Over the weekend USDA Wildlife Services agents, while out flying around killing coyotes, observed what they think were four wolves or wolf dog hybrids near Springville, Utah. There have been reports of wolves there for the past year and a half. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources plans to attempt to capture them in the next few days to take DNA samples so that they can determine for sure if they are wolves or not. If they are wolves then they are subject to full protection under the Endangered Species Act because they are outside of the Northern Rocky Mountain DPS.

This is the first suspected pack outside of the NRM DPS in either Utah or Colorado but there have been wolves documented in both states. If it is a pack of wolves, and they had taken up residence in the northeastern corner of Utah, they would likely have been killed because there is little to no protection for them there.

Could sighting be Utah’s first wolf pack?
The Salt Lake Tribune

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole, Buffalo Field Campaign's Executive Director, is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He was formerly the Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

44 Responses to Utah may have its first wolf pack and it is south of I-80

  1. avatar jdubya says:

    Seems odd they would make it all the way to Strawberry as a pack without having been seen before. I dunno….probably some dog pack escaped from Heber. I’m sure Peay and his boys will be after them with guns and dogs.

    • avatar Ken Cole says:

      I doubt that they made it there as a pack. I bet the two met there after dispersing then formed a pack. If there has been suspected wolf activity for a year and a half then that is plenty of time for them to have mated and raised pups.

  2. avatar Richie.G says:

    Again I must add what a shame,It’s just me,but how can people fly around a shoot and see an helpless animal go down in pain and die for what they have just done. Then go home and play with their dog,beats me .

  3. avatar Jon Way says:

    Richie,
    Its not just you in feeling that way. Even many people (like myself) trained in wildlife mgmt/biology don’t condone aerial shooting animals among other killing means…

  4. avatar josh sutherland says:

    I hope they are confirmed hybrids! We dont want the ID mess here in Utah.

    • avatar Nancy says:

      Curious, what ” ID mess” are you referring to Josh?

      • avatar josh sutherland says:

        All the legal drama and issues that wolves bring with them. You know very well the issues that wolves bring, it will be a circus. I dont mind wolves at all but I know the Feds would take over and we would have the same nightmare that ID has. The area they are being found in has very little winter range, so they would just be an added pressure to an already hard area for ungulates to winter in.

        • Josh Sutherland,

          Why would they be in an area with very little winter range in the winter then?

          • avatar josh sutherland says:

            The Wasatch elk unit which is where this wolf pack resides butts right up to the provo/orem valley. All the elk/deer in the area winter in peoples backyards and golf courses. People line the winter hay fields and take pictures of the elk wintering in farmers fields. There is no expansive area that they winter in, or good habitat for them to winter.

            The elk/deer winter there because they have no where else to go.

    • avatar jdubya says:

      Speak for yourself. As a citizen of Utah I welcome them. About time we got some decent culling of the herds in this state other than by the big game hunters.

      • avatar josh sutherland says:

        Decent culling of the herds? How about the 40,000-50,000 deer killed a year on the roads. Not to mention that I-15 cuts off the HUGE majority of the wintering range that elk and deer have historically used. You do realize that our deer herds are in horrible shape, mainly from lack of good quality wintering ranges. A strong wolf population in some of areas of UT could be a really really bad thing.

        • avatar jdubya says:

          Good point on the road kill. I have been working on a wildlife bridge over I80 between SLC and PC, a major migration route for deer, elk and moose. But little $$ or political initiative for it. A few well placed bridges over I15 and I80 could work wonders for the carnage along the migration routes.

          Feed is ALWAYS the limiting factor in deer and elk herds in Utah. Having a few wolves in the area will not change that. “Strong wolf population” is defined as what exactly?

          As it is, the public pressured by Peay and others have been pushing for unsustainable numbers of deer and elk especially in light of continuing years of higher temperatures and less water. Time they woke up to the reality of the situation.

          • avatar josh sutherland says:

            “Strong wolf population” is defined as what exactly?

            That is the exact question that scares me the most. I am a moderate on the wolf issue, I would not mind them in UT if the state was granted control from the get go. But the feds come in, and all the pro-wolf people start suing and before you know it you have ID all over again. This winter was very mild so most elk and deer have wintered high, in a normal year you would that pack of wolves literally in peoples backyards killing elk and deer. Because that is where the elk/deer winter.

            “As it is, the public pressured by Peay and others have been pushing for unsustainable numbers of deer and elk especially in light of continuing years of higher temperatures and less water.”

            The state is below its objectives in almost all regions for deer, by a pretty significant margin. I feel its mainly from loss of crucial habitat from urban sprawl. There are only 65,000 or so elk in the entire state. We are far from “over saturating” the available habitat for elk/deer.

