Story is of little interest to Wyoming media-

Dogs running loose have killed 44 sheep north of Riverton, Wyoming. Perhaps a score or more were injured. The incident has received minor attention from the Wyoming media. The story got more attention than a story about a bar fight, but not much, but what if wolves had killed 44 sheep? This is close to the average number of sheep killed in the state as a whole by wolves in the average year.  For that, there is no end of complaining about wolf attacks here and there by ranchers who say they can tolerate no more, psychologically or economically.

Read the story in The Ranger. Not to worry though, the sheriff sternly chided local dog owners.

The real interest, the real news here, is showing that the ranchers complaints about the burden of wolves are a bunch of malarkey.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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.

61 Responses to Dogs kill 44 sheep in Wyoming. Ho hum, but what if it had been wolves?

  1. Joseph Allen says:

    Haha…..the stats are that virtually all the mortality factors effecting sheep (dogs, coyotes, disease, shitty weather, negligence, poor management) are greater than that of wolf predation….ranchers, get a grip!

  2. Rita K. Sharpe says:

    We all know pretty well what would have been done if it had been wolves,the death squad would have been sent out.In my neck of the woods,packs of dogs,are common .A couple of years ago a child was attacked in a rural area by a pack of dogs.They are either let loose by their owners or the dogs are not accounted for after a hunt.

  3. Louise Kane says:

    Ralph I love the nod to the word Malarkey above, an oft used term in my husband’s Irish family now to be more widely used post Biden/ Ryan debate. It was the perfect word to use in that context and this.

  4. Louise Kane says:

    yes it is indeed like one of his stories. And not to make light of it as its a very sad story and one that I can empathize with, but if my Dad were here he would have written to you….well that’s one theory (about the name leading him down the wrong path) but some might say its a load of malarkey! Now it would be your turn and it could go on and on.

  5. Kirk Robinson says:

    malarkey = baloney = bull = bullshit

    I’m going to write an LTE to the Riverton newspaper calling out the ranchers on this one.

  6. DLB says:

    How much negative press will Monsanto get for these 95 Idaho sheep that grazed in one of their pits and died?

    “95 sheep die in closed Monsanto mine in Idaho”

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Monsanto, which makes Roundup from the phosphate it mines in Idaho, announced the sheep deaths Friday afternoon.

      Company spokesman Trent Clark says the sheep died after eating contaminated plants in the Henry Mine, which was closed in 1989.

      Clark says a herder entered the pit with 1,200 sheep without permission.

      Don’t these people ever watch their flocks? I assume from this that Monsanto will not be liable either. I wonder if they will be screeching as loudly for restitution as they did about the Wedge pack losses.

  7. Nancy says:

    “Fines may be assessed to dog owners, Lee said, and their pets may be put down if the animals are determined to be vicious”

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Poor dogs. I hope they are not dealt with as vile as the wolves are. 🙁

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Nancy, that is what impressed me so much. This sheriff means business 😉

    • CaptainSakonna says:

      Thing is, it doesn’t sound like they have any idea whose dogs did the deed, and of course they aren’t going to destroy every dog in the neighborhood, because that would be, I dunno, cruel or something. Too bad the wolves in Wyoming don’t get the same consideration.

  8. I wonder how many times domestic dogs have gotten wolves in trouble. When I was growing up my father had sheep and would be awakened often by our border collie who could hear dogs in the sheep . . when my dad caught them and returned them to their owners it was often that the people would say that THEIR dog would never do anything like that cause he is lazy and wouldn’t hurt a flea. Denial about domestic dog killing sprees is still big. People who let their dogs out at night may never suspect that they pack up with other dogs.

  9. Mark L says:

    Hmm. Anybody know of an animal that could challenge feral dogs on a constant basis, even a night? It’d have to be something that would not pose a threat to humans also. Anybody?

    • SAP says:

      My answer: properly socialized livestock guarding dogs.

      Friends in Canada have ranch; they have big guarding dogs that will take on all four-legged threats, yet are rock solid trustworthy with their small children and visitors. See:

      • Kirk Robinson says:

        I’ll bet if there were a couple of packs of wild wolves in the area, they’d keep those feral dogs in check. And not harm people either.

