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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35 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Collar = we own you (and by extension, your family).
    Couldn’t these people think of something smaller and less life-threatening, like a microchip or some such like?

    Park rangers put ear tags on the dingoes of Fraser, the tags cause the ear to droop (impairing hearing) and what is more its another form of the ‘kiss of death’. Any dingo wearing one of those tags runs a high risk of suffering the illnesses of ‘a half ounce of lead’ or ‘riflitis’. That is no joke, the rangers actually put such descriptions as the “Cause of Death” on reports. The rangers are disturbingly similar in attitude to the hunters on the mainland, it wouldn’t surprise me if some, if not the majority of them were. They don’t have knowledge of the animal’s social behaviour, they don’t understand the difference between aggression and curiosity and some invent these tall tales of being attacked and threatened by the animals. They practically look for excuses to shoot them.


    • Collars don’t cause cancer. In longer-lived animals, microchips have been linked to certain cancers.
      As for the sarcoptic mange – they use tranquilizer darts, why can’t they load up a dart with Ivermectin, which very effectively kills mange mites, ear mites and all intestinal parasites except tapeworms and encysted strongyles?


      • Point taken.


      • Hi WolfMoonraven,
        They could easily dart wolves with Ivermectin. If they can spend time collaring them they can treat their mange, especially the now extinct Druids. Just a crying shame to see an iconic wolf pack end that way.



    • That is truly sick John. “Any dingo wearing one of those tags runs a high risk of suffering the illnesses of ‘a half ounce of lead’ or ‘riflitis’.” Looks like Australia treats the dingo like our government treats the wolf.

      As far as understanding the dingo or the wolf, they don’t seem to care whatsoever. It’s all about numbers and how many will they allow. Non-consumptive users have nothing to say about how our wildlife is “managed”.


      • Queensland is horrible to its dingoes.
        The Department of Primary Industries [includes sheep and cattle farmers] has complete control over the wildlife in the state. It labels the dingo as a pest, landowners are obligated to shoot them and if they don’t, they are slapped with massive fines.
        Get this though, shooting a native duck is a criminal offence with fines up to $45,000!

        As for Fraser, I’d like to get the morons out of the National Park. Think of the clips of when people try to touch the bison of YNP and then get themselves hurt. The type of people that I am speaking of are exactly that breed of stupid, feeding the dingoes and leaving their food/fishing bait out where it can be easily taken. These people are partly to blame for what goes on there.


      • Looks like The Department of Primary Industries has their list of good and bad animals. The native duck being good and the dingo being bad. It reminds me of how IDFG clamped down on the founder of the anti-wolf website saveelk because he killed a trophy bull elk out of season, not because anyone really cared about the beautiful bull but that it was unfair to other hunters. Yet wolves are poached and the poachers are rarely caught or given any real punishment.



      • Sorry, I guess I went off on a tangent there.


  2. Well said John d. A collared Wolf or a tagged Wolf is a dead Wolf all this must be change all this manage control is just a legal way to kill them… This post breaks my heart for one more time Wolfs suffering because some people just dont have the knowledge to understand the behavior of any Wolf…


    • I’m wondering what they were studying in college when they became biologists Vasileios? It’s the biologists that do much of the “dirty work” when it comes to wolves. Why would you become a biologist just to get a job working for some fish and game agency to help kill/manage animals? I just don’t get it.



  3. Dear Nabeki and all, How much more are wolves going to be subjected to??!! We write letters, make phone calls and still this harassment continues. If Ed Bangs believes in the Howlboxes, why doesn’t he do something about it? I thought he was in charge of the Gray Wolves in Montana (BTW he never has responded to my email last week). This is so utterly insane!! They are spending tax payers dollars to collar these wolves when they could use the Howlbox. Okay, we know they don’t care anything about wolves, but looks like they would care about wasting taxpayer money. It’s like the roundups of the wild mustangs. They would rather spend millions in putting our horses in federal holding pens rather than get the cattle off public grazing lands. I am going mad with this. What can we do? We need to mount some sort of public blitz though Western Watersheds and the Center for Biological Diversity. Can anyone think of anything else? Besides the usual Salazar/Wildlife “Services”? Yeah, like that has done a lot of good.


    • I feel helpless too SCWG. It seems no matter what we try to do the sad reality is that the people that control wolves lives are not environmentalists. Most are hunters, ranchers and outfitters. Everything is geared to please them. But we have to keep going and keep trying to find new ways to help wolves. This is going to be a long battle but we can’t give up, we have to fight even harder.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,



      • Nabeki, 2 wolves in NW Montana were recently shot.


