Rancher loses sheep to
-- A sheep rancher in central Idaho said
34 lambs and ewes were killed by wolves
and he's missing another 124 animals he
fears also fell victim to the predators.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has
authorized federal trappers to shoot two
wolves, or half the new Lick Creek pack,
made up of four to five adult or sub-adult
wolves. It may be establishing itself in a
rugged, mountainous area of spruce and red
fir on U.S. Forest Service territory just
southeast of the Hells Canyon National
Rancher Ron Shirts, a 39-year-old Weiser
resident, said he began finding dead sheep
from his flock of 1,000 ewes and 1,500
lambs starting Aug. 26 after noticing many
were missing when he began collecting them
to be sold.
Idaho reintroduced the predator to its
central mountains starting in 1995 and now
has an estimated 600 wolves. They
sometimes attack sheep and cattle, in
addition to wildlife including deer and
actions aren't uncommon: in 2004, the
state's largest wolf pack at the time,
with nine members, was exterminated after
authorities said it killed more than 100
sheep near McCall in central Idaho.
"This is the first wreck we've had," said
Shirts, who has grazed sheep north of the
towns of Weiser and Payette along U.S.
Highway 95 for 25 years.
Herders found half-eaten carcasses
scattered across a mountainside overgrown
with trees and brush.
"You might walk a couple hundred yards,
find three or four more," Shirts said.
"There were enough there, you had to keep
hunting them down. The killing had to have
gone on for a long time."
Shirts said he wants Idaho to kill the
entire pack, not just two wolves.
But Steve Nadeau, the statewide large
carnivore manager for Idaho Fish and Game,
said his agency is still trying to
determine how many wolves were involved in
Though Idaho in January assumed day-to-day
control of wolves in the central part of
the state, the animals are protected under
the federal Endangered Species Act and
control actions must be justified, Nadeau
"If you can get two animals returning to
the carcasses, your chances of catching
offending animals are pretty good," Nadeau
said. "We'll continue to remove as many
wolves as necessary to control the
conflict, until the killing is done."
In all of 2005, 27 wolves were killed
legally by officers and ranchers, with
about that number already killed in 2006.
In 2005, federal wildlife agents
investigated 93 rancher complaints, with
wolves confirmed or suspected of having
killed 181 sheep, 18 calves, six cows and
11 dogs. That compares to 2003, when
wolves were blamed for killing 118 sheep,
13 calves and six dogs.
Every year, thousands of sheep also fall
victim to coyotes, Nadeau said, adding
last week in eastern Idaho, a black bear
caused the deaths of about 100 sheep.
Shirts will be compensated for losses,
Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation
group that maintains a fund for ranchers
hit by wolf predation, has paid out nearly
$700,000 since 1987. It covers 100 percent
of market value of confirmed wolf kills,
and 50 percent of probable wolf kills. And
the Idaho Office of Species of
Conservation has a separate $100,000
annual fund, which covers the remaining 50
percent of probable kills, and other
cattle and sheep that officials determined
were lost due to wolf predation, Nadeau
Idaho and Montana, with federally approved
wolf management plans, are pushing the
U.S. Interior Department to remove federal
wolf protections in the two states, but
the agency has so far balked because
neighboring Wyoming's management plan is
mired in legal battles.