The 2013 Idaho Wolf Report, describes wolf research being conducted in Idaho and one of the projects involves entering wolf dens and placing expandable radio collars on 2-4 week old pups.  This is an expansion of a project that started last year that involved placing expandable radio collars and surgically implanting radio tags on 11 pups captured from two dens in northern Idaho. The intent, as it has been described to me, is to place collars on wolves so that some of them can be found and recollared with more secure collars later in the winter when they are easier to find. There are many other uses that are sure to be taken advantage of such as providing an ability to find and kill wolves for various reasons.

The effort to collar these pups is happening now while the pups are very young and still in their dens.

Testing Methods to Monitor Wolf Pack Reproduction

Post-delisting monitoring requirements for gray wolves include documentation of wolf pack reproduction and the survival of pups to the end of the year they were born. IDFG evaluated the feasibility of meeting these monitoring requirements via radiocollaring pups at den sites.

IDFG staff collaborated with Advanced Telemetry Systems, Inc. (ATS) to develop a lightweight, expandable pup radiocollar. This collar is designed to be placed on 2-4 week old pups in dens, and worn through the end of the year. Eleven pups from 2 litters were captured during May 2013. All 11 pups were fitted with expandable radiocollars, and implanted with intraperitoneal radiotransmitters (ATS), with the assistance of a team of veterinarians. Five expandable collars remained on the animal until death (mortalities occurred between August 2013 and February 2014). Five collars eventually slipped off, most between late December 2013 and February 2014. One collar slipped shortly after capture (~2 weeks). These expandable pup radiocollars may provide an efficient means to document breeding pair status in packs at the end of the year. IDFG staff will continue to use these radiocollars to monitor pups in Panhandle packs in 2014, and will expand the effort to include wolf packs in other zones.

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

49 Responses to Idaho Department of Fish and Game Collaring Wolf Pups in Dens

  1. Ida Lupines says:

    Five collars eventually slipped off, most between late December 2013 and February 2014. One collar slipped shortly after capture (~2 weeks).


    • Theo Chu says:

      The intent was for the collars to slip off within a few weeks or months after which the pups would be monitored with the implanted transmitters.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        Well, you thought of everything!

        • Ida Lupines says:

          I guess I was hoping for mechanical failure as I read it, at least for the very young one. Invading the sanctity of an animals birth den is going too far, I think. I wish we could stop tinkering with everything and have the ability to leave some things alone. Snares and abdominal implants don’t sound very safe. I thought I read where the implants caused infections. What were the cause(s) of death where the wolf pups died? What kind of soulless individual could have deliberately contributed to the death of a baby animal just for the sake of knowledge or ‘management’ of populations? It sounds like the modern-day version of the wolf den killers. Who would have access to this information? Butch Otter’s wolf board, perchance?

        • Theo Chu says:

          I’m actually not involved but I will pass along your complement to those who are doing the field work.

          • Theo Chu says:

            While hoping for mechanical failures may make sense to you such failures will not end the work. It just means another animal will have to be caught and handled to replace the lost research subject.

            • Ida Lupines says:

              Not necessarily. If the project turns out not to be a good idea because of too many failures, it will be dropped. Can you ask your friends in the field how many pups have died due to this collaring and implantation process? thanks in advance!

      • Ken Cole says:

        That doesn’t seem likely to me. It seems that it would be less work to place a collar than it would be to surgically implant a transmitter that doesn’t have a very large battery and can’t transmit very far. I think the intent is threefold. One, to study pup survival to the end of the year, two, to have wolves that are easier to place adult collars on during winter, and three, to have more judas wolves.

        • Colleen Hunt says:

          Kindly define judas wolves.

          • Immer Treue says:


            Radio collar gives away location of that particular wolf, and betrays location of any other wolf associating with it, thus Judas wolf.

      • Ken Cole says:

        This is on page 20 of the report:

        Development of Transmitter Snares for Radiocollaring Wolves

        During 2012 and 2013, IDFG staff collaborated with WS and a private contractor (Jeff Ashmead, JAWS) to develop and evaluate the use of transmitter snares for radiocollaring wolves. The transmitter snare is comprised of a standard cable snare with a radiotransmitter attached to the exterior of the cable. The snare device is designed so that when an animal passes its head through the loop, the cable tightens and closes around the neck. A stop mechanism prevents tightening beyond a pre-determined size. The cable breaks away from its anchor point as the animal exerts force on the closed loop. Our goal is to develop an efficient, lightweight, cost effective technique for radiocollaring wolves. Several prototypes have been developed. During limited field testing in 2013, one wolf was successfully outfitted with a transmitter snare. This wolf was monitored for approximately 9 months. We will continue to develop and field test this monitoring tool in 2014.

        • Colleen Hunt says:

          Who is funding such madness????

        • Nancie McCormish says:

          What other species have they caught in these snares – or is that disclosed? The “predetermined size” comment is a bit troubling since animals caught may not conform to whatever those dimensions are. It is to be hoped they are documenting anything non-targeted caught in these.

