John Hollenhorst ReportingShould wolves be welcomed to Utah and loved or should they be captured and shot? Those deeply conflicting attitudes have stirred controversy for years, but now the state has a new proposal that tries to split the difference.
Western ranchers pretty much wiped wolves out decades ago, but they're making a strong comeback, starting with reintroduction in Yellowstone in the 1990's.
Kevin Bunnell, State Mammals Coordinator: “The re-introduction effort that’s taken place in Idaho and Wyoming has been phenomenally successful.”
In fact, 66 wolves have multiplied into nearly a thousand.
A Yellowstone wolf was actually captured in Utah three years ago. Other sightings are unconfirmed.
Kevin Bunnell: “It wouldn’t surprise me at all that we have wolves crossing our border occasionally.”
A special task force including wolf advocates and ranchers has spent the last two years hammering out a Wolf Management Plan. It spells out who can do what when wolves do come to Utah.
Kevin Bunnell: “As long as wolves are essentially staying out of trouble they’ll be allowed to stay in the state.”
Ranchers used to talk about their own wolf management plan – The three S’s: Shoot, Shovel, and Shut up. Under the new state plan they would have the right to shoot under certain circumstances.”
Anyone could shoot a wolf if it's threatening a human. That's considered a remote possibility. But wolves do attack livestock. The plan would reimburse ranchers for losses. And the wolf is fair game if a rancher catches one in the act of attacking livestock.
Kevin Bunnell: “A wolf actually has a mouthful of whatever it is it’s gone after, under that group is pretty well an agreement that a rancher should have a right to kill under that circumstance.”
The group couldn't agree on a trickier question: can a wolf be killed if it's merely stalking, chasing or harassing livestock? The draft plan will likely undergo revisions before final approval in June. The plan would come into play only when the federal government removes the wolf from the Endangered Species list.
The draft is out for public comment for the next two weeks. You can read it by clicking on the link