A young colt belonging to Kevin and Jennifer Swigert was killed by wolves early in the morning of Feb. 13 in Croy Canyon west of Hailey. State officials are hunting for the wolves they think may be responsible, which they plan to shoot and kill.
“We think it is only one or two wolves that are causing these problems, but we will have to see,” said Todd Grimm, state director of Idaho Wildlife Services.
Wildlife Services is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that serves the public by protecting property, livestock and people from wildlife.
Grimm said he would likely deploy an airplane to spot the wolves, but not use traps or snares to remove them, because there are too many dogs in the area that could also be harmed. He said it is “fairly rare” for a horse to be killed by a wolf.
“We have one or two a year, nothing like cattle and sheep. There are dozens of cattle and hundreds of sheep killed each year,” Grimm said.
The Swigerts have raised and trained horses and hound dogs at the far west of end of Croy Canyon for many years. The couple has reported to the press and to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game regular attacks by wolves on their livestock in this area.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Jerome Hansen said on Monday that Idaho Wildlife Services personnel confirmed that the horse was killed by a wolf or wolves.
“I went up there to see what was going on,” said Alex Head, a conservation officer for Idaho Fish and Game. Head found the site of the kill, in a corral beside a barn about one mile east of the Swigert’s home, about seven miles west of Hailey.
“For the most part, they were doing everything they should have been doing [to avoid wolf depredations]. They kept the lights on continually. They had another small colt in a completely enclosed barn on the same site. Obviously, if you can keep them enclosed it would be the best thing, but not everyone has that luxury,” Head said.
The Swigerts did not respond to several calls for comment on the incident.
In 2010, Kevin Swigert spoke during a hearing of the Idaho Fish and Game Department in Boise about the state’s management of wolves, which were re-introduced to the Northern Rockies in 1995. He said that the numerous elk herds that were once present in the hills above his home were gone, replaced by a pack of wolves.
A recording of Swigert’s speech can be heard on the Idahoans for Wildlife website, which also has photos of the eviscerated colt. Swigert said at the Fish and Game hearing in 2010 that he was not breeding any more colts because he “was not going to feed them to the wolves.”
A story on the Idahoans for Wildlife website about the incident states that the colt was being protected by two Akbash sheepdogs and an adult horse in an unenclosed corral when it was killed.
“It was definitely outside the barn when it was killed,” Grimm said.
Grimm said keeping young horses as close as possible to human habitation is the best way to keep them safe from wolves.
“The more human-type environment you can surround them with, the better. People keep wolves away,” Grimm said.
However, on some occasions wolves pursue animals very close to people, he said.
“A couple years ago, we had a wolf chase a deer through a woman’s carport south of Salmon, Idaho, while she was sitting in her car,” Grimm said. “The wolf pinned the deer to her backyard fence and killed it.”
“That was a bold wolf. We removed [killed] it within one hour,” he said.