SHERIDAN — On Aug. 16, a control officer for the Sheridan County Predator Management District trapped and killed a gray wolf responsible for killing 21 sheep in the Bighorn Mountains. The wolf was the first documented kill in the Bighorn Mountains by the predator management district.
The gray wolf was a 130-pound, 2-year-old female that killed 21 sheep near the head of Bull Creek in the Bighorn Mountains, according to a press release from the Sheridan County Predator Management District.
The sheep were killed between Aug. 10 and Aug. 13 on the sheeps’ bed ground. They belonged to producer Phil Little of Little Ranch near Leiter. Sheep herder Carlos Inga Inga tracked the wolf for three days before reporting it to Little who contacted the Sheridan County Predator Management District for assistance with eliminating the wolf.
Control Officer Alan Plummer, who is employed full-time with the predator management district, met with the sheep herder at the kill site on Aug. 13 and determined from tracks and bite marks on the sheep that the predator was a wolf.
The sheep were moved to a new bed ground, and Plummer placed a leg hold trap and bait at the site.
Plummer checked the trap every 24 hours, and at 6 a.m. Aug. 16, he found the wolf in the trap. He said the wolf had only been in the trap for a few hours.
The wolf was killed with a pistol shot and reported to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as required by state statute. DNA samples were taken and reported to the WGFD for use in its genetic database.
Tracks in the area indicated only one wolf, Plummer said. Since the wolf was killed, the sheep have been returned to the pasture and no further sheep deaths have been reported.
“It was never going to stop killing until we eliminated the problem,” Plummer said.
It is believed the wolf was a descendant from a Yellowstone wolf herd and traveled to the Bighorn Mountains alone. She was not transplanted into the Bighorn Mountains.
By state statute, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is not allowed to report details about wolf harvests. However, according to Trophy Game Harvest Quota statistics maintained by the department on its website, 25 gray wolves have been killed in Wyoming’s predatory zone in 2013.
Since wolves were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered animals in Wyoming in October 2012, they have been managed in northwest Wyoming as trophy game animals and in the rest of the state as predatory animals. There is no quota for wolf kills in the predatory zone.
Kent Drake, predator management coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, said that each county in Wyoming has its own predator management board that was established long ago by area cattlemen and sheep herders. In 2006, the Legislature created the Animal Damage Management Board through the department of agriculture as a way to continue funding predator districts.
Predator districts that assess the maximum livestock inspection fee of $1 per head and allow county commissioners to appoint three sportsmen as board members, making a total nine-member board with the six elected cattle and sheep ranchers, are eligible to apply for Animal Damage Management Board grants to fund predator management and wildlife benefit programs in the district.
In fiscal year 2013, the Sheridan County Predator Management District received $98,207 for predator management and $9,500 for rabies management, Drake said. Additional funds are available from the ADMB to help defray the cost of managing wolves.