wolves in Utah!

July 26, 2010

Wolf sighting, trapping confirmed in Utah
By nate carlisle

The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated 19 minutes ago Updated Jul 26, 2010 08:35AM
In signs the state may have a significant wolf population, the legendary predator killed sheep and cattle in Utah earlier this summer and a ranch hand shot a wolf menacing a herd.

The wolf was shot by a ranch herder in southern Idaho, but that wolf had earlier attacked livestock in Cache County, Utah, said Mike Linnell, Utah director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife services. An earlier report the wolf was shot in Utah was incorrect.

Linnell said wildlife agents also trapped and destroyed a wolf in Rich County, Utah, on Saturday morning. That wolf had preyed on calves in that area.

“We’re going to have challenges if [wolves] come into Utah,” Leonard Blackham, commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said. “There’s no question about it. Our mountains just aren’t secluded enough.”

There have been periodic sightings of wolves in Utah for years. Less often, wolves have been blamed for killing livestock in northern Utah. In September 2002, wolves killed 15 sheep and lambs near Hardware Ranch in Cache County.

Those wolves were suspected of originating in the Yellowstone-Grand Teton area of Wyoming. Wolves were introduced into that state, Idaho and Montana in the 1990s. Ever since, there have been disputes between ranchers, environmentalists and government over how to manage the increasing numbers of wolves.

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It’s unknown how many wolves are in Utah, though a 2002 report estimated Utah could one day support 700 wolves across the state.

In the Utah cattle kill, Dennis Wright, of Coalville, said he found two calf carcasses about two weeks ago. They were killed in Summit County on private ground about three miles south of the corner formed by the Utah-Wyoming line.

“People don’t understand how they kill,” Wright said. “They’ll hamstring an animal. They’ll cut both hamstrings on an animal.”

Wright said that after the predator disabled the calves, it ate them from their anus through their stomach, leaving the remainder of the carcass. Wright said state wildlife agents arrived and confirmed the predator was a wolf.

Blackham confirmed the account. He said the wolf likely traveled from Idaho or Wyoming.

“They haven’t caught that one, but they’re working on it,” Blackham said. “It’s probably moved on by now because it hasn’t repeated itself within the last week to 10 days.”

The loss of Wright’s calves stings: Earlier this year, he testified at the Utah Legislature against reintroducing wolves into the state.

“I’m in the business to feed people, not wolves,” Wright said Sunday.

Norman A. Bishop, a member of the board of directors of the Wolf Recovery Foundation, which supports reintroduction of the animal into the Rocky Mountains, said wolves belong on the wild landscapes they roamed before humans eliminated them.

“There are certainly places where nobody likes wolves, like livestock ranges,” Bishop said. “But on wilderness areas and areas where there [is] little conflict, they are a tremendous boon to the ecosystem.”

Bishop pointed to research showing wolves have helped increase the number of beavers in Yellowstone National Park.

Bishop said political conflicts can be minimized when ranchers are allowed to voice their concerns. Compensation funds to repay ranchers for killed livestock also help, he said.

In Utah, ranchers are permitted to shoot menacing wolves only in an area north of Interstate 80 and east of Interstate 84 to the Wyoming and Idaho lines. A wolf must also kill livestock in that area for a rancher to receive compensation from the state, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ website.

Wright’s calves were killed outside that area, but Blackham thought he might still qualify for some reimbursement. Wright said the deaths may have cost him $1,500.

Any ranchers who think a wolf has killed livestock need to contact state authorities so they can investigate and document the case, Blackham said. They need to “watch their livestock closely and report any incident immediately.”

With no means to prevent another wolf attack, Wright said he did not know what to do except “wait for it to hit again, just like all the neighbors and everybody else.”

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

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One Response to “wolves in Utah!”

  1. Kirk Says:

    The gospel according to many hunters is that wolves are decimating elk and deer and moose populations in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. This study pretty much disproves that claim.

    Rather than defending wolves by saying that they aren’t hurting ungulates, I prefer to tell it like it is: Wolves are good for deer, elk and moose! In fact, I think it is safe to say that there would be no deer, elk and moose without them. That is, if there had never been any wolves, these other species would not have evolved. There would still be predators and prey, but the whole system would be far different than it is.


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