BILLINGS – A rancher legally harvested a wolf on his property 40 miles east of Billings Tuesday. The rancher, who held a Montana wolf hunting license, said he harvested the wolf after it chased some of his cattle away from a coulee where he was feeding them.
The wolf was a young male and weighed about 100 pounds. The rancher said he did not see other wolves and did not believe the animal killed or injured any of his cattle. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials inspected and tagged the animal Tuesday.
FWP wolf specialist Abbie Nelson said there is no way to know where the wolf came from. During this time of year lone wolves – and young males in particular – can travel hundreds of miles in search of a mate. Since the rancher did not see other wolves it is likely that the wolf was passing through the area, she said.
About 10 percent of the known wolf population goes into dispersal every year, a natural life history trait for sexually mature wolves, Nelson said. The average age of dispersing wolves is 2.5 years. The next month is breeding season for wolves, when they tend to move around more.
The average dispersal distance is 50 to 60 miles, but recent examples from Montana show that longer dispersals are not uncommon. Wolves have been tracked more than 300 miles from Jackson, Wyo., to Broadus and from Livingston to Canmore, Alberta.
Though some residents may be surprised that a wolf was harvested east of Billings, Nelson said it is not unique. While wolf populations and management activities are largely focused on western Montana and wildlands in and around Yellowstone National Park, wolves are not unheard of much further east. A hunter harvested a wolf in Valley County near Glasgow Jan. 9, 2019. And Nelson has heard recent reports of wolf sightings near the Crow Reservation. Last year biologists tracked a small pack of wolves from Wyoming through the Clarks Fork River drainage until one was harvested south of Joliet. Several years ago a collared wolf was tracked for weeks from northeastern Washington to central Montana, north of Judith Gap, where it was killed.
(via MT FWP)