September 17, 2009 in Sports

When wolves claim your kill

By The Spokesman-Review
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Background and the latest updates

In Washington

At least two packs found

 Washington has verified at least two breeding wolf packs, one in Okanogan County, the other in Pend Oreille County.

 While wolf hunting is allowed in Idaho this fall, wolves are still protected in Washington.

 A male wolf fixed with a radio collar in Pend Oreille County often has ranged 10-15 miles a day on forays from its pack and pups this summer, said Dana Base, Washington Fish and Game Department wildlife biologist in Colville.

 “We probably have packs beyond the one we’ve confirmed in Pend Oreille,” he said.

 Public meetings to present Washington’s proposed wolf management plan are being scheduled for early October.

What if wolves were stalking the same elk you just found in your cross-hairs?

Although extremely unlikely, wolves have sometimes tried to claim a big-game animal a hunter has just dispatched.

In portions of Montana and Idaho, you might have a wolf tag in your pocket and the option to assert authority unequivocally.

But maybe you don’t have a tag, or you’re in Washington, where wolves are protected.

Doug Smith, the Yellowstone National Park wolf project leader who’s worked intimately year-around with wolves and grizzly bears over the past 15 years, has this advice.

“As a hunter, I would not try to chase a bear off a deer or elk I had killed, but I would try to chase off a wolf. I’d yell at those wolves, put a few shots around them and get them out of there so I could take back my elk.

“I’ve personally chased many wolf packs off of kills, but I had other people with me. You have to size it up, especially if you are alone.

“I would press it at first. Shoot, throw things at them. In most cases that would do it.

“But if it didn’t, I’d reconsider and keep my distance.”

Jon Rachael, Idaho Fish and Game Department’s lead man on wolves, said some elk hunters have had wolves investigate their calls.

“Invariably the wolves wheeled on a dime and took off,” he said.

Most important to hunters as wolves establish: “Unrestrained dogs and wolf country don’t mix,” he said. “And if you’re traveling with stock, you’ll want to keep an eye on them.”

- Rich Landers

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