A Picabo-area rancher shot and killed one of three wolves seen harassing his cattle in late March, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game official has confirmed.
"The wolves had been in the cattle for a few days," IDFG Large Carnivore Manager Steve Nadeau said Tuesday. "They had been chasing the cattle and he shot one."
The wolf, shot by the unnamed rancher on March 19, was an approximately 80- to 90-pound female, Nadeau said.
After the wolf was killed, Fish and Game officials worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate the incident. The investigation determined that the wolf was legally killed, Nadeau said.
"They (the USFWS) cleared the rancher of any wrongdoing," he said.
Nadeau said the rancher's actions were declared legal under federal regulations governing reintroduced wolves in Idaho south of U.S. Interstate 90. The regulation, called the "10(j) rule," permits wolves to be killed under certain circumstances when they attack livestock, herding and guarding animals, and dogs.
While investigating the scene where the wolf was killed near Picabo, investigators discovered a dead calf on the same property that they linked to the problem wolves, Nadeau said.
Because of this, agents with U.S. Wildlife Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have set up steel jaw leg-hold traps on the ranch in an effort to capture and remove the remaining two wolves.
"That's still an ongoing effort," Nadeau said.
One reason for the wolf removal effort is to discourage wolves from taking up residence in the Picabo area, Nadeau said. The area's agricultural emphasis makes it unsuitable for wolves, he said.
The March sighting of the three wolves apparently was the first report of wolves in the area. The wolves are likely dispersing animals forced to look for new home ranges because preferred core habitat has already been filled up by established wolf packs, Nadeau said.
"They haven't been seen in the area before. They're not radio-collared."
Federal regulations require that lethal control actions cease after 45 days if no new incident occurs, Nadeau said.
"They're considered to have a clean slate until the next problem occurs."