HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — Mountain lions have killed two radio-collared wolves in the Bitterroot Valley since January, a state wolf specialist in Montana says, and two others were killed last year.
“I haven't heard of it happening anywhere else,'' Liz Bradley of Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks told the Ravalli Republic (http://bit.ly/LUyQq8). “It's pretty interesting that the Bitterroot has had so many.''
She found a dead wolf last week with skull puncture wounds that are a trademark of a mountain lion.
“It's hard to say what happened,'' Bradley said. “There was no elk or deer carcass nearby that they may have been competing over.''
She said the lion ate part of the wolf and covered the rest with debris.
In January, she found another dead wolf west of Lolo with the same wounds. In that case, a deer carcass nearby indicated that the two predators apparently fought.
“That one was probably a conflict,'' she said. “They compete for the same resource. When there is overlap in areas where you have lots of prey, conflicts occur.''
She said last year she found two other wolves with puncture wounds in their skulls. Now, only four packs in the Bitterroot Valley have a wolf with a radio collar. At the end of last year, Bradley had collars in seven packs in the Bitterroot. She estimates that there are 14 packs in the area.
“It's too bad because we don't have those now,'' she said. “Ideally, we would have at least half of the packs collared in the Bitterroot.''
She said the largest pack has nine wolves, while most have four to seven, and that several just have a male and female. The number of wolves in the area is between 60 and 70.
“That's a little bit lower than what we had in 2011,'' she said. “We had about 80 last year. We had some mortality.''