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Biologists sending out wolf calls to locate possible wolf pack in Diamond Fork Canyon

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 6:53 p.m. MDT

FILE - This undated image provided by the National Park Service shows a gray wolf in the wild. Western ranchers say they’re hopeful the removal of gray wolves from the federal endangered species list will make it easier to hunt the predators and stem losses of cattle and sheep. (AP Photo/National Park Service, File) (Anonymous, AP) FILE - This undated image provided by the National Park Service shows a gray wolf in the wild. Western ranchers say they’re hopeful the removal of gray wolves from the federal endangered species list will make it easier to hunt the predators and stem losses of cattle and sheep. (AP Photo/National Park Service, File) (Anonymous, AP)

SPANISH FORK — Numerous sightings of what might be a pack of wild wolves have drawn the attention of wildlife experts to Diamond Fork Canyon in the mountains east of here.

In yet another attempt to attract the animals for confirmation and tracking purposes, biologists are sending out calls and listening for the wolves to talk back.

"(It's) just sort of saying, 'I'm here. This is my territory. Is anybody else out there?'" said Kim Hersey, a biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Hersey was using an electronic device to send out high-pitched wolf "calls" last week and said she did receive a response that was "consistent with a wolf howl."

If it was a returning wolf call, and experts can get close enough to do some testing, it would be the first confirmed wolf pack in Utah since they were exterminated nearly a century ago.

This Aug. 4, 2010 file photo provided by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a male wolf captured and fitted with a radio tracking collar in Northeastern Oregon. The agency said Thursday it would kill two young wolves from the Imnaha pack following another confirmed wolf attack on cattle.  (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Associated Press) This Aug. 4, 2010 file photo provided by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a male wolf captured and fitted with a radio tracking collar in Northeastern Oregon. The agency said Thursday it would kill two young wolves from the Imnaha pack following another confirmed wolf attack on cattle. (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Associated Press)

Hersey said she saw an animal on the road a few weeks ago.

"It ran off into the bushes. And after a little while, howling at it, I was able to get a howl response from that animal," she said. "It was not a coyote. I, definitely, when I saw it, I thought wolf."

In the fall of 2010, a photo taken by a hunter was documented as the first solid evidence of the possibility of wolves in Utah, according to DWR officials. The animal in the photos appeared to be a wolf or a wolf-dog hybrid.

A year later, a calf-kill in the area looked to be the work of a wolf, and there were several other sightings reported by the public, including in nearby Hobble Creek Canyon.

In March, biologists flew in helicopters over the area, spotting what appeared to be four of the animals together, but they couldn't trace them very far. More recently, they tried putting out fresh meat, with motion-detector cameras standing by, but nothing has turned up.

"There's definitely a larger carnivore out there, a dog of some sort," Hersey said, adding that if a person sees a wolf, they'd likely know it by the large size of the animal. It would also leave prints much larger than a human hand and have a long stride. Characteristically, the elusive animal would most likely avoid a busy highway or road-kill.

FILE - This Jan. 9, 2003 file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a 130-pound gray wolf as it watches biologists in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Defying federal authority over gray wolves, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday encouraged ranchers to kill wolves that prey on their livestock _ even in areas where that is not currently allowed _ and said the state will start shooting packs that hurt elk herds.  Schweitzer told The Associated Press he no longer would wait for federal officials to resolve the tangle of lawsuits over wolves, which has kept the animals on the endangered species list for a decade since recovery goals were first met.   (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, William Campbell, File, Associated Press) FILE - This Jan. 9, 2003 file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a 130-pound gray wolf as it watches biologists in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Defying federal authority over gray wolves, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday encouraged ranchers to kill wolves that prey on their livestock _ even in areas where that is not currently allowed _ and said the state will start shooting packs that hurt elk herds. Schweitzer told The Associated Press he no longer would wait for federal officials to resolve the tangle of lawsuits over wolves, which has kept the animals on the endangered species list for a decade since recovery goals were first met. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, William Campbell, File, Associated Press)

Anyone who sees the animals is encouraged to call the DWR's Springville office at 801-491-5678.

Wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act in the state, except for a small section in northern Utah and because of the protections in place, management of wolves falls under the purview of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

If the animals are caught and found to be a hybrid, or a mix with a dog breed, Hersey said the animals will be put down.

E-mail: hollenhorst@desnews.com

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