Thursday, January 3, 2013

2 wolves spotted chasing deer through Polson yard

January 02, 2013  • 

POLSON — Authorities say a Polson woman who reported seeing what she believed to be two wolves in her yard inside the city limits Friday was probably correct.

The woman said the wolves, one black and one gray, were chasing 23 deer through her yard.
Polson Assistant Police Chief Clinton J. Cottle said the animals were spied on the east side of Polson, in the Hillcrest area.

Two days later, Cottle said, police received a report of a partially consumed mule deer carcass in the same area.

A Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal wildlife biologist who responded to the report measured and photographed the tracks in the yard.

CSKT officials said the spacing between the two sets of tracks, size of the tracks and the gait of the tracks were consistent with wolf tracks.

“The tracks were within the size range of wolf tracks,” CSKT said in a statement, “but definitive verification of the source was not possible.”

Germaine White, information and education specialist with CSKT’s Natural Resources Department, said that while wolves tend to avoid close contact with humans, they do occasionally use natural habitats in close proximity to humans, especially forested areas.

White offered the following advice to anyone who encounters a wolf:

• Stand tall, maintain eye contact and make yourself look as large as possible.
• Act aggressively toward the wolf without moving closer to it. Make noise and throw objects.
• Slowly and calmly back away, maintaining eye contact at all times. Do not turn your back on the wolf and do not run away.

“Wild animals can gradually lose their fear of people through increasingly frequent contact and receiving food rewards for their boldness,” White said. “This is especially true of wolves and bears. Bold wolves or bears are more likely to approach humans and human-populated areas when they are positively rewarded for doing so.”

Because of their social nature and ability to learn quickly, wolves can become habituated and lose their fear of humans in a relatively short time, White said.

She also noted that wolves can be aggressive toward domestic dogs because wolves see them as a “trespassing wolf” that should be driven away or killed.

That sense is heightened during the wolves’ breeding season (December through February) and denning period (April through May), and at any time if wolf pups are nearby.

Although they are protected by Montana and tribal laws, wolves that are aggressive toward humans can be killed in self-defense when there is imminent danger of harm to humans or domestic animals, White said.

Any encounter on the Flathead Indian Reservation should be reported to CSKT’s Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation as quickly as possible.

On average, White said, a gray wolf is 2 1/2 feet tall, 5 to 6 feet long, weighs 70 to 120 pounds and has a broad snout with fur ranging from gray to black or tan to white.