      • Jon….Those poachers are total scum. We hope to have the donation fund set up very soon.



  4. Tears are rolling down over my face,again…I know,i can’t do nothing,and this idea make me sick and crazy… i’ll send email to bangs and i’ll propose one radio collar…


  5. SoCalWolfGal,I now it is fustrationg,to say the least.This problem isn’t going to go away any time soon for ranching,hunting,and the backwards view of wolves and other predators have been handed down for centuries,from one generation to the next. We should continue nagging Salazar/Wild life services,all wild life groups and maybe Mr.Obama,himself.They want us to quit and so it(the issue) will go away,for then,they have won.We need our neighbors to get involved,school children,and the everyday person. We need to out number the wolf haters.People have to stop saying to themselves that it’s not my problem and say it is,for if it isn’t about this issue ,it will be another issue,that we slush off and the cycle continue with the attitude of “it’s not my problem”.. For the Wolves and Wild Ones.


  6. If 2% of the wolves that are collared die from stress, then Doug Smith has killed at least sixteen (16) wolves in Yellowstone. He has collared seven hundred and fifty nine (759) Yellowstone Wolves as of May this year and that is not counting the re-captures to replace damaged collars and dead batteries. The actual number of collared wolves exceeds 800 when re-captures are figured in.
    When you add up the missed kills because of being handicapped by a collar and wolves getting killed when other wolves grab a collar to win a fight, the number of wolves killed by this endless study is far more.
    The Yellowstone Park Foundation, based in Bozeman, solicits donations to buy the radio collars used in the Yellowstone Wolf Project. Tell them to stop this insanity.


    • Thank you,Larry ,for the information on the fact that the Yellowstone Park Foundation solicits for donations for radio collars.I think that the donations could be better spent on other things that would benifet wild life and not harm wild life.


    • Maybe we could start a petition or something to donate for Howl Boxes and NOT collars. I think we can all agree that collars are simply a death sentence. And in my estimation THAT is why they are being used.


    • Larry, isn’t it odd that Yellowstone’s wolf watchers are the major funders of the collars considering all the problems the collars cause?


  7. I agree….let’s stop this insanity. This applies to all types of wildlife: bear. lion. lynx, elk etc……….they’re all being stressed by this practice. We’ve also lost animals including grizzlies, black bear, lions and goats from the effect of the tranquilizing drugs.
    Other than Doug Peacock, I don’t know of another researcher that is willing to say..STOP!
    Since we’re talking about harassing wildlife, how many thousands of pictures of wolves or bears do we really need? There’s enough pictures of these animals in circulation to last me 5 lifetimes. Geez, we have enough!…just let them be wild animals!!!!


  8. There is an old Grizzly called “Scarface” in Yellowstone that constantly follows the Canyon Wolf Pack and steals their kills.
    He has short,ugly, deformed-looking ears. I found out recently, that his ears are deformed and just stubs, because he has scratched them for years. He is trying to get rid of the plastic, numbered ear tags, that park biologists have placed in each of his ears. I was told that his ears were bleeding again a few weeks ago.


    • This is nothing but Wildlife Abuse!! As Nabeki has pointed out time and time again. It’s against the law to abuse a domestic animal, but it is perfectly alright to abuse wildlife. I hate to keep using the same word, but it’s just insane!! Does anybody like my idea a a formal petition/request to Wildlife Watersheds and the Center for Biological Diversity? I have tried, but just cannot come up with anything. We have to make it organized and in a timely fashion. I don’t think it is as effective for just a few to come in. Maybe we could do like Madeline Pickens did for the mustangs and collect the letters/emails and deliver them all at once. Thoughts?


  9. Jerry Black:
    I agree with you that at times the animals get harassed by people with cameras. Most of them are not professionals and each new animal is exciting to them. It has been this way since Yellowstone became a park.
    The cameras today are so readily available and of such excellent quality, that everyone thinks they can take a professional quality photo and maybe they can.. However,most of the people with those huge, expensive lenses and high quality digital cameras have never sold a photo and probably never will.
    However, I have never seen any photographer chase park animals to exhaustion with helicopters, or catch them in leg-hold traps or cable snares. I have never seen a photographer dart an animal and put a huge GPS radio collar on it either. I have never observed or heard of a photographer killing a park animal.
    Doug Smith killed a Yellowstone Wolf after he broke its’ leg with a capture dart fired from a helicopter. I have seen closeup photos for sale, taken of Doug hanging out of his helicopter, aiming his dart gun at a running wolf beneath him. (These kind of photos are setups and could only be taken if the wolf was deliberately chased at the waiting photographer by the helicopter pilot.)


