Monday, January 16, 2012

Wolves amble Tribal Trail

A wolf strides across a pasture near Indian Trails subdivision Sunday as another wanders in the background. Photo courtesy Tim McClure.

By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
January 12, 2012

A Jackson resident photographed three wolves near the Indian Trails subdivision Sunday, possibly marking a new era in the spread of the species south from Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

Earlier this year, wildlife managers predicted that wolves and bears could become more common in or near subdivisions as hunting pressure and predation push ungulates such as elk and moose into residential areas.

Shortly after receiving the photograph Tuesday, the Jackson Hole News&Guide got a flurry of emails about wolves in west Jackson, about tracks in the snow and even about a mountain lion possibly being nearby. The hubbub included warnings to neighbors to take precautions with children and pets.

The documented sighting came at about 9 a.m. Sunday when Indian Trails resident Tim McClure looked out his picture window overlooking Tribal Trail Road and saw three wolves in a nearby pasture. One wolf, which appeared to be a male with a radio collar, got a couple hundred feet away from McClure’s yard.

The male wolf “just marched up and down there,” McClure said. He appeared to have some sort of cut on his nose, McClure said.

Two more wolves stayed farther away. People in several cars stopped to photograph the animals.

“[The wolves] were there for a better part of an hour,” McClure said, “then went back into the trees.”

McClure said his female greyhound/Lab mix noticed the wolves.

While McClure said he didn’t fear for his dog’s safety, “there are children in that area all the time and pets that are loose,” he said. “It’s a little unusual for sure.”

While wolf attacks on humans are exceedingly rare, the predators are known to attack and kill pets, especially dogs. Wolves likely consider dogs competition, biologists say.

It’s the first time he’s seen a wolf in the area, though elk and moose are fairly common, McClure said.

In a talk to the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance last year, Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist Doug Brimeyer said elk have found refuge in lower-density subdivisions, and predators will follow them.

In 2010, a grizzly bear killed an elk in a subdivision south of Wilson and was trapped and moved. A wolf also made a kill near homes behind Jackson Hole Airport.

Brimeyer predicted subdivision conflict will come when wolves attack dogs being walked by their owners.