      • Harley says:

        And these dogs would be a match for wolves? Is that why some had those spikey collars?

        • SAP says:

          Harley, it’s impossible to say whether the dogs would prevail in a fight with wolves. The kangals, in particular, have a decent shot at besting a wolf, in my opinion. But, there’s no way of knowing whether the numbers would be even, nor to know other variables like terrain.

          The concept is to use Livestock Guarding Dogs (LGDs) as a risk management tool. They stake out a territory, and that’s the first line of defense: other canids may (or may not) decide to avoid where the LGDs roam. And unlike using urine or fake howling to set up a “Potemkin territory,” other canids are going to see these big, confident dogs patrolling.

          The second line of defense is that the LGDs will respond to intruding canids or other perceived threats to “their” livestock. This is where a good LGD program really shines: a wolf or a coyote on the hunt is not looking to be in a fight, it’s looking for an easy meal. Bold, confident LGDs — working cooperatively & in the right numbers — are going to make hunting canids think twice.

          The third and least desirable line of defense is tooth & claw combat. If it comes to this, LGD experts want their dogs to have SOME chance of surviving such an encounter, rather than setting them up for certain death. Size, aggression, numbers, cooperation, AND the spiky collars all work in favor of the LGDs at least living through an encounter.

          The collars also serve a day to day purpose of keeping the LGDs from fighting and hurting each other. It’s amazing to see them posture and growl, but keep it “civil,” because they know what the collars will do if they make a move.

          Cooperation is key: some LGDs are raised in isolation, so they chase off other dogs, even ones they should be working with to cooperatively protect livestock. This leaves them all alone to deal with any predators that come around. Not very effective.

          • Harley says:

            The entire concept, I like it. If one correctly, as you’ve stated. It seems like, on the surface, a much preferred way of protecting one’s livestock. I would think that after several encounters with a vigilant LGD coupled with their human partner, a wolf would get the idea that this was not easy pickings and move on.

            Thanks for the clarification and the knowledge!

          • Ralph Maughan says:

            LGDs can keep the wolves away, but I wonder if the cost of keeping them exceeds their deterrence value.

            I don’t think feral dogs would have any chance against wolves. The wolves would fight as pack against a group that would quickly break into a collection of weak individuals, assuming they had any pack structure to begin with.

            • Harley says:

              Can’t feral dogs also form packs?

            • Immer Treue says:

              But what is the cost of wildlife services/ helicopters/planes? Seems herders need to make some sort of preventative effort, otherwise foot the bill for wolf removal.

          • Leslie says:

            SAP, slightly off topic, but I’ve wondered about the ruling of hunting wolves with dogs. Wouldn’t the dogs lose big time?

    • CodyCoyote says:

      Mules. Best stock guard animal I’ve ever seen in Large Carnivore Country is a kick-ass mule ( the exception being dealing with a determined Cougar )

  10. Susan says:

    But the dogs are just “getting into a bit of trouble”, they aren’t vicious killers, right?

  11. Rita K. Sharpe says:

    More people are killed by their family dog or the dog that is not under control by their owner or,worse,free roaming dogs.When wolves attack sheep,people say vicious,not getting into a bit of trouble.Dogs are capable of attacking and killing.

  12. Mark L says:

    Ralph, if you get a chance check out the LGD’s that guard goats from cheetahs in Africa…done cheaply and started by themselves (dogs provided free). My point is that some effort HAS to be taken by any rancher that has an investment in the animals….if he’s too lazy or uncooperative, he (or she) really has no business grazing on fed. land and complaining about wolves, coyotes, etc. that WE want on the land. (once again PPCC) That ‘free ride’ needs to end. It’s an expense added to a business, nothing more nothing less. The same thing happens in every business.
    I’d liken this to leaving your money on a curb, walking away, then complaining when someone picks it up. If it’s your money, guard it or pay someone to do it.

