Leaving Tracks

The capture of wolf No. 1553

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The endangered wolf population is closely managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Each year, the wolves are counted. Some also are caught, examined by veterinarians and fit with a tracking collar.

Since 1998, the wolf population has increased tenfold.

"Anytime you go from zero animals in the wild to a population of over a hundred, that’s something that’s pretty significant."

John Oakleaf, Field Projects Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

While they wait, biologists prepare darts that contain the anesthetic Telazol and are tipped with antibacterial ointment. This drug is considered safe, and the effects wear off in a few hours.

The field team spots a wolf from the helicopter in western New Mexico.



“We’ve got a visual alpha-tango-quebec and a point of visual on a single wolf.”

Jan. 30, 2018
2 p.m.
Wolf No. 1553 of the Sheepherders Ball Park pack is captured.
The animal is a dominant female, about 2 years old.

The team has about 30 minutes to fit No. 1553 with a radio collar, draw blood, give vaccinations and take her measurements. Then the wolf is returned to a crate and returned to her territory.

The release team watches and waits until the drugs wear off.

“The family unit is so strong in wolves. They seem to find their pack very quickly.”
Susan Dicks, Veterinarian

This year, 24 wolves were caught, the most to date.

Story and photos by Jenna Miller
Video by Adriana De Alba
Graphics by Eric Jakows
Data and wildlife camera footage provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Read the full story here