            • avatar WM says:

              josh,

              ++ I would not mind them in UT if the state was granted control from the get go.++

              The UT legislature is not a whole lot different than the ID legislature, and they have spoken on wolves – they don’t want them, if I recall correctly. The legislature wants none, so even if the wildlife division wants to manage how is the matter reconciled, even in the light of federal pressure. I am not quite sure how the feds would counter an obstinate and repugnant state these days.

              If these new arrivals are hybrids, they are dead; if they are in-migrating wolves from ID/WY I think there is a pretty good chance they are likely to be closely followed after being collared, and still may wind up dead. First dead cow or sheep and they are dead (is my prediction).

              If critical winter range is as scarce as you suggest, and if more wolves follow into UT, some of those elk without winter range will seek safety even closer to the houses, hay fields, etc. And, projecting forward if the wolves arrive in any numbers they are likely to follow them down into the suburban areas over time, and maybe even look for an easier meal if there are cattle or other “slow elk” around. If there are rut weakened but wary bulls around, they will be the first to go, since they will hang out at the fringes, likely slightly away from the cows and calves working their way in to the hay fields and subdivisons.

              We have seen the pattern before. Why would it be much different here?

            • avatar jdubya says:

              “The state is below its objectives in almost all regions for deer, by a pretty significant margin. I feel its mainly from loss of crucial habitat from urban sprawl. There are only 65,000 or so elk in the entire state. We are far from “over saturating” the available habitat for elk/deer.”

              uhhh, wild game are wild 12 months a year. If people want to build their houses up in wintering territory then that removes habitat does it not? Habitat is what defines the carrying capacity. The problem is that people want to pretend Utah has the wild lands of the 1950’s pertaining to herd objectives when that is simply not the reality. Those herd objective numbers need to be dialed back.

          • avatar josh sutherland says:

            “We have seen the pattern before. Why would it be much different here?”

            Cause you would have wolves in peoples backyards in Downtown Provo, which is a hop skip and a jump from where these wolves were sighted. I have hunted chukars above Provo, elk winter on that range quite a bit. You are talking about a very very large urban area, not a small rural town in Idaho. It could potentially be a PR nightmare.

            • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

              josh sutherland,

              Thanks. I didn’t know the location was in the Utah Valley foothills.

          • avatar josh sutherland says:

            jdubya I dont think anyone really knows why the deer population is spiraling downward. I drew a limited entry deer tag for the Oak Creek unit near Scipio. It had water, winter range, most of it was roadless and had zero access. Only 6 archery tags for the entire unit, and I would see 15-20 deer a day. This is on a unit that gets basically zero hunting pressure, I saw so few deer it amazed me. I wish we knew why the deer herds are so bad.

            • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

              A friend of mine in Cache Valley does a lot of hunting.

              I spent a long time puzzling with him (about 8 years ago) why Utah mule deer are in such a decline.

              Thinking outside the box, note that there are animals (including some insects) all over the world in big decline for no apparent reason. But I believe every event does have a cause (or causes). You need to keep digging.

            • avatar josh sutherland says:

              Cache Valley is horrible for deer, and no one knows really why it is so bad. But the deer herds in UT are in really bad shape, and I think its only gonna get worse. Thats why I hunt chukars now, they are everywhere!

  5. avatar BryantO says:

    These wolves have been around there for a while. The summer before last I heard a wolf howl near Strawberry,and found some scat too. I just didn’t mention it to anyone,so bubba wouldn’t go all “idaho” and freak out.It is not likely escaped wolf hybrid would survive long or form a pack,that is just wishful think on the part of the Utah DWR. There is a natural corridor for wolves to move down the western Uintas,where they have been seen several times,in to the Strawberry area,and there are a ton of Elk around. Fortunately they are south of I-80,meaning they get full federal protection. Suck that bubba!

  6. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    It’s almost certain there have been Utah wolf packs in the past. There have been many unconfirmed reports, including pups (as well as people who have no clue what a wolf looks like).

    The likely met untimely ends.

  7. avatar SAP says:

    I was at the big truck stop near Fort Bridger, WY on I-80 last month. It was a beautiful clear morning so I let the dogs out to roam the sagebrush north of the truck stop. I noticed that I could see the Gros Ventre mountains from there, and of course the Winds and the Wyoming Range.

    Google Earth says that’s 138 straighline miles from Tosi Peak to I-80 at Fort Bridger. It’s 173 miles from Tosi Peak to King’s Peak in the Uintas.

    Even with a lot of energy development out there in the Wyoming desert, it would still be pretty easy for a wolf to cover the country from the Gros Ventre to the Uintas in a few days. I suspect they’ve probably been doing that since the late 1990s. This pack near Springville is likely not the only Utah pack south of I-80. There’s a lot of wild country between Springville and the Uintas.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      I spent a lot of time last summer exploring the country to the south of the Wyoming and Salt River Ranges — the Commissary Ridge and other ridges southward into the Bear River Divide.

