Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is investigating reports of a pack of wolves in the Floweree area 25 miles northeast of Great Falls.
Floweree resident Diane Walker, who last year had two grizzly bears on her property, reported the wolves. Walker says she saw a single wolf on Friday as she was driving into Floweree, two black wolves and a silvery brown wolf on Saturday and five black wolves on Sunday.
“There is no mistaking wolves,” Walker said. “You don’t mix them up with coyotes.
“Their front shoulders are so big, and they move in a different way than a coyote,” Walker said. “There are a few dogs in Floweree, but they are all small.”
FWP Warden Captain Mike Martin in Great Falls said his department received a report of two wolves from Russell Salisbury, also of Floweree.
On Thursday morning, Floweree farmer Ryan Rominger reported that he found a dead deer in his lane that had been fed on by some kind of canine, Martin said.
But Martin said a FWP wildlife biologist looking at photos of tracks near the deer said they were too small to be a wolf.
“The tracks are only about 3 inches in length,” Martin said. “We don’t know what killed (the deer), but it definitely was fed on by a canine. Whether that was a local dog, a coyote or a small wolf, I cannot say,” Martin said.
Martin said FWP is taking the reports of wolves seriously.
“Absolutely we are taking it seriously,” Martin said. “We are investigating, and we believe it is possible.
“Wolves are expanding. I started here in 2005 and never heard of a wolf report, and since then they have exploded along the eastern Front. And we have had reports from south of Cascade and in the Wolf Creek area.”
Walker said people have been seeing wolves between Floweree and Carter for six or seven years but not often.
“We have been seeing one or two a year,” Walker said. “There have been two black ones between here and Carter that we have been seeing.”
She said the wolves she saw early Saturday as she drank coffee and looked out her picture window toward the Highwood Mountains “were just sort of lolling about” in a stubble field.
“They are probably looking for something to eat. All I can think of would be mice,” Walker said.
Walker says her daughter, Shannon, and a hired hand also have seen the wolves.
“On Sunday morning, the hired man came ripping over and said, ‘My God, there are five black wolves in that field over there,'” Walker said.
Quentin Kujala, a wildlife manager for FWP, said the report of wolves in Floweree is not a surprise within the context that wolf numbers are increasing and their territory expanding in Montana.
“There certainly is keen interest in getting a confirmation,” he said. “Is that a transient presence? Is it well established in the context of pack? Those are the kinds of questions we would like to answer.
“The wolf population is healthy and robust and growing in Montana,” Kujala said.
Montana is in the early stages of its second wolf hunting season and the state’s wolf management plan calls for killing 220 wolves across the 14 wolf management units. Each wolf management unit also has its own quota.
The aim is to reduce the wolf population in Montana by about 25 percent, to 425 wolves.
Floweree is in WMU 400, which runs from the Continental Divide east to North Dakota and is north of Montana Highway 200 to the Canadian border.
The quota is 10 wolves in WMA 400. One wolf already has been killed by an archer who shot the animal on the Rocky Mountain Front.