A wolf’s life

 

NAME: B7

WEIGHT AT RELEASE: 74 pounds

AT DEATH: 97 pounds

ESTIMATED WEIGHT IN HIS PRIME: 120 pounds

RELEASED: Indian Creek, Idaho, Jan. 20, 1995

ESTIMATED AGE: 13.75-14.75 years old

ORIGINAL PACK: The Oldman River, Alberta

KNOWN FOR: Being the last of the 29 wolves introduced into the U.S. from Canada in 1995

EMBARRASSING FACTS:

  • Had dog-biting lice as a pup
  • Flunked as a foster father: He killed two orphaned pups in an adoption experiment
  • Got caught in a coyote trap

 

His lifeless body echoed an arduous existence: a forepaw minus toes, a mouth missing incisors, molars ground to the gums.

For weeks, Idaho’s icy temperatures had preserved the carcass. Then, in January, hunters stumbled upon it. The wolf’s long blanched legs were spread over river rock. The black pads of his blocky feet and the blood from his mouth stained the pale winter landscape.

The wolf was one of 15 gray wolves transferred from Canada to central Idaho in a 1995 recovery effort. Biologists called him B7, and estimate that he was 14 years old when he died.

“I’m willing to bet anything that he is the last,” says Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “There might be one more — but most wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains live less than four years.”

Even if B7 was not the last Canadian, he is still a legend.

His first forays are full of mystery. For seven months, the gangly yearling loped out of the transmission range of his radio collar. He reappeared near Painted Rocks, Mont., and soon began courting a notorious black wolf, B11, who crossed the Continental Divide after first passing by a Salmon, Idaho, Subway sandwich shop and schoolyard. The schoolchildren called her Blackfire.

The wolves courted in the Blue Joint meadows. They slept within a meter of each other, prancing and pawing. He followed her closely, and eventually she rested her black head on his broad gray back. They staked territory in the mountain basin of Big Hole, Mont. One distracted prey while the other attacked. They feasted on moose calves, cow elk, and deer. Then they bit into the forbidden bovine.

Because it was still so early in the recovery process, the cow killers were spared the aerial firing squad. Instead, they were sentenced to spend their first mating season pacing a pen on the upper Selway River at Running Creek Ranch.

Ranch caretaker Tony Wright noted in his journal how B7 ran up the fence and chewed the insulators. After just three days, the wolf leapt out of the pen. But he hung around howling plaintively, his loyalty to Blackfire wrestling with his homing instinct. After 10 days, he headed up the river toward Big Hole, 180 miles as the crow flies.

B7 hunted the territory alone, while Blackfire ran clockwise circles in the Running Creek pen, wearing a trail 4 to 6 inches deep. Biologists knew B7 and Blackfire had bonded, and wanted to give the pair a chance to reproduce. Besides, it was only a matter of time before B7 became a “lethally controlled” statistic. Over the years, the lure of stock in the Big Hole Valley has claimed members of the Battlefield, Black Canyon and Fox Creek packs.

B7 eluded the choppers for two months, but was finally darted and returned to Running Creek Ranch. He and Blackfire were captives for a total of 10 months. Hoping that confinement had cured their taste for beef and that they wouldn’t bee-line back to Big Hole, biologists set them free. Their radio signals traced a southeast trek: Snow Peak, Lolo Peak, Roaring Lion creek.

Enticed by bighorns traversing raw granite ridges and elk sheltered by larches, the pair settled in the Selway/Bitterroot Wilderness, the third largest in the Lower 48. And it was breeding season.

Five pups were born in March 1998. B7 hunted in high gear. He brought quarry to Blackfire and regurgitated meat to feed the frolicking pups. In ensuing litters, yearlings babysat the pups at rendezvous points cached with food, so B7 and Blackfire could hunt, or nap in summer shade.

B7 led the Big Hole pack for six years — twice as long as the average alpha’s reign. During that time, he led roughly 3,000 hunts. An estimated 22 offspring loped behind him over the years, learning to stalk, cull and kill.