      A lot of it is roadless, but there is energy development in places and roads. Nevertheless, I saw few people. It would be very easy for a wolf to make the trip as long as it did not kill some of the many sheep or at least was not detected.

      Avoiding the concentrated energy development such as just west of LaBarge is easy.

      I can certainly see why Wyoming didn’t want this protected wolf country. It is the key to repopulating Utah and Colorado.

  8. avatar JEFF E says:

    “I can certainly see why Wyoming didn’t want this protected wolf country. It is the key to repopulating Utah and Colorado.”

    and one can be pretty sure that this was part of many conversations between these states.

  9. avatar Angie says:

    I am STRONGLY against the possibility of these possible hybrids being put down… I know if they are wolves, they will be free. I am grateful. If they are not, they will be put down – for what?! As I have read, wolf dog hybrids ARE legal in Utah. So what is the problem here?! Time?! Patience?! I posted on my blog about this issue… If they are hybrids, someone must save. them.

  10. avatar Peter Kiermeir says:

    Wildlife division seeks answers in possible wolf sighting
    +Workers with an expert “capture” company hope to take to the skies Friday over a remote area east of Springville to snare members of what could be Utah’s first wolf pack+ http://www.ksl.com/?nid=960&sid=19499020

    • avatar JEFF E says:

      and the race is on; groups such as Sportsmen for (some)fish and (some)wildlife, or others such as RMEF heading out under the guise of a friendly neighborhood coyote shoot,(Springville should probably lay in an extra supply of 3.2% beer for the weekend) or FWS in the effort to collar and track this group and by default provide some measure of protection from the haters.

      Stay tuned

  11. avatar Liam McPoyle says:

    First, I would like to dispel the myth that these “wolves” are lurking in the hills above Springville. Claiming that these wolves are a “hop skip and a jump” from downtown Provo is like claiming that a moose in the Uintas is a “hop skip and a jump” from downtown Park City. However, I hope that people continue to believe that the pack is roaming somewhere between Y Mountain and Spanish Fork Canyon and that the true location remains a mystery.

    Second, the deer and elk that inhabit the area where the wolves were spotted have access to substantial winter range. In fact, much of this winter range is specifically managed as winter range for elk and deer. Although some animals winter near populations centers, the majority of the animals do not winter in “peoples backyards.”

    Third, I agree with SAP that wolves could easily travel to this area. I also believe that wolves could travel to this area without being detected. If a wolf could navigates through Wyoming and cross the Wyoming-Utah border, it could travel to the area of the reported sighting without approaching or passing through any populated areas.

    Finally, although I believe that a pack of four dog-like animals were spotted, and that these animals may be wolves, I have some questions about the length of time that these wolves may have been in the area. From what I have read, the sightings began about eighteen months ago and there has been at least one possibly wolf-related calf kill during this time. However, the area where the wolves were spotted is heavily used as summer range for cows and sheep. During the summer there are literally thousands of sheep and cows in this area. Yet, in the past eighteen months there has only been one possible wolf-related kill? Maybe someone more familiar with wolf predation could address this issue, but it would seem that if the animals are wolves, and they have been in the area for eighteen months, there would be more reported incidents of possible wolf predation on livestock.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Liam McPoyle (good alias!). Yes. I wrote just yesterday about the natural migration corridor down the Wyoming border into Utah. All that Utah country from the Bear River Range eastward is easy migration.

      That’s how moose came to Utah. When I was a boy in Logan, Utah there were no moose in Utah. When I was a teenager, they began to show up in the Bear River Range and its back ridges. I still remember my first moose sighting!!! I would love to see a Utah wolf.

    • avatar josh sutherland says:

      Liam exactly where is the “substantial winter range” on the Wasatch unit? I have lived in this area almost my entire life and I am very curious to where you are talking…. Are you referring south of Spanish Fork Canyon towards Mt. Pleasant? I have buddies that photograph and shed hunt that area like crazy and we all agree there is not “substantial winter range” Unless your talking about Hobblecreek Golf Course.. 🙂

      And the area of Hobblecreek Canyon, which is where I understand they were spotted, correct me if I am wrong is a “hop skip and a jump” from Provo.

      But I could be wrong since I dont know the exact location of the sighting.

      • avatar Liam McPoyle says:

        Josh,

        I too do not know the exact location of the sighting, but from what I understand the four animals were spotted much further east than Hobble Creek Canyon proper. Furthermore, the previous sightings and all took place a substantial distance from Springville. “The mountains east of Springville” is a purposefully vague term. “The mountains west of Fruitland” could be used as a similarly accurate substitute. However, if the four animals were spotted in Hobble Creek Canyon then, yes, they would be very close to Provo.

