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Rancher suspects wolves killed 28 sheep



FARSON -- Federal wildlife officials are investigating a case of nearly 30 head of dead domestic sheep near the Prospect Mountains east of here.

Their owner suspects they were killed by wolves.

Mike Jimenez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday that because the sheep carcasses had been in place for up to 10 days, it was proving "very difficult to find out what's going on."

Jimenez said, "I have no idea what's going on."

USDA Wildlife Services specialists were in the area over the weekend and earlier this week to investigate, but they had not yet made a determination, according to Jimenez.

The sheep belong to Wyoming Stock Growers Association executive Jim Magagna. He explained that the small herd of sheep, which included late lambers that weren't moved to the high country, was in a small fence pasture consisting of mostly private land. Being in a contained area next to the road, this herd is not tended to by a herder, Magagna said. Ranch workers drive by and can see the herd and every few weeks enter the pasture to replenish the salt for the animals.

On Aug. 2, a ranch worker counted 49 head of sheep in the pasture, including 30 ewes and 19 lambs, Magagna said. A week ago, the worker drove by and could see the sheep in the pasture and thought everything appeared to be in order.

Then last week, the worker entered the pasture to find most of the sheep dead. He loaded the 16 sheep that were still alive and unharmed and hauled them to the ranch. Magagna entered the pasture Friday, photographing 28 individual dead sheep, most of which were pretty decomposed, he said.

Magagna contacted federal officials, who entered the area to investigate over the weekend, he said.

Magagna suspects wolf depredation. This herd is in the same area where a female wolf gave birth to pups on a domestic sheep lambing ground this spring, only to begin preying on the sheep herd. Wildlife Services killed the female wolf and four of her six pups, but a male wolf and the remaining two pups were never found. Fish and Wildlife had expected that the pups were too young to survive on their own.

With nearly 30 dead sheep, some with whole quarters moved away from the rest of the carcasses and completely cleaned, Magagna said, "I can't think of anything else that would have caused that."

Jimenez repeated that it is "very difficult" to try to determine if wolves killed the sheep because the carcasses are decomposed. He said Wildlife Services would soon return to the area to continue the investigation.

In other wolf news, a wolf has been confirmed as killing a ewe and lamb in the Hams Fork River area near Kemmerer, Jimenez said. Wildlife Services has been authorized to kill one wolf. The canine culprit appears to be alone and is not wearing a radio collar, Jimenez said, but has been in an open area where it can be killed.




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

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