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Pinedale Online > News > May 2009 > Yellowstone wolf chases people
Yellowstone wolf chases people
Wolf killed in Bighorns
by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
May 16, 2009

Monitoring
On 5/8/09, WY Wildlife Services trapped and radio collared 2 adult female wolves from the Greybull River Pack.

During winter 2009, the 17 wolves captured near Jackson, WY were tested for 2 strains of Brucellosis (Brucella canis and Brucella abortus). All 17 wolves tested negative for Brucella canis and fifteen wolves tested negative for Brucella abortus. Two wolves tested positive for Brucella abortus. To put these test results in perspective, the Supervisory Veterinarian for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (Terry J. Kreeger, DVM, PhD) offered the following comments: "A positive serology titer for Brucella abortus in a wolf means that the wolf had been infected with the bacteria sometime in the past (probably in the last 12 months) and developed an immune response reflected in the antibodies measured by the diagnostic tests. A positive test does not mean that the wolf is currently infected with living bacteria, although it can be. How a wolf became infected by Brucella abortus is speculative. Possible ways of becoming infected include:
1) consumption of a fetus aborted by an infected elk or bison;
2) consumption of an adult, pregnant, infected elk or bison (particularly consumption of the reproductive tract);
3) consumption of an adult, infected, but not pregnant elk or bison (unlikely source); or
4) contact with the environmental site of an aborted fetus (also unlikely).

Wolves can become infected with Brucella abortus and transiently shed the bacteria in the feces, although the amount of shed bacteria is thought to be insufficient to infect cattle, elk, or bison".

Control
Recently, two separate situations in YNP with habituated wolves have occurred. In the first situation, the Canyon pack denned within a half mile from the Mammoth/Park Headquarters area where there is also a residential area. The wolves have traveled through the residential area and killed elk there as well as close to the road near visitors. None wolves of the wolves (4 of them, 3 males and 1 female) have been a human safety threat, regardless they have been hazed from the residential area (bean bags and cracker shells) and will be continually hazed each time they enter this area. Results from hazing have been effective and it has reduced the time they come in to the developed area. These practices are consistent with how grizzly bears are treated as a grizzly was hazed from the same area on May 14. If there is any evidence of a human safety threat then the offending animal will be removed. The den area is being protected through a closure and visitors are advised to not approach these wolves for photographs or any other reason as it negates the effectiveness of the hazing.

In the second situation, a young wolf dispersing probably from the Gibbon Meadows pack chased people on bicycles and a motorcycle on several occasions. It is unclear how many times as it appears the wolf has been illegally fed and this and other incidences of habituation have gone unreported. This wolf is considered a human safety threat and active measures to remove it have been ongoing since May 7 without success. There is no plan at the moment to suspend activities to find and kill this animal because it is considered a threat to human safety. Again, visitors are advised to not approach wolves or any other wildlife in YNP as it is unsafe and leads to habituated wildlife which ultimately will have to be removed.

Research
The annual Yellowstone Park Wolf Project Winter Study took place in March 2009 examining wolf predation. Prey selection and kill rate were typical for late winter: primarily bulls and old cows were taken with few calves. Bone marrow fat was good through mid-month and then noticeably declined, which is about 2 weeks later than normal. Possible reasons were favorable forage production during summer 2008 which increased condition of elk, especially bulls, entering the winter period. Supporting this idea were very few poor condition elk killed during the early winter study period. Winter conditions were considered average with snowpack for many drainages reporting around 100%.

Other findings were that because of the 40% population decline on the northern range, including the loss of three large packs (Oxbow Creek, Leopold, and Slough Creek), several small packs that were previously excluded moved into these vacant areas and became territorial. Some of these new packs were the Blacktail and Cottonwood packs.

Law Enforcement and Related Activities
On 5/11/09, a private individual reported to authorities that an adult wolf was killed by an M-44 that he had placed for coyote control on private property in the Big Horn Mountains. A subsequent investigation by a USFWS Law Enforcement Special Agent concluded that the individual had complied with all regulations concerning the legal use of M-44ís. No further actions were taken and the case was closed.



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