Story on Boise TV of massive sheep losses to wolves near Council, Idaho not sustained by facts


“Wolves killing sheep, cattle by the dozens near Council”

That was the story blared on KTVB television in Boise. Here is that story.

However, there have been NO new depredations in the Blue Bunch pack area since July and then it was only a few sheep kills, not a mass slaughter.

Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife checked the story with Wildlife Services, an agency always ready to go after wolves.

Stone said Mr. Yantis apparently didn’t contact WS about his supposed losses. Todd Grimm, State Deputy Director of Wildlife Services told Stone he had never heard of Yantis, and had not investigated any depredations on his place.

Because the telephone numbers telling where to report losses are plastered all over the Internet and elsewhere, it seems unusual that such a large loss would not be reported to authorities.

Curt Mack of the Nez Perce Tribal wolf team told Stone that 43 sheep were confirmed killed this season by the Lick Creek Pack, which was then “controlled.” Some, or all of these belonged to Ron Shurtz, mentioned in the TV story.

The dead cattle mentioned were so far gone “melted down” that there was no way to tell how they died.



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  1. Dave Collins Avatar
    Dave Collins

    I kind of find it hard to believe that wolves would kill a 100 sheep in one night. Can that be possible?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think the Cook Pack did a few years ago. That was 7 or 9 wolves (can’t remember).
    An anti-wolf activist came and strung up police tape for a video of the event. His activities, according to Wildlife Services, prevented them from trapping a member of the pack, so the pack wasn’t shot until the next number after they had killed about a hundred more sheep.
    That is the most serious livestock depredation that has happened in Idaho. Most of the serious wolf/sheep conflicts have been in the area around McCall. I think it is because the density of both sheep and elk is high in area, so the wolves are very often around sheep, which, being sheep, act like the epitome of prey. The behavior of sheep probably provokes a chase reaction in predators of all kinds.
    The solution is close herding of the sheep and the use of more than two guard dogs.

  3. Dave Collins Avatar
    Dave Collins

    Hey Ralph what is Wildlife Services?

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wildlife Services is a federal agency in the Dept. of Agriculture’s service named APHIS (Animal, Plant Health Inspection Service).

    Wildlife Services used to be named Animal Damage Control (ADC). The agency is set up to resolve conflict between people and their property and wild animals. Resolution often means killing an animal or a lot of animals, although they might be making some progress in the use non-lethal methods, at least their web site says so.

  5. Dana Kofford Avatar
    Dana Kofford

    where are the people who own this livestock while all this is going on? if these are so valuable to them, and they will be ruined, you would think that they would be doing something to protect them ,this would be like me leaving my buisness with the lights on and the front door open, then crying to everybody when everything was stolen.

  6. kim Avatar

    Are there Laws to protect the live stock owners? if so were does that money come from?

  7. Howard Avatar

    Unfortunately, the absolute ineptitude of domestic sheep when it comes to dealing with predators does seem to trigger mass killings by carnivores on occasion. Naturally, this is not limited to wolves; bears and cats have also been documented to engage in such ‘surplus’ killing of domestic animals. Domestic sheep are particularly vulnerable because they are essentially devoid of any manner of defense ( ironic, given that wild species of sheep are among the most difficult prey animals for big carnivores to catch). Life in the wild is hard and predators will make kills whenever they can. Unfortunately, this has lead to the idea that wolves in particular and predators in general are mindlessly bloodthirsty and wasteful. Surplus killing is of course a survival mechanism that arises from the uncertainty of future meals; caching is extremely widespread among carnivorous mammals and surplus kills are almost always consumed later. At least, such is the case when a wolf pack catches several deer bogged down in deep snow or a tiger surprises two male sambur deer with locked antlers. Obviously in the case of dozens of sheep killed by predators, the wolves (or whatever) will be unable to consume so many kills. Carnivores will also usually consume the most nutritionally valuable parts of the kills first, which is why partially eaten carcasses, or even almost untouched carcasses with only the livers or such eaten, are often found at mass kills sites of domestic animals.
    To keep things in perspective though, while these surplus killings of livestock do occur, they are not the “standard” predation event… killings of 30, 40, and up, sheep in a night stand out. I agree that the best solution is close herding and shepherding, with either human wranglers or several guard dogs, or both.
    I have heard of conservation groups and some ranches using human herders to keep predators away from livestock with tremendous success… does anyone know more about such programs?

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wow, Howard you nailed it!

    In Western Idaho where most of these depredations took place, Solen Livestock, which is about the largest sheep outfit, has greatly reduced their loses to all kinds of predators by using an ample number of Great Pyrenees guard dogs.

    Solen Livestock gave an interesting presentation at the North American wolf conference about 3 years ago showing how they managed, how they bred, housed and trained their guard dogs, and with the result a big decline in sheep loses to wolves, coyotes, cougar and bears.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan