Following is an e-mail I sent to my good friend Will Graves, who authored the book "Wolves in Russia - Anxiety Through the Ages". Since I started the LOBO WATCH efforts three years ago, he and I have shared a lot of information. Hardly a week goes by that he and I spend less than two hours on the phone. A great deal of that time is spent comparing what's happening here with the wolf issue in the U.S., with wolf behaviors, wolf impact, wolf depredation, wolf control, wolf habituation, and the wolf threat to human safety, health and welfare in Russia. Graves knows the Russian wolf problem well...he has now spent more than 60 years reaserching those "Wolves in Russia."
The more I have gotten to know Will, and the more I study the research papers he has provided me, the more I realize that he is far more in tune with what is happening here, and what will happen here with wolves, than the vast majority of those who have been procalimed as expert "wolf scientists" in this country. And that is because Will Graves has already seen first hand the REAL gray wolf...and its ways. Our experts keep trying to write this apex predator a new script...which the wolf refuses to follow.
Thanks largely to Will, I have also become acquainted with a few real wildlife ecologists, such as Dr. Charles Kay (Utah State University)...Dr. Val Geist (University of Calgary)...Dr. James Swan (Producer, Wild Justice - National Geographic)...and Jim Beers (Former USFWS Chief & Wildlife Biologist). And, thankfully, I have become a part of their information loop.
And, from time to time, I contribute back with an update to these folks on what's happening wolf wise here in the Northern Rockies.
Following is an e-mail and a few photos I sent to Will on May 9th. It also went to the others mentioned here, plus more than a dozen others who are on the front lines fighting the wolf issue here in the Northern Rockies and in the Upper Midwest. When I composed this correspondence, I had no intention of publishing it...but from the comments I received back from several recipients, I realized that it needed to be shared with the general public.
The photo above is of a wolf that had absolutley no problem running right through the streets of a small mining town in northern Idaho, maybe 120 miles northwest of Missoula, MT - where I live. And there have been many reported sightings of wolves inside "city limits" of other small towns in the Northern Rockies. Friends in the small town of Yellow Pine, ID have reported fresh wolf tracks in the snow early in the morning - walking right down main street.
Wolves are now testing the city limits of much larger urban areas, like Misosula, a city of 70,000+ people. And that is the point being made in the following e-mail. It's time people realized that the wolf problem is coming to town.
Will and All;
Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service opened the lower gate of the Blue Mountain road, on the southwest corner of the City of Missoula. This is a heavily used Recreation Area, with hiking trails going everywhere...a big dog walking area & trail system...mountain bike paths...trails designated for off-road motorcycles...and even a Frisbee "golf course". My guess is the area runs about 8 or 9 miles East-West...and a little less North-South.
Even in January & February, as many as 150-200 people use it daily...this time of year daily use is easily double that...and come summer, use could reach 500 people just about every day.
This past Saturday (May 7th), I took my two trail dogs, Bob & Tully, and drove up to where the Blue Mountain road was blocked by a second gate up the mountain (due to snow still blocking the road). With the road closed, and just enough of an incline to give a good exercise, I parked near the closed gate, and the dogs and I walked in another mile (road mile). Just short of reaching where the snow still covered the road, I came across the tracks of two wolves...two sizeable wolves. So, I walked back down to the truck, got my camera and went back up to where I found the tracks.
Now, it had rained through much of the night, and the dirt/gravel roadway was just soft enough to allow the tracks to imprint about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. To give an idea of the size of each track, I placed a fairly new $1-bill next to each, and snapped a few photos. Those photos are attached. Other than those two wolf tracks...and the tracks that I and the two dogs left...there were no other tracks on the road...of any kind. (It should be noted that when I stepped in the same damp dirt, I barely left an imprint of the sole of my boots...and I weigh 195 pounds.)
From the neighborhoods at the base of Blue Mountain, to where I found the wolf tracks...by road it is about 5 to 6 miles. However, that road switched back and forth 5 or 6 times. Straight down the mountain, from where I photographed the tracks, it is 2 to 2 1/2 miles (by line of sight) to a sizeable area of residential neighborhoods.
I'm also attaching a photo of fresh wolf scat I found even closer to Missoula last October...while bowhunting deer on the Kelly Island wildlife management area...on the larger island just across from the boat ramp off of Spurgin Rd. At most, this scat (about five times larger than typical coyote scat...and much darker) was maybe 1/2 mile from a residential neighborhood.
Likewise, I am attaching a photo of a whitetail doe that was killed by wolves less than 75 yards from the backyards of neghborhoods along Spurgin Rd. I actaully found it the evening before (in December while bowhunting) but did not have my camera with me. At that time, the wolves (looked to be 2 or 3) had pulled internal organs out, and had completely eaten one rear quarter. The next morning, it was snowing when I went in...and what you see in the photo is all that was left. The variety of snow-filled paw prints in the snow indicated that perhaps a pair of older wolves had brought 2 or 3 three-quarter grown wolf pups back to feed.
The fact is, wolves are now getting closer and closer to the human residents of Missoula and neighboring Orchard Homes. Just a day before I photographed the ripped apart doe, I found where neighborhood children had made a snowman barely 50 yards from where the wolves killed the deer.
Also, with wolves working the edges of the city limits, covering many miles every night, each of those piles of wolf scat they leave behind could contain hundreds of thousands of Echinococcus granulosus tapeworm eggs, which can result in cystic hydatid disease in other wildlife, in pets and even in humans.
Sad thing is, all of this evidence left behnd by wolves has been found within just a few miles of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Region 2 Headquarters. And the agency has not once issued a warning to the residents adjacent to either the Blue Mountain Recreation Area or the Kelly Island wildlife area. They're located on Spurgin Rd. - maybe 2 miles from where the wolf- killed doe was found. I frequent the area a lot...and have never seen FWP people in the field there...just an occasional conservation officer who pulls into the adjacent parking lots, circles around and drives away.
Why is it that I can see and find things like this...and they don't? Perhaps it is because they rarely get off the road.
If you go to the "News Releases" link on the LOBO WATCH Home Page, and scroll down to "A Tale of Two Wolf Books", you can read our comparison of Will Graves' book, "Wolves in Russia" with the extremely pro-wolf book, "Never Cry Wolf" by Farley Mowat, that was published back in 1963. In that book, Mowat claimed that wolves rarely kill and eat big game (like the caribou he was supposedly studying), but instead feed primarily on smaller game, like lemmings and arctic hares. Please go back to the photo of the pile of wolf scat above, and click on it for a larger view. Now does that look like lemming or hare hair to you? This wolf had been feeding very well on elk and whitetail deer! - Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH
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