wolves evade capture

By Jim Stanford on March 13, 2012

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A federal biologist has been unable to shoot the wolves by helicopter because they are staying near residential areas.

Two weeks after a federal wildlife manager said he planned to kill them, wolves are still roaming the south end of Jackson Hole near residential areas and ranches.

Mike Jimenez, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said there are just two wolves — one white and one black, possibly a mating pair. The predators remain comfortable on the periphery of the Indian Trails, Indian Springs and Cottonwood Park neighborhoods and even south Wilson, near Fall Creek Road, he said.

Because the wolves often are in these areas, Jimenez has been unable to fly in a helicopter and shoot them with darts.

“It’s just not a place we can do anything,” he said. There have been no reports of wolves harassing pets, people or livestock since an Indian Trails homeowner posted a video Feb. 23 of wolves crossing his backyard, Jimenez said.

Jimenez has been tracking the wolves from the ground and by airplane. The animals have ranged from the southern end of the valley, near the South Park elk feedground, across Highway 22 to the north and as far west as Wilson. Their behavior is consistent with wolves establishing a home territory, he said.

“We know where they are, but they’re in small pockets at the far end of a field, or in someone’s backyard, and that’s not an appropriate spot” to capture and euthanize them, he said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service needs a vast, open area of public land, preferably, to hunt the wolves by helicopter, Jimenez said. It’s unsafe to fly near houses and power lines, and even if a rancher or other landowner grants permission for a mission on their property, the wolves will run as soon as the chopper approaches, he said. Setting traps in these areas could catch dogs.

Although they can cover long distances, the wolves have been roaming less remote areas. “These guys are really habituated to people,” he said.

The white wolf is 4 to 5 years old, while the black one is 2 or 3. Both are wearing radio collars, but only the black wolf’s is transmitting a signal. Although Jimenez said he does not know for sure the sex of the predators, he is concerned they are going to den come early April. Usually when a pair of wolves strikes out on their own, they are mates intent on starting a new pack.

The wolves are not part of the Pinnacle Pack that has been roaming the National Elk Refuge this winter, he said.

Fish and Wildlife Service has been monitoring the pair for months. Even before a photograph of the wolves in Indian Trails was published in January, the agency received a complaint of the wolves chasing cattle, Jimenez said. He would not identify the rancher who made the complaint, saying they are protected by federal privacy law.

Jimenez is tracking the wolves two or three times a week, and if he were to find them in an appropriate place for an aerial hunt, “We react very quickly,” he said.

There is ample game in the Snake River bottom for the wolves to eat. Besides herds of elk, Jimenez counted 37 moose between Wilson and South Park last week. It’s still possible, if the wolves are not mating, that they will leave come spring once the game migrates to the surrounding forest, Jimenez said. “That’d be wonderful,” he said.

But if the wolves den and the game leaves, the predators likely will feed on livestock and become more defensive of their home territory, Jimenez said.

The veteran biologist, who has been involved with wolf management since 1986, received sharp criticism from wildlife lovers for his decision to kill the wolves instead of relocating them. Responding to the outcry, Jimenez said it’s unfair to ask that wildlife managers “make wildlife fit into these domesticated situations.”

There are larger questions at play. With game seeking refuge in residential subdivisions, predators expanding south from Yellowstone are bound to follow. “This is going to be an ongoing problem,” he said. “How do you make room for wolves when we’ve screwed up the habitat? People don’t want to take responsibility or any kind of accountability for that.”

He has a valid point. Residents often say they moved here for the wildlife, which means they are inhabiting what used to be habitat. “People’s enjoyment of wildlife or wild places is something that causes this conflict,” Jimenez said.

(Photo by Tim McClure)

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Posted under Environment, Politics, Wyoming Legislature

26 Comments so far

  1. John Sidle March 13, 2012 12:09 pm

    Why post a video when it comes up “Private” when started and will not play?

  2. js March 13, 2012 12:39 pm

    It’s working now.

  3. elsie March 13, 2012 2:00 pm

    I was wondering the other day what was happening with the wolves. I hope they move off on their own but it doesn’t sound too promising. Do what you gotta do Mike.

  4. Mike March 13, 2012 2:54 pm

    JS,

    New here. Great reporting on this one – you raise some serious questions we all need to ask ourselves.

    I will back Jimenez whatever he chooses/needs to do, but it is quite amusing to see the wolves almost playing games with him. Must be torture. Hopefully they’ll just take off as spring approaches.

  5. js March 13, 2012 4:01 pm

    The wolves are more or less doing what they’ve been doing, but Mike’s hands are tied because of the location. I trust that he will make the best decision for wolves and people in the long run.

  6. SGoodrich March 13, 2012 7:43 pm

    Doesn’t it make sense to give them a chance to move out along with the elk in a few weeks before they’re slayed needlessly?

