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Idaho State News

Rancher: Dozens of Sheep Killed in ‘Pile Up’ After Being Chased by Wolves Near Boise

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – A pair of wolves charged to attack a band of sheep in the Foothills near Boise, causing a “pile up” in a steep ravine that killed more than 100 sheep, according to an Idaho rancher and federal wildlife officials.

According to a news release from the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission, the sheep belonged to Frank Shirts, a Wilder rancher who was grazing a herd of about 2,500 animals in the Boise Foothills. Shirts told the commission that his sheep herders saw two wolves chase the herd into a steep ravine near Shaw Mountain, which is also called Lucky Peak. It wasn’t clear what day the attack took place, but Shirts said the incident occurred during the daytime.

The wolves reportedly chased the sheep into a steep gully, where 143 ewes and lambs died after piling on top of one another. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the wolves directly attacked any of the sheep.

“The wolves scared the hell out of them and pushed them into that little canyon and piled them in there,” Shirts said. “They didn’t consume anything. The sheep just suffocated in the pileup and died. We work to make things good for those sheep every day, so it’s a shame to lose them.”

Idaho has a fund to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by predators. Shirts said he plans to apply for compensation.

According to the Rangeland Commission news release, an agent from the U..S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services confirmed the kill. Wildlife Services regularly kills wolves that are involved in livestock depredation incidents.

Helicopter surveillance of the area around the attack showed no sign of the wolves, and Wildlife Services officials said the wolves do not appear to have returned to the area.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game told the commission it authorized Wildlife Services to kill wolves in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area near Southeast Boise, which includes Shaw Mountain. Fish and Game told the commission it wasn’t clear whether the wolves involved in the incident had split from a pack or more wolves were in the Shaw Mountain area.

“We know that wolves are present on the Boise Front,” said Brian Pearson, regional communication manager for Fish and Game’s Southwest Region, in the news release.

Pearson said the incident occurred in Hunt Unit 39, which has “chronic livestock depredation events” and has expanded attempts to control wolf populations. In recent years, Idaho has aggressively expanded wolf hunting and trapping seasons as the state’s wolf population has grown to roughly 1,500 animals. Idaho must maintain a population of about 150 wolves in order for Fish and Game to retain authority over management.

Shirts and other ranchers said they wanted the public to be aware of incidents so close to the capital city. “This isn’t more than a few miles from Table Rock,” Shirts said.

Original Article by Nicole Blanchard, Idaho Statesman: https://www.idahostatesman.com/outdoors/article262103347.html