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Governor: Remove wolves from lambing ground



FARSON -- Although Gov. Dave Freudenthal has asked that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remove a pair of wolves from a domestic sheep lambing ground near here, it's doubtful the agency will comply with the request.

Freudenthal's letter to the U.S. Interior Department referred to the presence the wolves as "the latest predicament," noting that the Fish and Wildlife Service had halted its efforts to capture and collar the animals. Fish and Wildlife reported that recent snowfall hindered capture efforts, so trapping was stopped.

"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 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 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."

Freudenthal referred to Fish and Wildlife's removal of five wolves in the Daniel pack earlier this year when the animals repeatedly killed livestock, but added "wolf management is not relegated to such isolated and single decisions; rather it is an active and daily responsibility."

Fish and Wildlife, in its weekly wolf report, expressed dismay at the interest in the Farson wolf situation, noting, "For some reason this fairly routine situation for us has received considerable media attention, some misinformed rhetoric, and even requests that these ‘suspected' potentially problem wolves be ‘preemptively' removed."

The agency pledged to closely monitor the situation, adding, "If there are wolf depredations on legally present livestock in that area, we will deal with those situations as they develop -- just as we always have -- including lethal removal of wolves if ultimately necessary."

Last Thursday, one of the sheep producers in the area heard a wolf howl, and on Friday two wolves were reportedly seen chasing sheep on the lambing ground.

In an interview Monday afternoon, Wolf Recovery Coordinator Ed Bangs of Helena, Mont., said he hadn't yet received a copy of Freudenthal's letter, but did receive a similar letter from Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director John Etchepare. Bangs said federal rules allow the agency to move wolves only if there is a problem.

Noting that every pack of wolves in Wyoming outside Yellowstone National Park is in contact with livestock, Bangs said, "This situation is really no different than any other one we've dealt with."

Bangs said he doesn't believe that wolves on a lambing ground is unique, citing numerous other examples in Montana and Idaho, all of which involved instances of wolves preying on sheep and the eventual removal of some of the wolves.

Bangs said current efforts are focused on trying to capture and collar any wolves in the area.

"If there is depredations, that will also be our first response. … If there were continued problems, then we'd look at removal or some kind of action," he said.

Bangs also cast doubt on whether there is actually a pregnant wolf in the area. He said a report of a pregnant wolf being seen in the area last week is too late in the year to be accurate. Bangs called it "very puzzling" and "pretty weird."

Bangs did concur that if there really is a pair of wolves denning on a lambing ground with thousands of domestic sheep, "I think there will be a conflict."

Bangs suggested continued compromise is in order, instead of calls to remove livestock from public lands in the area, or for calls to rid the area of wolves.





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

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