Posted: Sep 4, 2013 10:01 PM by Chet Layman - MTN News
Updated: Sep 5, 2013 9:07 AM
Wolves move mostly at night, travel hundreds of miles in their territories and often follow herds of game outside of those territories.
Finding those wolves is the job of the six Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Wolf Specialists in Montana.
Montana's wolf management program involves trapping, radio collaring and aerial observations.
Wolf Specialist Abbey Nelson allowed MTN's Chet Layman to tag along while she set a trap in Park County, where she hoped to radio collar a member of a known pack.
She has been working as a Wolf Specialist in the area for about three years now. The information that Nelson collects is used for setting hunting quotas, helping with livestock conflicts and for keeping track of the range of the state's wolf populations.
A cooperative effort with private landowners allows for this trap area. Much like the trappers of Montana's beginnings, setting a trap is no guarantee. This particular trap is one of eight that Nelson has set in the mountains of Park County.
"Wolves are smart. They know that we've been here. So usually it's just a matter of making your scent more compelling than the human scent that is all around," Nelson said.
One of the goals of radio collaring is that it helps the FWP monitor populations.
"The second goal of radio collaring wolves is help us manage livestock conflicts," Nelson said. "Throughout the year we'll get a number of different locations on the map and get a sense of their territory. If a livestock conflict occurs in that territory, we know, maybe who's responsible. We also have a way to track them down and manage them as necessary," she said.
FWP has been managing wolf populations through hunting. Nelson, who does most of her trapping by herself, said those efforts are making a difference.
"Most of the packs in Paradise Valley had some level of harvest this past year. So this pack is still intact and I think, has five to seven members throughout the year that I have counted; so no, I don't think that are growing," she said.
Trapping is set to run through early fall but aerial and ground tracking will continue through winter.
Nelson will join the other five specialists later this year to compare numbers and come up with a picture of Montana's full wolf population.