Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2 wolf pups shot near Hamilton were likely orphaned, biologist says

HAMILTON - Two wolves shot and killed northwest of Hamilton Monday were 4-month-old pups, which may have been orphaned five weeks ago when a female wolf was killed at the same location.
"The female that was killed had nursed pups," said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf biologist Liz Bradley. "I'm fairly certain that they were her pups."
A wolf shot in May on the outskirts of Hamilton may have been the breeding male. It was in the process of attacking dogs tied within 35 yards of a home.
"They were probably a new pair that established this spring and had pups," Bradley said. "I don't know if there are any left. ... We've seen this happen before in the Bitterroot. A new pair of wolves will try to squeeze in someplace that is not a good place for wolves to make a living."
Bradley hopes people in the area will let her know if they spot any other wolves. Bradley's phone number is (406) 865-0017.
"I would be interested in hearing from the public about any sightings," she said. "I had a recent report of a gray and a black wolf. There have not been any other reports."
The pups weighed about 35 pounds.
Yearling wolves are closer to full size. A yearling male will weigh about 85 pounds and a female about 75 pounds.
"They will stand as tall as an adult," she said.
The pups were old enough to be weaned and to eat solid food. They may have survived by scavenging or eating small animals like squirrels.
"They were not big enough yet to kill a deer or an elk," Bradley said. "They were not going down a good path by already harassing sheep and goats."
The two wolves were shot by a landowner who spotted them about 300 yards from his home. The wolves were standing near a group of sheep and goats that had retreated atop a pile of rocks in the pasture.
The female wolf was shot after the rancher spotted her eating a newly killed lamb.
Both shootings were determined to be justified by FWP wardens.