          Since I hike with my dogs (as do many others) on public lands it would be a public service to have some reliable information about where they are setting these snares as well. Surely it’s a public/other wildlife safety issue and published someplace???

  2. Immer Treue says:

    Tough to look at this as at least partially along the lines of more “Judas” wolves.

  3. Candy Copeland says:

    They hide this terror on wolves under the guise of “management”? This is Idaho were talking about. Lets not forget they have done everything they can to eliminate as many wolves as they can and have vowed to drastically reduce their numbers in the future. I think this is a sinister way to be able to find these wolves in the future so that they too can be killed when ever Idaho wants. When ever false stories are reported and wolves blamed for something. They’ll have the location of the nearest wolf to pin the blame on so they can say they have a legitimate excuse for killing it. Idaho and Butch Otter are as devious as they come when it comes to wolf hate. I hope they know that advocates will be watching and using the freedom of information act to scrutinize their reports and data.

  4. Johanna Duffek-Kowal says:

    Knowing way too much about Governor Otter and his IDFG by now, I have to doubt the motives of this “collaring” action. It IS the declared intention of Idaho’s politicians to reduce wolf populations to the bare MINIMUM numbers required to prevent re-listing under the ESA – meaning the probability is rather high that REAL population numbers (as opposed to IDFG’s optimistic “estimations”) will fall BELOW this limit. Consequently, I do NOT see too much desire on part of official Idaho to really find out how many wolves and breeding pairs ARE out there… Rahter, they will want to know WHERE the scattered survivors of their extermination actions are hiding.

  5. Lisa Robertson says:

    I find this invasive procedure to be total madness!

  6. Colleen Hunt says:

    Let the poor wolf babies be free!! Such an odd and needless human practice of wildlife altering will most likely damage the natural behaviors of the wolf pups, mother, and other members of their wolf packs. They may even be instinctively rejected by other wolf pack members, setting them up for doom in the wild. How is collaring 2-4 week wolf pups sensible and necessary to anyone? Who is behind the funding of such a wasteful idea? I am shocked and appalled by some peoples’ ways of reasoning. Not a lot of practical wildlife preservation education behind this.

    • Theo Chu says:

      It is worthwhile I believe to remember that these wolves are the progeny of wolves that were tranquilizer darted from a helicopter in Canada and then transported via a variety of means from there to be again helicoptered into remote locations for release. My point is that “wildlife altering” comes in many different forms, some we like, at the time at least.

      • Mark L says:

        You say Canada like its some far away place. You can walk to Canada from there…can you walk to Minnesota?

        • Theo Chu says:

          Your point being? Or do you think I’m one of those people who think the Canadian wolves are somehow different? My comment had to do with the complaint about “wildlife altering” in the previous post. Apparently I didn’t present it clearly.

          • Ida Lupines says:

            We seem to have gotten a little bit off on the wrong foot. Try again? 🙂

            Bringing the wolves back to me is trying to right a terrible wrong. Overly-aggressive hunting and management will set us back again. US F&W comments such as ‘don’t worry, they’ve got plenty in Canada’ isn’t helpful, because Canada has their own problems with wildlife management and energy development. JMO.

            • Theo Chu says:

              OK go back to my post and insert “from several hundred miles away” for “in Canada” and maybe it will then make sense. What I was trying to impart had nothing whatsoever to do with Canada. It was solely about “wildlife altering” and how one person’s wildlife altering is another person’s positive re-introduction of an extirpated native species which also required some “wildlife altering”.

  7. alf says:

    Eleven pups from two litters were collared in May 2013. “Five expandable collars remained on the animal until death (mortalities occurred between August 2013 and February 2014)” according to the quote in the post.

    I wonder what the causes of the mortalities were. Does anyone know ?

    Five out of a litter of eleven is about 45 1/2 percent, I believe. That seems to me to be way too high of a mortality rate to be all natural, so I strongly suspect that some of the mortalities were human caused. Can anyone verify that ?

    • Immer Treue says:


      Natural mortality rate is between 20 and 25%. Pup rate, I believe is between 35% and 65% bases upon food availability.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        We’d like to know how much is related to another variable, human meddling and interference, how much humans add to the natural mortality rate?

        • ma'iingan says:

          We’d like to know how much is related to another variable, human meddling and interference, how much humans add to the natural mortality rate?

          In the WGL states that 20-25% annual adult mortality included human-caused mortality. Human-caused mortality constituted 39-72% of that annual adult mortality (Mladenhoff et al. 1995, 1999, 2006.)

          This was prior to the initiation of public harvest – now the data is more difficult to tease apart, since a portion of the harvest is compensatory.

  8. JEFF E says:

    With Clem and his minions stated intent to reduce the population to the absolute minimum, it is laughable, at best, to state that the collars are to promote any type of research other than what it is needed to locate and eliminate.

