Desperate wolves

  Four wolves in Montana's Sawtooth pack that were shot in September for killing livestock may have been starving and frantic to feed their 14 pups.

All the wolves had badly maimed paws, says Bob Ream, a biologist at the University of Montana.

"The federal trapper who shot the wolves told me that three of four adults had scars from pretty severe past wounds on their feet," Ream says. "The alpha (dominant) female had one front and one hind leg damaged. One male had a bum leg and limped badly."

Ream says it would have been difficult for four severely wounded animals to feed 14 pups. "It's amazing to me that they didn't do it (kill livestock) earlier," he says. "They were living among cattle all summer."

Ream thinks the injuries were caused by traps set by local ranchers for coyotes. "I don't think they were deliberately aimed at the wolves," he says. The animals probably injured their feet while pulling out of secured traps, he says, or they may have dragged unsecured traps until their toes sloughed off, releasing the traps.

Animal Damage Control officer Larry Handegaard says the wolves' feet have been sent to a lab at Montana State University in Bozeman for analysis. The Sawtooth pack is one of nine gray wolf packs that dispersed naturally across Montana from packs in Glacier National Park.

- Mark Matthews

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