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Special Report: Wolf reintroduction in Montana – 15 years later

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle is running a special report focusing the controversial story of the wolf reintroduction in to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Return of the wolf: Conservation and Controversy is a special section which appeared in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle starting with an expanded timeline of events related to the wolf and covering the day in the life of a wolf biologist, the controversial nature of the reintroduction, rancher/wolf conflicts, the current legal challenges, and a recounting of the rise and fall of the Druid Peak pack.

An expanded wolf timeline

An expanded timeline of events in the history of wolves in the West

At The Crossroads
by Daniel Person

Last May, the Obama administration removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana, marking the most significant development since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho 14 years prior.

The move — which came at the heels of two failed attempts to delist the wolf by the Bush administration – put the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks in charge of the state’s 500-wolf population. It also ushered in the first-ever fair-chase wolf hunt here last fall. It changed how ranchers dealt with livestock depredation and how wolf habitat could be managed.

And, as expected, it prompted a federal lawsuit…

Read the full article

The Court of Public Opinion
By Michael Gibney

There are wolves, and then there are wolves.

One is the gray wolf, reintroduced to the Greater Yellowstone area in 1995 after a 70-year absence.

The other is a cloudier notion wrapped up in a national drama of public, moral and legal perception.

The reintroduction itself has been successful in that there are about 1,700 wolves in the Northern Rockies – a population the federal government deemed healthy enough to remove the wolves from the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho…

Read the entire article

Rise and fall of the Druid empire
by Michael Gibney

There’s some “King Lear” in its story, the monarch tortured into exile by his daughters.

Its convoluted family tree rings of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.”

And this was the winter of the Druid Peak wolf pack’s discontent.

What was once the most watched, largest and most dominant wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park has dwindled to one collared female, ill with mange, two males forming their own pack elsewhere and no more than six lone wolves wandering the landscape, according to Rick McIntyre, a biological technician with the park’s wolf project…

Read the entire article

Wolves on the range
by Daniel Person

DILLON – When talking about wolves on his ranch in the shrubby foothills here, John Helle points out a stand of pines on a ridge across a ravine.

A few years ago, a three-wolf pack attacked sheep on a neighboring ranch. Government predator-control agents killed two of the wolves, but a black female escaped. Not long after, Helle started finding dead sheep on his ranch with their throats cut out, a tell-tale sign of wolf depredation. As far as Helle could tell, the black wolf had taken cover over on that woody ridge.

After two wolf pups were caught on the ranch in traps meant for coyotes, government agents issued Helle Montana’s first shoot-on-sight permit. He used it on a male he spotted from his pickup stocking his flock. After missing the wolf from 350 feet, he tracked it down on a dirt bike he keeps in the bed of his truck…

Read the entire article

Day in the life of Doug Smith, Yellowstone wolf biologist
by Michael Gibney

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Biologist Doug Smith made his way through the park on a sunny March day, checking on teams of wind-burnt scientists as they tracked and observed every pack of gray wolves in the park.

Smith has played an integral role in the park’s wolf program ever since wolves were reintroduced 15 years ago. Yet for all that time spent working on the reintroduction, a day in Smith’s life during March can be as unpredictable as wildlife itself.

Throughout the month, throngs of volunteer researchers — mostly biology students and educators — spread across Yellowstone in what has become one of the most comprehensive wolf studies in the world…

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A predator’s welcome
by Daniel Person

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — In the wide swath of grassland and marsh that is the Lamar Valley, groups of bison, elk and pronghorn antelope bed down under an unseasonably warm March sun as an occasional coyote darts across the rolling prairie.

But on a rocky knoll beside the highway that gives park visitors a good vantage point on the landscape, sleek scopes and telephoto lenses are trained not on the lounging herds but on a steep draw on the far side of the Lamar River.

There, a pack of gray wolves has been visible, on and off, since about 9 a.m. Even as the wolves, like their prey, lay low for the afternoon, the scopes and eager visitors stay focused on the far hillside in hopes of catching a glimpse of the animal that had recently been the stuff of bedtime stories.

Fifteen years ago this month what has been called the most controversial feat of conservation in United States’ history took place in this valley…

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The Bozeman Daily Chronicle special section also features photos, archived wolf stories, and interactive features.

Well worth reading through.

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