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High Country News: Prodigal Dogs

[large thumbnail url=”high-country-news-prodigal-dogs” filename=”news” year=”2010″ month=”02″ day=”15″] [thumbnail icon url=”high-country-news-prodigal-dogs” filename=”news” year=”2010″ month=”02″ day=”15″] The following very extensive article by Michelle Nijhuis¬†was posted¬†to the High Country News website from their February 15, 2010 issue.

Prodigal Dogs – Have gray wolves found a home in Colorado?

Last April, in a narrow mountain valley in northwestern Colorado, Cristina Eisenberg was searching for scat. The diminutive, dark-haired biologist and two members of her field crew had set up a kilometer-long transect through elk habitat, and the trio was walking slowly along the line. It was a raw day, cold and windy with spells of freezing rain, and the biologists had been moving through meadows for hours, looking for elk poop, deer poop, coyote poop, mountain lion poop. This was old-fashioned wildlife biology — hardly glamorous work — but in it lay the story of the landscape, of the pursuers and the pursued, and Eisenberg was absorbed in the tale.

Then, on the edge of an aspen grove, one of the biologists saw something unusual: a scat roughly as long and wide as a banana, tapered at the ends, perhaps two months old. When Eisenberg examined it, she saw that it contained hair from deer or elk and shards of bone, some almost as long as a fingernail. It smelled distinctively earthy, like a shady forest floor.

In the course of her research, Eisenberg had seen and handled thousands of scats just like this one, but not here, not in Colorado. Everything about it — the size, the shape, the smell, the contents — indicated a creature that had been extirpated from the state more than 70 years ago. Everything about it said wolf.

Within an hour and a half, the crew found a similar scat, some 500 yards away. Later that day, in another aspen grove about five miles away, they found two more. Less than a week later, Eisenberg’s lead tracker, Dan Hansche, found a wolf-like scat with a similar, smaller scat laid on top — suggesting, Eisenberg says, that an adult wolf had been teaching its pup to mark territory…

Read the entire article: Prodigal Dogs

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