    • Jerry I am sorry I am not as informed as I probably should be but can you or someone clear up who this Doug Smith is? And also the researcher Doug Peacock. Will he help us?


      • So calWolfGal, Doug Smith/wolf project leader of the wolf reintrodution in Yellowsone(1995) and is still there still studing wolves.I do not know that much about Doug Peacock,except that he is a American naturalist,an outdoorsman,and he wrote a book called,Grizzly Year;In Search of the American Wilderness.He spent time in the wilderness observing nature,mostly grizzlies, in the 1970’s and 80’s.


  10. Larry Thorngren…”
    However, I have never seen any photographer chase park animals to exhaustion with helicopters, or catch them in leg-hold traps or cable snares. I have never seen a photographer dart an animal and put a huge GPS radio collar on it either. I have never observed or heard of a photographer killing a park animal.

    I haven’t seen the above either, Larry. But at various wolf conferences and seminars I have watched numerous videos, shot by “professionals” in helicopters, of wolves taking down elk, wolves chasing coyotes and lions, wolves and bears sparing over a carcass etc. Is it not possible that this has a lasting affect on animal behavior and or emotions? The sound of a chopper is a damn frightening experience.
    I guess my point, and I probably omitted it, is…….What’s the reason for all these pictures? Do we really need thousands more? I don’t see that it’s doing any good as far as saving wolves lives, but then again, you apparently do this for a living, so you have a different perspective.
    How do any of us know the level of stress associated with human presence?




    • Agnes,
      Use all the contacts I have posted on the main page. It’s Wildlife Services and the biologists from Montana FWP and IDFG that do most of the collariing. But apparently Idaho is not doing anything now with the management of wolves. You can also write to Yellowstone about the amount of collaring they are doing to the wolves there. I’ll try to get an address up or does anyone have the address of the Yellowstone Wolf Project? If so, could you post it?



      • At the present moment I could only get the address for the Yellowstone Park Foundation, that Larry mentioned on one of his posts.They are the ones asking for donations for radio collars(they mention it on their site). Their address is 222 East Main Street,Suite 301-Bozeman,Mt.59715–telephone-406-586-6303–Fax 406.586.6337—–email


      • Thanks Rita!!



    2 wolves illegally shot in NW Montana.


    • This is outrageous Jon. I am so sick of hearing about dead wolves. Wolf Warriors is going to organize a fund to accept donations to help catch these wolf killers!!



  13. Thick metal collars should not be used, they should only use microchips or another piece of tracking equipment that does not cause pain or uncomfort.


  14. Personally I don’t understand why you guys are so opposed to using the radio-collars on wolves. The collars have been a very useful tool in helping biologists study wild wolves. They are also used to moniter the distribution (and maybe size?) of the population. This is especially important when dealing with endangered, recolonizing, and reintroduced populations (we probably wouldn’t know that Journey/OR-7 is in CA if it wasn’t for his collar). Perhaps one day they can even be used to help protect livestock from wolves in non-lethal ways.

    Now, with that said, I do feel that the process of collaring should be modified so that it causes less harm to the wolf.

    I definately agree in that Wildlife Services needs to stop using the collars to track down and kill wolves and wolf packs. The collars shoulod only be used for scientific research and conservation.

    I also agree in that leg-hold traps should not be used to capture the wolves for collaring. The wolves should be caught in more humane traps, such as with cage-traps or even with pit-fall traps that are padded at the bottom to break the fall. And regardless of which way they are trapped, food, water, and bedding should be provided for the wolf.

    If the wolves are to be helicopter-darted, then the wolf should be tranquilized ASAP after being spotted, in order to reduce the level of stress on it. Or better yet, the wolves should be tracked and darted on horse-back, foot, or even by car.

    As for the concern over mange mites: every time a wolf is (re)captured to be (re)collared, the scientists should make sure that there are no mites before (re)collaring and, if there are, then it should be treated to prevent discomfort (and improve the wolf’s health). I know, helping the wolf with mange may seem unnatural, but so is collaring. Therefore, if wolves are to be collared, then they should be helped if they are sick, hurt, etc.

    I love the idea of the Howl Boxes, but unfortunately they might not be very helpful, especially when determining the population size. Often-times, when a small group of wolves howl, they may sound like there are a lot more than there really are. That can easily be used to claim that there are more wolves then there really are, and that in turn would be used as justification to increase the amount of wolf hunting (and trapping).

    Until there are better methods of studying wolves, the radio-collars are a nessecary part of wolf research, whether we like it or not. The best thing that can be done is to make more humane the process of collaring the wolves. The same thing holds true with other wildlife species that are radio-collared for research.


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