Rest of Nez Perce pen released
One of the Sawtooth Yearlings killed by an M44
Ed Bangs will not be prosecuted

6-12-97


Here are some facts on three important stories.

First, the rest of the wolves in the Nez Perce Pen have finally been released. They were released on the night of June 9. This includes 7 wolves --27F, 37F, 2 Sawtooth yearlings, and 3 of the 4 pups that were born to 37F this May. No. 29M (who escaped the enclosure in March) is the pup's father. One of the 4 pups died in the enclosure -- no. 91F. Although plans several months ago were to release these wolves in the southern part of Yellowstone where few wolves have ventured, but where there are lots of elk, the unexpected litter of pups probably dictated where the release did take place -- right at the Nez Perce Pen.

The wolves are being monitored closely. This is the first time pups have been born in a Park wolf enclosure. It is also the first time young pups have been released. Finally, this is the first litter for no. 37F, the presumed daughter of the very experienced no. 27F.

Second, I received a tip that one of the Sawtooth yearlings, a collared female (71F?) was accidentally killed by an M44 "coyote getter" south of Ruby Reservoir in SW Montana. There is an implication that the federal agency Animal Damage Control (ADC) is trying to cover this up. I believe there has been no public reporting of this. My efforts to obtain additional information have been so far unsuccessful.

This wolf death is the second wolf I am aware of where the ADC has accidentially poisoned a wolf with an M44. In January 1995, a naturally recolonizing wolf from Canada (the male of male/female pair), was killed by an M44 in northern Idaho. This was in an area where wolves have the full protection of the endangered species act (greater protection than the experimental populations of Yellowstone and central Idaho).

M44s are devices that attract canids and shoot a sodium cyanide pellet in their mouth. This wolf dispersal to the west should have been an exciting event, for it shows that the Yellowstone wolves may link up the naturally restored population in NW and (now) western Montana and also wolves reintroduced to central Idaho.

Animal Damage Control is part of APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service). For information of the role APHIS in the slaughter of Yellowstone's bison last winter go to my bison slaughter page. Conservationists have long been skeptical of the worth of ADC and its wildlife-killing predecessor agencies. Despite a number of recent wolf "screw-ups" the ADC does have the confidence of ranchers and over the years it has gotten more efficient at dealing with wolf/livestock problems (and not always with a gun). I hope they will get back on track (keeping the death secret doesn't help, although this decision may have originated elsewhere).

One final item, remember the canid that was lassoed last winter near Big Sandy at the base of the Wind River Range? (see my story on Feb. 26, 1997). That canid has been in the Rose Creek Pen since late Feb. while determination is made as to whether it is a native wolf, released pet wolf, hybrid, etc.. DNA testing has been done, I understand; but the lack of a news release raises my suspicion that it is a natural wolf, and so folks are being very careful (more testing?) before making an announcment.

I have yet to hear a DNA report on the canid that was dispatched a short while later south of Cody, Wyoming. I did read about a lawsuit regarding the dead Cody canid, however. The Caspter Star-Tribune reported yesterday that there has been an unsucessful attempt to prosecute Ed Bangs, the coordinator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf recovery program, for ordering the shooting of the wolf-like canid south of Cody (see my story of March 5, 1997). The petition to prosecute Bangs came from Jim and Cat Urbigkit of Pinedale, Wyoming (and others?). The Urbigkits have long maintained there has been, and was, a native Yellowstone area wolf population and that the reintroduction of wolves from Canada came on top to native population, thus serving to destroy the indigenous wolf, a sub-species.

I have not found their arguments persuasive (in fact less so as time goes by) although it is clear that lone wolves and maybe a pack have from time-to-time inhabited the Yellowstone area. The clincher for me was the observation of very long dispersals by reintroduced Idaho and Yellowstone wolves (as well as some incredibly long dispersals from NW Montana north into Canada). I believe this makes the notion that a unique sub-species of wolf persisting in the Yellowstone area unlikely. In the past 100 years there must have been great genetic intermixing all along the Rocky Mountains. This would render a sub-species impossible.


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© 1997 Ralph Maughan
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