“The alpha male leads the charge and as a consequence has a higher risk of being killed,” says Bangs. The 15 gray wolves released in Idaho are either dead or missing, and the 14 wolves that were released in Yellowstone in 1995 had all died by 2004.

On Jan. 8, B7 was found 100 miles from his Lolo Pass territory. Now a bleached-gray male with nubs for teeth, he survived on small game and roadkill. While crossing U.S. Highway 93, he was hit by a car.

The impact fractured his jaw. Still, B7 crawled 50 feet up a drainage, and there, at last, he died.

 

The author is an HCN intern.

Anonymous
Mar 05, 2007 07:22 PM

Some critters have a big will to live. This wolf was one of them. Thanks for a great story told straight.

Anonymous
Mar 07, 2007 03:56 PM

the will to live is kindled by love with Blackfire by his side it is of no great wonder to us why B7 lived so long  leonard & Lois Houston

sagenav
sagenav
Mar 14, 2007 02:26 PM

It is a critical time in Idaho for Wolves.  Lets hope that the B7 legend won't be the last.  -Ted Vanegas, Boise, Idaho. 

tdkehoe
tdkehoe
Mar 23, 2007 10:10 PM

I loved this story! I cut it out of HCN and mailed it to my friend NightWolf.

Anonymous
May 09, 2007 12:22 PM

omg the poor wolf

Anonymous
May 10, 2007 06:32 PM

thht was so sad i hope more wolves will be born like him.i love wolves so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous
May 17, 2007 02:29 PM

SAVE THE WOLVES SAVE THE WOLVES SAVE THE WOLVES!!!!!!!!

Anonymous
May 17, 2007 02:29 PM

SAVE THE WOLVES SAVE THE WOLVES SAVE THE WOLVES!!!!!!!!

Anonymous
May 21, 2007 12:15 PM

Thank You for sharing your story.  Only thru this type of reasearch and education, will we realize the importance of the wolf to our eco system.  How tragic, B7 lost his life to modern conveniences!!! What a heartwarming, love story. 

Anonymous
Jun 11, 2007 11:42 AM

Its incredibly disheartening to see so many species literally disappearing before our eyes! - a recent trip to our Sydney Taronga zoo was kinda sad - we lamented the state of 2 old arthritic, Kodiak bears - also a young rhino whcih died about 3 weeks after our visit....

We have the privilege of trekking in Colorado shortly - I hope we get to experience some of your beautiful and endangered wildlife in a more natural habitat and will "tread gently" in your national parks!

Anonymous
Jun 25, 2007 11:19 AM

i think people should turn to the wolves side of the story and protect them instead of being afraid of them and want to try to kill them!And when u drive u should look out of what might run out in frount of u like what happned to B7.

Anonymous
Aug 14, 2007 11:25 AM

B7 was pretty that's so sad. Our family and I have wolf pups, Bandita and Chica. 90% wolf 5%huskey 5% german sheperd dog. I want to be what you guys do it would be such a privledge to help animals.

Anonymous
Aug 17, 2007 12:03 PM

Finally, this illegally "re-introduced" apex predator has passed.  Unfortunately, he apparently lived so long and so fruitfully that his many offspring are now a growing and uncontrollable plague upon wild and not-so-wild places.

Wolves are not endangered, and thus do not need saving.

This whole horrible episode will go down as one of the more short-sighted (not to mention fraudulent) wildlife experiments ever concocted by USFWS on behalf of the pale and frail suburbanites who, quite frankly, have neither visited these areas to see the predator-pit-type damage being done or have a clue as to where the vast majority of funding comes from to help manage the high country and its various inhabitants.

I say good ridance to B7.  I only wish that he had lived and died in a more dignified manner befitting a truly wild animal and not just a boneheaded experiment of teary eyed latte sipping sheeple.

Instead of shouting the utterly idiotic "Save the wolves!" rallying cry of silly romantics, people ought to rapidly begin adopting a much more realistic mantra..."Manage the wolves!"

 Allen E.

