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Wolf pack sighted east of Red Lodge


Wolf pack sighted east of Red Lodge






Wolf pack sighted east of Red Lodge

BY BRETT FRENCH
Gazette Outdoor Writer

A pack of five to seven wolves – two black, the others gray – has been
sighted east of Red Lodge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed
Wednesday.

The wolves could be from Wyoming and just on a walkabout, or it could be a
new pack, said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service in Helena. None of the wolves in the group wears a radio
collar, he said.

“It’s not unusual for big packs to split up,” Bangs said. But there have
been previous sightings of wolves in the area, which makes the officials
think the pack may have denned in the area last year.

“There’s been enough sightings in the area that we knew something was
going on,” Bangs said.

Bangs said pregnant female wolves will be denning soon. If that’s the
case, he said, wolf recovery officials would dart one of the wolves and
put a radio collar on it to keep track of the pack.

“This is pretty routine stuff,” he said.

Residents of Bearcreek, just over the hill east of Red Lodge, weren’t
impressed by the sighting.

“I’ve seen wolves here all my life,” said Rich Kotar, owner of the Hungry
Bear Café. Leaning back against the counter, his arms folded across his
chest, Kotar said he was born and raised in the town. His father used to
trap and occasionally would take a wolf.

“There’s no shortage of wolves around here,” he said. A neighbor saw one
on his front porch, he said.

“Now there’s too many of them. Pretty soon they’ll be in there trapping
them,” Kotar said of the federal government.

T.J. Camblin lives up a narrow draw where the coal mining boom once
created a town larger than Red Lodge. His children call their 100-year-old
homesite Coulee.

Although Camblin spends time outside fishing and hunting, he said he’s
seen no sign of wolves, although he’s run across a fair share of moose,
bears and even had a few coyotes walk up the road.

Camblin said his grandfather shot one of the last wolves near Gillette,
Wyo., years ago. But he said if there are wolves roaming the hills around
his remote home, “They ain’t gonna bother me none.”

The wolves aren’t the first to venture out along the Beartooth Front. A
litter of eight pups was born near Red Lodge in 1995. The lead male of the
pack was killed illegally nearby. Biologists collected the litter and its
mother and moved them from Red Lodge back to Yellowstone National Park,
where the group – called the Rose Creek pack – rebuilt itself and has
remained since.

The pups were the first young born to wolves freed in Yellowstone under
the federal wolf recovery plan.

In 1996, a pack and its pups that denned near Nye on the Custer National
Forest also was moved to prevent confrontations with livestock. And the
same year the Soda Butte pack denned on private land near the town of
Roscoe.

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