Western Wyoming Wolf Problems
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
June 7, 2016
With the recent retirement of Mike Jimenez of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, responsibilities for dealing with wolves that repeatedly prey on livestock has transferred to Tyler Abbott of the agency’s Cheyenne office. Abbott has had his hands full since taking over the program a few weeks ago, with wolves in three areas of western Wyoming causing chronic problems.
A wolf pack killed an adult ewe and lamb on a ranch along the Owl Creek Mountains near Thermopolis on May 19th. After federal officials killed one wolf from the pack, the pack escaped onto the Wind River Indian Reservation. Depredations continued, with the pack returning to kill two calves and three lambs over Memorial Day weekend. Seven wolves were spotted, and on May 31st, two more cattle were killed, as well as five more sheep. FWS authorized the removal of four more wolves, but so far that kill order has not been completed. On June 3rd, another calf was killed by the pack.
A second problem pack has been the Absaroka pack outside of Cody. On May 17th, four calved were killed by the pack, and FWS authorized the removal of two wolves from the seven-member pack. The pack eluded control efforts, and on May 21st, five more calves were killed, and one wolf was killed in response. In the coming days, the pack killed again, taking three calves on the 22nd, three calves on the 23rd, and finally, on May 24, one male wolf was killed. FWS upped the kill authorization to take out additional wolves from the pack. After 15 dead calves, and injuries to five others, five pack members have been killed, and FWS authorized the removal of all remaining members of the pack.
A third problem area has occurred eight miles outside of Lander, where another seven-member wolf pack has preyed on cattle. The first three calf kills were verified on May25th. Another calf was killed on June 2nd, and a cow was killed on June 6th. Two wolves have killed in control actions, and FWS has authorized the removal of two more wolves from that pack.
There have been other problem areas of the state where wolves are preying on livestock, including a case of a pack of wolves killing a brood mare, and injuring her foal, in May in the Fontenelle area. Although wildlife damage control officials have sought out the wolves involved in the depredation, efforts have so far been unsuccessful.
Other confirmed depredations involved cattle in the Gros Ventre, and in the Dunoir area near Dubois, where four wolves were removed in response to continued depredations.
According to FWS: "After exceeding recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains for 13 consecutive years, wolves (Canis lupus) were finally delisted in Wyoming in 2012. However, on September 23, 2014, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the delisting rule and reinstated the Federal protections for wolves that were in place prior to our 2012 delisting." That decision is under appeal in federal court.
Wolves remain listed under the Endangered Species Act throughout all of Wyoming and are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are at least 382 wolves in about 48 packs inhabited the state, including Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Most depredations on livestock usually take place later in the year (August through October) in Wyoming. FWS manages for wolf population growth and wolf distribution to minimize chronic loss of livestock from wolves and promote wolf conservation by maintaining the Wyoming wolf population well above recovery objectives.
Livestock producers experiencing problems with wolves in western Wyoming can contact FWS’s Tyler Abbott at 307-286-7242, or Rod Merrill of USDA Wildlife Services at 307-320-5109.
Wolf Watch - by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!