Wolves colonize Jackson Hole

  • BACK IN TOWN: Wolves heading south

    Jim Dutcher photo
  A lone wolf howl was heard in Jackson Hole, Wyo., for the first time in over 50 years this November. Since then, 11 wolves have been sighted in the area, some of them only five miles from the town of Jackson. Migrating south from Yellowstone, the animals make up three groups that seem to be settling in Grand Teton National Park and on the National Elk Refuge.


Reactions to their arrival range from ecstasy to grim resignation.


Terry Foster, manager of visitor and volunteer services at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, saw wolves in mid-January after searching fruitlessly for a week. "I was waiting and waiting and didn't see one at first," she said. "Then I suddenly saw one and I was jazzed. I was basically on a wolf high all day."


That high is proving to be an addiction as residents and visitors flock to the refuge. Parked in highway pullouts, searching from the museum's lobby, scanning from horse-drawn sleighs, viewers have watched wolves chasing elk and the elk turning to chase wolves back.


Not all Jackson residents welcome their new neighbors. Outfitter Paul Gilroy fears wolves will wipe out the elk herd. "Our forefathers got the federal government to help them eradicate the wolves from the entire Lower 48 not just because (the wolf) preyed on livestock and wildlife, but because he was a threat to the human species."


Biologists say it is too early to predict what effect wolves will have on the elk herd. Refuge biologist Bruce Smith said the wolves are still searching out territories. "These animals are totally in the exploratory phase," Smith said.


* Rachel Odell


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