    • Louise Kane says:

      exactly Mark L! protecting livestock is an expense of doing business. The livestock community needs to stop whining and asking the taxpayer to foot the bill for everything from insanely short money to graze and destroy public lands, to killing animals that belong in the environment (to protect a tiny fraction of their) losses, and to stop insisting that its the public’s or an NGO’s responsibility to pay them to use the correct tools to protect their business. How messed up is that? Its been kid gloves treatment for so long its become incorrectly de regueur for all of us, including wolves, to pay the bills . The wolves with their lives.

  13. sue says:

    I have 5 Pyrenees. When(not if)the wolves get down to the Riverton area, will my guard dogs be able to protect their flock? Maybe…if it’s a lone wolf. But a pack? No.

    The land north of Riverton is NOT Federal, it’s private. Wolves are supposed to stay on Federal land…ie Yellowstone!

    Maybe you didn’t KNOW that. In the Defenders of Wildlife’s petition to the US Department of Interior to re-introduce the grey wolf to Northern California & Southwest Oregon, they clearly ask that the wolf be re-introduced onto Federal Land only. The same holds for all the states that once had grey wolves. They WILL be returning, if that state has Federal land.

    • Harley says:


      What is interesting though is the fact that though it was agreed on that wolves would be introduced onto Federal lands only, someone forgot to tell the wolves that. Wolves will come and go as they please and I would think it would be impossible to keep them contained to federal land unless that land is fenced in.

      • Barb Rupers says:

        Harley, the wolves in Idaho were only released on federal lands in the Frank Church Wilderness area; in Wyoming it was in Yellowstone National Park; that does not mean that they were not expected to go elsewhere nor was it agreed on that they could not. This was a reintroduction for increasing wolves into their former range – which should not, IMO, be confined to national parks and wilderness areas. Why exclude national forests, or lands managed by the BLM?

        • elk275 says:

          Barb 50% of Wyoming is private land and 65% of Montana is private land. Harley is talking about wolves leaving federal lands and going on to private lands. Wolves do not know the difference between private and public lands we all know that. Wolves have cause problems and expenses on private land which the typical landowner does not want to bare.

          • JB says:


            The same could be said of most of Europe. Spain has roughly the equivalent number of wolves as the NRMs with less land mass and far more people. Coyotes, cougars, bear, deer, elk, moose, etc. all wander private lands–why should wolves be treated differently???

            • elk275 says:


              ++why should wolves be treated differently???++

              It depends upon who is making the rules. In today’s world those with property and money make the rules.

              The new Golden Rule: Those with money make the rules; if you do not have any money get some. (I read this some place in the last several years)

            • JB says:


              Your accounting doesn’t explain why wolves can be treated similar to other species in some states and countries, while be singled out for persecution in others. So while I agree that people with money generally make the rules, they’re must be something else going on?

              I would posit that in the West, the people with the money (and power) are more likely to work in occupations that see wolves as a threat. When wolves were federally protected, these “local power brokers” lost much of their power–now that they’ve been delisted and are being managed at the state level, the local power brokers are flexing their muscles. So money + localized management = more control for wealthy landowners.

              Of course, all of this only describes what is going on. It doesn’t answer my original question: Why should wolves be treated differently?

            • Mark L says:

              I get what you are saying, but the only answer I have is that ‘we’ (people of European descent) have a history of hating them (and I’m in there partially also I guess). Other cultures have much less of a history doing it…some have more. To touch on this, take a look at who hunts wolves, and take a look at who is objecting to their presence through the media (not a lot of skin color in there, huh). I’ve put forward in some websites (Wildreads, etc.) that there’s a huge cultural tradition of overreacting to threats to justify oppressing them (Jared Diamond’s “Third Chimpanzee” addresses this also). It’s hard to point out to a people that their traditions are harming the environment. If everyone follows the lead of the dominant view of the time (even if mistaken), animals become extinct through common philosophies. If some seperate themselves from the group, there’s hope. Gotta give Cali credit for going against the grain here, also. Just the act of pointing out where a ‘power base’ is acting in an immoral way is a beginning.

          • Harley says:

            I also feel that if a wolf is on private land and is causing a problem, the owner of that land should be able to take care of the problem. But only if they are causing damage or threatening safety.

