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Incident with wolves likely cost North Idaho elk hunter three horses

Nov. 6, 2002

On November 1 the Spokesman-Review ran an article telling how a North Idaho elk hunter "lost three horses after they were attacked by wolves at a campsite along the Little North Fork of the Clearwater River."

Before doing a story, I wanted to check out the facts to see if there was collaboration of the story of the "wolf attack" on elk hunter Bror Borjesson's horses.

I talked with Ed Bangs and Curt Mack. There are no witnesses to this attack except Borjesson himself and his family. He first told the U.S. Forest Service about his loss, and eventually the story filtered to Curt Mack, who co-manages Idaho wolves along with Carter Niemeyer.

The story goes that in the middle of the night, they were awakened by a "commotion near their horse trailer" where their 3 horses were tethered and by which the results of their elk hunt were hung.

By flashlight, the elk hunter saw four wolves attacking his horses, all of which were staining to break free. Two of them did break free and were chased some of the wolves. The third horse, a mare, flipped and broke her back. Borjesson shot the mare to put her out of misery. He has not found the other two horses.

When Curt Mack learned of the incident, Wildlife Services was dispatched to the remote area to investigate, but a heavy snowstorm prevented them from reaching the site. Mack told me that in their next wolf tracking flight (a week from now) they would fly the area looking for the 2 horses.

There is no reason to suspect the story is not true. However, it is more likely the wolves were after the elk carcasses, rather than the horses. The presence of wolves right next to the horses would likely cause a panic. Once the horses ran, wolves would probably pursue them a distance.

The incident was on public land. The horses were not involved in livestock operations, so they don't meet Defender's of Wildlife's criteria for compensation, although Defenders can always compensate for anything they choose.

The lesson is a hard learned by hunters in bear and wolf country. Elk carcasses should be hung well away from camp and certainly not next to horses.

Mack said the wolves were likely from the Marble Mountain Pack. This pack has been little studied. B48M, thought to be the alpha male, was found dead last year.  He had the only radio collar, but recently a new collar was placed on a member of the pack after a successful summertime trapping operation. The Marble Mountain Pack is thought to be the most northerly in Idaho replacing the Snow Peak Pack, which lost all of its collars and might have dispersed.

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  Copyright 2002 Ralph Maughan

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Ralph Maughan PO Box 8264, Pocatello, ID 83209