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Feds kill wolves in Farson area

Wildlife officials have killed a female wolf and four pups outside Farson, after the wolves killed 13 pregnant ewes over two nights.

Mike Jimenez, Wyoming wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the wolves killed seven ewes the first night -- about June 7, according to sheep owner Jim Magagna. Officers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services were sent to trap and collar the wolves.

But the next night, the wolves killed six more ewes, and Jimenez said a decision was made to kill whatever wolves were in the area. The area is about 35 miles northeast of Farson in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains.

Wildlife Services officers caught the female, found her den and killed the mother and four pups last week. A male wolf -- also seen in the area in April -- was not found and did not come back to the den site, which Jimenez said was "not typical."

He said it is not known what happened to the male and two other pups that were not caught, but pups would not survive without a parent.

Magagna -- who is the executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association -- said one of his sheepherders found the dead ewes in the morning and immediately called Wildlife Services, which confirmed the losses to wolves. He said his understanding of the situation was one of the ewes was eaten, and the others were just "ripped up." He did not know the estimated value of the lost livestock.

"These were ewes that were pregnant and just ready to lamb, so it's going to be fairly high," he said.

The wolves were first seen in the area in April. In May, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal asked Fish and Wildlife in a letter to remove the wolves before problems started.

The agency said it agreed to trap and collar the wolves, but was unable to do so before weather prevented further efforts.

"While I am very skeptical of the excuse for suspending the capture and collaring of the wolves, I believe that a better and more reasoned approach would recognize the inevitability that the wolves will become 'problem' wolves and will ultimately have to be removed," Freudenthal wrote in May. "In my view, it would be in the best interest of the wolves, the Service, producers and livestock to capture and not only collar, but relocate the wolves prior to their establishing a den."

Freudenthal's May letter continued: "To me, this is akin to small children playing at a railroad crossing. Peril is certainly in the absence of active supervision. This is a change for the Service to be responsible and proactively manage wolves in a way that, in the end, will preclude fatal take of wolves and livestock depredation."

The governor couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Magagna agreed with Freudenthal, saying Monday it seemed "inevitable" the wolves would kill sheep.

"I was told that was not their policy," he said. "They said if (the wolves) started doing extensive killing they would remove them."

Jimenez said because wolves are still under federal protection, guidelines dictate wolves are first trapped and collared, and if they continue to be a problem, they are then killed.

"I'm unhappy with that policy that does not allow proactive work," Magagna said. "But once the sheep were killed, I would say that both Fish and Wildlife and Wildlife Services have been very responsive in getting the wolves removed."

Wolves are expected to be removed from federal protection as early as next year, but a Wyoming state management plan has not been approved by the federal government. The state is embroiled in a lawsuit so it can manage wolves as predators outside the two national parks and surrounding wilderness areas -- making the animals subject to killing on sight if they stray outside those areas.

Magagna said he is "a little bit nervous" knowing the male and pups were not caught.

"Hopefully we're through with this one," he said, "until wolves move into this area again."

Environmental reporter Whitney Royster can be reached at (307) 734-0260 or at royster@trib.com.






Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM  Pacific

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