It wasn’t long ago, a few decades really that Utah wolves were spoken of in the past tense. There weren’t any. Actually, the last verified wolf taken in Utah, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Predator and Rodent Control, was in 1930 in San Juan County. Prior to that, from 1917 through 1930, 162 were taken. With 48 of these in 1918 alone. Only two were taken 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 just running solo.
Where are they coming from? Well, it is apparent that although Utah hasn’t taken part in these efforts, the wolves don’t recognize state borders.
The natural migration of wolves from Canada into the northwestern Rocky Mountains of Montana over the years has resulted in several packs regaining a foothold there. Canadian wolves… 31 of these… were introduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996. And 35 of these were introduced into central Idaho. A very controversial choice.
In 2002, those numbers reached 261 in Idaho and 218 in the Yellowstone region. The Montana population was determined to be 84.
But a radio-collared wolf was captured in northern Utah in 2002. And there were other sightings of what were believed to be wolves in the country too. Under Utah state legislation, if there are wolves in the state, they are protected.
And since 2003, there have been increasing reports of wolf activity in Utah. Last year… in 2009… there were nine accounts throughout the state. However, this year… 2010… there were 15. And it’s still September.
As you might expect, this action is rather naturally making people excited. And nervous. Because these reports have increased, 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 didn’t 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 states as wolf populations continue to climb.
Though not all reports of Utah wolves have been substantiated, the DWR… Division of Wildlife Resources… will admit that it is obvious that roaming wolves have wandered to the state from Idaho and Wyoming.
But they say there is no evidence of packs or breeding. Every sighting had been solo.
The majority of the confirmed sightings this year have been in counties bordering Idaho and Wyoming. And two wolves were killed this year after attacking Utah livestock in these areas.
The DWR says they do not know if 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 has 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 wasn’t too long after my family and I spent the afternoon and evening in the exact same Washington Lake. Fishing. And hanging out at a campsite. But these reports became public quite a bit later so we weren’t aware of these”sightings”.
Wolves are moving into Utah. And state biologists… at least publicly… don’t seem to be in any rush to explore their arrival.