        • Harley says:


          I fully understand and agree with what you are saying. I was responding to the tone in Sue’s post. Wolves may be introduced onto federal lands but they have this tendency to disperse and go their own way so it really doesn’t matter where they get introduced, as you stated.

  14. Kirk Robinson says:


    JB’s question was “why should wolves be treated differently?”

    I don’t think your reply is responsive to this question. Do you really mean to say that what should be the case (as opposed to what happens to be the case) is a simple function of who has enough power to make it the case? That is the correct generalization of the principle you employed, is it not?

    • Immer Treue says:


      Who else is really making or forcing the decisions but $’d people. Guess you could throw in organizations as collective groups of people to pool the said $. Lobbyists represent $.

  15. Kirk Robinson says:

    Just so we’re clear that what should (ought) to be the case and what is the case are not necessarily the same thing.

    With respect to wolves occupying or using private land, I think that generally speaking they ought to be allowed to do that. But I will certainly allow for exceptions.

    If we’re just speaking in terms of the law, the question is how far property rights extend. Do property rights include a right to the animals occupying or using the property – to “taking” them or excluding them? Generally speaking, no. The question brings to mind that case in southern Wyoming in the 80s (I don’t recall the name offhand), where a rancher fenced off his land in a way that prevented a natural seasonal pronghorn migration from occurring. The pronghorn couldn’t go under the fence and wouldn’t go along it to round the corner, so they starved in significant numbers. The rancher was eventually required to raise the lowest strand of wire on his fence so they could go under it. Similarly, where wolves are not harassing anyone’s livestock, it seems to me that they should be allowed to go wherever they please. Of course, in Wyoming, they’re now considered varmints in 85% of the state, so they can be killed whether the land is private or public. In my opinion, there is no good rationale for this, but that’s another topic.

    • Immer Treue says:

      Along that line, I can’t shoot a deer when it is destroying my young white pines, but I can shoot a wolf if in my “perception” it is a threat to me, family, dog, livestock, if said wolf is just passing through my land.

  16. John says:

    So just because dogs kill more livestock than wolves ranchers shouldn’t be able to deal with the wolves? Talk about flawed logic… That is like saying that because more people die from heart disease than cancer those losing family members from cancer should just suck it up and deal with it and stop whining. This guy is a doctor? I happen to know this family and I can tell you that when stray dogs are seen running loose on their property, those dogs meet whichever weapon happens to currently be riding in the truck. The fact is that they have lost big numbers of sheep many times before, just last year in fact. Every time a rancher loses a sheep he loses money. The wolves are just lucky they are not able to take the same action against them as they are against these dogs. Furthermore you can’t take a picture of something like this, can you imagine what a pen full of 44 dead and many more bloodied/dying sheep would look like, all you get out of it is a newspaper article. What more coverage would you like?

    • Kirk Robinson says:

      John, that is not the message I am getting from the comments of others, nor the one I intended in my comments.

      What is interesting, is that there is such a radical disparity between the way that some people (often livestock producers) react to a wolf killing livestock and the way they react to feral dogs killing livestock. In one night, feral dogs killed about as many sheep as wolves are documented to kill in WY in an entire year, yet it apparently merits only a whimper while the entire state of Wyoming has practically gone to war against wolves! That’s entirely irrational. What to do about it is another matter, but for starters maybe livestock producers ought to get as angry about the feral dogs as they do about wolves, and work to impose severe legal sanctions on people who let their dogs run free. But of course the won’t. For one thing, they like dogs and most of them have dogs of their own. Indeed, some of said dogs might even be among the killers. So instead, they will focus all of their energy and hatred on “controlling” the wolf, a native species that is integral to healthy ecosystems, as if the wolf is the root of all evil. There is something wrong with this picture.

      • Immer Treue says:


        To continue with why wolves get treated different, not just because of the livestock folk, wolves are non-utilitarian. Those who dislike them see no value in them because they are competition for deer, elk, etc. same goes for fox, coyote and the mustelids. All carnivores are looked upon with disdain because some of these “sportsman” do not like competition.

