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Wolf Crossings

A Rural Viewpoint On Wolf Reintroduction And Protection

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Updated 10-06

 

 

Frightened USFS workers call for rescue after hearing wolf howls

KETCHUM, Idaho -- The sound of howling wolves prompted two U.S. Forest Service employees to call for a helicopter evacuation from the Sawtooth Wilderness late last month, officials said.

The employees, both from Utah, became frightened Sept. 23 after seeing wolves chasing a bull elk across the meadow and later hearing the animals howl, said Ed Waldapfel, a spokesman for the Sawtooth National Forest.

"They started hearing wolves howling all around them," Waldapfel told the Idaho Mountain Express. "They called on their radio or satellite phone and asked their supervisor if they could leave the area."

Waldapfel did not know the employees' names, but said they were from the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Ogden and were conducting forest inventory work in the Sawtooths.

"No matter which way they went they said they could hear the wolves," he said. "They admitted they were very scared and wanted to get out of the area."

The employees' supervisor called national forest officials and "asked for a helicopter to come in and retrieve them," Waldapfel said.

The wolves never made any aggressive moves toward the pair. There are no documented cases of wolves attacking humans in Idaho, though the employees may not have known that, Waldapfel said.

"They're not part of our regular work force and so they hadn't had training for this kind of wildlife encounter," Waldapfel said.

According to a National Park Service fact sheet, there has never been a documented case of a healthy wild wolf seriously injuring or killing a human being in North America.

Steve Nadeau, wolf program supervisor with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, was shocked that howling could prompt a helicopter evaluation.

"Holy moly -- sounds to me like someone's read too many of Grimm's fairy tales," Nadeau said. "I'm flabbergasted that (the Forest Service) would go to that extent over wolves howling in the woods because wolves howl in the woods all the time. That's how they communicate."

Howling, especially in rocky, mountainous areas, can echo, said Lynne Stone, a Stanley resident who regularly observes backcountry wolf behavior.

"There are great wolf-howl acoustics. They probably weren't surrounded by wolves," Stone said. "I'd be more afraid of running into a moose cow with calves, or a black bear with cubs, than encountering howling wolves."

Sawtooth National Forest officials will review training procedures to better prepare out-of-area Forest Service personnel for the wildlife they may encounter while in Idaho, Waldapfel said.