Wolves make headlines
With a voter-approved initiative to transplant gray wolves into Colorado yet-to-be implemented, ranchers in the state are already experiencing with the impact of sharing the landscape with these wild predators. Wolves that have naturally migrated into Colorado were confirmed as killing cattle and a herding dog.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officers confirmed a wolf depredation incident on a 550-pound Angus calf in Jackson County, Colo. on Dec. 19, 2021. Things were quiet for a few weeks, but on Jan. 9, the wolfpack attacked two herding dogs in a kennel – killing one – on a nearby ranch. A few days later, CPW Commissioners enacted emergency rules allowing ranchers to haze wolves to prevent or reduce injury to their livestock and guardian animals.
The agency’s definition of hazing includes the use of livestock guardian animals, fladry, cracker shells, range riders, ATVs and vehicles, noise makers and other scare devices. Hazing which results in the injury or death of a wolf is not allowed.
Just over a week after the dog attacks, on Jan. 18-19, the wolfpack returned to the Angus ranch near Walden, Colo., attacking three 1,200-pound heifers, killing one and injuring another so severely it had to be euthanized. The attacks reportedly occurred in a small pasture next to the rancher’s house.
Wolves in Colorado are listed as a state-protected endangered species that can only be killed for in self-defense of humans. Illegal take of a wolf in Colorado could result in fines up to $100,000, a year of jail time and a lifetime loss of hunting privileges. Proposition 114 requires CPW reintroduce and manage gray wolves in Colorado no later than Dec. 31, 2023, on lands west of the Continental Divide. But these wolves moved in without assistance from humans, probably from Wyoming.
Colorado’s wolfpack, which was confirmed as attacking dogs, continues a trend felt throughout the West where wolves roam.
Oregon officials confirmed on Jan. 19, a livestock producer found his guardian dog had been killed by a pack of at least four wolves “inside of his electric wolf resistant fence in his private grass pasture about 600 yards from his home” in Jackson County. Three days prior, a livestock producer in Baker County, Ore., found wolves had killed his 40-pound Kelpie herding dog 150 yards from his home, state officials confirmed.
“Park” wolf removal
Meanwhile, wolf advocates are penning letters, petitions and lawsuits in attempt to get wolves throughout the West placed back under federal protection pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, and citing 15 wolves, which are known to use Yellowstone National Park, have been killed in this winter’s hunting and trapping season in Montana, in addition to five more “Park” wolves, which were killed in Idaho and Wyoming.
The National Park Service estimates there are 94 wolves remaining in Yellowstone’s wolf population, and Montana’s hunting season knocked out – if not all – of the Phantom Lake Pack, which roams both inside and out of the park. When those wolves leave the park, they become Montana’s wolves, subject to legal hunting under current state regulations.
Although wolf advocates decry the hunts are endangering Yellowstone National Park’s wolf population, this is not the case.
According to the park’s annual wolf report, at the end of December 2020, there were at least 123 wolves living primarily in the park – the highest park count since 2008 when the park had 124 wolves, and marked a one-year increase of 31 percent after a decade of little population change year to year. Thus, Yellowstone National Park’s wolf population has hovered around 100 for the last 14 years.
Wyoming’s 2021 wolf trophy hunt substantially concluded at the end of 2021 with little fanfare. With a total harvest limit of 47 wolves in the northwestern portion of the state that comprises the trophy game area, only 29 wolves were harvested, and three hunt areas – primarily in Sublette County and the Alpine area – closed without any harvest at all.
Only one hunt area remains open through March 31 or until the harvest quota is reached: the Whiskey Mountain hunt area has a quota of three, with no animals taken thus far. This area has a longer season primarily in attempt to provide some relief to the area’s ailing Bighorn sheep population.
Cat Urbigkit is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.