Mange makes its first appearance in Yellowstone Park

The alpha male of Mollies Pack has been stricken with mange.

While mange has been a persistent problem around the Park to the north in Montana and to east between the Park and Cody, this is the first case in the Park.

Story in the Billings Gazette.

When a wolf gets mange, it tends to spread to the rest of the pack.



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  1. Kathie Lynch Avatar
    Kathie Lynch

    Eight out of the first nine comments submitted to after this very worrisome story was published were nastily anti-wolf. It is depressing that despite the best efforts to educate the public, so many of the the wolves’ closest human neighbors are still so callous, ignorant and just plain mean. Read the comments and weep.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The sudden emergence of mange (or other diseases) can really move the wolf population in an area down fast. That underscores the importance of each state keeping their wolf population well above the minimum 10 packs of wolves.

    People are conditioned to think that wolf populations only grow. They can decline too at a tremendous rate. In fact between 2005 and 2006, the YNP wolf population declined by 39% in one year. I would not be terribly surprised if Yellowstone wolves took a dive down to a couple packs for a while.

    That’s why Wyoming’s governor Dave Freudenthal’s plan to make Yellowstone Park a prison for all but the tamest wildlife will be self-defeating. Those packs outside Yellowstone are needed if Wyoming is to have ten wolf packs permanently. Now, of course, I don’t think he really cares. He just wants to keep people at a fever pitch so they won’t notice what else is going on the Oil Industry State.

    The variation in wolf population size over time is why the wolf recovery area was three states in the Northern Rockies, not one or two.

    That is also why Idaho’s 650 wolves are so important–a huge backcountry and NO record of infectious canid diseases.

    One decade of wolf recovery is way too short a time to draw the conclusions these folks are drawing.

    No one in their right mind would make final judgments about an elk population after one decade.

    But this is a political/cultural issue, and so they are going to have to learn in the school of hard knocks. Some of the folks who post to the Billings Gazette need some learnin.

  3. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Ref Kathies comment.
    The score is improving a little bit with a few more pertinent comments showing up. But what do you expect? Some individuals of the public you simply cannot educate! They are “education resistent” and proud of it.

  4. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    This is devasting news! I guess our only hope is the Mollies aren’t dispering, and are not looking elsewhere this breeding season. It’s terrible that this disease is in our Nations only refuge left for the wolf. And the parks majority of wolves are pups. Does this effect IDFG stance on delisting at all? Have they taken into consideration that Idaho is the only state that has disease free wolf populations? Does Dr. Smith have any influence now that mange is in the Park.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Sure to be an interesting question — should the Mollies be shot to prevent the spread of this non-native infestation?

  6. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    It’s not my call and I am thankful for that. However, I am fully aware of how this diease can spread and the slow agonizing death the wolf will suffer. I can’t understand how it got to them. They are one of the most isolated packs to my knowledge. I have only seen them in photos. And fine wolf specimens some of the largest, who feed on bison. Lots of protein there. I’m not aware of any ammunnities to it in packs either. Their domestic counterparts I believe have treatments for mange that work. Whether or not it is possible to treat the pack would be going outside the box I guess. Surely in these times, when the survival of the wolf is at critical mass once again I have every confindence that Doug will make the right decision. Am so sadden that it is in their only sanctuary.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I talked with Doug Smith. The wolf with mange was 193M, probably the oldest in the Park. He was in very bad shape. We wasn’t euthanized, but Smith thought he probably died soon afterward because he was not visible when they flew the next day.

    Unfortunately one other member of the pack had mange on its stomach (not bad), but mange tends not to go away.

    Smith said he thought the pack had likely had contact with the perennially mangy Sunlight Basin Pack that lives to the east of Park.

    I guess I think the pack should be euthanized. Mange is not a native disease. In essence removing an infected wolf pack is like pulling up knapweed or toadflax in the Park, or killing the New Zealand mud snails.

  8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    There has been a rumour floating around for some time that in the 1930s, ranchers introduced mange into Sunlight Basin east of the Park to kill off coyotes and wolves. We do know that almost as soon as the Sunlight Pack formed, and started killing coyotes, that the pack had problems with mange. Now, the manage is getting into Yellowstone, no doubt from wolves that have been exposed to it in Sunlight Basin.

    I have not been able to substantiate this rumour about the source of manage in Sunlight Basin, but I am looking for documentation.

    However, it is odd that the mange problem started in Sunlight Basin and nowhere else.

