Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wolves near Idaho City learn to chew off radio collars

IDAHO CITY -- You could call them smart or just lucky, but Idaho Fish and Game is facing a unique problem and biologists don't really know quite how to deal with it. The timberline wolf pack near Idaho City is giving the department a headache because the predators have found a way to chew of their radio collars. That’s how the agency tracks their movement.

It’s a rare site, a wolf staggering back into the woods after waking from a sedative. The Idaho Fish and Game department just put a radio collar on the two-year-old wolf this summer to follow its progress from the air and ground to learn more about the species, and keep track of Idaho’s wolf population.

“In order to count the number of wolves, radio collaring is the best technique that we know of,” said Steve Nadeau, Idaho Fish and Game Department. It’s a technique that takes a lot of time and effort. The wolves are trapped and sedated so that biologists can then place the heavy leather collar on the wolf. But now the timberline wolf pack is frustrating the department, and creating more work for biologists.

The wolves have learned how to chew off their radio collars.

“It is rather unique, probably one radio collar or one pack in 20 or 30 might learn to chew the radio collars. I think it might be a boredom thing. They look at it and wonder what that new necklace is all about and then they start chewing on it,” said Nadeau. Fish and Game usually replaces radio collars on wolf packs every three to four years. The timberline wolf pack needs replacements every year.

“It may just be one wolf out of the pack, or a multiple number, or the young ones, we really don't know right now. The two collars that we have in that pack are still on, but it doesn't mean they are hanging on with a full thread, they could be dangling, we don't know,” said Nadeau.

What the department does know is that wolves are smart and playful animals. They hope to figure out why or how the wolves learned to chew off these collars. Idaho Fish and Game checks in with radio collared wolves across the state every two to three weeks.


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