Anatomy of a Wolf Attack

Anatomy of a Wolf Attack. To retaliate or not to retaliate? The question makes bedfellows of traditional foes. By Carissa Wolf. The Boise Weekly.

This is a very long and thoughtful discussion over the growing effort in Idaho (certainly not Wyoming) between wolf advocates and livestock growers, trying to prevent wolf attacks on livestock and wolf killing by the government — prevention not retaliation.

The Lava Lake Land and Livestock Company certainly deserves kudos, and business.

Tracks of the Buffalo Ridge Pack in the drained steelhead pond (mentioned in the article above). Photo by Ralph Maughan. May 2006. Note the Buffalo Ridge wolf pack was wiped out by Wildlife Services after minor depredations on newly born calves that were put on a pasture with a well known reputation as being in the winter territory of the Buffalo Ridge and previous packs (who were shot too for the same thing) . . . a historical failure of livestock operators to learn.



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  1. Jim Avatar

    Ralph, how big would you say those tracks are?

  2. Matt Bullard Avatar
    Matt Bullard

    On one of my wolf watching excursions back in 2003, I went to look for these wolves near Clayton and had one of the coolest experiences ever, even though I never saw a wolf. Walking along a dirt road, I looked down and saw an old, dry footprint in the dirt. It was half the size of my size 11 foot. Just seeing it mae the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Later that day, I was walking along another road and saw fresh footprints in the mud – it had rained early that morning, and the footprints were fresh since the rain. The prints were huge! It was a hair-rasing experience – so thrilling.

    I know the wolves in that area have caused the locals there a lot of anguish, but I have been glad to hear that many of them have been open to working cooperatively to mitigate the wolves’ impact (not letting their cattle out until the wolves have moved into the high country, etc). The next year I returned – didn’t see any wolves, but I did pick up a plaster cast of a print that sits on my mantle and is a great exhibit of how big they are, espeically compared to my two 60 pound dogs! I think the cast was made by a once very vocal wolf opponent that Ralph has written about – Hurless is his last name.

    It is interesting that they drained that pond. Is that a regular occurence?

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes, Idaho Fish and Game drains the pond in early May every year to flush the juvenile steelhead (a kind of anadromous rainbow trout) into the nearby Salmon River.

    Afterwards, the wolves still come by hoping for a meal and leave dense concentrations of tracks in the drying pond.

    This wolf pack is one of the easiest to see in Idaho. Despite the annual presence of livestock in the drainage, usually before the pack moves its pups to a rendezvous site in the backcountry, there have been few livestock killed.

    In May – June 2006 an effort was made to keep the wolves away from the livestock using “turbo-fladry,” — red flagging on an electrified wire fence. Wolves are very hesitant to cross fladry and the idea is that they like shocks even less.

  4. Karl Moore Avatar
    Karl Moore

    What a great story, I know there are ranchers out there who have accepted the re-introduction and are trying to find ways to live in the new world. It would be interesting to find out what proportion of ranchers have taken this view.

    It is also great to hear the conservation groups working with these folks. Maybe DOW could provide a higher price for cattle killed by wolves if that rancher had a history of acceptance. Since it is a non-public fund, can’t they write their own rules?

  5. Ken Avatar

    I have been involved with the steelhead pond in Clayton for the last 5 years and it has been quite an experience, to say the least. I first started work there not ever having seen an Idaho wolf and now I have seen quite a few and have had close experiences with them as well. I have never had any fear of them and they have really had an impact on my life in the positive.

    There have been challenges and I have done as much as I can to help with trying to avoid future conflicts. This pond has also provided opportunities for research on non-lethal control methods that have real promise as another tool to help reduce conflicts. I can confidently say that turbo-fladry has a real effect. The first two years that wolves appeared at the pond they would spend the whole night nearby and in the pond eating juvenile steelhead. The following year, with the turbo fladry in place, the wolves did return but would not cross the fladry. I witnessed the black, now alpha male, wolf walk right up to the fladry and make a very sharp turn away from it. There were no tracks in the empty pond that year until we removed the fladry and they appeared in the pond the very next morning.

    This year, with no fladry, the wolves spent much more time than last year at the pond and the mud in the pond was literally covered with wolf tracks.

  6. Jean Ossorio Avatar
    Jean Ossorio

    Re: Jim’s question on the size of the wolf tracks. My husband and I have made casts of several Mexican wolf tracks, the largest of which are approximately 10 x 10 cm (or roughly 4″ x 4″).

    The wolves up north are considerably larger, as are their feet. A friend brought me a cast she made of a wolf track near Cody, WY, which measures about 5″ long (including claws) and perhaps 4 1/2 inches wide at the widest point. The track had obviously been imprinted in gooey mud, like that in the pond photo above, which tends to make the toes splay out a bit and the track look huge.

    To distinguish wolf tracks from lion tracks on those occasions when the claws don’t show, notice that you can inscribe an “x” between the outer and inner toes and the plantar pad on a canid track. (You can check this out on your dog’s track–it works for all canids.) The canid track is also more symmetrical. On a felid track, you can’t inscribe the x, and the track is asymmetrical, with a “leading toe”–i.e. one toe that sticks out further than the rest.

    Although we’ve made more than thirty trips to the Mexican wolf recovery area and have photographed dozens of sets of tracks, it’s always a thrill to find them. Even if you don’t see or hear the animals themselves, the tracks serve as tangible proof of their presence, and often tell an interesting story about wolf movements and activities.

    One tip on track photography: always include an object of known size next to a track in the photo. In fact, it’s a good idea to carry a six-inch ruler in your pack for that purpose. You can always take a general, more artistic shot, like Ralph’s above, and then take a couple of close-ups with the ruler for scale.

  7. Jim Avatar

    Thanks for the responses concerning wolf track size. Also, it seems like parts of ID are becoming as good as wolf viewing habitat as is Yellowstone. Maybe I will have to move back to ID someday soon.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It is different in Idaho, harder to see, but it is legal to howl in Idaho, and they will howl back.

    Lots of wolves!


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