    That’s an interesting rumor, but mange has been a problem all around the NE, North, and NW side of the Greater Yellowstone. The warming winters also perpetuate it because mangy wolves and coyotes freeze in cold winters. Because the elevation is lower outside the Park, the temperatures are warmer still. Ralph

  9. kt Avatar

    How is mange being dealt with in other wild carnivores in the World in places where it may not be native?

    Where was mange “native”?

    Does aridity affect it?

    Aren’t there different kinds of mange?

  10. Rob-S Avatar

    Sure Robert! Ranchers are to blame for the degregation of public lands, low wildlife numbers, terrible fishing habitat, death of the wolves and particularly the introduction of mange to wolves. What else new will you guys come up with. Introduction of mange by ranchers. I really have to choke on that one. What else have the ranchers done to the wolves and wildlife that I have not covered? If you believe this rumor then you all are dumber than ever imagined.

  11. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    Ralph I concure with your analogy. That would be the humane thing to do. Mange has been a big time problem in Montana and Wyoming Packs. If Doug euthanizes the Mollies will that contain the spread of the diease in the Park?
    I believe that WY WS Jimenez has had to euthanize an entire pack, I would have to go back through the reports. It seems to me that they would have managed the frequent mange problem in the Sunlight Basin Pack. There are dispersing wolfs from the park found in the Sunlight Basin area. I reviewed a report that was from 1/30/05 that #453M from the Sloughs was found there.
    Can they pick it up on the fly and carry it on?
    Is there ground contamination/infestation in bed sights?
    I’m glad you spoke with him and passed this on. The article in the Billings Paper he said, he removed his collar to prevent further agravation. And he was frequenting thermal areas. Unfortunately it was agonizing.
    193M and 113M were/are exclusive members of Geriatics Club. He lived a long full life and died with the respect he deserved.
    I heard that the remains of the last known Canadian Wolf was found in Idaho B??? and he was 13.75 yrs old. Is that correct?

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I am just speculating, but I don’t think Smith has the sole authority to decide to euthanize the pack.

    Yes 113M is still hanging on, old and injured but with the Agates. He is now the oldest Park wolf.

    Wolf B7M, recently found dead on a road north of Salmon, Idaho was either 13 3/4 years old or 14 3/4 years old. There seems to be disagreement about his age at reintroduction.

    He was hit by a vehicle.

    I don’t have good information about mange. I know there are several kinds of it, but by now the Wikipedia probably has an article. Best to check.


    I checked. It’s Sarcoptic mange. It says it is very contagious.

  13. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    Ralph, I was just reading the Delisting Document, and on the P6123/4, under C. Diseases. Jimeniz states, WY Packs have overcome Sarcoptic Mange. Which tells me that Doug may have his hands tied on euthanizing any wolfs in the Mollies. Also it states that any losses due to disease are acceptable/anticipated. And not considered a threat to recovery/extinction. Basically just factored in. Humm… I find this interesting, and have always understood it to be the opposite. Especially in Ungalutes.

    I saw that too, and now I recall Mike Jimenez telling me there was no sign of mange in several packs that had formerly had a problem. That’s good news!

    The Sunlight Basin Pack, however, has battled mange for years. Still the pack persists. Ralph

  14. jordan Avatar

    Ralph – somewhere along the line, maybe on your original website, I recall writings that said infecting predators with mange was the first act of biological terrorism.

    Robert (#8) mentions mange being introduced into Sunlight Basin to control coyotes and wolves in the 1930’s.

    Is there a medicine like vaccine, powder or dip that could be used on the infected packs? Or their dens or bedding areas? I read today of all the collaring that was recently done in Yellowstone. If collaring can be funded, then perhaps medical aid for the mange problem could be as well?

    The Idaho Legislature voted several years ago to remove wolves by any means possible. I’ve no doubt that Idaho’s anti-wolfers would use any means including the introduction of mange to harm wolves.

    I hope those with the scientific and medical background can find solutions to halt the spread of mange. Would someone trying to spread mange be in violation of national terrorism laws?

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Sarcoptic mange can be treated fairly easily and cured, but the wolves would have to be captured and confined while the treatment took place.

    Introduction of mange was an early use of biological warfare against wildlife, an ineffective one, however.

    I’m sure no one spread mange to the wolf pack. It would be far too complicated an effort.

  16. Rob-S Avatar

    From what I recall, ranchers introduced mange to the coyotes. Since wolves are territorial they have contracted mange from the coyotes. Did you all know that ranchers also introduced whirling disease into the fisheries, cwd to elk and deer, and brucellosis to buffalo?

