Wayward wolf nabbed in Utah

  • THEY'RE HERE: Mike Jimenez, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf specialist, puts a new radio collar on Wolf No. 253

    Doug McCombs
 

A gimpy 2-year-old wolf that once charmed wildlife watchers in Yellowstone National Park recently gave Utahns a wake-up call of the wild. "Wolf No. 253" from the famous Druid Peak Pack in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley stumbled into a leghold coyote trap 30 miles northeast of Salt Lake City on Nov. 30. He had trekked 200 miles since he was last seen in Yellowstone in mid-October.

Although there have been unconfirmed wolf sightings in Utah for more than a year - including one in Logan in July, when a wolf-like animal killed 15 lambs - this capture is the first conclusive evidence that wolves have returned to a state that extirpated them some 70 years ago. Biologists believe the wolf was trying to settle in Utah with a companion from another Wyoming pack. A second set of wolf prints was found near where it was captured.

While wildlife advocates are enthusiastic, the state's livestock and hunting interests quickly proclaimed that the gray wolf is not welcome. One rural Utah lawmaker, Rep. Michael Styler, R-Delta, has already drafted a resolution asking the federal government to remove all wolves that come into Utah.

Agency officials did return wolf No. 253 to Wyoming, where he was reunited with his pack - but only because it was already captured. According to Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Helena, Mont.-based Wolf Recovery Program coordinator, requests to remove other wolves will be ignored. Utahns, he says, should instead spend their energy jump-starting a state wolf-management plan.

"It is an inevitability that wolves are going to move down in this direction. This is not the first and it will not be the last," says Henry Maddux, Utah field director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.