CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants people to report any more sightings of a black wolf that appears to have wandered a couple hundred miles east of Yellowstone National Park.
An officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services agency photographed the wolf Saturday not far from the Belle Ayre coal mine about 10 miles southeast of Gillette.
The wolf wore a radio collar but its gender is unknown.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wyoming wolf recovery coordinator Mike Jimenez said anybody who sees the wolf should call him at (307) 733-7096. If the wolf is causing problems, such as attacking livestock, calls should go to USDA Wildlife Services at (307) 261-5336, he said.
Male and female wolves both tend to disperse far from their home packs between 1 and 3 years of age. That's probably what this wolf is doing, Jimenez said Wednesday.
"It's difficult to say whether this wolf will stick around, or whether it's dispersing, and it could be miles away a week from now and nobody ever sees it again. We don't know," he said.
Many Yellowstone wolves wearing radio collars have dispersed over the years, so it's difficult to even guess the particular history of this wolf. The Yellowstone states — Idaho, Montana and Wyoming — share radio frequencies of wolf collars and could track the wolf if it got in range and its collar still was working.
Whether Fish and Wildlife attempts to track the wolf remains to be seen.
"For a single, dispersing wolf, we probably won't make a special flight just to look for that one. If it hangs around the area, we definitely will," Jimenez said.
Yellowstone wolves seldom roam so far east, although a vehicle killed one on Interstate 90 in western South Dakota in 2006. Other Yellowstone wolves have made it as far south as central Colorado and Utah.
A typical dispersing wolf covers 60 to 70 miles but they've been tracked more than 500 miles as a crow flies and as much as 4,000 miles over the ground, Jimenez said.
"We'll kind of just play it by ear," he said. "When they show up in a new area, as you can imagine, that gets a lot of attention."