The Colville Tribes’ wolf trapping team has captured and collared two gray wolves over a two-day period near the San Poil drainage area.
It was the first official report of wolves actually being on the reservation in over 100 years, officials stated June 8.
In making the announcement, Colville Business Council President Michael O. Finley said the radio collars on the two wolves will help Tribal Fish & Wildlife officials track their movements.
The wolf trapping team was made up of Randy Friedlander, Rose Gerlinger, Sam Rushing, Richard Whitney, Eric Krausz, Kodi Jo Jaspers, Donovan Antoine and Rick Desatuel. Others participated in other aspects of the wolf project.
“It took several weeks of looking and seven days to capture the first wolf,” Finley stated. “But the very next day they captured the second.” The wolves were captured June 4 and 5.
There have been reported wolf sightings in the area over the past few months, and wildlife personnel recently used wolf calls in the rugged, primitive area where they were later found. The wolves answered back.
The wolf team was assisted by professional trapper Carter Niemeyer from Boise. He has located and trapped more than 300 wolves, but none of them took as long as it did to trap a wolf at the San Poil location.
Both of the now radio-collared wolves were captured with a “foot hold” trap, which did no harm to the animals. The wolves were immobilized briefly in order that they could be safely weighed and collared. Niemeyer demonstrated that the traps didn’t hurt the wolves when he snapped one on his own hand.
The first wolf was a female, about 14 months old and weighed in at 68 pounds, Joe Peone, director of the Tribes’ Fish and Wildlife Department stated. The second wolf, a male, and about the same age, weighed 71 pounds.
“We know that wolves are a controversial species, and our own people have differing opinions about them, just like anywhere else” Peone said. “Indian people have a strong spiritual connection to the wolves, but we also have a long tradition of hunting deer, elk and moose with great success.”
Asked about what he has learned in his career as a professional trapper, Niemeyer said, “I think people will find that wolves are not as bad as many people fear and not as good as many people hope.”
Wolves generally feed on deer, elk and moose and tend to feed on diseased and injured animals, keeping the overall herd healthy.
Friedlander, wildlife program manager for the Fish & Wildlife Department, said the tribes’ biologists believe these wolves migrated to the area from either Canada or Idaho.
Friedlander said it is thought that there are three to four adult wolves in the area.
The pack has been named “Nc’icn” (pronounced nn-seetsin).the Okanogan name for wolf.
Desautel attended the animals to assure that their eyes, which remained open, were not damaged while they were weighed and collared.
“It was an honor to be a part of it, to see firsthand these wolves of the Nc’icn Pack,” he said.
Peone said the tribe anticipates that there are other packs on the reservation.
“Our staff will be working hard to locate more wolves over the next three months,” he said. “The more information we have, the better we will be able to manage the wolf population here.”
The tribes’ Fish and Wildlife Department will use the data collected from the collars to help establish the home range of the Nc’icn Pack. It will also help the tribes to estimate how many animals are on the reservation. Tribal biologists are continuing to develop a wolf management plan. In the meantime, their wolf trapping efforts will continue, Peone stated.