Kevin Woster Journal staff
Tribal wildlife officials on the Pine Ridge Reservation are trying to determine the origins of a wolf that was found dead Monday morning along U.S. Highway 18 a few miles east of the town of Pine Ridge.
Trudy Ecoffey, senior wildlife biologist for the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority, said Monday afternoon that the wolf weighed 130 pounds. It apparently was struck by a vehicle and killed sometime Sunday night or Monday morning, Ecoffey said.
The wolf was wearing a transmitter collar, she said.
“We haven’t determined where he came from yet,” Ecoffey said. “It was a young male wolf. He was in real good condition.”
The carcass will be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for positive identification, she said. Meanwhile, Ecoffey has been in contact with Mike Jimenez, a wolf management coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Jackson, Wyo.
Jimenez said Monday that based on information from Ecoffey on the transmitter collar, the wolf likely came out of a population in Wyoming. Although the main population is in the Yellowstone Park area, wolves disperse into the Bighorn Mountains and elsewhere, Jimenez said.
Sometimes they go much farther than that.
“In the northern Rockies, the average wolf dispersal is 65 miles,” Jimenez said. “But we’ve recorded them going over 500 miles.”
Wolves typically disperse when they reach sexual maturity at 2 to 2-½ years.
“That’s when they go looking for a mate,” he said.
Those that head east into South Dakota from the Rocky Mountain area are in for “slim pickins’” in the wolf mating game, Jimenez said.
South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department biologists said the state does not have a resident wolf population. Wolves are periodic visitors to South Dakota, migrating into the area from populations from the Great Lakes to the east and the northern Rocky Mountains to the west.
A wolf was killed near Custer last winter. Genetic testing indicated it was from the Great Lakes population.
Ecoffey said there had been several reported wolf sightings in the Pine Ridge area before the male was found dead near the Wolf Creek Community.
“It’s kind of ironic that’s where it ended up,” she said.