Mangy wolves

7-16-2006


We're are used to trying to get a classic photo of a beautiful wolf, but not all wolves make good subjects. It's not just the matter of the right light and a good pose.

Unfortunately, a number of wolves have been infested with the tiny mite that causes mange. This debilitates the wolf, makes it ugly and it stinks. In wintertime mangy wolves often die of exposure.

The photo below was taken by Jon Trapp of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks of a mangy wolf in the Mission Creek Pack which lives in the mountains east of Livingston, Montana. This is not a severe case. Most of the wolves in the general area of Livingston have, at least from time-to-time, acquired mange. Because of their debilitated condition, mangy wolves may also be more likely to attack easy prey such as domestic sheep.


Wolf SW28M of the 3-wolf Mission Creek Pack. A case of mange. Photo by Jon Trapp. Courtesy Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Ironically mange is not a native infestation, but was introduced in Montana in the early 1900s as a crude form of biological warfare against wolves and coyotes.

So far only one Yellowstone Park wolf pack has been infested. That was the Chief Joseph Pack, which gradually became more and more of pack that lived just north by northwest of the Park.

Mange has infested packs east the Park in Wyoming too and many more packs in SW Montana. So far no mange has been detected in Idaho's large, thriving wolf population.


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