Gray wolves collared on Colville Reservation

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A gray wolf peers out after being recently collared by Colville Tribe wildlife experts in a remote location in the San Poil area of the Colville Reservation in Washington.

NESPELEM, Wash. — The Colville Tribes’  wolf trapping team has captured and collared two gray wolves in two days at a remote location this week on the Colville Reservation—an historic event for the Tribes, announced Colville Business Council Chairman Michael O. Finley.

Finley said the wolves were captured June 4 and June 5 and outfitted with tracking collars that will transmit important data and allow the Tribes’ Fish and Wildlife Department to follow their movements.

“We’re pleased that this effort was such a success,” Finley said. “It will provide our Fish and Wildlife Department with very useful information about wolves in our homeland.”

“It took several weeks of looking and seven days to capture the first wolf,” he said. “But the very next day they found the second.”

The Tribes’ trapping team—Randy Friedlander, Rose Gerlinger, Sam Rushing, Richard Whitney, Eric Krausz, Kodi Jo Jaspers, Donovan Antoine, and Rick Desatuel—all employees of Colville’s Fish and Wildlife Department, were assisted in locating and capturing wolves by Carter Niemeyer, from Boise, ID. Niemeyer is a professional wolf trapper with several decades’ experience of working for various federal and state wildlife agencies. He has located and trapped more than 300 wolves during his career, but this job was particularly challenging, and set a new record of sorts for him. Never before has it taken Niemeyer so long to locate and capture a wolf in the wild.

When 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.”

The first wolf captured, a female, is approximately 14 months old and weighed in at 68 pounds,” Joe Peone, Director of the Tribes’ Fish and Wildlife Department, said today. “The second was a male about the same age, weighing 71 pounds.”

Both were captured with a “foot hold” trap which did no harm to the animals. They were immobilized briefly in order that they could be safely weighed and collared.

“This was a great effort by our wolf trapping team’,” Peone said. “We’re very proud of them and what they’ve accomplished this week.”

“We know that wolves are a controversial species, and our own people have differing opinions about them, just like anywhere else,” he 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.”

Randy Friedlander, Wildlife Program Manager for the Fish and Wildlife Department, said the Tribes’ biologists believe these wolves migrated to the area from either Canada or Idaho. They were located in the San Poil.

“San Poil, in the Okanogan language, means ‘grey mist as far as one can see,” Friedlander said. “It’s a perfect description of the weather on the morning we captured the first wolf.”

He added that Carter Niemeyer provided “an invaluable training experience for our team.”

“The traps he uses are very humane. Carter demonstrated this by snapping a trap on his own hand, and it did no damage. From now on, our employees will be able to conduct wolf trapping on their own.”

Friedlander said it’s thought that there are three to four adult wolves in the area. The Tribes’ wolf trapping team has named them the “Nc’icn Pack” “Nc’icn,” pronounced nn-seetsin, is the Okanogan word for wolf.

Friedlander said that if the initial ‘n’ sound is removed from this word, it then means “back talking young child” in the Okanogan language.

“This would also be a fitting name for the vocal wolves in the Nc’icn Pack,” he said.

Rick Desatuel, a Tribal wildlife technician, attended to the immobilized animals to assure their eyes—which remain open—were not damaged while they were weighed and collared. Desatuel noted that these are the first wolves to be trapped in the area in over a century.

“It’s been more than a hundred years since a wolf was trapped on our reservation,” he said. “It was an honor to be a part of it, to see firsthand these youngsters of the Nc’cin Pack.”

Peone noted that although his team has found one pack to date, they anticipate there are others. 

“Colville Wildlife 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.

 

 

Rick Disatuel, Colville Tribe's wildlife technician, covers the eyes of an immobilized wolf during a recent collaring process that took place in a remote location on the Colville Reservation. Although immobilized, the animal’s eyes remain open and must be protected from damage.

 

A male gray wolf that was captured and collared June 5 on the Colville Reservation walks through the remote area where it and another wolf tagged by wildlife technicians.

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