Sunday, October 15, 2006

Forest Workers Evacuated After Hearing Wolves

KETCHUM, Idaho The sound of howling wolves prompted two "very scared" U.S. Forest Service employees from Utah to call for a helicopter evacuation from the Sawtooth wilderness, officials said.

The employees became frightened Sept. 23 after seeing wolves chase a bull elk across the meadow and later hearing the animals howl, said Ed Waldapfel, a spokesman for the Sawtooth National Forest.

The news shocked a wolf expert at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

"Holy moly - sounds to me like someone's read too many of Grimm's fairy tales," Steve Nadeau said. "I'm flabbergasted that (the Forest Service) would go to that extent over wolves howling in the woods because wolves howl in the woods all the time. That's how they communicate."

Waldapfel did not know the employees' names, but said they were from the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Ogden, Utah, and were conducting a forest inventory in the Sawtooths.

"They called on their radio or satellite phone and asked their supervisor if they could leave the area," Waldapfel told the Idaho Mountain Express.

"No matter which way they went they said they could hear the wolves," he said. "They admitted they were very scared and wanted to get out of the area."

The employees' supervisor called national forest officials and "asked for a helicopter to come in and retrieve them," Waldapfel said.

The wolves never made any aggressive moves toward the pair. There are no documented cases of wolves attacking humans in Idaho, though the employees may not have known that, Waldapfel said.

"They're not part of our regular work force and so they hadn't had training for this kind of wildlife encounter," he said.

Howling, especially in rocky, mountainous areas, can echo, said Lynne Stone, a Stanley resident who regularly observes wolf behavior.

"There are great wolf-howl acoustics. They probably weren't surrounded by wolves," Stone said. "I'd be more afraid of running into a moose cow with calves, or a black bear with cubs, than encountering howling wolves."

Sawtooth National Forest officials will review training procedures to better prepare out-of-area Forest Service personnel for the wildlife they may encounter while in Idaho.


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