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Four Canadian Wolves Released Into Wilds of Idaho

<i> from Associated Press</i>

Four Canadian gray wolves bounded into heavy woods along the banks of the Salmon River on Saturday, moments after being released from metal crates that had held them for four days.

They were the first of 15 wolves to be set free in the central Idaho mountains by federal and state wildlife officials.

“My first thought is: ‘Thank God they’re walking,’ ” said Ed Bangs, coordinator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf reintroduction program.

The two male and two female wolves are all young adults. Bangs said he hopes that they will pair off and form a wolf pack nucleus.

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The wolves captured in Alberta had remained in crates since Wednesday because of legal disputes and then bad weather, which delayed the animals’ flight into a remote airstrip in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. They were trucked Friday from Missoula, Mont., to Salmon.

Dave Hunter, a state wildlife veterinarian, said the animals were still healthy, but he wanted them released as soon as possible.

“This has been a heck of a traumatic experience,” he said. “I don’t want to keep moving them hither and yon.”

Hunter said the trauma of having been captured and moved meant the wolves likely would not breed the first year. A pack can lose up to half of the pups in any year to harsh weather, predators or many other reasons.

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Thursday, eight wolves were placed in one-acre pens in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. Officials said Saturday they were doing well, feeding on elk and deer carcasses placed inside the pens. They will be in the pens for at least six weeks, then released.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to release 15 wolves in Idaho and 15 in Yellowstone this year, the start of a five-year effort to re-establish wolf populations in the northern Rocky Mountain states. The animals were wiped out there 60 years ago.

The wolves’ return is opposed by ranchers who fear they will stray out of the wilderness and kill livestock.


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