Loved and maligned, wolves spotted in Summit County |

Loved and maligned, wolves spotted in Summit County

Few animals in the West are as loved and maligned as the wolf, making its potential re-entry into Summit County a testy topic for ranchers and environmentalists.

"It would only take a wolf three or four days to get from the Tetons to Utah," said Kirk Robinson, director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy.

Wildlife officers recently investigated reported sightings of several wolves in Summit County. While not confirming the sightings, officers are bracing for the arrival of another predator.

"Last week I got a call from a lady who lives in Pinebrook who claimed she saw one from the Jeremy Store," said Dave Swenson, a Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer.

Typically this many wolf sightings aren’t reported each spring, he said, adding that the woman described the animal as being a similar color as the brush.

"Historically, it’s unusual because we haven’t had wolves for so long," Swenson said.

Still, in a separate sighting reported Feb. 15, a Jeremy Ranch resident told a Summit County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher four wolves were walking near Ecker Hill Middle School at 3:45 p.m.

"I’m not saying ‘yea,’ or ‘nay,’" Swenson said. "Eventually, we’ll probably see a few."

In 2002 a wolf captured in neighboring Morgan County was believed to have strayed from packs living in Idaho or Wyoming.

So Henefer resident Kent Jones said he wasn’t surprised when men he rides snowmobiles with told him they spotted two wolves near Lewis Peak last month.

"I hope [wolves] don’t get a foothold here," Jones said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I think they are going to greatly reduce the wildlife by going after deer and elk herds, besides the potential damage to sheep and livestock."

The wolves seen near Lewis Peak were only a few miles from Jeremy Ranch, he explained.

"They were up in between East Canyon and Lewis Peak," Jones said. "It is a little shocking to know that right where you had just been, they’re that close to you. But it doesn’t surprise me because I think there have been other sightings in the past couple years."

Meanwhile, biologists insist wolves improve the health of the environment.

"We have an ethical responsibility to allow them to regain their rightful place in the ecosystem," Robinson said. "People should quit whining, get educated and learn to live with them."

With wolves near extinction, several years ago scientists have successfully re-introduced the animals to Yellowstone National Park, in northwest Wyoming.

"We are not far from a major source population of wolves in the greater Yellowstone area," Robinson said. "They’ve already been here, in Morgan and Cache and Rich and Box Elder counties."

Wolves, which can weigh 125 pounds, are generally much larger than coyotes, he explained, adding that wolves’ ears are smaller in relation to their heads.

Coyotes have bushier tails, which they hold down, while wolves hold their tails straight, Robinson said, adding that coyotes have narrower snouts.

"Wolves will often be different colors, very black, almost white, but most of them are pretty gray," Robinson said.

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