BILLINGS — A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist plans to use a helicopter in the Boulder River drainage south of Big Timber this month to put radio collars on wolves in two packs.
Abigail Nelson said timing of the project will depend on weather and likely will take just one day. Current plans call for flights late the week of Jan. 20-26.
The study involves locating wolf packs, tranquilizing at least one animal in each pack, fitting them with radio collars and releasing them at the same location. Biologists then can use radio receivers to track movement of the pack.
“We find it useful to track wolves using radio collars in areas where they overlap with livestock,” Nelson said. “In particular, knowing how many wolves are in a pack and where and when wolves use an area allows us tro make well-informed management decisions.”
Radio collars also help biologists obtain accurate population counts and follow up with management if livestock depredation occurs. Population counts are a key in determining harvest quotas and showing that Montana is adequately managing wolves to keep the species off of the federal Endangered Species List.
(Report by Bob Gibson * Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks * Region 5)