Missing wolves spotted in elk refuge

(Note: Read and consider the lack of professionalism in each of the federal employee comments in this article. If "Wolf managers have been hindered by poor weather in their search for the pack and had made only a few aerial searches in recent weeks." Okay, so if that's true, than why would this be said by the same person: "If there had been a pack of 17 wolves out here, someone would have seen them.'' Sheesh! After a few more such quotes by other such employees, Mister Ed Bangs exhorts, "When they run into [the] Teton [pack], I imagine they'll book it back toward home ...'' and later chortles, "It'll be really interesting to see how long they stay.'' Do you feel comfortable with packs of wolves yet? They could -- and may very well -- be coming to your area soon! "Wolf managers have no plans to do anything with the Nez Perce pack ..." Is this the way federal employees 'manage' such a predator? Interesting ... it looks more like non-management to me.)

January 30, 2003

The Casper Star-Tribune

Casper, Wyoming

307-266-0575

http://www.trib.com

To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@trib.com

Cody, Wyoming (AP) - A 17-member pack of wolves missing from Yellowstone National Park since mid-December was spotted Tuesday in the National Elk Refuge nearly 60 miles to the south, biologists said.

Scientists noticed the Nez Perce pack on the north end of the refuge near Jackson during a flight over the area. It was the first time the wolves had been seen for about six weeks.

''As far as we know they just showed up on the refuge today or maybe yesterday,'' refuge biologist Bruce Smith said. ''If there had been a pack of 17 wolves out here, someone would have seen them.''

Wolf managers have been hindered by poor weather in their search for the pack and had made only a few aerial searches in recent weeks.

Six of the wolves wear radio collars, and researchers from Idaho on other business dialed in the wolves' radio frequencies Tuesday as they flew over the Jackson area, officials said.

No one knows how the pack got to the refuge, when they arrived or how long they will stay. The wolves are in close proximity to two other packs, the Teton and Gros Ventre.

''These guys are going to run into other wolves pretty quick. The question is will they hang around or not,'' said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ''When they run into Teton, I imagine they'll book it back toward home.''

Wolf managers have no plans to do anything with the Nez Perce pack except keep an eye on them.

''They're not doing anything wrong. They're perfectly fine on the elk refuge,'' said Doug Smith, Yellowstone's lead wolf biologist.

The Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife are in the midst of adding new collars to wolves in the region. Smith said he would like to dart and collar the Nez Perce pack but will not do it on the national refuge.

If the wolves wander out of the refuge to a good spot, managers may move in to collar a few Nez Perce wolves, he said.

This is not the first time the Nez Perce pack has disappeared. The pack left Yellowstone in November 2001 and showed up in eastern Idaho near Afton, where it caused a stir for a few days before returning to the park.

It's also not the first time a wolf pack has wandered onto the elk refuge.

In 1999, two packs showed up in January and stayed through April. They killed about 60 elk ''and then they just left,'' said Jim Griffin, assistant manager at the refuge.

Members of the nearby Teton and Gros Ventre packs occasionally stroll onto the refuge but usually not as a pack.

Refuge workers had no idea the Nez Perce pack was on the remote northern end of the refuge until they got a call from Fish and Wildlife on Tuesday afternoon, Griffin said.

''It was kind of an unusual call,'' he said. The refuge is a place where animals are protected, including wolves, he added.

''This is a place where they can be,'' Griffin said.

It's not uncommon for wolf packs to leave their home territory to wander a bit. Bangs speculated that the Nez Perce pack, which is based in the central portion of Yellowstone, may have left to look for food.

''There may not be enough food for a pack that size in the central part of the park,'' Bangs said.

As wolves have culled the weak and feeble elk, the herds are populated by more healthy members, which are more difficult for the wolves to catch and kill, Bangs said.

Wolves also leave their territory to scope out the competition among other wolf packs.

Bangs said the Nez Perce pack probably passed through other pack territories and will do so again if they head back toward Yellowstone. But if the wolves find enough to eat where they are, they might stick around for a while.

''It'll be really interesting to see how long they stay,'' Bangs said.

http://www.trib.com/AP/wire_detail.php?wire_num=79748

Contact Ed Bangs:

ed_bangs@fws.gov  or 406-449-5225 ext. 204

He's the federal 'wolf recovery coordinator' in Helena, Montana. Mr. Bangs is in charge of all federal wolf management in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.