Three partially eaten carcasses spotted from the air
After an exhaustive search on the morning of March 9, a wildlife capture crew under contract with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources spotted tracks from a helicopter but didn't find any wolves or wolf-dog hybrids.
The capture crew spent the morning following five sets of tracks. But because snow conditions on the ground were sporadic, they weren't able to locate the animals.
However, while the crew was following the tracks, they flew over the carcasses of three big game animals they believe the wolves, or wolf-dog hybrids, have been feeding on.
One of the dead animals was a moose. The remaining two animals—one a deer and the other an unidentifiable big game animal—died earlier this winter.
The wolves or wolf-dog hybrids had pulled the two animals out of the snow to feed on them.
(A wolf-dog hybrid is a cross between a wolf and a domestic dog.)
The location the crew searched in is a rugged, remote area east of Springville in north-central Utah.
In the next few days, DWR biologists will visit the areas where the carcasses are to see if they can find scat (droppings) left by the animals that were feeding on the carcasses.
"The scat may contain DNA that will tell us whether the animals are wolves or wolf-dog hybrids," says John Shivik, mammals coordinator for the DWR.
Shivik says it would take a couple of weeks for a lab at the University of California at Los Angeles to analyze the scat and provide results to the DWR.
Shivik says DWR biologists and personnel with the USDA-Wildlife Services will also play recorded wolf howls the next few nights, in the area where the animals were spotted, to see if they can get the animals to respond.
"Fortunately," Shivik says, "the capture crew will be in Utah for a few more days, working on some other projects for us.
"If the animals howl back," he says, "we'll be able to better pinpoint their location. Then, after the sun comes up, the capture crew can fly to that location to see if they can find them."