Check out what is possibly the very first photo taken of wolves hunting elk on the slopes of Mt. Jumbo in Montana.
A resident of Rattlesnake Valley in Montana snapped these remarkable pictures of some sort of canine-like animal chasing after a herd of elk on Mt. Jumbo. The resident, Brian Nostrant, posted the images that he captured on his Facebook page.
They seem to show a large-sized canine harassing a herd of around 30 elk and forcing them into a defensive group. It is very possible that these are the very first images ever captured of wolves hunting elk on Mt. Jumbo.
Although the pictures seem to indicate that the canine is a wolf, that has not yet been 100 percent confirmed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists. There are some who believe the pictures shows a large coyote instead of a wolf. However, the almost black coloration of the canine and the behavior of the elk herd means that a wolf is not out of the question.
“I won’t definitively call them wolves, but domestic dogs generally don’t travel off leash, on top of a mountain, in pairs and seem to glide effortlessly through deep powder putting the fear of God into critters five times their size,” Nostrant wrote on his post according to the Missoulian. “Notice how the big bull keeps himself in the middle of the herd, well protected from all sides. The second ‘dog’ was over the top on the south side before I could take aim. All this excitement right in our little neighborhood.”
There was also a second possible wolf, but Nostrant was unable to get a picture of that one, as well. It ran over the crest of the ridge before he could retrieve his camera. There is also the possibility that the canine in the pictures was a domestic dog that was running loose. However, that also seems unlikely because most of the mountain is closed to hikers during the winter. There is one hiking trail open, but it is almost a half-mile and several hundred feet of vertical elevation away from the area where the pictures were taken.
“They seemed much bigger than a coyote, but it could be a big, husky kind of dog,” he said. “It wasn’t a golden retriever or Lab. The other dog or wolf or whatever, it beat them over the top. Once they crested, they all put the brakes on, and then there was panic again. They had one behind them and one over the hill, and they didn’t know where to go. So they stayed in the middle of the mountain.”
The photos have been looked at by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials, but no definitive answer was agreed upon. The department plans to hike up the mountain before another snowfall to search for tracks and other clues that the pictures do indeed show wolves hunting elk.
“There are some big coyotes on Mount Jumbo,” Missoula Parks and Recreation Conservation Lands Coordinator Morgan Valliant said. “From what I can tell from the photo, it’s pretty long way for an off-leash dog to go. And there’s nothing about a human being close by. Usually, if there’s an off-leash dog chasing wildlife, there’s a human chasing that off-leash dog.”
Even if the canines in the pictures turn out to have been wolves, there is no threat to the safety of the public. The area of the photos is a protected wildlife area and the canines in them were not exhibiting any unusual behavior for a wild predator.