Wolf Tracks

A gray wolf male can be up to 6.6 feet in length and over three feet tall. At up to 175 pounds this killing machine is a very disturbing site to have in your backyard especially when you have children and this one was howling at our granddaughter. She howled back trying to keep it howling in order to try and figure out what this strange sounding animal was and where it was. The short howls, were not the long howl at the moon variety documentaries entice you with. Coyote yips and dog howls she knows but what was this?

A rancher friend two miles from us said her kids heard howling too and told her it was a wolf. She dismissed their comments but is now rethinking her words. Reports have been heard on the other side of the interstate too of a wolf. Most likely this one.

Knowing now that wolves howl to locate their pack or to invite a member into theirs, our granddaughter said, “I wonder what I said? I hope it wasn’t I want to join you.” She was just getting brave enough to go to the edge of the gully and clap two rocks together to flush out the fox living there. She’s trying to make it want to leave its den and find better accommodations. In the past, fox have killed up to 8 chickens a summer at our place.

Wolf attacks on humans are rare but what was this one doing traveling up through the neighboring houses? I’m hoping headed far from here. I’ll be looking for tracks again this morning to make sure we don’t have company once again. If so, there is a good chance it is injured or has rabies – dangerous indeed. img_20200124_094822434_hdrMy guess, is my husband unknowingly invited him. I told him not to throw his deer carcass in the field and invite predators. Well, he did and it was a BIG one. It does not matter how old a carcass is to create an invitation by a wolf who can smell it a mile away. The tracks led from the houses below, across the small field, right to the carcass, and out to the horse pasture. Hubby gets to do carcass pick  up today.

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Our granddaughter was talking about the Big Bad Wolf story and that her “Woodsman” her papa was at his paying job and wasn’t home cutting wood for the fire. She needed him. This wolf was a big one with paws four inches in length which makes it most likely a male. Paw prints range in size from 3 1/2 to 4 3/4 inches in length. At age three, members of a pack are likely to leave and form another pack. This lone male is looking for company. My guess is the more aggressive one get kicked out.

Wolf attacks are really rare but that does not mean we get excited about seeing them like tourist from back East. We tell New Yorkers if they want wolves in Wyoming then they should first try them in Central Park. We hear things like, “What will become of a species burdened by myths about its “fierce and furious” nature?” like the comment in J Daily. And we want to drag them to a wolf killing and let them listen to the screams of the animal they ripped the hind end off of, leaving the animal to suffer unmercifully, and slowly die. Later they will return to dine once more. They will eat up to an extreme of 22 and 1/2 pounds of meat a sitting. Yup, not fierce and furious if you are a masochist? They only kill to feed themselves is another lie. They kill for a living and love it. They will kill for sheer sport.

I had a friend who thought these naive thoughts about predators until a badger returned night after night leaving 2 or 3  of her pet chickens with part of their insides ripped out and their favorite morsel eaten. In this state, the alive chicken was in dire pain but not yet dead. Out came the traps.

Mother Nature is brutal and when it is your calf or lamb or dog, it gets real personal in a hurry. A bottle fed bum calf was drug out of an open barn just below us two years ago. The Game and Fish figured it was a wolf by the choice of how it was attacked and I’m sure the tracks of course.

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Wolf tracks are the largest of the canine prints, up to 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 inches long and typically deeper owing to their weight of up to 175 pounds. A wolf track shows four toes on each foot and claw marks at the end of each toe. There tracks are aligned to save energy, not drunken like dog’s who’s prints are more rounded.

img_20200124_102524969As for the fox that is living in the gully but has yet, and I mean yet to attack our chickens, I spoke with the neighbor rancher and asked him to eliminate him. He likes that the fox is lowering the turkey population but we don’t want our feathered friends to depart including the Sharptail grouse and Hungarian Partridges which were completely wiped out just a few years ago. Now we have a whopping six to eight total that roam the area. We had a lone rooster pheasant a couple days ago too but usually the fox and coyotes completely wipe them out by spring. The Game and Fish send more each year for the predators to hunt. A few hunters shoot them on the 600 acres of government land by us but the residents here leave them alone or feed them hoping they can help them stand a chance. We are lucky if we have four come winter.

Yup, at first I was super excited and then reality struck. This could be bad, real bad. for us and our smaller livestock.

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