It was not long ago, a few decades really that Utah wolves were spoken of in the past tense. There were not any. Prior to this, from 1917 through 1930, 162 were taken. With 48 of these in 1918 alone. Only two were shot after 1926, however.
But many Utahns were recently startled by a story from the Salt Lake Tribune… on September 25, 2010… of the sighting of as many as 15 wolves so far this season in the state. And not only running solo.
Well, it is apparent that although Utah has not taken part in these attempts, the wolves do not recognize state boundaries.
The natural migration of wolves from Canada to the northwestern Rocky Mountains of Montana over the years has caused many packs regaining a foothold there. Canadian wolves… 31 of these… were introduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996. And 35 of these were introduced to central Idaho. A very controversial choice.
But a radio-collared wolf was captured in northern Utah in 2002. And there were other sightings of what were thought to be wolves in the country too. Under Utah state legislation, if there are wolves in the country, they’re protected.
Last year… in 2009… there were nine accounts throughout the state. However, this year… 2010… there were 15. And it is still September.
As you might expect, this action is rather naturally making people excited. And nervous. Because these reports have grown, so have the reports of livestock predation. And now, legislation was introduced by two Utah congressmen to delist the gray wolf as an endangered species.
Once more, in a confrontation between national courts and western private landowners, a recent federal court decision came down against the landowners. It ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not have the ability to remove wolves from the endangered species list on a state-by-state basis. It had done so in Idaho and Montana to allow hunts in those countries as wolf populations continue to climb.
Though not all reports of Utah wolves are substantiated, the DWR… Division of Wildlife Resources… will acknowledge it is clear that roaming wolves have wandered to the country from Idaho and Wyoming.
But they say there isn’t any evidence of breeding or packs. Every sighting was solo.
The majority of the confirmed sightings this season have been in counties bordering Idaho and Wyoming. And two wolves were killed this year after assaulting Utah livestock in these areas.
The DWR says they do not know whether they were wolves or coyotes.
Thennot long after that, a University of Utah environmental studies graduate was camping at Washington Lake just west of the above Lily Lake. He promised to have experience around coyotes and wild dogs. And he’s heard wolves in the wild.
He heard howling and briefer yelps which he’s convinced has been made by a group of wolves. He and his companion made enough noise that the”wolves” became silent and moved away. State biologists have not followed up on those reports.
On a personal note, it was not too long after my family and I spent the afternoon and evening in the exact same Washington Lake. Fishing. And hanging out in a campsite. However, these reports became public quite a little later so we weren’t aware of these”sightings”.
And say biologists… at least openly… do not appear to be in any rush to explore their birth.