The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has confirmed that it has authorized the killing of four of seven known wolves west of Lander following repeated livestock depredations. And two have been taken so far. FWS Deputy Field Supervisor Tyler Abbott, who is temporarily taking over wolf program duties for Wyoming, spoke with the Fremont County Commission about what his agency has seen and what is being done. In the last few weeks, there have been three verified calf killings on two ranches 8-10 miles north and west of Lander. (Read about one here
In order for FWS to take legal action, there must be at least two verified
depredations by the same group of wolves within a calendar year. With the
help of Wyoming Game & Fish, FWS collared a nursing female from the group
of seven wolves in order to track the animals. If the female has any
surviving pups, they have not yet emerged from the den.
After collaring the female, Abbott gave Wildlife Services authorization to
take four from the group. Seven different adult individuals have been
counted. Two were killed via aerial gunning on Friday; the aerial team was
flying again today, June 7, to find two more.
It is unclear if the group is a fully formed pack, but it is the first time
any wolves have been coordinated enough in the area to garner significant
attention, G&F Large Carnivore Specialist Brian Debolt said. These wolves
were not counted during the process a couple years ago to delist the grey
wolf. He said the loose pack is not vital to the larger Wyoming population.
Local ranchers asked questions regarding the future of the pack and what
would happen if depredations continued or if the wolves followed livestock
into the backcountry summer range. Abbott said if depredations continue in
new areas, it might have to be treated as a new situation, unless it could
be verified to be the same pack.
There was also some question about why they wouldn't remove the nursing
female who was caught and collared, and if she was removed, would that keep
the pups from being viable. Abbott and Debolt said that now that she is
collared, she is vital for tracking the rest of the animals; additionally,
if the mother was removed, it is possible for another female to raise the
Abbott made it clear that while some would like the entire Lander area pack
removed, in order to stick to policy and avoid environmental litigation,
FWS must take a stepped approach to reducing the pack. Eliminating half of
a pack has been effective at stopping depredation in other situations
around the state.
*photo h/t Mike Hornecker / Pitchengine Communities*