In His Own Words...
The door’s off. I’m in a harness, and my feet are on the skids. If it’s around zero, your hands go quick. I wear skin-tight gloves under mitts. I throw the mitts aside, load the dart and we’re going in.
What was unique about 692 was that she came at us with an abnormal amount of spite and vengeance. The first time, in 2009, she ran trying to escape, and when she realized she couldn’t, she attacked. I’ve never had a female attack the helicopter. You want to shoot a dart into their butt. But she ran at us several times. I can’t shoot a wolf in the face. After she was darted, as we slid by, she jumped, her mouth open with all her teeth.
But her collar quit, and the next winter we had to do it again. This time, she knew what was up and came right for us. She jumped off the ground. My feet are braced on the skid, and I see her jaws just miss my feet. The pilot goes “Whoa!” and pops the machine up 10 feet or so. She’s facing us, feet apart, snarling. That’s a one-out-of-a-hundred wolf.
She was a very independent-minded female. She didn’t pair up with a male. I’d track her, and she’d be 100 percent alone. I have photos of her up on a ridge, lying in a snowbank, kicking back. She was shot by a poacher on Nov. 5, 2011, outside the park near Gardiner [in Montana]. The collar was still on.
It was a valuable research animal. We lost some interesting behavior that we hadn’t seen before. It didn’t have to be that way.