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SALT LAKE CITY — State agriculture officials said Tuesday that trappers are searching to capture and kill a wolf that killed a livestock animal in Rich County likely sometime over the weekend.
The carcass of the livestock animal was found by its owner near Monte Cristo Monday. A trapper went out to the scene that day and examined bite marks and tracks to identify that it was a wolf that had killed the animal. The trapper estimated the attack had happened about four days before the animal was discovered, said Leann Hunting, director of animal industry for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
She explained there are trappers in different parts of the state who are hired to protect livestock and wildlife. When there’s a loss of one of those animals due to a predator, the trappers are called to locate the animal.
In this case, they are seeking to eradicate the predator because there was livestock depredation. In addition to wolves, other animals like mountain lions can wipe out livestock herds quickly, she said.
"It is our job then to track the wolf or trap it and take care of the problem so it doesn’t continue to depredate livestock and our wildlife populations," she said. "It’s also important to have it done in a timely manner because these predators move so quickly."
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service is assisting in helping track and kill the wolf, according to DWR spokesperson Faith Heaton Jolley.
Wolves have been introduced in various western places, most notably Yellowstone National Park, which earlier this year celebrated 25 years since its program began. Wolves have also been introduced in Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado.
There are Mexican gray wolf populations south of Utah and northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf populations north of the state, but the state hasn’t artificially introduced the species like other parts of the West. Jolley said there have been a little more than a dozen confirmed wolf sightings or reports in Utah over the past 15 years and almost all of them have been in areas near Colorado, Idaho or Wyoming. Even with this report, biologists still haven't found any evidence of established breeding pairs in the state.
Introducing and reintroducing wolves is seen as controversial; proponents argue it’s beneficial in helping ecosystems thrive while opponents say they will prey on local livestock and wildlife. The topic has gained enough attention that Utah legislators passed a resolution against introducing the species during the 2020 legislative session.
"Be it forever resolved that the Legislature and Governor call upon the President of the United States, the United States Department of the Interior and Congress to block efforts to force wolves on the state of Utah," the resolution stated, "to preserve the historical and conservation values of Utah, its wildlife, its family ranchers, its economy, its outdoor heritage and its citizens."
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources created a gray wolf management plan in 2005 and that agency will handle wolf management once the species is no longer listed as an endangered species statewide. Gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list in parts of the U.S., which included Rich County and a portion of northeastern Utah, in 2011.
The division’s plan was recently extended to be ready should the day come that the species is delisted in the rest of the state.