Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wandering Wolf Inspires Conservation Project


KANANASKIS STATION, Alberta — A wolf gave scientists the idea for Y2Y, the conservation collaborative covering the Rockies from the Yukon to Yellowstone.

Researchers captured the wolf, a female, near here on a rainy June day in 1991. They fitted her with a collar and satellite transmitter and, over the next two years, picked up signals as she moved north to Banff National Park, and then west into British Columbia, south across the United States border and through Glacier National Park to Browning, Mont., to Idaho and then to Washington and finally north again to British Columbia, where she stayed a few weeks before taking off on another looping trip south.

The wolf, named Pluie (ploo-WEE, rain in French) wandered an area of about 40,000 square miles, spending time with five packs. "We thought she was on a pickup truck for a while," said Paul Paquet, a zoologist with the World Wildlife Fund, who led the tracking effort. "She was moving so fast."

In December 1993, near Fernie, British Columbia, Pluie's collar issued its last signal. Soon after, someone sent its battery to Dr. Paquet. It had a bullet hole through it.

But Pluie was not dead, not yet. Two years later she turned up, with her batteryless collar, outside Invermere, British Columbia, near Kootenay National Park. She was with an adult male and three pups. A hunter had shot them all dead.

Pluie had shown that despite everything — roads, rails, people and buildings — large carnivores and their prey still roamed the Rocky Mountains. But she also showed that effective conservation must transcend state, provincial and national borders and provide a way to protect animals on the move from civilization's threats.

The grizzly bear is the official symbol of Y2Y. But Dr. Paquet said it was important for people to know about Pluie. "This was the founding story of Y2Y," he said. "Really, the whole idea evolved out of it."

  • N Y Times