  7. yeehaw March 15, 2012 5:59 am

    I never considered domesticating and harboring a wolf for the sole purpose of keeping my neighbors dogs from crapping on my lawn until I saw today’s article in the nag: Wolves attack pet dog

  8. js March 15, 2012 8:44 am

    Update: The wolves allegedly attacked a dog — http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=8353

  9. Brad March 15, 2012 8:48 am

    OK, so the NaG has a wolf-bites-dog story this AM. Does this change the dynamic, create any urgency? And, someone at my place of work opined they heard Jimenez was looking into feeding going on by residents. Anyone know about this?

  10. Brad March 15, 2012 8:49 am

    Jim, you beat me to it!

  11. Renee March 15, 2012 10:57 am

    So a dog who should not have been roaming the neighborhood got attacked? Small dogs and cats get attacked all the time by coyotes. If you leave an animal to roam you have to expect something bad is probably going to happen.

  12. Common sense March 15, 2012 11:14 am

    It was a dog this time- next time its a dog attache to human on a leash— the wolves where never intended on reintroduction to be in sub urban and urban areas— these wolves WILL be killed- if the feds wont or cant- there are many good men and women that will— I personally cant wait to have a shot at the ones around my pasture—- I;m tired of babysitting my cattle so I am not feeding these sons a bitches– and finally the courts answered the call to reason– incredible I know but they actually made the proper decision— Funny I never see any wolf or supposed wildlife lovers with check book in hand paying for better habitat- science and management— not one more dead dog not one more attack in the south end of the valley— The vigilantes will be sure of that—

  13. js March 15, 2012 12:43 pm

    Slow down, pardner. Wolves are still an endangered species, and before any vigilantes take matters into their own hands (other than catching wolves in the act of attacking livestock) they ought to consider the possibility of jail time. See: Chad McKittrick.

  14. Jim March 15, 2012 1:38 pm

    @common sense,
    Common sense would dictate moving your ranch out of wolf territory?

    Yes the wolves are newly introduced, so why should you move? A valid point.

    But the truth is wolves aren’t taking down your prize cows, if they take down a cow, they take down the sick ones, that are probably going to die in the harsh wyoming winters anyway.

    There has to be better options and willingness to explore alternate options than just resorting to killing.

    In every business, owners have to be on watch against “predators” that may be detrimental to their business. Why should yours be any different? Why not build a better fence for starters?

    The attack of the dog sounds pretty suspect as their are no details and no evidence.

    But that’s not to say it couldn’t happen.

    Surely there is some compromise that doesn’t result in killing such an important animal.

    I would be more than willing to help you build a fence.

  15. Common sense March 15, 2012 3:23 pm

    For those that choose to have courage and take a wolf I’m not certain its a concern family and property protection verses jail and a fine. Somethings are in life are even worth dying for so don’t think some free groceries and a warm bed sound to terrifying for killing some wolves in a populated area- a change of venue may even get you a sound verdict of innocence from a jury——- many would, in a blink of an eye take them out. They are not going to work within housing, schools and populated areas— Your ignorant if you think it will all be kumbyah– and thanks ma’am for the offer to help with fencing- it would take ove r8 feet of chain link above ground and a few feet of concrete below to stop them and not sure how long- What about all the horse- dog- cat- owners in this valley? What about the 4-h programs from hens to hogs to goats, show cattle bunnies?— What about someone walking a dog down tribal trails in city limits being attacked? The next few years this problem is going to worsen– the surrounding terrain can only handle so many predators and its at its limit– If a child, God forbid is hurt because y’all want them and cats romping the streets of town, are you going to feel any remorse or responsibility? What the heck are you going to feel like then? They are NOT scientifically-endangered they are under a legal protection that is false and the courts straightened part of that out yesterday— Now with wolves already over populated you can bet another suit will be filled, using my tax dollar to line a vultures pockets so this can be tested in Supreme court– Meantime the over populated,wolves will finish devastating our ungulate herds and have folks afraid to fetch wood at night– No more- the buck stops here Your going to turn good citizens into criminals for their part in doing the right thing. Meantime- my rifle needs a tuning and see what I can do to quite it down—–

  16. Mike V March 15, 2012 11:25 pm

    Heh, Heh, gooooooood stuff!

  17. D March 16, 2012 11:24 am

    Jim you are wrong. Common sense you are wrong. All this seem a little trivial after the events of the past weeks? Right? I don’t see wolves attacking children anywhere ever, I search for one report and couldn’t find one. However I have seen them kill perfectly healthy cow’s, elk and moose. The argument that they only take the sick was disproved long ago. They do take the sick if available, but If not they take whatever one they want. The key is Balance and without some kind of population control, the problem will get worse and everyone will suffer including the wolves.

  18. DB March 16, 2012 12:33 pm

    I’m not an expert, but wouldn’t wolves have just killed the pet dog, instead of letting it live? It sounds like someone’s pet was attacked by an uncontrolled dog or coyote and lived to tell the tale, so obviously it must be the fault of wolves, as is every other thing that happens in this valley. Unless someone actually saw it happen I’m calling BS on the N&G story.

