Monday, September 25, 2006

Madison wolves targeted for death

By Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard

ENNIS — The hunt is on for two wolves that have attacked and maimed three heifers so badly near Ennis that they had to be euthanized. Officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks have issued two shoot-on-sight permits to a Madison Valley rancher whose cattle were attacked by the wolves. Officials did not name the rancher.

Trappers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services are also looking for the wolves. The predators are suspected of being members of the Wedge pack, but officials haven’t confirmed that, said Carolyn Sime, FWP wolf program coordinator. That pack got into trouble earlier this year for attacking cattle on the same ranch. Two wolves from the pack were killed to deal with the problem.

Sime said the fact that the cattle in this latest incident were yearling heifers means the attacks are serious and warrant lethal control. “They’re pretty good-sized cattle, as opposed to calves,” she said.

Federal trappers and ranch hands will keep hunting for the wolves until two are killed. Sime said FWP uses an incremental approach to dealing with wolves that are causing problems. That means while more wolves may have been involved in the attack, officials haven’t confirmed that and don’t want to over-react, which could result in killing more wolves than necessary that may not have been involved with the attacks.

“More often than not you don’t know how many were involved in the predation event, versus feeding on the carcass,” she said. “The level of response is commensurate with the level of damage.” The Wedge pack is known to roam around the property where the cattle were attacked. But Sime said in the fall wolves wander more and often branch out in smaller groups, or on their own, so the wolves could be from another pack.

The permits issued are valid until Oct. 15, when the cattle on the property are removed for the winter.

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