Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wolves kill 4 sheep north of Ketchum

Open-ended kill order issued


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Sheep graze near Ketchum as they head for even greener pastures farther into the mountains. Four sheep were killed in Lake Creek north of Ketchum last Tuesday, a loss that wolf advocates say could have been prevented. Photo by Willy Cook

A kill order has been issued for "any offending wolves" following a depredation of four sheep near Lake Creek last week.

Suzanne Stone, Wood River Wolf Project program coordinator and spokeswoman for conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, said four sheep from a migrating band of more than 1,000 were confirmed killed by wolves last week.

"It was a mini train wreck," she said.

The incident occurred on July 3, but Wildlife Services State Director Todd Grimm said the depredation was not confirmed until Thursday, July 5, when the kill order was issued.

The order, he said, could be modified later but is currently for "any offending wolves," which includes all wolves in the area.

Stone said the owner of the sheep band was unaware that there were wolves in the area, and the sheep were guarded only by one livestock guard dog and no human herders—which led to an opportunistic wolf's taking advantage of the situation.

"It's just unfortunate that we didn't know they were there," Stone said. "Unfortunately, there was one livestock guard dog there that was not a very active dog, and there were no herders there at the time."

Stone said field technicians have since surrounded the band with spotlights and are using starting pistols and camping out there to increase the amount of supervision.

"[The sheep's owner] really did respond," she said. "The producer said, as soon as we spoke with him, that he was not aware that there was only one dog out there."

Stone said that since the deterrents have been in place, there have been no further losses—despite the team's having scared off more than a few coyotes hungry for a taste of sheep. Stone said the band is also moving away from the area where the depredation occurred, north into Eagle Creek.

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"They're moving out of the area, but they don't move very fast," she said. "That's why we have been out there every night. There has been no interest that we have seen from wolves."

Grimm said Wildlife Services has set out leghold traps for the wolves, but that the kill order is not necessarily just that. Wolves could be collared and released if found in time, Grimm said. "It's not an absolute kill order," he said. "Each case is decided on a case-to-case basis. I have told [the trapper], if we have a wolf that is releasable, let's hang a radio collar on it."

Grimm said the situation depends on what condition the animals are in when caught—heat takes a toll on captured animals, he said.

"If we have an opportunity to radio-collar a wolf, we're going to radio-collar a wolf," he said.

Stone said she hoped to see Wildlife Services collar at least one wolf, as the depredation could have been prevented if technicians had been able to use radio telemetry to determine the location of this particular wolf.

"We're so limited by the lack of radio telemetry and monitoring—it really reduces our knowledge of where wolves are," she said.

The kill order will remain in effect for 60 days, until early September.

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com

Contact WRWP

The Wood River Wolf Project has launched a hotline for reporting wolf sightings and wolf depredations. Though sightings and kills should be reported to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game as well, residents may call 1-855-5WOLVES and help the Wood River Wolf Project with its efforts to separate wolves and livestock.

Logo Contest

The Wood River Wolf Project is looking for a new logo for its website. The winner will be offered a chance to help track and monitor wolves with Carter Niemeyer, former wolf recovery coordinator with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The logo should be in color and emailed to logo@woodriverwolfproject.org. The deadline is Aug. 13.




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