Three wolves were killed this month by a government trapper due to a depredation incident on a ranch in the Sawtooth Valley, and trapping may continue as the result of additional incidents that have occurred since then.
Todd Grimm, Idaho director for Wildlife Services, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said wolves killed a calf on a ranch near Fisher Creek on June 29, and the wolves were killed between July 1 and July 11. He said the first and third wolves killed were caught in traps and the second was shot.
Grimm said the traps were removed Friday for the time being, but may be replaced due to two additional depredation incidents on two other nearby ranches that occurred on July 18 and July 23.
“There’s still an open control action,” he said.
Two of the wolves killed were wearing radio collars installed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Jason Husseman, the department’s Salmon Region biologist, said the department had requested that those wolves be released, and department spokesman Mike Keckler said the department’s general policy is “to keep as many collars out there as possible.”
However, Grimm said the wolves killed near Fisher Creek were deemed too great a threat to livestock to be allowed to go free.
“The traps were set near the depredation sites,” he said. “The wolves were returning to the sites when they were killed.”
Grimm acknowledged that the two wolves were probably too badly injured by the traps to have survived if they had been released. He said Wildlife Services trappers generally check their traps every day, partly to reduce the chance of anyone tampering with them, but acknowledged that there’s always a chance that an animal caught in a foothold trap will sustain serious injuries shortly after it’s caught.
“The wolves were returning to the sites when they were killed.”
Grimm said the agency always puts up warning signs for hikers and pet owners in areas where trapping is being conducted stating that animal capture devices are in the vicinity.
“We put signs up at all access points,” he said. “If someone goes down a path that’s going to allow them to interact with our traps, they’re going to be warned beforehand.”
Grimm said suspected wolf attacks are confirmed by a necropsy focused on evidence of subcutaneous hemorrhaging and canine-tooth bite marks. He said the existence of hemorrhaging indicates that an animal was killed while it was still alive, rather than scavenged upon. He said the tooth marks of bears and mountain lions have about the same spacing as those of wolves, but bear and lion attacks usually leave claw marks and evidence of damage to different parts of the body.
Grimm said that since wolves were reintroduced into Idaho in 1995, there have been 1,717 incidents of depredation on livestock and domestic animals reported statewide by 318 livestock producers. He said Wildlife Services has confirmed 1,100 of those cases, which involved 2,700 sheep, 538 calves, 86 adult cattle, 70 dogs and eight horses or mules.
He said that since wolves were removed from the endangered species list in May 2011, 325 confirmed depredation incidents have been blamed on wolves, 34 on mountain lions and 20 on bears.
Local pro-wolf activists have advocated that Sawtooth Valley ranchers undertake non-lethal deterrents to better protect their livestock from wolf attacks. Various methods have been used successfully to guard sheep in the Wood River Valley, though ranchers say the more widely dispersed cattle are more difficult to protect.
Greg Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org