Anonymous
Sep 09, 2007 01:42 PM

That was a very sad story and yet a very heartwarming one.  I'm glad to see more people care about wolves and that they are being reintroduced into the wild...thanks for sharing his story

Anonymous
Sep 10, 2007 05:05 PM

My look on people killing wolves is really good because I'm agianst people killing wolves

their delicate cretares that deserive to live my dream is to keep the wolves alive the

reason that the world needs to have wolves is because the kill all the sick animals

that nare in the world. Plus I'm one big fan I've studied wolves for a long time I may

only be 16 but I know a lot about wolves.

Posted by Jaqueline 09/19/07  @  3:00

Anonymous
Sep 19, 2007 11:19 AM


Cars and animals don't mix. We can only hope that B7 is happy in death... I'm glad you posted his story. Wolves deserve the attention.


Anonymous
Sep 26, 2007 11:22 AM

I knew Apache Moon, he lived to be 20 years old (In captivity). He was the sweetest creature anyone could meet.

Anonymous
Oct 26, 2007 12:55 PM

I loved this story.. hopefully we won't let wolves dissapear!!! it is our rol as part of the community to protect them, thus we must punish those who kill endangered animals

Anonymous
Oct 29, 2007 11:43 AM

omg poor baby

Anonymous
Oct 30, 2007 02:51 PM

Thanks for sharing your storys but can you protect the wolfs and give them food plz and keep them safe.              thanks         

Anonymous
Oct 30, 2007 03:58 PM

WOLFS are so cool!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHO EVER RAN OVER THAT WOLF IS NOT COOL!!!!!!!!! WHO EVER HATES AND KILLES WOLFS ARE DEAD TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! love ya peps!!!!! from kourtney

Anonymous
Oct 30, 2007 03:58 PM

that poor wolf!!! WOLF'S are my FAV. ANIMAL IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous
Nov 16, 2007 03:17 PM

wolves were here way before us, it is not fair to them that we take away their food and rights of freedom. B7 is an example of the mistakes we have made, the problem is we are not learning from these mistakes. I stand by the wolves and all wild life. SAVE THE WOLVES, SAVE THE WORLD, SAVE OUR LIVES!

Anonymous
Nov 29, 2007 03:35 PM

that is sad

 

Anonymous
Nov 29, 2007 03:35 PM

that is sad

 

Anonymous
Nov 29, 2007 03:36 PM

that is sad

 

Anonymous
Dec 12, 2007 11:54 AM

save the wolves

Anonymous
Jan 10, 2008 10:55 AM

who hit  the wolf? poor little guy.

 

Anonymous
Jan 23, 2008 10:41 AM

Take Heart.  On Jan 2, in Upstate NY two grey wolves were sited just once, but tracks are everywhere. I kid you not.  It appeared to be just a pair. They have lingered here for several weeks, perhaps readying for mating. Perhaps pups in the spring. :-)  Must say, am a bit more hesitant to go out to feed the birds lately though. Still, taking photos of each set of tracks, watching for the break offs where they separate as they are hunting, sometimes right underneath the living room windows. Yes, they are that close to the house so you can understand the care which must be taken when venturing outdoors these very cold days. They seem to appear when it snows more and do not appear during the off days. Am keeping a calendar of their track appearances; no luck in siting them a second time yet.  Camera ever ready though.

Anonymous
Jan 29, 2008 11:07 AM

what happened to their offspring

Anonymous
Jan 30, 2008 05:46 PM

you nasty freaks just leave the wolves be.

Anonymous
Feb 19, 2008 11:20 AM

we should take beeter care of our wovles

Anonymous
Mar 03, 2008 12:33 PM

i like wolfs they are a good animal and they remind me of many things.

Anonymous
Mar 31, 2008 04:17 PM

hi i'm dezi, and i have alot of questions to ask.

1:is there such thing as a lisence to have wild wolves?

2:is there any way i can help save them from being extinct?

if so can you tell me so i can help too.

without animals the Earth is nothing and niether are we.

Anonymous
Apr 02, 2008 12:56 PM


that is so sad wolves should be alive