Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Idaho man says he was stalked by black wolves

The Associated Press

CHALLIS, Idaho (AP) -- A Challis man out searching for shed antlers said two black wolves stalked him, tried to get behind him, and bared their teeth at him before he was able to retreat to his vehicle. "They had full intentions of coming in to get me," Daniel Woodbridge told the Idaho State Journal about Wednesday's encounter. "They were just waiting for the right time."

It's the second time in two weeks that a person looking for shed antlers in central Idaho has reported being stalked by wolves. Jason Husseman, a biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, investigated Wednesday's incident with a wildlife officer. Husseman said the two wolves were part of the Morgan Creek Pack, made up of at least 13 black wolves. He said the pack could be digging dens in the area.

Woodbridge said he was looking for antlers in the sagebrush outside Challis near Darling Creek. Deer and elk antlers shed during winter are collected by entrepreneurs for use in dietary and medicinal supplements and decorative furniture. Woodbridge said he had encountered wolves during the winter and never had a problem, so he wasn't alarmed when he saw two black wolves about 100 yards away.

Hiking alone and unarmed, Woodbridge said he stood so the wolves could see he was a human, and then tried to get upwind so they could smell him. "But my scent didn't scare them at all," he said.

He said when the wolves caught his scent they came forward. Woodbridge said that when they got about 30 yards away he charged toward them, yelling and throwing rocks. He said the larger of the two wolves bared its teeth and howled, and the second tried to circle behind him. "They made noises everywhere from dog barks to growling to a kind of chomping sound," he said.

The wolves stayed about 20 yards away, Woodbridge said, as he retreated toward his truck. Then he went over a ridge where the wolves couldn't see him. "As soon as I got out of sight I ran for everything I was worth," he said.

Woodbridge said that the larger of the two wolves started chasing him when it saw Woodbridge running, and the other wolf tried to get ahead of him in a gully. "When he saw the truck he slowed down," he said. "He'd look at me and then at the truck like he didn't understand."

On Thursday, Husseman and wildlife officer Merrit Horsman went to the area and howled, causing the wolves to move toward them. "They were acting like they did not want us in the area," he said. "So we did a little hazing, walked toward them and ran them out of there."

He said dens in the area could have caused the wolves' behavior toward Woodbridge. Husseman said he's seen similar behavior while counting pups. "Basically, they'll just escort you out of the area," Husseman said.

He said Woodbridge did the right thing in the encounter. "If you feel your life is in danger you have the right to protect yourself," Husseman said. "Whether it's a wolf, a mountain lion or a bear."

Two weeks ago, Rick Turner said he and his dog were stalked by a large black wolf in Connelly Gulch outside of Northfork. Biologists who investigated that incident said the wolf was likely after Turner's dog.

Also that week, the operator of a ranch in Leadore shot two wolves after finding tracks leading to a dead calf. Fish and Game officials are investigating that incident.

Wolves have not attacked humans in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming since the wolf reintroduction, Husseman said. "They're wild animals. I'm not going to say it won't happen," he said. "I'm not worried about it and I spend a lot of time real close to wolves."

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