        Even with more white-tail deer in this than at probably any time in the historic past, even when CWD and other devastating diseases are beginning to manifest themselves among ungulate populations, this feedlot mentality surplants all else. One guy I know says we only get two weeks or so, wolves get 24/365. Yeah, but wolves can’t get to the grocery store.

      • John says:

        No, the wolf issue impacts little ranchers in Wyoming. Therefore they care much more about these wild dogs, surely hate them much more. The difference is that those who wolves do impact should be able to deal with wolves the same way they deal with dogs. If the dogs who did this have been found they are currently dead, I am not sure if they all have. The reason people make a big deal about wolves is because they kill livestock but are still protected. Dog owners can be held criminally responsible for losses attributed to their dogs. You should look into these issues before ranting about them.

        • Immer Treue says:

          Don’t know if your comment was to me or Kirk,my first sentence included,”not just because of the livestock folk,”…

          No livestock to speak of up here in NE MN, and the folks who hate wolves, well they really hate them. Competition for game and fairy tails of the past.

        • JB says:


          I doubt your claim that ranchers “hate [dogs]…much more”, but I get where you’re coming from. It’s about control. Hazards that one feels they control aren’t so bad…it’s those that we can’t control that drive us nuts. Still, I don’t buy the argument that ranchers should be able to shoot wolves just because they’re there (Wyoming’s law). Deer, elk and other wildlife “destroy” ranchers property far more frequently (via herbivory) but they aren’t allowed to shoot them just for being on their property (at least not without special permitting). It should be the same for wolves.

        • Kirk Robinson says:


          Rant? I hardly think so.

          Where did anyone say that ranchers shouldn’t be able to shoot dogs or wolves that are harassing or attacking their stock? I’m certainly not opposed to that. I think you may be upset because your charge of false logic failed, clever try though it was.

          Here’s something else to consider that seems to have escaped your attention: Wolves in the area where the 44 sheep were killed were outside the trophy game protected zone. Consequently, they can be killed just for being wolves with no legal repercussions. They don’t have to be anywhere near livestock, let alone harassing or attacking livestock. They don’t even have to be on private land. There is no such law regarding feral dogs, yet I’ll bet they kill more livestock animals than wolves do. Why the disparity? That’s the question I was addressing and that I suggest you focus on.

  17. Nancy says:

    An interesting look/read at what’s left of wilderness areas in the US.

  18. sue says:

    @Harley-if my tone offended, I apologize. I consider myself a responsible livestock owner. I utilize dogs to protect my sheep. They graze on private land, with well kept fences and I make every effort to contact owners of stray dogs, if possible. I do wish that livestock owners could be viewed in a more favorable light by others. As with any group, there are those that do not take their responsibilities as a livestock producer to the highest level.

    As far as wolves being re-introduced onto Federal land and dispersing, if you were involved with or paying attention to the re-introduction you would know that the citizens of Wyoming were the first to ask this very question, “How are you going to KEEP them in Yellowstone?” There are numerous references to the public meetings held in Wyoming during the public comment period if one cares to educate themselves.

    Today, to my dismay, I find that there are ‘some’ residents of the Cowboy State who seem to have lost their minds in their attempts to rid the state of the wolves. It cannot be done and contrary to the popular belief by those outside our borders, MOST of our citizens are reasonable.

    I appreciate your statement that a private land-owner should be able to take appropriate measures if safety is threatened. I doubt there is anyone reading this who would disagree with that statement. Should I see a wolf traveling through, ‘I’ won’t be the one to shoot it. But if it stops to partake of the lamb buffet on my property, I will. Property rights are just that and valued by everyone.

    I don’t ‘dislike’ wolves. I do resent the way Wyoming was forced to take them. Yellowstone belongs to everyone but the State of Wyoming does not. We are a strange breed. We don’t care for others telling us what to do and that is at the very root of this violent reaction by some Wyoming citizens. Had those wolves been here all along and a plan put in place to regenerate their numbers, we’d have had no more problem with it than we have managing and protecting the Grizzly. They are ‘our’ grizzlies.

