

Bob Brister

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