The high risk of leaving home
Last week, federal agents shot a sheep-killing wolf in Wyoming. That male (266M), from a Montana litter born in 2007, was the sibling of a female wolf (341F) that wandered across Wyoming, Idaho and Utah last fall. This past March, she was found dead near the northern Colorado town of Rifle. Sadly, the littermates' fates are typical for dispersing wolves. The young animals travel hundreds of miles from their home pack to find mates and set up new territories, but meet many hazards along the way, reports the Casper Star-Tribune:
Traveling wolves not only have to worry about vehicles when crossing highways, but also poaching and attacks by other wolf packs. And if the wolves develop a taste for livestock, as 266M did, they eventually become a target of federal Wildlife Services agents.
"If you look at survival rates, dispersing wolves have a lower rate of survival," (Carolyn Sime, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf project leader) said. "It's a risky business to be the dispersing wolf."
Officials aren't saying how wolf 341F died, but some conservationists say the animal was deliberately dispatched. NewWest.net reports:
“I have believed for the last couple of months that they definitely have a law enforcement angle on this,” (Rob Edward, carnivore recovery director for WildEarth Guardians) said. “Otherwise they would tell you that it died of natural causes.”
Intentionally killing a wolf in Colorado would be a violation of the Endangered Species Act and state statutes that protect endangered species.
Perhaps the year-long investigation will eventually yield definitive information about what -- or who -- killed 341F. In the meantime, for a vivid and entertaining account of the travels of another Northern Rockies wolf, the legendary B7, read Erin Halcomb's story "A Wolf's Life".