From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 23 - August 31, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Wolves killing cattle in county

by Cat Urbigkit

Last year at this time, after investigating the death of nearly 30 head of domestic sheep near the Prospect Mountains east of Farson, federal wildlife officials confirmed a wolf had killed one sheep, while 14 other dead ewes were determined to be “probable” wolf kills. The remaining 19 dead lambs were too decomposed for a determination to be made, he said. The sheep, belonging to Wyoming Stock Growers Association executive Jim Magagna, were found dead in their fenced pasture.

Two weeks ago, cattle producers on a mixture of private and public land in the same general area were faced with a similar situation. Mike Jimenez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in an interview last week that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department investigated four or five dead calves in the same area the week prior, but the carcasses were too decayed to make a determination as to the cause of death.

But confirmation was finally made last Wednesday, Aug.23. On that day, USDA Wildlife Services specialists confirmed that a wolf or wolves killed 12 or 13 calves within the last six days near the Prospect Mountains.

This is the same area where a female wolf and her mate denned on the domestic sheep lambing ground in the spring of 2005. The female wolf gave birth to six pups and began preying on sheep. Wildlife officials responded by killing the female and four of the six pups, in accordance with federal guidelines. At least one adult wolf got away. More sheep were killed last summer and again earlier this year. Now it’s cattle taking the hit.

Three more wolves were removed from the Boulder/Muddy Creek area just north of the Prospect area in April after repeatedly killing cattle.

Jimenez said that in response to the repeated depredations, his agency authorized Wildlife Services to kill any wolves found in the area. Efforts to locate and kill the wolves began last week, but thus far have been unsuccessful. Jimenez said federal wildlife officials aren’t sure just how many wolves are in that area.

Last year, federal control agents removed 41 wolves from Wyoming’s wolf population in response to depredations, including 28 in Sublette County. So far this year, 15 wolves have been killed in Sublette County in response to livestock depredations.

The most recent was last weekend, when an adult male wolf was shot from the ground in the Upper Green River region. Jimenez said there is one radio-collared adult male left in that pack, and “that one will come out as well.”

Control actions are currently pending in three chronic depredation situations in the county, including in the Prospect Mountains; near the Black Butte elk feedground near Cora, where a beef calf was killed last Wednesday; and in the Upper Green River region, where at least 18 head of cattle have been killed by wolves since the start of the grazing season on the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

In both the Prospect and Upper Green River cases, FWS has authorized Wildlife Services to kill any wolves remaining in the area.

As for the Black Butte wolves, there are at least four or five adults in one pack, two of which are wearing radio collars. Jimenez said after the calf was killed last week, he authorized Wildlife Services to kill several wolves from the pack, while leaving the ones wearing radio collars in place so the remaining pack members can be monitored and destroyed later if depredations continue.

During the last two weeks, traps have been on the ground west of Big Piney where cattle depredations continue on a sporadic basis. FWS would like to get a collar or two on wolves in the area in attempt to learn how many wolves are in the region and what area they are using. With problems being reported by cattle producers from Daniel south to Big Piney, wildlife officials aren’t sure if the problems are caused by separate groups of wolves or not. Wildlife Services will attemptto trap and collar a wolf or wolves, but if all else fails, may kill up to two wolves, Jimenez said.

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