From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 19 - August 8, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Wolves killing calves, bears killing sheep

by Cat Urbigkit

Last Thursday morning, cowboy Bruce Wolford was checking cattle on a grazing allotment located near the top of Union Pass at the boundary of the Bridger-Teton and Shoshone national forests when he discovered a 250-pound dead calf that had been killed by a wolf.

The discovery is the first confirmed wolf kill of livestock belonging to Wind River Land and Livestock, managed by Cal and Tanya O'Neal of Crowheart, according to Wolford.

After finding a cow that was obviously agitated, Wolford said he went poking around in the willows and found a dead calf, which had its side eaten out as if coyotes had been feeding on it. Wolford was ready to chalk the death up to natural causes when he decided to roll the carcass over. That's when he found the puncture wound on the middle of the calf's back. Further investigation revealed coagulated blood under the skin.

Merrill Nelson of U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services said he confirmed a wolf killed the calf and in fact Nelson saw a lone gray wolf flee the carcass as he arrived to confirm the kill on Thursday afternoon.

"It was apparent that it was a wolf," Nelson said.

Wildlife Services officials set traps for two nights but have not yet caught the problem wolf, Nelson reported Tuesday, en route to Rock Springs for more traps and supplies.

Wolves have also been confirmed to have killed two calves and a yearling on Scott Stanko's Gros Ventre allotments. The kills occurred in the Park Creek area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest on an allotment previously held by Dan Ingalls of Riverton.

Once again, on Saturday as Nelson approached one of the carcasses, he saw two wolves leave the carcass. Nelson added that typically, wolves will lay within about 100 yards of a carcass and continue to feed on it until it's gone, as long as the wolves don't have young pack members to take care of elsewhere.

A trapper remains in the Park Creek area, but once wolves are trapped, it is up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide what will be done.

Nelson said that the recent calf killings were about 12 to 15 miles apart, and he's guessing that different wolves are involved in the depredations.

As if having wolves preying on different herds of cattle in the high country weren't enough, on Saturday night, a grizzly bear entered one of the Thoman family's herds of domestic sheep in the Upper Green River region of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, killing seven sheep. On Sunday night, a bear killed a ewe and a lamb.

"He's a difficult bear," Nelson said. "I think he's been caught before and he's smart."

Nelson said on Monday night, one of the camp dogs accidentally sprung the snare that had been baited for the bear, and the bear cleaned up the bait, taking the sheep in the snare out the back side of the snare, leading Nelson to believe this bear has dealt with snares before and knows how to evade them.

The confirmed grizzly kills now total 13 head of domestic sheep. Nelson added that he believes a black bear killed a few sheep early in the sheep grazing season and said, "I think there's more than bear involved there."

Wildlife Services continues efforts to capture the offending grizzly, in addition to their wolf control work, Nelson said.

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