KALISPELL - Officials say a downed power line near Eureka in northwestern Montana electrocuted more than a dozen animals over a period of months, including a wolf that was "still warm" when it was found earlier this month.
Roger Pitman, operations superintendent at the Lincoln Electric Cooperative, said crews did not know about the situation until Oct. 10 when the dangling power line in the Pinkham Creek drainage south of Eureka was finally knocked out. The carcasses of five whitetail deer, four black bears, two wolves, one coyote and a turkey vulture were found in the area.
"We're just thankful there weren't any two-legged creatures up there, except for the turkey vulture," Pitman said.
Tim Thier, a biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the whitetail deer probably walked into the line first and their carcasses attracted the predators, which were in turn electrocuted.
Thier said he's heard of similar cases of deer being hit by trains and their carcasses luring in predators.
"It's sort of a chain reaction," he said. "But I've never seen it relative to a power line before."
Officials believe a dry tree fell on the high-voltage power line during the summer. All the animals were in varying stages of decomposition, and Pitman said utility crews found a large dead wolf that was "still warm" when they came upon the downed line.