Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wolves on the go up Cache Creek

Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 
Jackson resident Colleen Valenstein got a reminder this week that she lives in a town that’s surrounded by wild places.
On a trip up Cache Creek on Monday afternoon Valenstein was biking with her border collie, Seamus, near the staircase on the Hagen Trail when a large canine crossed her path maybe 50 yards ahead. At first she thought the animal, which was cruising uphill with ease, was another dog out on a walk at one of Jackson’s most popular day-play destinations.
“Then I realized no one else was around,” Valenstein said. 
A Coyote came to mind next, but the contrast of her collie — which gave chase — not far from the much-larger critter dispelled the thought.
Seeing its size, gray and white coloring and a “really nice-looking tail,” Valenstein was convinced she was seeing a wolf.
“I thought for a moment I was maybe not going to have my dog back,” she said.
Seamus, however, wasn’t able to gain ground, and the wolf moved on without incident. Valenstein said her dog is good around other wildlife, and she was surprised by his reaction.
“If he spots a deer and I call him, he will come to me,” she said. “But I couldn’t get him off the heels of this wolf.”
Valenstein notified the Bridger-Teton National Forest about the sighting, which was not the first of the season in the area. About a month ago another person in Cache Creek reported seeing three wolves, said Linda Merigliano, the forest’s north zone recreation manager.
“Game and Fish went up and didn’t find any carcass or anything to suggest that they were sticking around that area,” Merigliano said of the encounter. “We were getting reports of wolves in lots of places.”
Wolves — which for the time being are federally protected — are regular inhabitants on the outskirts of Jackson. That includes places as close to town as Cache Creek, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northern Rocky Mountain wolf coordinator Mike Jimenez said.
“Wolves have been reported there for years, so it’s nothing new,” Jimenez said. “That’s gone on on a fairly regular basis over the years.”
In response to the sightings the Bridger-Teton has updated its messaging at the Cache Creek trailhead about wildlife that people might encounter.
“I just added wolves to the mix,” Merigliano said. “That is something that dog owners do need to be aware of — because they’re both canines, they’re going to behave differently toward each other.”
Jimenez said that wolves and dogs don’t always play nice.
“Usually when wolves and dogs mix, dogs come out on the short end of it,” Jimenez said. “Wolves can be very territorial, and they see dogs as a threat and they become aggressive.”
To Merigliano, the chance for an encounter with a wolf not far from town is part of the experience of living in Jackson Hole.
Valenstein agreed, and said she wouldn’t hesitate to go back up Cache alone.
“But I might try to pack some bear spray from here on out,” she said.
“It was really cool,” Valenstein said. “I never would have thought that I would see a wolf in the Cache drainage.”