  17. jordan Avatar

    Rob S – thanks for enlightening us about more harm that livestock has done to wildlife. Did you get foot and mouth disease from your years wranglin’ and buckarooin’? I know quite a few ranchers who do like wolves and coyotes, who try non-lethal measures to keep canines away, and who are good stewards or try, as much as one can while runnin’ stock. My Stetson (if I still had one-gave it up about 40 years ago) is off to them.

  18. Rob-S Avatar

    Oh yea! Forgot to also include foot and mouth disease was transferred from livestock to wolves. Thanks for that Jordan

  19. Rob-S Avatar


    On another thread, you are blasting the livestock industry and their public land practices. Now on this last comment, #17, your praising them for their practices. Which direction of the wind are you blowing with today. At least be consistent.

  20. Rob-S Avatar

    Wow! Did you all happen to look at the Gray Wolf homepage for the week of 1/26/07 to 2/2/07. There were 6 different incidents of wolf control activities for them beloved wolves on PRIVATE LAND, and none on public land. Yep, them good ole wolves sure do follow them elk and deer in the winter on pubic land when the cattle are on private land. Are you all stunned and surprised that the wolves know no boundaries. You have all given me a rash of crap about cattle on public lands now I can give you s— about your wolves on private land. On private land, they should be removed by all means possible as you folks are trying to do with cattle on public lands!


    Livestock owners can, and should shoot problem wolves on their land. This has been permitted for two years now. The loss of 6 wolves makes no difference. Once again, Rob, each individual wolf is not beloved. Has any wolf restoration supporter complained about the wolf control activities you have brought to light?

    The purpose of the wolf restoration was ecological — that means based on the effect of the wolf population on other plants and animals.

    Livestock operators who clean up dead animals and watch and care for their livestock will have fewer losses to all predators as well as to weather and disease. It’s called “enlightened self-interest.” There is often a short supply of that. Ralph

  21. Slow Elk Poacher Avatar
    Slow Elk Poacher

    So, now there are only 2,399,994 cattle in Idaho? Wow. It’s a crisis! Call in the national guard, because the cattle is about to go extinct!

  22. Rob-S Avatar

    With regards to comment #20. Yes! There are many wolf supporters on this site who complain about many of the wolf control activities when a wolf meets death because of livestock conflicts, even when the conflict is on public lands.

    I was referring to the six you pointed out, but yes, especially on the public lands!! Did you mean private lands?

    And, since you would like cattle off public lands I have a great solution for the wolf-livestock conflict. Ranchers keep their livestock off public lands. This would have to be a change in the regulations. Once the wolf is delisted then ranchers can treat the wolf as a coyote and dispose of them as they desire. It is there property just like the public lands are your property. You won’t have to complain about the ‘welfare ranchers’ and the destruction of public lands anymore while the rancher won’t have to complain anymore about wolf depredations. I would bet the wolf population would be reduced dramatically in this situation as they will continue to harass and kill cattle more now that they are concentrated on private property. Oh, and any of the wolf advocates can destroy any livestock caught on public land. Slow elk poacher ought to enjoy this. It sounds like a win-win situation for ranchers and wolf advocates.

    That sounds like a fine idea. I’d take no cows on public land over no wolves on private land any day! Ralph

  23. Slow Elk Poacher Avatar
    Slow Elk Poacher

    Actually, if the cattle are taken off private lands, the wolves won’t follow. Places like Copper Basin would become rangeland for elk and antelope again.

    Wolves won’t be living in the snake rive plain, IMO. I doubt you will see them roaming south of the Lava plains. You might see them around Rexburg and places around the NF regions out of Yellowstone, but I have my doubts you’ll see wolves popping up around Boise, Twin, or Idaho Falls, where a good portion of cattle ranching takes place.

    Thats just wolf-mongering hysteria, Rob, and you know it. Whens that last time you’ve seen a wolf in your backyard?

    Ever? Thanks!

  24. jordan Avatar

    Rob S – I do admire your continuing postings on this wolf-huggin’ blog. Would like to respond to your posting that I might be seeming to feel some disgruntlement with ranchers and then say that some are ok as they are accepting predators and learning to live with them.

    A couple of my pointy-toed neighbors got back from the cowpokey poetry event in NV and came over to make certain I remembered they like coyotes and wolves and it would be best that I reminded wolf-huggin folks that some ranchers do grasp that living in harmony with wild critters is fine with them. These ranchers I know are gentlemen and do listen with their ears instead of mouth.

    Rob – so could we try and find some common ground and cut the mean talk and remember every creature here on Mother Earth was put here by the Great Creator? That the west and Great Lakes are some of the last remaining places of this planet that predators can exist?

    You say you want to kill a wolf – what would that do for you?


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan