Nowhere To Hide…The Intrusive Collaring of Wolves

Pack after wolf pack has been tracked down by WS and killed in “lethal control actions” BECAUSE wolves were wearing radio collars, making them easy to find. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

As you can see from the photo, leg hold traps are also used to capture wolves for collaring. What effect does this traumatizing event have on a wolf? 

The USFWS wolf recovery coordinator, Ed Bangs, estimates two percent of wolves, trapped for collaring “die from the trauma”. Is that acceptable to you?

Wolves can and do suffer from PTSD,  just like people.

The famous Ninemile pack female wolf, Tenino, was afflicted with it.

“Tenino was an adult female wolf, born in the wild and placed into captivity at 1 year of age because of her participation in livestock depredation. Her method of capture, well documented, involved being darted twice by helicopter and translocated twice. This method of capture would have exposed her to the 2 factors that are important in the etiology of post traumatic stress disorder inhumans uncontrollability and unpredictability.

In a case study we conducted, Tenino displayed symptoms that were similar to those of humans with post traumatic stress disorder. These symptoms included hypervigilance, exaggerated startles, generalized fear, avoidance, and arousal. She also displayed looking up behaviors that occurred during the presence of perceived threats such as a neighboring rancher’s gunshots; the keeper truck; some keeper activity; and, occasionally, aircraft. When compared to 3 other wolves, including her enclosuremate, these behaviors were exclusive to Tenino”…Jay S. Mallonee, Wolf and Wildlife Studies

Wolves are sensitive, social animals. Being chased by helicopters or having their paw caught in a trap must be horribly frightening for them. How would you feel? Wolves experience the same emotions we do, including sorrow, loss, fear and pain.

Wolves are continually harassed by the collaring process itself.  Chased, darted with tranquilizers (Telazol), handled, having collars fitted, collars replaced.

Radio-Tracking Timber Wolves in Ontario

“Miniature collar-type transmitters originally designed by W. W. Cochran, Illinois, were adapted for use on timber wolves (Canis lupus sp.) in east-central Ontario. Wild timber wolves were captured in steel traps, restrained with a forked stick, fitted with radio-collars and released at point of capture. Receivers were adapted for use in trucks, airplanes, and for walking in rough bush country. Maximum ranges were 3.2 km with ground and 9.6 km with aircraft receivers.”

That’s why I believe the knowledge gained by studying collared wolves is far outweighed by the negatives.

Another adverse effect of collaring is the dreaded mange mite. It finds a warm home under their collars, which can torment wolves who are infested with the pest, causing itching and distress, leading to further deterioration of their condition.

Look at the size of that thing. Think of mange mites hiding under it and the wolf not being able to do anything about it.

To my knowledge Yellowstone biologists didn’t lift one finger to treat the Druids sarcoptic mange, which contributed to their demise. The last little Druid female was plagued with mange. Burdened by a radio collar, which I’m sure exacerbated her infestation, she eventually drifted out of Yellowstone, weak and hungry. She was shot and killed in Butte, Montana. The last little Druid, dying alone, without a family. What a tragic end for an iconic wolf pack!!

From the Missoulian:

Wolf No. 690 from Yellowstone National Park had seen her pack ravaged by disease and attacks by other wolf packs before she wandered south of Butte and started attacking cattle.Herself stricken with mange, the 2-year-old female was shot recently by a rancher when he spotted the black wolf attacking cattle.

State wildlife officials inspected the collared wolf and found she was from the former Druid Peak pack, which no longer exists after members caught mange and then dispersed into the hostile territory of other packs.

“We had the last location with her in March, then she disappeared,” said Erin Albers, a biologist with the Yellowstone wolf project. “We were searching for her and we were just assuming that she had left the park, but we didn’t expect her to go to Butte.”

The Druid Peak pack was well-known and a favorite of wolf watchers in the park’s Lamar Valley. It was also the subject of several documentaries about Yellowstone’s wolves.But it began to fall apart last fall when the alpha female died, presumably at the hands of wolves, Albers said. The remaining members of the pack were also hit hard by mange.The pack had a litter of pups last summer that all died of the parasite, which causes wolves to lose their hair. The remaining members dispersed, but found a tough environment in the park with its dense wolf population, Albers said.The weakened wolves would wander into a carcass, only to be attacked and killed by other wolves that were protecting their food and territory. Three wolves from the former pack were found dead, their bodies left mutilated by other wolves, within a four-month period.”

Do Yellowstone park biologists believe it’s invasive to treat mange in resident wolf packs but completely miss how intrusive it is to continually collar wolves? If true, how ironic, because Canadian biologists successfully treated wild wolves for mange. If biologists can handle and interfere with wolves while collaring them, they can certainly treat their mange with Ivermectin.

Wolves tranquilized for collaring: Photo Kevin White (Wolf Song of Alaska)

After reading the USFWS wolf reports for the Northern Rockies, I was stunned by the continual intrusion into wolves lives. Two collared wolves were accidentally killed by Wildlife Services in Idaho, while carrying out a lethal control action on other wolves. Collaring has become a tool to track and kill wolves, instead of what it was originally developed for, scientific research.

Just last year IDFG asked the forest service for permission to land helicopters in the Frank Church Wilderness, the largest area of protected wilderness in the continental United States, comprising 2.3 million acres. Can you guess why they wanted to land there?  To dart and collar wolves of course. Even though the Wilderness Act of 1964 states:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

That means, helicopters should stay out. Unfortunately, IDFG was eventually granted permission to collar wolves in the Frank Church, even though Western Watersheds Project mounted a court challenge. Hundreds of Americans sent comments to Regional Forester Harvey Forsgren, with a clear message:


Sadly, Judge Winmill ruled IDFG could land helicopters in the Frank Church but with a caveat:

“Chief US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill denied injunctive relief sought by Western Watersheds Project to prevent IDFG from landing helicopters in the Frank Church Wilderness to collar wolves.  This is another blow for wolves and wilderness. It will only embolden IDGF to continue their war on wolves.  The judge did warn:

“The next helicopter proposal in the Frank Church Wilderness will face a daunting review because it will add to the disruption and intrusion of this collaring project. The Forest Service must proceed very cautiously here because the law is not on their side if they intend to proceed with further helicopter projects in the Frank Church Wilderness. The Court is free to examine the cumulative impacts of the projects, and the context of the use. Given that this project is allowed to proceed, the next project will be extraordinarily difficult to justify.”

The outline of  the proposal submitted to the Forest Service by IDFG, asked permission to land a helicopter in the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness, up to twenty times last winter to dart as many as twelve wolves.  The reason/excuse was to research and observe wolves. Their intentions aren’t so noble. I believe they wanted to collar wolves in the Frank Church so WS can track them easily, or boost wolf quota numbers for future hunts, if they can document more wolves in the FC. In the end IDFG had to land twelve times in the Frank Church to collar FOUR wolves. Pretty ridiculous. That’s an example of the current state of “wildlife management”.

If IDFG wanted to study wolves they could hike or ride into the Frank Church on horseback. The collaring of wolves in this vast wilderness is just another ploy in their continuing harassment of wolves. The Frank Church/River of No Return wilderness is a vast, refuge for wolves and other wildlife. Now they can’t escape humans even there. The collar program has become a means to an end.  And that end spells trouble for wolves.

Wolves have no place to hide, they’re being monitored as if they were common criminals.  Wearing a radio collar is like being under house arrest. The authorities know where you are at all times.

There is a less invasive way to track wolves with the use of Howl Boxes. I personally think wolves should be left alone, to live in peace but “HOWL BOXES” can be used in place of radio collars!!

Ed Bangs, of the US Fish & Wildlife service, …… estimates that approximately 2 percent of the wolves trapped for radio collaring die from the trauma. “The howlbox is efficient, inexpensive, and less intrusive,” says Bangs. “It uses the wolves’ own communication system to monitor populations.”

Teresa Loya’s invention broadcasts a recorded howl into the wilderness and records any responses from wolves in the following two minutes. From that response, Loya hopes wildlife biologists will be able to get an accurate count of the number of wolves in any particular area, reducing the need for the expensive, invasive and time-consuming process of outfitting wolves with radio collars.

It’s time to stop collaring wolves. It’s intrusive, traumatizing and gives Wildlife Services “a leg up” to track and kill wolves for agribusiness. It harasses wolves in Yellowstone and steals their “wildness”. According to a knowledgable reader of this blog, 759 wolves have been collared during the Yellowstone Wolf Study. Further, he states wolves are chased with helicopters to exhaustion, darted and handled by “gloveless self-serving researchers”. What is this doing to Yellowstone’s wolves?

Collaring is also a potential weapon to be used against wolves by poachers, who may have acquired access to their collar telemetry. Think of the four highly endangered Mexican gray wolves who were found dead this year. How many of the dead wolves or members of their packs were collared?  Since wolves stick together, you can track the entire pack that way. Did poachers use wolves’ collars to track and kill them?

Collaring wolves is out of control. Wolves have enough problems, they don’t need to be hounded by biologists or Wildlife Services to further some nebulous agenda.

What right do we have to chase wild wolves around for collaring? Wolves don’t belong to us. Let them live in peace for godsakes!!


A USDA Wildlife Services employee radio-collars a wolf in the Madison Valley after darting it from a helicopter.


Photos: Collared wolf: Courtesy Howard Golden, Tranquilized wolves: Courtesy Kevin White (Wolf Song of Alaska), Tranquilized wolf: Courtesy USDA

Posted In: Let Wolves Live In Peace

Tags: Druid Peak pack, intrusive collaring of wolves, aerial gunning of wolves, Wildlife Services, sarcoptic mange, Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness, Yellowstone National Park, HOWL boxes, PTSD, Telazol, Ivermectin

*This post has been re-written. I posted a version of it in December 2009 but have since changed my opinion about even collaring wolves for research in National Parks.

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