Wolves, Wolves, and More Wolves

          A Wild Year for BHWC’s Upper Big Hole Range Rider

This was an exciting year for our Range Rider, Chet Robertson. From helping to identify wolf kills, to obtaining brand-new equipment, to interviewing with local media, and encountering wildlife head-on in the forest, 2018 kept him on his toes!


In mid-August on one of his patrols, Chet had an in-person encounter with a wolf in the forest, a rarity in his 8 years of riding the range. To keep the wolf wary of humans, Chet yelled and fired a warning shot, which scared the wolf away into the timber. From Chet: “I spied what I first perceived to be a coyote, standing broadside in the middle of the turn, and staring at me from less than 80 feet. This was followed closely by the following exchange, which consumed less than a second, I’m sure, and went somewhat as follows: ‘Well, that’s a stupid coyote!’ And, ‘That’s a beefy coyote!’ in unison. Then, “THAT’S A WOLF!!!’ Almost without thinking, I pinned the throttle, and bouncing out through the timber, and sage, I commenced a pursuit of this beast. The wolf outsmarting me, he led me into a trap of fallen beetle kill, which surrounding me on three sides, compelling me to desist my chase.”


On the very same day (and only about 1/4 miles from where he saw the wolf), Chet found an injured calf laying all alone. He approached the calf, and when it made no move to rise and seemed in pretty bad shape, he called the owner and Graeme McDougal with Wildlife Services. By the next morning, the calf was dead and had been disemboweled. The carcass was wrapped in a tarp and interred at the owner’s ranch, and upon inspection by Wildlife Services, it was confirmed to be a wolf kill. Chet helped Graeme perform a necropsy on the calf and learned, in detail, how to identify a wolf kill. The rancher was reimbursed for his loss.


A few days later, Graeme removed two adult wolves from the area, suspecting that one or both were the culprits of the dead calf. Four pups were also spotted, but evaded capture. Neither of the two wolves killed were the mother of the pups, and after this removal, no further predation occurred in the area.


A few weeks later on another allotment, Chet found a calf carcass that he suspected was also a wolf-kill, but despite his best efforts to cover and preserve the carcass for later inspection, it was drug off and eaten by a bear, preventing any possible confirmation. What can we say? Bears will be bears!


Finally, Chet met with Montana Standard reporters in the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest to explain the importance and mechanics of our Range Rider program. To view that article, click the following link or type it into your web browser: https://mtstandard.com/news/local/big-hole-range-rider-tracks-wolves-toward-middle-ground/article_0ff4ac6d-5311-5e8c-8ad5-f151fd17fd4c.html.


We are lucky to have Chet — he is an ally to ranchers, wildlife, and conservationists alike (not to mention a pretty darn good guy)!