Wolf traps pulled weeks after calf kill in Monte Cristo area

Wolves are often implicated as the top predator affecting prey populations.

MONTE CRISTO – Traps set to take out a wolf that killed a calf recently were pulled last week after determining the wolf was no longer in the area. The incident happened the last weekend in May in the Monte Cristo area.

UDAF’s Director of Animal Services Leann Hunting spending quality time in the field with Troy Higgs, one of the state brand inspectors.

Leann Hunting, from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, supervises the trapping for the state and said nobody saw the wolf, but a calf was obviously killed by one.

I think it was passing through the area, killed the calf, ate it and moved on,” she said. “There hasn’t been any other sightings or signs of the wolf, so we pulled the traps Thursday.”

Someone reported it was a Mexican Gray Wolf and it was reprinted, she said. That information didn’t come from her office.

“There has never been a Mexican Gray Wolf sighting north of Highway 40 in Arizona,” Hunting said. “The information was false; it was not a Mexican Gray Wolf.”

The wolf that killed the livestock could have easily traveled from Wyoming or Idaho where the Yellowstone Gray Wolves are known to be.

Wolf packs were reintroduced into Yellowstone Park in 1995 and have grown dramatically since then. They can easily pass through the 30 miles of high mountain area of Monte Cristo which parallels the Bear River Mountains.

Scott Becker, the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said he understood wolves had been in that area before.

“When they were listed as endangered, dispersing wolves could have been trucking through that area and people wouldn’t even know they’re there,” he said. “Reports from the public come into play in these situations.”

He said it’s hard for him to get out and look for wolves in the several different states he covers.

“If someone sees something, that’s how we find them,” Becker said. “It is not the agency that finds them, it’s usually reports from the public.”

He said the state has management authority when suspected depredation occurs in Utah.

“We coordinate with the state if they are documented to be in a delisted area,” Becker said. “We suspect it was a lone dispersing wolf. There are a lot of them that are not wearing radio collars and we don’t know where they are going.”

Wolves may eat livestock, but by in large they prefer to eat native wildlife.

He said different predators have a signature method of killing.

“A lot of it depends on the condition of calf or animal that was killed,” Becker said. “Each predator has a distinctive way of killing an animal. They also may leave tracks or scat that leads us to what the ultimate culprit is.”

There has been a number of people that have shot a wolf not realizing what it was until they walk up to see the animal.

“You don’t expect wolves to be in some places,” he said. “If you’re shooting coyotes from far away you may not know you’ve killed a wolf until you get up to it.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recorded them traveling up to 500 miles from their original habitat.

“They can cover a lot of country and they don’t know where they are going,” he said. “They hurry and they don’t stick around very long.”

Becker said a wolf will kill and eat wildlife before livestock.

Wolves are often implicated as the top predator affecting prey populations. Research from Utah State University indicates that cougars are actually the main predator influencing the movement of elk across the winter range of northern Yellowstone National Park.

“Wolves choose to eat wildlife first. They may eat livestock, but by in large they eat native wildlife,” he said. “We don’t know what triggers their brain, just they usually will eat native prey or big game first.”

Periodically, there has been wolf activity in the state of Utah, Becker said.

“There is always an emotional charge when people hear of wolf activity,” he said. “I can’t say too much about the case. I have not seen any formal report and I have not seen the calf that was preyed upon.”


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  • kim m June 12, 2020 at 3:59 pm Reply

    The wolf was hungry.He probably tried other means to eat but wasn’t successful.I can see it being a problem if it was hanging around that area or there were a pack of them,but i was glad they made the decision to remove the traps and keep an eye on things.It was the right thing to do.After all,what give us the right to be mad at it,a human would have eventually ate that calf.

    • Tim Willis June 12, 2020 at 6:22 pm Reply


  • P Williams June 13, 2020 at 3:37 pm Reply

    I saw some ridiculous remarks attributed to Utah Dept of Ag’s Leann Hunting in another article. She claimed that if state trappers weren’t out there killing day & night, predators would wipe out all wildlife and all livestock. She also said that predators kill for fun and that it’s “very common” for predators to kill a large number of animals. I remember hearing about instances like that a handful of times over many years, but it’s certainly not “very common.” I am disturbed at her ignorance and wonder if the Utah Dept of Ag has always had such a low bar. Don’t Utah residents deserve more integrity in their public servants? It’s embarrassing.

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