By Brent Israelsen
The Sale Lake Tribune
Federal predator-control agents from Salt Lake City
gunned down two wolves that preyed on sheep near the Utah-Wyoming line.
From a two-seat airplane, Mike Bodenchuk, director of the Utah office of
Wildlife Services, shot the wolves just before dusk Tuesday about one
mile into Wyoming and about 17 miles southeast of Bear Lake. The
carcasses were taken Wednesday to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
field office for examination.
Mike Jimenez, FWS wolf coordinator for Wyoming, said the
wolves, both males, were probably yearlings from a pack in Grand Teton
National Park. Utah conservationists uniformly condemned the decision to
destroy the wolves, a federally protected endangered species that,
thanks to a federal recovery effort, have made a remarkable comeback in
the Northern Rocky Mountains. "It's not putting a good face on wolf
recovery if every time there's a hint of trouble, the wolves are
lethally controlled. Clearly, it's a one-strike-you're-out policy," said
Allison Jones, coordinator of the Utah Wolf Forum, a coalition of
environmental groups hoping to see the once-extirpated critter
recolonize the Beehive State.
Under a special exception to the Endangered Species Act
and to help protect the livestock industry, the FWS has authority to
destroy wolves that cause trouble. Since 1987, more than 150 depredating
wolves have been killed by the government. On Tuesday morning, shortly
after the sheep were attacked, Ed Bangs, the FWS's Northern Rockies wolf
recovery leader, authorized Wildlife Services to find and destroy the
offenders, a job Bodenchuk's office dispatched swiftly. Despite frequent
snow squalls, Bodenchuk and his pilot were able to fly to the area by
about 4:45 p.m. while a team on snowmobiles tracked the animals on the
ground. By about 5:30 p.m., the airborne team spotted the wolves and
made about five passes, each time with Bodenchuk firing a half-dozen
shots from a 12-gauge shotgun. A veteran hunter, Bodenchuk said it was
exciting to see the wolves but "disturbing" to have to kill them. "They
really are a magnificent animal," he said.
The wolves were probably staking out new territory in
southwestern Wyoming and northern Utah, parts of which are scarce in big
game but rich in livestock. On Tuesday morning, the wolves intruded into
a sheep pen on private lands about 10 miles east of Bear Lake. Upon
hearing the commotion, the rancher scared the wolves off but not before
they had inflicted mortal wounds on two sheep, worth about $200 each.
"The fact we had a depredation in the morning and it's resolved in the
evening should give people confidence that we can deal with these
things," said Bangs. Dick Carter, coordinator of the High Uintas
Preservation Council, said his confidence has been shaken. The summary
execution of these two wolves, which Carter believes were in Ogden
Valley near Huntsville last week, does not bode well for the animal's
future in Utah. "If we look at every mistake a wolf makes as a fatal
one, that is not good wildlife management."
John Carter, Utah director of the Idaho-based Western
Watersheds Council, was equally angered. "My problem is that there is no
room for wolves on public lands due to livestock and there's no room for
them on private lands because of livestock. What are they supposed to
The director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources,
which will manage the wolf once it is removed from the federal
endangered list, was circumspect about Tuesday's killing of the wolves.
"Depredating wolves probably need to have lethal action taken against
them," Kevin Conway said. "I don't know if there are any other options."
Jimenez said wolves that kill sheep tend to be repeat offenders.
Destroying such offenders, he explained, is important to maintaining the
ranching public's tolerance of wolves.
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