For the past year and a half, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has been investigating reports that wolves might be in a remote area east of Springville in north-central Utah.
On March 4, while flying over the area in a helicopter, personnel with the USDA-Wildlife Services found the best evidence yet.
The personnel were performing coyote control in the area when they spotted what appeared to be four wolves or wolf-dog hybrids.
Until biologists can obtain the animals' DNA and get it tested, they won't know for sure whether the animals are wolves or wolf-dog hybrids.
Kevin Bunnell, Wildlife Section chief for the DWR, says a recent storm should give personnel from a helicopter capture company the DWR has contracted with enough snow to help them locate and track the animals.
"After picking up their tracks and locating the animals from the air," Bunnell says, "the capture company should be able to capture one or two of the animals by shooting a net over them from a helicopter. Then we can examine the animals and draw blood samples to see if the animals are related to the wolves released in Yellowstone National Park."
DWR biologists will also place radio collars on the animals so the biologists can track their movements.
The DWR is coordinating the capture with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The USFWS is the federal agency that has management authority over wolves that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Bunnell says it will take a couple of weeks for a lab at the University of California at Los Angeles to analyze the blood and provide results to the DWR.
If the animals are wolf-dog hybrids, Bunnell says the animals will be killed. If the animals are wolves, however, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has management authority for the animals.