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Pack of seven wolves shot after killing cattle

POLARIS (AP) -- A federal wildlife official has shot and killed a pack of seven wolves responsible for killing cattle in southwestern Montana.

Graeme McDougal of the U.S. Wildlife Services first spotted the pack just east of Polaris on Jan. 15 from the air.

The wolves were believed responsible for killing cattle in the Big Hole Valley northeast of Salmon, Idaho, in December but McDougal did not have a chance to shoot.

This week, while searching for coyotes in the same area from a helicopter, McDougal spotted a dead calf and a rancher nearby waving at them. After landing and talking to the rancher, McDougal was able to shoot one wolf on Tuesday.

Later, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials approved killing the rest of the pack. On Thursday, McDougal spotted the remaining six wolves east of Polaris in the Grasshopper Valley and shot all of them.

Joe Fontaine, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife wolf project leader for Montana, said the wolves that were killed included an adult pair and five yearlings.

The Big Hole and Grasshopper Valley areas are not a good location for a pack of wolves, Fontaine said. Most of the elk move out of that area and there are lots of cattle, he said.

"It's a tough place for them to make a living without getting in trouble," he said.

Fontaine said he's not sure where the wolves came from and it wasn't until last March that his agency was able to confirm they were even in the area.

"We're starting to see sightings in places where we haven't seen wolves before," he said.

Fontaine asked for people to report wolf sightings.

"If we'd known earlier about these wolves, maybe we could have prevented some of the problems that occurred there," he said. "Being able to get a collar on one is a big help. Once we get a collar on one, then we have an idea of where they're at and it's a lot easier to manage them in the long run."

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