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A mystery predator responsible for 12 sheep deaths in Eastern Montana last month could be connected to the dozens of similar attacks in late 2005 and early 2006, which some officials blame on a domestic hybrid species of wolf. Montana’s top wolf official said this week that two suspicious animals remain on the loose in and near Garfield County following the sheep deaths in late August. A third animal killed in a coyote snare earlier this month has yet to be positively identified as wild or domestic. The recent deaths revive last year's furor in McCone and Garfield Counties over the 100-plus sheep slaughtered, and the subsequent hunt that ultimately left dead a domestic wolf, the product, officials believe, of manipulated breeding in captivity.

Montana Wolf Mystery Revived, Snared Wolf Possible Hybrid

A mystery predator responsible for 12 sheep deaths in Eastern Montana last month could be connected to the dozens of similar attacks in late 2005 and early 2006, which some officials blame on a domestic hybrid species of wolf.

Montana’s top wolf official said this week that two suspicious animals remain on the loose in and near Garfield County following the sheep deaths in late August. A third animal killed in a coyote snare earlier this month has yet to be positively identified as wild or domestic.

“It’s a young female, charcoal gray in color,” said Carolyn Sime, wolf coordinator for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “It looks like something we would see in the Northern Rockies, but I’ve also seen domestic wolves that look the same. It’s unclear what the origin is.”

The recent deaths revive last year’s furor in McCone and Garfield Counties over the 100-plus sheep slaughtered, and the subsequent hunt that ultimately left dead a domestic wolf, the product, officials believe, of manipulated breeding in captivity.

More than that, the frustration of stockmen, as Hal Herring wrote last year for NewWest.Net, was “not entirely directed at the creature itself (the stockmen here know full well how to handle that problem) but at the federal and state governments, at complex regulations imposed to protect an animal that they despise, and at a far-away society that seems to have lost all respect for them and their constant struggle to remain self-reliant, solvent, and on the land.” (Click here for the first installment of Hal’s March 2006 story, here for the second.)

Sime said the dead wolf does not match the description of either animal spotted by USDA wildlife service officials on August 22 as they searched for the predators from an airplane. One of those animals was brown, the other was gray. Both were spotted within two miles of the most recent sheep attacks near Jordan.

“The brown color is a flyer that something is not right,” said Sime. “The one last year was brown as well.”

Officials authorized the USDA to kill both of the spotted wolves, but ended up catching the third unidentified wolf species instead. Sime said it’s possible that one or both of the wolves that remain on the loose are domestic. “It’s unusual for wolves to disperse as groups,” she said. “It could be a combination of captive and wild animals.”

Sime said wolf sightings of the last month could be an extension of events from late 2005 and early 2006, but admitted that the agency remains somewhat baffled by the new case. There have been no sightings in vicinity of Jordan since Labor Day weekend.

And the mystery of the Creature of McCone County continues.

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8 comments

  1. I am QUITE SURE that the wolves turned loose in the park and invading all surounding States should never be blamed for anything, much less sheep kills. That would be Politically Incorrect.

  2. Innocent til PROVEN Guilty!!

  3. When will all of you “Little Red Riding Hood” believers come to your senses about the perceived mad killer wolf syndrome. Feral dogs have for many, many years slaughtered sheep in neighborhoods as well as on the open range. But, of course, we just CAN’T seem to recognize that “Ole Shep” would do such a thing. GET A LIFE! Check the blood on the lips of your loyal ole housedog that you allow to run wild! If wolves were doing this kind of killing, you can bet they’d be eating them. Ole Shep is well fed…right in your own yard!

  4. Oh Amable, it has been wolves, including the one last year. They succeded in saving DOW from paying for it because the wolf was part Alaskan/Canadian (guess what they trucked in) + Great Lakes, and wolves from the Great Lakes supposedly can’t make it to eastern Montana? Of course maybe it is some of the wolves pushed out of the Park by the transplants.
    It would seem that Lil Red Riding Hood is the only book any of you folks have ever read, you all use the same one for reference. I can jsut see all wolfers sitting around with their copy of the book and a big box of kleenex and sobbing over the misunderstanding and bad treatment of the darling wolf.
    Believe me a pen full of dead sheep or calves is Reality in real life. And they are costing individual families big money.

  5. I’ve raised cattle, unprotected and out on the range with resident wolves and a very large seasonally visiting lion, for many years now and, until I lost a calf to a rattlesnake last month, had never lost a single animal to a natural predator. The actual problem with natural predators on western ranches is not really so much with the predators as it is with the people and their choice of livestock. Domesticated sheep and northern European cattle, like so many of their owners nowadays, have been inbred and artificially selected to such an extent that they truly have little or no capability, little or none of the physical attributes, and scant instinctive sense left enable them to survive in any natural environment without constant human attention and protection. Ironically, that continued human attention and protection and the human culture that it reverse engineers is the very thing that continues to worsen the inbreeding and degrade the mental and physical fitness of both the humans that perpetuate it and the synthetic livestock that it produces. It’s not about the wolves; it’s about deeply rooted cultural codependency and a resulting slow reversal of evolution in the fitness of some types of people and their livestock for survival in any environment. If the wolves weren’t there to blame; it would be the lions or the coyotes or the eagles or the blacks or the hispanics or the union workers or the mice with the hantavirus or the…

  6. It is interesting that all of the headlines about this story state it is a second hybrid, despite no testing being done yet. In fact the first wolf was all wolf, not a hybrid, they felt the fact that one of the parents was from the Great Lakes area meant DOW didn’t have to pay. This is being set up in the media to save DOW from paying for the kills too, and to keep FWS from being responsible.

  7. Marion, you’re right about the title of this story being misleading, so I’ve changed it to reflect the fact that officials have not confirmed that the wolf is a hybrid. It was a mistake I made as an editor, not a media set up, as you suggest. Sorry for the error.

    Matthew Frank

  8. I believe the Billings Gazette used the same headline, at least the part about a second hybrid, so I figured that was the way FWS was sending out the story. I didn’t mean to offend you, but I don’t want anyone thinking this is a dog hybrid, when it is all wolf, at elast the last one was. Sounds like a whole pack in the area, which would make sense if one of the imports bred with a GL wolf.