Rancher who shot wolf avoids fine by placing ad
LIVINGSTON (AP) - A rancher who
shot a wolf as it chased her sheep has
settled a federal civil suit by agreeing to pay for a local newspaper ad
educating others about legal protections for wolves.
Laura Mitchell avoided a fine by
placing the ad, the text of which filled
her requirement to "educate the local populace about the regulations
surrounding the experimental population of wolves in our area," according to
the terms of the settlement.
The ad in the Livingston
Enterprise cost about $120, the newspaper said.
It consisted mostly of information provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service regarding protections for wolves and outlining under what
circumstances people may kill them.
Mitchell, however, was also
allowed in a brief introduction to explain what
led to the wolf's death and to note that she does not support federal wolf
reintroduction that began in 1994.
"This program totally ties our hands to deal with canine depredation because
if we shoot it and it turns out to be a wolf, we've got a problem," she
The case began in June 1999,
when Mitchell said she saw an animal that she
thought was a coyote chasing her sheep.
She fatally shot the animal, but
then realized it was not a coyote, Mitchell
said in the advertisement. She called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to
report the kill.
In the days that followed,
Mitchell found a dead sheep, but said she never
found three lambs that had gone missing sometime during the two weeks prior
to the wolf sighting.
Mitchell said investigators told
her they would recommend that no legal
action be taken, and she then heard nothing for about two years.
In March 2002, she learned the case had been sent to a federal solicitor
general in Colorado, who would determine if the case was worth pursuing. In
January 2004, she received notification the government intended to seek
civil penalties for the wolf death.
"Since I had no way to
prove depredation, by our laws, a crime had been
committed," she wrote.
Ed Bangs, a federal wolf specialist, said civil cases involving deaths of
protected animals can be delayed while other more urgent cases are handled.
But he said pursuit of the case was legitimate.