A gray wolf spotted by at least four South Park residents passed through a suburban subdivision Monday morning, Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials confirmed.
The lone wolf, which caused no problems, trotted by the Melody Ranch neighborhood and hopped a fence near Palomino Drive.
Its presence, a novelty to most residents, spurred an advisory email from Grand Teton Property Management to residents, and warden Kyle Lash conducted an informal investigation, Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke said.
The warden talked to eyewitness residents, found the animal’s tracks and determined the critter was likely a canis lupus and not a more common coyote.
“He’s pretty sure they were wolf tracks,” Gocke said. “He did think it was probably a juvenile or a younger wolf. It kind of makes sense that it could be a young disperser — it wouldn’t be uncommon to see that this time of year.”
The Melody Ranch wolf’s tracks led toward the Snake River, in the general direction of the South Park Feedground, Gocke said.
Nancy Hoffman was one of the Melody Ranch residents able to catch a glimpse of the solitary lobo. It came within about 10 feet of Hoffman’s living room window.
“I’ve never seen a wolf down there in my entire life,” Hoffman said. “It was a real blessing to see something like that.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “It had gorgeous yellow eyes and a black tip on its tail.”
Wolf movements into developed neighborhoods of Jackson Hole are not commonplace, but they also are far from unprecedented.
In early 2012, a small wolf pack frequenting the Indian Trails subdivision was targeted for removal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Those wolves, which badly injured a pet dog, loitered throughout much of the winter. At least one was killed by federal wildlife managers.
The lone Melody Ranch wolf, Hoffman said, was moving swiftly, as if it was “on a mission.”
Because the wolf caused no problems and appears to have moved on, there’s no reason for Game and Fish to attempt to capture or kill the animal, Gocke said.
Hunters, however, still have that opportunity.
South Park and other Teton County lands south of Highway 22 are managed as a special zone that alternates between a regulated hunt area and a free-fire zone, depending on the time of year.
The area, wolf hunt unit 12, is in the wolf predator zone from March 1 to Oct. 15. Between those dates, any wolf can be killed by any means, and no license is necessary.
There’s a managed hunt in area 12 from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
To allow wolves to disperse and exchange genetics, no hunting of wolves is allowed in the unit from Jan. 1 through the end of February.
No wolves were harvested in area 12 this regulated hunting season, but a kill was self-reported by a hunter who shot one out of season in January, according to Game and Fish reports.
Jackson Hole wildlife activist Lisa Robertson lamented that the Melody Ranch wolf happened to be wandering within the predator zone.
“Not only is this wolf in the dead zone, but it’s going to be a dead wolf,” Robertson said. “As soon as they hear that there’s a wolf out there, somebody is going to be out there gunning for it.”