  19. Common sense March 16, 2012 12:59 pm

    Jim- My private property- My kids and family are not yours nor the governments to experiment with – Wolves Have and will attack humans, while not often, it does happen and is happening with more frequency. Mr. Jimez even cites human safety as a factor in removing these wolves.
    There are boundireies when human safety is at stake- They attacked a dog on a chain yesterday, whats to stop them from attacking a dog on a leash? A kid? I am part of nature as much as the wolf and my ancestors made it this long having more sense than to believe wolves are not a danger to man and livestock. They where never intended to live in the housing around towns- This is happening in Idaho and Montana as well- Let me point something out- wolves are smart animals- as are coyotes—- Stockmen have tried to eradicate them state wide for years and its not possible even with the predator status- South Park and WIlson have a great deal of livestock owners- every kid that has a bunny- cat, horse, steer, what ever – is raising a dinner for the wolves that live within that area— They will be drawn to the many kinds of animals we have in this end of the valley—- It will force the wolves and the livestock owners into conflict on a regular basis- Even if they delist them and make that area a predator zone how are folks going to hunt them with the small acreages? They could live on Harrison fords for a denning site and a few minutes walk in the summer there are hundreds of animals for them to feed on- IS it fair to the wolf? The livestock owners? Folks that want to walk their property at night without fear? If they delist today we will have more issues with livestock and humans encountering wolves– The blame lays in the lap of those that want them free range everywhere and those with common sense-keep them in yellowstone and the park Another point- with the patch work of land in this end of town and the mixed opinions on wolves it is impossible to kill and control them under currant law- The odds of a land owner that desires to kill of a wolf , finding one on his 5 acres surrounded by vehicles, roads, houses, ect — the odds of him getting a shot on his property are a not very good at all—- The feds cannot trap or shoot them without permission- that is a problem right now in the removal of this pack—- they are safe from traps and ariel shooting living in the populated area— now what?

  20. js March 16, 2012 5:17 pm

    @DB, I have it on pretty good authority the attack occurred, and allegedly it was three wolves, not two. The dog is in bad shape, from what I hear.

  21. DB March 16, 2012 11:44 pm

    JS – Thanks for the clarification. I feel badly for the family of the affected dog, and hope to never experience the same situation.

  22. bee March 17, 2012 7:08 am

    we are all just wild animals

  23. Jim March 18, 2012 2:35 pm

    Common Sense,
    I wasn’t trying to be a jackass, I sincerely think we need to work together to find something that works. The problem with the “killing them all” policy is that even if you kill the wolves, you still have bears and cougars to worry about. And I think we can all agree that we will lose something special if all three were to not exist in this valley.

    It sucks that pets can be attacked, but if my dog runs out in the middle of the road, God forbid, it’s not the motorists fault.

    People in jackson, know we live in a wild place that is full of predators, not just wolves. So i would place the responsibility on the owners to be better aware of their surroundings.

    As for wolves attacking humans, it is super rare and not very many documented attacks. I think you have a way higher risk of getting in a car accident.

    If you truly are scared of being attacked, then maybe living in an area full of predators isn’t a wise choice?

    If I lived in a place with a high crime rate, I wouldn’t go around shooting people, I would move.

    @DB March,
    Yes wolves have taken down non-sick animals, but I wonder how much of those habits have been formed by ranchers in the past leaving out dead carcasses (non-wolf related) that can attract all sorts of predators to an area.

    Kind of like a bear isn’t by nature going to raid a dumpster, unless it knows there is good stuff it that dumpster because he got into a non-bear proof dumpster before.

    All I am saying is we live in a very special place that is rare this day and age, and we are all smart enough to sit down and brain storm some options that don’t involve killing everything in sight.

  24. CB March 18, 2012 2:44 pm

    Thousands spent on helicopters, tranquilizers, and drugs to do what a .30 cent bullet does quite well? It this plan drawn up by the St. John’s CEO or the Start bus underground storage proponents?

  25. Common sense March 19, 2012 10:55 am

    Cb I need your reloader supply phone number!— thats cheaper than I can reload!

    Jim— The wolves are 10 years past the time the scientists- legal agreements and feds agreed to start management. 10 years extra of uncontrolled wolves—- It’s cruel to the wolves- they are not meant to live in suburban areas or the city limits Don’t give me that maybe I should move line- My family has been here 5 generations my land and my occupation are here- You move and take the wolves with you—- Talking time is over- every time we get an agreement the wackos move the goal— the buck stops here- now. No-one with any sense believes bears cats and wolves should be in populated areas and those ‘few’ folks’ that do get attacked what do you tell them and their families?— You got the wolves and we agree to let them be in small portions of the state but not in city limits anywhere- ever—

    I have seen and photographed the THREE wolves everyone is talking about- 2 preys and a black – one black and one grey have collars- there is another grey, likely a female. There are also 2 blacks and I have seen all 5 at one time in the indian trails area. Also on Saturday they found the remains of 3 dogs in the buffalo valley area and Jimez confirmed them as wolf kills— ‘

    How many tourists want to come here if they are afraid to go anywhere? Your going to kill the family tourism and steal those trips from folks—– Zero tolerance no wolves in town and proximity of homes schools and churches. Would you tolerate I imagine a griz in cottonwood?

  26. CB March 21, 2012 3:07 pm

    @Common sense:

    7.62×39 runs about .20 cent per round new.

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