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Idaho's Oldest Wolf Dies

Calif. Hunter

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Idaho's oldest wolf passes

By GREG STAHL, Express Staff Writer, May 5, 2004

Of all the wolves roaming the American West, an Idaho wolf named Chat Chaat was the oldest. In fact, the 13-year-old ward of the Endangered Species Act was one of the oldest wolves ever documented in the wild-anywhere.

In February, Chat Chaat's legacy was sealed when wildlife managers
received
a mortality signal from his radio collar. Because of his age and
because he
wasliving in an area where wolves have repeatedly clashed with
ranchers,
biologists feared he may have issued his last howl.

On April 15, after winter snows receded, three biologists trekked into
a
tributary of Herd Creek in the eastern White Cloud Mountains to
investigate
the old wolf's fate.

"There were no obvious signs of the cause of his death," said Jim
Holyan, a
wildlife biologist with the Nez Perce Tribe Wolf Recovery Project.
"There
was a bull elk that was dead near him. The supposition is that he might
have been kicked and died of internal injuries. Or he might have just
gotten old and died."

Although Holyan was not one of the biologists who helped investigate
the
site, he is on a team of researchers who is writing a paper about wolf
longevity in the Northern Rockies. Chat Chaat is the centerpiece for
the
paper.

"If we assume that he was four when he came down from Canada, he would
have
been 13.8 years old when he died," Holyan said. "I think as far as his
age
goes, he's very noteworthy. He's the oldest one we know of in the
Northern
Rockies."

Chat Chaat, who occasionally visited the Wood River Valley, was a large
wolf accented with cream colors. His head was large and blocky. Nez
Perce
Tribe Wolf Recovery Leader Curt Mack called him a "big bruiser" with a
"big, sturdy skeletal frame."

His name, given by Nez Perce students before his 1995 release, means
"Older
Brother" in Nez Perce. Like the stereotypical older sibling, he had a
strong aura about him.

"He had a real strong presence," said Suzanne Stone, Rocky Mountain
field
representative for Defenders of Wildlife and a member of the team that
helped capture wolves in Canada and release them to the wilds of Idaho
and
Wyoming. "He was one of the unusual wolves that looked through you
rather
than look at you. He wasn't afraid. He seemed to be the most sure of
himself, the most confident of those first four wolves that we
released."

Last winter, Chat Chaat was one of roughly four remaining wolves of the
original 66 that were reintroduced to Idaho in 1995 and 1996. He was
the
only remaining wolf of those released the first year.

During his years as a Gem State resident, Chat Chaat helped the wolf
recovery program to prosper. He fathered no fewer than 11 pups, and in
the
war of attrition that is subsistence in the wilds, B2 was a survivor.
His story embodies the successes and failures of the Idaho Wolf
Reintroduction Program. The very fact that he lived to attain senior
citizen status is a testament to the program's prosperity. Wolf
recovery in
the Northern Rockies is seen as a smashing biological success.
Conversely,
B2's interactions with livestock were evidence of the obstacles the
program
has yet to hurdle.

Chat Chaat was the second wolf set loose as part of the Idaho Wolf
Reintroduction Program. The name given to him by researchers was B2,
and
that name told the story of his citizenship. "B" signified that he
lived in
Idaho, and "2" related to his place among the 66 gray wolves captured
in
Canada and relocated to the American West.

When he was set free along the banks of the Salmon River on January 14,
1995, B2 was 4 years old. He was released immediately after a wolf
called
B5.

"I believe the first thing he did-he ran a few hundred yards and peed,"
Stone said. He was set free with a radio collar that had been anointed
by
the Nez Perce students with his name, Chat Chaat. While some of the
wolves
quickly denned up in easy-to-find locations, Chat Chaat was discreet.
In
the span of five years, biologists picked up his radio signal only 11
times, including a year when they didn't find him at all. He was
thought to
have traveled widely, and he was considered a loner.

"He was here, there and gone," Holyan said.

Mack put it this way: "My impression is that B2 covered an enormous
amount
of the country before he found a mate," he said. "We lost radio contact
with him for quite a while. There's a big gap of information there
where we
lost track of him."

Wildlife managers were at a loss to explain where he had gone until the
winter of 1998, when he was discovered in the Boulder Mountains near
Ketchum. He remained in the Sun Valley area until the winter of 1999,
when
he resumed his cryptic behavior and vanished. In 2000, however, he
emerged
on the east slope of the Pioneer Mountains along with a female wolf,
B66,
and the pair began to form a pack. They produced a litter of two pups
in
2000 and five in 2001.

At that point in his life, B2 was 10 years old, well over the hill in
wolf
years. When he was trapped that year and issued a new radio collar, his
age
showed.

"When we last handled him in 2001, we think he was pretty much blind,"
Holyan said. "His eyes were all clouded over with cataracts."

