by J. Scott Olmsted - Friday, February 27, 2015
Feb. 25—The headline today is "Wrong Dog." Caleb and I checked his wolf trapline. He caught a coyote in a leghold trap designed for a wolf. In fact wolves frequented the area after the coyote was trapped. They might have given the lesser canine fits—but why they didn't kill it is a mystery. Anyway, we could tell there had been a ruckus.
Caleb skinned the coyote and we pressed on. We could tell wolves had been near the next trap but probably were wise to it. It did not hold a wolf—let's just leave it at that. Wolves are the smartest critters out here. Caleb has told me that, and today I saw plenty of evidence to back up the claim.
At 7,000 feet we came across what looked to be the motherlode of wolf sign we've been looking for. At an intersection of snow-covered Forest Service logging roads we saw fresh tracks everywhere—made last night or possibly this morning. The wolves had urinated everywhere, too, and defecated. The place reeked. Caleb buzzed up and down two roads to decide which way we should go next. When he came back 30 minutes later he sounded like a detective at a crime scene. He thumbed over his shoulder and said, "They went that way."
Only problem is we still hit a dead end. Eventually we found so many fresh tracks we should have been able to pick a solid direction in which to stalk/track. But we could not decide what the wolves were doing. At one point tracks from perhaps a pack of nine wolves went everywhere. Maybe they drew straws and the pack member who drew the short one had to lay decoy tracks.
Seriously, though, this is fun stuff—and educational. I am learning so much about an apex predator. Today we logged 72 miles, mostly by snowmobile. And the temperatures are warming. I like that, except when I sink waist-deep in snow at 7,000 feet. Kinda hard to get out of such a predicament.
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