Red Lake Band receives $200,000 grant to track timber wolves
The Red Lake Band of Chippewa has received a $200,000 federal grant to launch a satellite tracking study of timber wolves on tribal lands.
According to Jay Huseby, wildlife director for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, the grant will allow the tribe to purchase 10 GPS collars to track timber wolves on tribal lands and learn more about the types of habitat they prefer.
The collars cost about $2,000 each, Huseby said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the grant this week as part of a $7 million package of Tribal Wildlife Grants the federal agency awarded to 37 American Indian tribes in 16 states.
Huseby said the timing is “perfect,” with the recent Fish and Wildlife Service announcement that it plans to remove wolves from federal protection in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. That will return wolf management to the states, and the Red Lake Band will have sole authority of managing wolves on tribal lands, which cover more than 840,000 acres near Upper and Lower Red Lake and parts of the Northwest Angle.
Five and five
If all goes according to plan, Huseby said the band will trap and collar the wolves this fall. The goal, he said, is to collar five wolves within the core of the Red Lake Indian Reservation and five on tribal lands at the Northwest Angle. He said the band hopes to tap into the expertise of biologists from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other agencies to capture the wolves.
Most likely, he said, the capture will involve padded leg-hold traps and large snares.
“As with any big predator, it’s going to be interesting,” Huseby said of the capture process, which also will require sedating the wolves to attach the collars. “We have people trained in handling animals, but there could be some issues with sedation. It will be nice to have an expert there to walk it through.”
The two-year tracking study marks the second phase of a research project that began in 2008. Huseby said the first phase involved getting information on wolf abundance and distribution to help the tribe develop its wolf management plan.
The initial research included trail cameras, Huseby said, but with the management plan now in place, being able to track wolves with satellite technology will be “huge,” in terms of the information it provides.
“It will help us get more detail,” he said.
Studies have shown Red Lake tribal lands have a potential population of 60 to 72 wolves, and the Northwest Angle has two permanent packs with 10 to 12 wolves each. But those numbers can change, based on movement to and from Canada, because the Northwest Angle is surrounded by Manitoba and Ontario on three sides.
The upcoming study will help shed light on the extent of that migration.
“The jurisdictional issue will be really complex up there with Manitoba, Ontario and state land,” Huseby said. “So any wolf issues could get really complex.”
Huseby said wolves are doing well on tribal lands, but some of the animals in the Northwest Angle have shown signs of mange, a contagious skin disease caused by parasites.
He said the band is working with the University of Minnesota’s veterinary diagnostics lab to deliver for testing the carcasses of any wolves that might be found.
“We put cameras out there for deer and saw wolves showing moderate signs of mange,” Huseby said. “What happens to a wild wolf when it gets mange? Does it make it or does it peel off from the rest of the pack and die?”
The upcoming study hopefully will help answer that question — and others.