    @Kirk, I thank you for bringing up that case of the rancher in the ’80’s. It points to the fact that some actions have unintended consequences. That rancher(Stoddard was his name)intended to fence out the neighboring cattle. This can be documented in the Defenders of Wildlife’s pdf files.

    I’ve seen many, many posts suggesting the wolves be fenced in or out. It cannot be done in Wyoming for that very reason. Migratory pathways may be blocked AND our State Government prohibits the enclosure of or fencing in of game animals.

    • TC says:


      Some of us Wyoming residents were pretty well OK with wolves NOT being limited to YNP in some quasi-zoo setting. In fact, quite a few of us are quite OK with wolves being on more public lands in the state. USDA FS, BLM, even state lands – there is quite a bit of public land that would be suitable for wolves where conflict could be managed by reasonable people. If and when they cause problems on private land, fine, there are protocols for dealing with them. We also were quite pleased with them being reintroduced into the GYA in the first place – we don’t feel they were forced on us, but rather they were restored to one of the few nearly functional ecosystems in western North America. Please know your opinions are not universal here in the Equality State – Wyoming is not “owned” by any one special interest group (or political party) – there are producers and outdoorspeople and wildlife professionals and a fair number of plain old citizens that appreciate wolves and other predators on the landscape. Maybe we need to become more rabid and irrational to get attention. I’d like to think not.

    • Immer Treue says:


      You were more than eloquent and fair in your explanation(s) above, with the exception of this one phrase:
      “. Had those wolves been here all along and a plan put in place to regenerate their numbers, we’d have had no more problem with it than we have managing and protecting the Grizzly. They are ‘our’ grizzlies.”

      No other animal was persecuted with such rabid determination as the wolf. You sound like a fair person, who would give wolves that chance. Every other animal, save the wolf, was given some sort of recovery plan. Wyoming learned how to coexist with the grizzly. How about the wolf? Not a challenge, just the question that most of us pro-Wolfers have.

      Once again, you come across as a thoughtful and fair person.

    • Harley says:

      Oo no no no, your tone did not offend!! Sorry if I implied that! If anything, your tone was frustrated.

  19. sue says:

    @TC, Thank you for commenting. I know my opinions are not those of every citizen of Wyoming. They are mine. I don’t disagree with your statement that Wyoming is not owned by any one special interest group(or political party). I shall also change the wording from ‘forced’ to ‘obliged’, since the re-introduction was not put to a popular vote to the citizens.

    @Immer Treue, Yes, the wolf was persecuted-mostly by Federal, State and local governments offering bounties. Wolves can be dangerous, we all know and acknowledge that and they may have been hunted just as earnestly without a bounty. I just don’t know.

    Back to the original question-what if it had been wolves? Yes, there likely would be an uproar in our local paper, mentioned above. That’s what sells papers. If it had been one wolf, within a matter of hours it would be a pack and in a matter of days, every wolf in Yellowstone would be in the valley. That’s how the media works and in this small community, scuttlebutt(rumor mill)is faster than the speed of light! It’s a tightly held legal publication(I hesitate to use the word newspaper).

  20. Vince Warde says:

    Even here in liberal California, counties have the option of allowing ranchers to shoot dogs that “worry” livestock, let alone kill them. Even the protected Mt. Lion can, and often is, legally shot in protection of livestock.

    As I understand the Wolf management plan, tis is not permitted. This is, in my mind the essential difference.

  21. Dawn Rehill says:

    First off, dogs evolved(sorry for spelling) from wolves, are you really shock? Second I live in Wyoming and the wildlife is not “ours” meaning the state of Wyoming . Third we need to lose this mentality that we can control wildlife, not gonna happen . The question is can we live with wildlife, respect other species ? Maybe and this is a stretch remeber we are in the year 2012, update our intelligence with other species, just a thought !

  22. John says:

    Just to prove you wrong I have attached a link to a news article on a sheriffs report about a reported wolf killing similar in number to this article from the same paper.

    There has been no difference in the outrage expressed by this article and the one about dogs. My point has been conveniently proven.


October 2012


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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