Despite his poor eyesight, B2 emerged as the alpha male for the
Wildhorse
Pack, which roamed the Copper Basin and upper reaches of the Big Lost
River, just east of Sun Valley.

"For an animal to be taken care of by his pack for so long, with his
cataract problems and obviously not being able to hunt for several
years
now, he must have been a pretty good wolf for the other wolves to take
care
of him," Stonesaid. "We've certainly seen other old wolves not be taken
care of, and even been hurt or killed by their pack members."

During the summer, the pack's territory overlapped three livestock
allotments on the Challis National Forest, and pack members interacted
with
cattle on a daily basis throughout the grazing season. In August of
2001,
after some of the wolves were implicated in their first livestock
depredation, one of B2's yearling pups was captured and relocated to
the
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area in Northern Idaho.

But the pack was about to fall into even greater disarray. In January
2002,
B2' s mate died, perhaps from a kick by an elk. The pack's behavior
grew
increasingly erratic, and none of its females ascended to the vacant
alpha
position. Devoid of pups, the wolves made extensive movements beyond
the
boundaries of their usual home range.

They traveled south to Carey, west of Hailey into the Smoky Mountains
and
into the East Fork of the Salmon River valley on the east slope of the
White Cloud Mountains.

At one point during their travels, the Wildhorse Pack wolves followed a
sheep band in Muldoon Canyon for three nights, picking off 16 sheep
before
moving on to another location.

"The Wildhorse Pack, presumably because they didn't have pups that
year,
kept moving," said Mike Stevens, manager of Lava Lake Land and
Livestock.
"We lost 16 sheep, but that was the end of it. It was a wake up call
for us
that we better be ready for the presence of wolves in our area."

After their extensive travels, the wolves returned to their home range
in
Copper Basin. But without a firmly established hierarchy, the pack
structure broke apart, and each wolf began ranging widely.

"B2 kind of just started roaming around and fell into the lap of his
newest
mate and started over," Holyan said.

The beleaguered B2 was 12 or 13 years old and had a little more kick in
him. Last June, B2 and an unfamiliar female wolf were seen at a den
site
north of Railroad Ridge in the White Cloud Mountains. There, amidst the
late-spring snow and spotty spring wildflowers, the two wolves were
discovered with four gray pups. The so-called Castle Peak Pack was
born,
with Chat Chaat, the "Older Brother," at the helm.

Although he was beat up, he continued as the pack's dominant alpha
wolf.

"In his case, I think it was all just fortuitous and by default,"
Holyan
said. "But being the age that he was, he was ripe for a fall
eventually."

During a wolf monitoring flight on Feb. 10, biologists picked up the
signal
from B2's radio collar, but the typical once-per-second beep had
doubled-the cue that the collar had not moved for more than four hours.
In
wolf monitoring parlance, it's called a mortality signal.

The subsequent four months cast increasing doubt on his chances for
survival. When the biologists found him April 15 along an unnamed
tributary
of Herd Creek, there was no clear sign about how he died, except the
nearby
elk carcass.

They cut off his head and left the rest of the carcass behind. His
skull
will be used for education purposes, and one of his teeth was sent to a
lab
in Montana to attempt to certifying his age.

"We're finding out that B2 is one of the oldest wolves on record," Mack
said.
"Thirteen is very old for a wild wolf."

"Boy, he lived for a long time for a wolf in the wild," Stone agreed.
"Average for a wolf is 7 or 8 years. He was definitely a senior citizen
for
a wolf."

If B2 was 13.8 years old, as biologists estimate, he was not only one
of
the oldest wolves ever documented. He was undoubtedly the oldest
actively
reproductive wolf.

The key to his longevity is less clear.

"You've just got to have good genes, predisposing you to that, but it's
also about setting up territory in places where there won't be trouble
with
humans and plenty of game," Holyan said. "Some of it is luck."
 

Calif. Hunter

Active member
Joined
Dec 13, 2000
Messages
5,185
Location
La Palma, CA, USA
I don't know why I didn't think of this before - it must be Bush's fault! He killed Chat Chaat!!! (He's to blame for all the problems, right? ) Just ask the regulars in Sportsman's Issues..... :D :D :D
 

WH's OutdoorsChick

New member
Joined
Nov 14, 2003
Messages
1,953
Location
Rochester, Washington
LOL at calf. Hunter!!!

Well B2 (Chat chaat) Was not only a stud with the ladies, but he was the most popular wolf also!! He lived a long time because he was happy and taken care of!

GO BOYYYYYYYY
 

ELKCHSR

New member
Joined
Nov 28, 2001
Messages
13,765
Location
Montana
Between Bush and them damned loggers, I don't know how any thing stay's living in this country... ;)
 
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