        The “Wasatch Mountains” hunting unit is a large area with a large herd of elk and deer. Although some of the herd winters in the south end of the unit, this is by no means the only winter range that the herd utilizes. There is winter range in the north, west, east, and central areas of the unit, and some of this winter range is substantial.

  12. avatar Mike says:

    Why care about wildlife now when the religion of many in Utah says you get your own planet after you die?

    Batshit crazy.

    • avatar josh sutherland says:

      Great response Mike, your ignorance is batshit crazy also… 🙂

      • avatar Mike says:

        Crazier than basing a religion on a con artist and thinking you get your own planet?

        I don’t think so.

    • Mike,

      I was raised LDS, and I’d say if there is a problem with Mormons and the politics of the state it has little to do with their theology, and a lot to do with the recruitment of Mormon lay leaders, e.g., bishops, stake presidents, from business professions. In addition, the paid (high officials) are old, often really old. It’s a gerontocracy.

      At one time, the Church had strong Christian socialist aspects. Witness the towns with names like New Harmony and Orderville (after the socialist United Order).

      More important is that the state Republican Party chooses its nominees in a way that guarantees an advantage to extremism among activist ranks — a party caucus (convention)to nominate senators, U.S. representatives, etc. Now this would never work if the majority of the Utah electorate was not unreflectively Republican in its party identification (meaning they’d vote Republican no matter how crazy he was). However, they seem to be, like Idaho, party loyalists to the core.

  13. avatar Robert says:

    As with the bill to incentivize coyote hunting in Utah (with the goal of killing approximately 1/3 of the state’s coyote population annually), it’s the muzzling of the state’s wildlife managers and biologists that is particularly troubling. Is there really not a single wildlife biologist who disagrees with capturing these four animals?

    These animals are on death row. If they are not wolves, they will be killed. If they are wolves, then they will be killed as soon as an excuse is provided, and the collars will provide their location to the gunners.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Robert,

      This is another Don Peay thing. Most people here think he is fixated on hunting a few species (he actually called them “target species”) recently while in Alaska. He hates predators, but his meager biological knowledge guarantees many wildife biologists don’t like him. However, he has powerful friends in Utah’s fabulously unrepresentative legislature. Any person who works for the Division of Wildlife will lose their job if they oppose him.

      Wildlife management and many other policies in the United States that require training and professional expertise have been largely subordinated to politics in recent years. In my mind this is a major reason for steep decline in American economic capability relative to other countries and our lag in many other areas.

      Back to coyote bounty. I don’t think it will result in the killing of many more coyotes than at present. It is not enough money.

      • avatar jdubya says:

        no, its not enough money. this increased bounty won’t recruit many new guys into the field. but it is the image of increased non-sensical predator carnage that i dislike.

    • avatar WM says:

      Coyote killing or non-lethal alternatives: The only research facility in the country is in UT, and a part of APHIS – Wildlife Services.

      The article might be a bit dated, but….

      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31880990/ns/us_news-environment/t/controlling-wily-coyotes-still-no-easy-answers/

      • avatar Nancy says:

        “Researchers know less about city coyotes than rural ones, primarily because they’re relatively new on the scene. Few cities had any coyotes to speak of in the late 1980s. Now, they’re in most metropolitan areas across the country, Gehrt said”

        I think you only have to look at urban sprawl over the last 50 years to understand why they are now found in metropolitan areas.

        Sure Jon Way has some thoughts on that but we’ve hashed this subject out before on this site.

        Killing 90,000 coyotes keeps an agency (WS) busy and paychecks rolling in (and allows the “boys with toys – guns” to play “shoot um up” everytime they see a coyote) but honestly, has this agenda really accomplished anything other than disruption to an ecosystem that relies on predators, like the coyote, for balance?

      • WM,

        I did much of my growing up 3 miles from this coyote facility, and yet I doubt any in the Utah state legislature has bothered to read their findings of how to deal with coyote damage.

        Legislators, governors, members of Congress have always listened to lobbyists and gotten much of their “information” from that source, but they also consulted experts and their studies without such obvious axes to grind. It is my hypothesis that today’s elected officials are more likely to use as their voting cues, the leadership of their party, special interest lobbyists, and campaign donors, but not do a personal information search.

        I’m saying our scientists are producing knowledge, but it is ignored by those who make and administer the laws at the highest state and national levels.

      • avatar JB says:

        Most researchers acknowledge that the best solutions will contain a mixture of preventative, non-lethal methods along with targeted lethal control. From my perspective, the *problem* is that Wildlife Services’ job performance is not based on the number of sheep and livestock saved, but on the number of animals killed. Thus, incentivizing lethal control over preventative, non-lethal measures.

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