Livestock losses to wolves continue on ranches in the Meeteetse area
Meeteetse — Wolf predation on livestock has continued in the Meeteetse area this winter, although there has been no confirmed predation in the rest of the state.
On Christmas day wolves attacked a herd of yearlings belonging to Craig and Virginia Griffith along the Wood River southwest of Meeteetse.
“Wolves attacked four yearlings on Christmas day,” says Virginia. “Two yearlings were killed, one was so severely injured it had to be put down and the fourth recovered. They got one of the yearlings out onto the frozen river where he couldn’t get away.”
She adds, “We had gotten out of the cow-calf business, and starting raising yearlings, primarily because of the wolves and grizzlies. These yearlings are big, probably 740 pounds, but it was a big pack of wolves.” She says they are always on the lookout for wolves, but hadn’t seen any tracks or sign of wolf activity previous to the attack.
USDA Wildlife Services (WS) confirmed the wolf kills.
Mike Jimenez, Wyoming Wolf Project Leader with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), says the Gooseberry Wolf Pack is responsible for the predation. Six wolves were removed in control actions on Dec. 28 and 30. Jimenez says those control actions removed the entire Gooseberry Pack.
In late February, WS confirmed an adult cow was severely injured by wolves on a private ranch near Meeteetse and the owners were considering euthanizing it. While the FWS authorized WS to remove three wolves, Jimenez says it is unclear which wolf pack was involved in this latest predation.
“We first thought it was the newly-formed Butte Creek Pack, and one adult female wolf was removed. We couldn’t find any other wolves except the radio collared male wolf traveling with the wolf we killed. (The predation) may have been caused by a new pair that was settling in to the area.” Control is ongoing.
Other confirmed wolf packs in the immediate area include the Greybull River Pack, the Carter Mountain Pack with about eight wolves and the Butte Creek Pack with approximately nine wolves.
About a week prior to the Christmas predation a resident driving down Wood River Road spotted what they thought was a dead calf and reported it to the ranch leasing the pasture. As there were no calves in the pasture, the rancher looked into it and discovered the somewhat decomposed carcass of a black wolf. He reported it, and the FWS investigated.
FWS Special Agent Tim Eicher says, “It’s under investigation, and we’ve submitted the carcass to the FWS forensics lab in Ashland, Ore. One of the veterinarians there just retired, so they are backed up and it may be six months before we have a cause of death on this wolf.”
“People are under no legal obligation to report it when they find a wolf carcass, or the carcass of any other wildlife animal,” Eicher comments. “If someone does report a dead wolf, we investigate. If it looks like there are bullet wounds or suspicious circumstances, we take photographs and might do a field necropsy, or we might submit the whole carcass for a necropsy.” Wolves are often killed by other wolves, and occasionally by other animals or natural causes. “From a law enforcement standpoint, we investigate very few dead wolves.” He adds, “The circumstances change, if for example, someone says they shot a wolf.”
Echo Renner is a field editor with the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.