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Federal Agents Target Two Wolves in Idaho July 28, 2005 8:31 AM

LEWISTON, Idaho - Federal wildlife agents plan to shoot two wolves in northcentral Idaho in hopes of stopping a cattle-and-dog killing spree that has unnerved ranchers and hunters near Elk River and Dworshak since last winter.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized agents to kill two members of the so-called Chesimia wolf pack that are believed to have killed two cows this month.

The predators, reintroduced to Idaho a decade ago, are also blamed for killing six dogs since the start of the year, including three bear hounds in early May in what federal officials believed was a case of the wolves protecting a litter of newborn pups.

Fish and Wildlife Service agents say they usually start with killing just one or two wolves in a pack. If that doesn't work, an entire pack can be removed. Last week in the Copper Basin between Sun Valley and Mackay, federal wildlife agents killed six wolves that had preyed on cattle.

"We are hopeful that this control action will deter any future livestock depredations in this area," said agency official Carter Niemeyer of the killings last week. "If the depredations continue, the rest of the pack will be removed."

Even with the decision to remove two wolves from the Chesimia pack in northcentral Idaho, ranchers who have lost cattle say they're skeptical that anything short of wiping out the entire pack will stop the attacks on their herds, which graze on a patchwork of forest land either owned by Potlatch Corp., the Spokane, Wash.-based paper-products company, or managed by the state.

"What concerns me is they will leave the next male that travels with the alpha male. I don't think it's going to stop it," said rancher Suzanne Beale of Pomeroy, who has lost two cows, including one last Friday. "The poor old thing you could see where she came off the hill and fought and fought. They (the wolves) took her out by the hind leg."

Wolf numbers in Idaho have advanced to 450 since 35 were introduced in 1995 and 1996 as part of a federal bid to restore the animals to native habitat where they'd been hunted to extinction decades earlier.

The federal government has sought to allow Idaho, Montana and Wyoming more leeway in managing the wolves in hopes of eventually removing the wolf from Endangered Species Act protection now that many biologists believed they've recovered to sustainable levels.

It approved wolf-management plans offered by Montana and Idaho but has rejected Wyoming's plan, which would all wolves to be shot with few restrictions outside the Yellowstone National Park area. All three plans must be approved before control is handed over to the states.


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