ENTERPRISE, Ore. - Biologists captured three wolves last weekend and attached collars equipped with tracking devices to help study the movements of the endangered predators.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said all three wolves from the Imnaha Pack were in good condition.
Wildlife biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wallowa Whitman National Forest assisted ODFW with the capture and collaring of the three Imnaha pack wolves.
The wolves were found by locating radio collars already on the pack’s alpha female and another adult in the pack.
On Friday, the crews collared a yearling male wolf with a GPS unit. The device will automatically record its location and send the information to ODFW.
Crews also captured a yearling female and fitted her with a radio collar. That device will require biologists to actively search for the wolf with a tracking device.
On Saturday, the biologists put a GPS on a 2-year-old male wolf.
During the operation, biologists spotted the alpha male. He was originally GPS collared last February but his collar stopped working in May 2010, leading to concern that he had died or been shot.
“We did attempt to capture the alpha male but we were unable to get him to an appropriate location where we could safely dart him,” said Russ Morgan, who runs ODFW's wolf program.
The wolves were darted from the air by Morgan in a helicopter operated by Quicksilver Air. Difficult terrain and below zero temperatures made capture conditions tough.
ODFW also tried to locate the Wenaha pack during the capture/collar effort but did not find the pack.
ODFW and its partners will try to collar more members of the Imnaha and Wenaha packs this winter. Wolves tend to spend time in open country rather than the forest during the winter. That exposure is key to capturing the wolves from the air.