Two members of a pioneering wolf pack on Montana's Rocky Mountain Front were recently moved to Glacier National Park after they were blamed for killing four calves this spring.
Two adults and two yearlings were allowed
to remain, at least for now. But because of a political stalemate
between state and federal wildlife officials, the future for
troublesome wolves seems grim.
Sawtooth Pack is the fifth pack in Montana and the first successful
pack east of the Continental Divide in 50 years. Its den is on a
ranch near Augusta.
The yearling wolves are
blamed for killing two calves outright, as well as badly injuring
others by panicking cattle which trampled calves under their
Federal biologist Jim Till said he hopes
the April 20 relocation to a cattle-free national park will break
the young wolves of their cow-chasing habits. The alpha, or
breeding, female of the remaining Sawtooth Pack is pregnant and due
to have a second litter of pups in coming weeks, Till
As in past years, Glacier accepted the
problematic wolves. But park officials are showing reservations.
The park already has two large, naturally occurring packs, one with
14 members, and the other 18.
Park is the only place in Montana where problem wolves have been
relocated, said acting park superintendent Pete Peterson. "In the
absence of substantive progress toward the identification of
alternative release sites, it is not likely that Glacier National
Park would approve further requests for relocations."
It is federal policy to give troublesome wolves
a second chance, relocating them when they have killed
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife
and Parks, however, has balked at relocating
Federal wolf biologist Joe Fontaine said
if he can't relocate wolves in Glacier, he may have to order the
next problem wolf destroyed. Zoos are saturated with wolves since
they breed well in captivity, he said.
problem wolves are moved, they face rough
In September 1989, an adult male, an adult
female and two pups were released in Glacier after being suspected
of killing stock. The female abandoned the pups, which promptly
starved. She went on to form another pack near Missoula, but was
later shot by a poacher. The adult male, injured in initial
trapping, was later destroyed by officials.
in April 1991, three other pups were released in Glacier. They all
scattered. One was shot by a poacher, another was recaptured after
killing stock again, and the third was shot by a
Fontaine said he has been frustrated in
his attempts to locate alternative release sites beyond Glacier.
But Bob Martinka, chief of field operations for Montana's wildlife
agency, says the federal strategy of relocating problem wolves is
"We may just be moving the problem, not
solving it," he said. In the long run, that will damage public
support for wolf recovery, he argues. With wolves flourishing on
their own in Montana - the population grows at 20 percent a year -
Martinka says it's unnecessary to move problem wolves around.
Wolf recovery in northwest Montana is occurring
naturally and therefore is substantially different from wolf
recovery in Yellowstone National Park and Idaho. In Yellowstone,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans on releasing wolves - but
only those with no record of killing
Till is now following both the
released pair in Glacier and the Sawtooth Pack by radio collar.
That way he'll know if they leave the park or get into trouble with