Thursday, August 13, 2020
Keeping Tabs on Wolves
Logan Miller helps dispose of a sheep suspected to have eaten poisonous plants, possibly lupine.
Wednesday, July 8, 2020



 A sheep killed by a bear, another sheep likely poisoned by plants, and the discovery of what appears to be wolf scat and tracks--all have made for a memorable first few weeks on the job for Logan Miller, the new field manager for the Wood River Wolf Project.

 Miller describes his work as getting to know the local ranchers and meeting their herders who are moving thousands of sheep through the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and neighboring U.S. Forest Service land.

 It’s all about “educating them about the different predators in the area and letting them know how to discourage them,” he says.

 His hope is that deterrence and minimizing conflict will lead to co-existence between sheep ranchers and wolves.

 Coyotes, bears, mountain lions, domestic dogs and wolves pose a threat to the bands of sheep. But wolves, he says, are at the bottom of the list because “they are much more skittish…they are responsible for a very low number of sheep depredations every year.”

 Most herders are armed with rifles. Miller’s goal is to provide the men with noise makers, such as starter pistols and bright flashing lights, so they have non-lethal ways to scare off predators.

 And if he needs to camp out to set up an increased human presence on site, he’s ready. His Subaru, which is about as old as he, is packed with a sleeping bag, tent, freeze dried food, water, bear spray and air horn.

 An avid hiker, biker and climber who just earned his Bachelor of Science in agricultural sustainability from Arizona State University, Miller is no stranger to these parts. His grandparents live in Bellevue, and he has worked on a trail crew in the SNRA.

 In his current position Miller has already hiked many miles to introduce himself to five herders and one camp tender. Miller grew up in Tucson, and studied Spanish before spending nine months of the past year in Mexico. His fluency is proving key to making personal connections now because so far all of the men he has met in the field are Peruvian.

 “They enjoy talking because they have no one else to talk with,” other than communicating with each other over cell phones, he notes.

 Miller aims to check in with each herder every week, either by phone or in person.

One morning last month he was awakened by a herder’s call about a bear killing a sheep. Guard dogs chased off the attacker. But, by the time Miller got there, the bear had returned and carried away the carcass.

 Another recent incident involved a volunteer who scopes out sites where sheep will be passing through in the future. He came across a large sheep who is believed to have died after eating too much lupine.

 “To get the body to decompose faster, we put it in a black plastic bag and leave it in the sun, then in a week or so dispose of it,” Miller explains.

 The next step is to pack it out and put the body in a dumpster.

 Another longtime volunteer logs a lot of miles to monitor the Wood River Wolf Project’s trail cameras that are placed in remote places to look for possible wolf signs.

 During his own explorations Miller followed an elk trail and spotted what he identified as wolf tracks; they were about four inches in size with claw marks. He has tried howling in the hills, but so far hasn’t heard any responses.

 Miller claims a number of wolves are in the valley, but “we don’t like to talk about the locations because people like to kill wolves.”

“They are very social family-oriented creatures, and a big problem we’re worried about this year is year-long hunting. We are worried it’ll disrupt the social structure,” he says.

 A wolf can learn to avoid sheep, he adds, but if, for example, a young wolf gets separated from the pack, it could act as unpredictably as a teenager.

 Wolves can travel about 15 miles a day. Bands of sheep go at varying speeds, depending if there are young lambs in the mix. Herders may switch camps every three or more days. So, it’s an ever-changing dynamic situation for Miller to watch over until October.

He would like to hear from the public of any wolf sightings in the area. Pictures, descriptions and details can be emailed to him at

 He finds he is already running out of equipment to give to herders and would also welcome community support to buy more Foxlights, solar panels, and starter pistols.

Now in its thirteenth season, the Wood River Wolf Project relies on donations and grants. For more information go to:




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