Home: Scrying: For the love of species VI: Wolves and other stealthy creatures

For the love of species VI: Wolves and other stealthy creatures

March 06, 2006

While gathering my collection of fossils, and researching the strange bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans, I’ve began to wonder about the stealthiness of Mother Nature. In the case of D. radiodurans, which thrives in a radioactive climate, we aren’t too certain where it has been hanging out for the past few million years. Certainly, humans have provided a variety of radioactive habitats for the organism, but only recently. For that matter, we’ve only been looking at ecology for so long, and as a result, can only study the tip of the iceberg: the sparse number of organisms which managed to become fossils, plus the relatively small number of organisms that exist—and are found—today.

It is understandable that we could overlook microscopic all this time, but we can’t even keep track of larger, more obvious species. Look at the reappearance of the Ivory-billed woodpecker, for instance. Wolf spotted in Colorado: click for videoOr the wolves we introduced into Yellowstone a number of years ago. No one expected them to become as prolific as they did (except for perhaps the ranchers who protested from the beginning.) Now, the wolves have found their way here into Colorado. That’s from one edge of Wyoming to another—without being noticed.

One of the Yellowstone wolves had been discovered in Colorado before in Idaho Springs, but it was uncertain as to how he got there:

The first confirmed migrant wolf in Colorado was found dead on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs in 2004. The wolf wore a radio collar from Yellowstone National Park.

At the time, some skeptics speculated that the wolf might have been killed in Wyoming and moved to Colorado as a hoax. Federal officials confirmed with a necropsy that the wolf was killed by a car in Colorado. (RMN article)

Last month, however, a living wolf was spotted and videotaped near the Wyoming border. From the Rocky Mountain News:
A lone wolf videotaped strolling across a snowy valley in Colorado near the Wyoming border inspired joy in conservationists Friday as new evidence the wolf is making a long-predicted return to the state.

 “It’s a wolf, not a dog and not a wolf-dog hybrid,” said Rob Edward of Sinapu, a Boulder-based wolf advocacy group, after watching the video taken by a Colorado Division of Wildlife officer.

 “The black coat is the kicker. It’s characteristic of the Yellowstone wolves,” he said.

 “Another kind of animal would not have that coat and that stride.”

You can see video here courtesy of the Colorado Division of Wildlife (their article is here.)

In a related story, Gary Gerhardt, of the Rocky Mountain News, discussed the history of wolves in Colorado. Apparently, there has been up to a $2 bounty on the animals since 1876. That may not be much by today’s standards, but it was enough motivation to hunt the animals out of Colorado:

 There is some debate on when the last wolf was killed in Colorado, but most agree the last wolf-like animal (whether a full-blooded wolf or a half-dog, half-wolf) was killed by a government trapper in Conejos County in 1943, according to Pete Barrows and Judith Holmes in Colorado’s Wildlife Story, a history of the state Division of Wildlife.

Of course, the wolves are protected under the federal endangered species act today, making the fine worse than the bounty. Gerhardt shared this and other information about the Yellowstone wolves, in the same article:
Profile of the wolf

• Scientific name: Canis lupus

• Size: 26 to 38 inches at the shoulder

• Color: Ranges from black to blond, often gray upper body over light gray chest.

• Voice: Long, low howls to growls, squeaks and barks.

• Litter size: Four to six pups

• Food: Elk, deer, mountain sheep, bison, domestic livestock, beavers, snowshoe hares, marmots, mice, squirrels, grouse, rabbits, fish. The average adult wolf consumes 5 to 10 pounds of meat a day.

• Habitat: Usually forested areas.

• Behavior: Travels in packs of three to more than 20, composed of family members and led by an alpha male and female.

• Range: Up to 40 miles in a single day. Sources: Wildlife In Peril: The Endangered Mammals Of Colorado By John Murray; Colorado Wildlife By Jeff Rennicke; The World Of T …

Wolf protections

• Wolves in the western United States are listed as an endangered species with full protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

• The only legal way one can be intentionally killed is in defense of human life.

• Any other intentional killing, even to protect pets, personal property or livestock, is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000, a year in prison, and can lead to forfeiture of vehicles, weapons and other personal property in use at the time of the crime, as well as possible loss of state hunting privileges. Source: Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Wolf Recovery Coordinator

Thanks, Gary! :)