Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wolf killed on Flat Top Ranch

Officials say animal preyed on sheep


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

In this file photo, sheep graze on the Flat Top Ranch near Carey. Express file photo

One female wolf was killed near Carey last week in response to nearly a dozen sheep deaths earlier this month, state officials reported.

Todd Grimm, state director for U.S. Wildlife Services, said that the wolf was tracked and killed Thursday morning. A Wildlife Services fixed-wing plane flew over John Peavey's Flat Top Ranch property on Thursday and found a recently killed sheep, Grimm said.

"The herder pointed in a direction [that he had seen a wolf run]," Grimm said. "They followed it, and found the wolf."

Grimm said that because of the swiftness of the response, the wolf killed was certainly one that had killed at least one ewe.

"They got a guilty party," he said.

The wolf was a subadult, meaning it was less than 2 years old and could have been a pup from last year, Grimm said. The gray female was estimated at between 70 and 80 pounds.

He said the wolf was not killed on a 1,100-acre conservation easement held on Peavey's ranch. The terms of the easement, held by The Nature Conservancy, include a restriction on lethal control methods within the easement's borders.

"[The Flat Top Sheep Co.] shall comply with all applicable laws and use selective and humane control practices, including, where practicable, non-lethal deterrents and management practices," the agreement states.

Blaine County contributed $200,000 toward the purchase of that conservation easement in December. The funds came from the Land, Water and Wildlife Levy, a two-year $3.4 million assessment on county property taxes meant to preserve open land and farm space from development.

A kill order for one more wolf remains in effect, as an order for two wolves was issued May 18 following the death of three ewes on the Flat Top Ranch property. The order was actually reissued on that date, as a kill order had been issued earlier this month following the death of seven ewes.

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Peavey has stated that he is trying nonlethal deterrents such as fladry—red flags flying to keep wolves away—guard dogs and herders around his bands of ewes, which are currently lambing. The efforts were launched in conjunction with the Wood River Wolf Project and wildlife advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife.

However, Wood River Wolf Project and Defenders of Wildlife spokeswoman Suzanne Stone said she has not seen enough nonlethal deterrents to make a difference on Peavey's property—or to his roughly 1,200 pregnant ewes.

"He's sprinkling sheep that are lambing over a very long band of federal, state and private grounds," she said last week. "There are only a few of these bands who have guard dogs. There are no deterrents with [some] of those bands, which means they're extremely vulnerable."

Stone said the organization continues to work with Peavey, but the organization's effectiveness is limited until he agrees to increase the number of deterrents with his sheep—and clean up a number of sheep carcasses left when sheep have died of natural causes, which Stone and other wolf advocates have said they've seen on the property.

"They pose a very irresistible attractant to predators in the area—wolves and coyotes," she said. "We've done pretty much what we can unless there's any willingness to increase deterrents out there."

Stone said the amount of fladry and the number of guard dogs that Peavey has with his lambing ewes aren't enough to be effective.

"It's like putting a Band-Aid on an amputation," she said. "It's not gong to be sufficient to address what the problems are, and we've made that clear [to Peavey]."

One kill order remains for the wolves of the Little Wood Pack near Carey, and will remain in effect until mid-July or until a wolf is killed. Stone said she believes two adults and several pups remain in the Little Wood Pack.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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