  9. Debra Edgington says:

    Immediately upon reading this article my immediate reaction is in the state of Idaho there is no wolf that is safe. The wholesale slaughter of wildlife that has been called for by the governor of that state insures that Idaho is no safe haven for any wolf. Having read how these telemetry devices have been used to track wolves and destroy entire packs there seems to be nothing good that comes ultimately from the collaring of these beautiful sentient creatures. The reintroduction of their species appears to have been for nothing more than to provide the pleasure of hunting, and blood sports, so I would beg that you allow them to remain as inaccessible as possible, to give them a chance at life.

    • Logan says:

      The reintroduction was done with the understanding and legal agreement that once delisted, hunting would be allowed as it is for every other managed species.

  10. John says:

    Is Idaho the only state doing this telemetry on wolf pups?
    It sounds as though it is. Are they on the forefront of “wolf-altering” techniques?

    • Candy Copeland says:

      I think they, more than anyone else, wants to be able to easily find them later. They are afterall, hell bent on exterminating them down to the minimum number required with any method available to them. This will help their plan. And it’s just wrong. I’d like to know how many pups got infections from this invasive procedure and died because of it or died shortly after. No elizabethan collars to keep them from pulling stitches out and pack members licking at their wounds possibly pulling stitches out. How many will survive this?

  11. Yvette says:

    It’s too bad, but everything ID does with predator management seems to come from a duplicitous nature. Let’s just hope they don’t try to perform lobotomies on wolf pups.

    • Mark L says:

      What happens when the wolf crosses stae (or national) lines? Does one state still reserve the right to monitor that wolf in another state’s…or country’s sovereigny? What about tribal areas? Does the states monitoring supercede thr tribe that doesn’t want a judas wolf? Whose wolf is it ?

      • Yvette says:

        State laws do not apply to tribal reservation land, trust land, or even fee land, federal law, however, does apply.

  12. Logan says:

    I’m confused by the responses to this article. I would think that the die-hard wolf supporters would welcome the possibility of more data and research that would provide accurate information on wolf populations, breeding pairs and mortality. Such information is the only way to prove whether or not the wolf population is declining or expanding.

    Certainly if the handling of these pups is leading to their deaths then it should be stopped and the method re-evaluated however the article states that most deaths have occured between August and February. This leads me to believe that the mortalities are either related to hunting and the difficulty obtaining food during the winter months, not excessive handling of pups in their dens in May.

    • Yvette says:

      Speaking only for myself, the recent history of Idaho’s attitude and handling of wolves makes me suspicious of all they do regarding predators, especially wolves.

    • Robin D. Huff says:

      Agreed. Although, as mentioned in the article, there is the fear that the microchips may result in future kills by using the “Judas wolf” method, at least the pups weren’t simply counted then killed, as has been done far too often and in more states than just Idaho. I say just take their word on the purpose of the chips but keep a critical, uneasy eye out to make sure they are actually used just for research, not easier tracking and killing of packs.

    • A concern I have is about the fact that they not only collared them, they did in the field surgery to implant the telemetry devices into their stomachs. An incision about as big as when they spay a female dog. No sterile setting, no elizabethan collar to keep them from excessive licking of the incision and pulling at the stitches . Wonder how many survived without infections from it. Research you say? This is a wolf hating State. Telemetry will allow them to locate them when ever a wolf incident happens and they are anywhere near by, they’ll be blamed and a kill order will go out on them. Easily located with the devices and they’ll claim it was a legit kill because of predation problems in the area. No, nothing good is going to come of this. Surely not any good research.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        I agree – but, in a perfect world, it might protect them from poaching. But, as you said, this is Idaho we’re talkin about. It’s far from a perfect world when you have to have tracking devices and bar codes on animal hides in order to manage them.

        • Ida Lupines says:

          Can we implant tracking devices in rhino horn and elephant ivory?

      • John says:

        Anyone know how may breeding pairs of wolves in Idaho?

  13. John says:

    Five collars remained on the until their death in Aug-Feb. They were also implanted with the ATS devices. This could have introduced infection? Collars may have got caught/twisted and strangled them? The point is we don’t know from the info provided.

  14. John says:

    Eleven pups from 2 litters were used in the monitoring. Assuming a roughly 5-6 spilt in litter size one could conjecture: Did all pups in one litter die? If so, did these deaths result from human handling?

  15. Hey all – Please see my petition that I started to help get the wolves back into Federal Protection. I know it’s only a start, but I wanted to do something!!

  16. Joanne Favazza says:

    Can’t people just f*cking leave the animals alone? Wildlife “management” is completely unnecessary. Nature takes care of itself, and always has. It is supremely arrogant and ignorant to believe that humans know what is best for wildlife and wild places. There are 7 billion people on this planet, causing massive destruction of life on a daily basis. Clearly we can’t even “manage” ourselves, so what makes us think we’re in any position to “manage” other species?


May 2014


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey