Wile E.’s in love 

As controversy stirs over the delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species list, the furry and fanged creatures have recently been sighted skirting the mountains of Missoula.

Two pairs have been seen near town during the last month. The first, a gray and dark gray duo, was sighted mid-month on Mount Jumbo. The second report, of a gray and black couple, came Tuesday from Upper Miller Creek.

“It’s no surprise,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wolf Recovery Coordinator Ed Bangs said. “We get wolf reports all the time. We put a dot on the map and start looking for an overall pattern.”

Pack wolves can range territories of up to 500 square miles, so sightings don’t necessarily mean the wolves are setting up shop in town.

“My guess is that a pair is wandering. Who knows, maybe they’ll be back or maybe they’ll have a den on the backside of Jumbo next year,” Bangs said.

If clusters of sightings continue to pour in, wolf researchers will begin combing the area for sign of the animals.

“Wolves are incredibly visible once they set up territories. When we think there are pups we go and look for tracks and howl,” Bangs said.

Pups are typically born in mid-April, the products of an elaborate courtship ritual that begins this time of year.

When two wolves take a fancy to each other, they start cuddling at night and double-scenting landmarks to let the canine world know they’re traveling together. Mirroring human traditions, the wolves tend to mate around Valentine’s Day.

Blind for months in the den, the pups emerge around July and a pack is recognized. At that point, biologists tend to collar members of the pack and track them.

“Please let us know where the wolves are,” Bangs said. “Generally you can call a local game warden or someone affiliated with the Forest Service and they’ll funnel all of the reports to us.”

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