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Panel accuses USFWS of planting wolves on private ranch land: Park County seeks probe

CODY, Wyo. - An "outraged" Park County Board of Commissioners has demanded a congressional investigation into questions about the presence of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents on the Larsen Ranch in Meeteetse last month.

The letter, signed by the three commissioners, asks the state's congressional delegation to conduct a formal inquiry into an incident Feb. 14 when a ranch worker found a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent and his assistant working on four tranquilized wolves on the property.

"We are outraged and demand accountability of the actions taken by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surrounding the incident," the letter stated.

 

The letter states that federal officials were planting wolves on the land without the landowner's knowledge and calls "the introduction of a dangerous wild predator onto private land historically used for calving" a "grievous" act.

"My trust level with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not very high right now," said Commission Chairman Tim Morrison. "We don't really know what happened down there, but we want answers and we want accountability."

The commissioners' request was sent to Sen. Mike Enzi's office. Enzi received it Thursday and is considering the matter carefully, according to press secretary Coy Knobel.

"The allegation of planting wolves is serious and if it's true, it's outrageous," Knobel said.

Claims that federal agents were planting wolves on private land drew a laugh from Ed Bangs, FWS wolf recovery coordinator based in Helena. He said this was the first time he has run into a situation like this in his 15 years of service, during which the agency has collared 550 wolves.

But he said he would not comment directly on the incident investigation, only that "it was a legal matter that has been turned over to the law-enforcement division."

Michael Jimenez, the FWS wolf expert involved in the incident, also said he could not comment.

"Once it goes to law enforcement, we can't talk about it," Jimenez said.

Larsen Ranch employee and stockgrower Randy Kruger was driving down LU Ranch Road, west of Highway 120, when he came upon Jimenez, his assistant Wes Livingston and the four wolves. According to Kruger, Jimenez told him that he and Livingston had chased the wolves in a helicopter from Dubois in an attempt to collar the four animals. After they picked up the wolves, the helicopter pilot dropped off the group while he went to refuel. They did not know they were on private land, Jimenez told Kruger.

Kruger has since filed a criminal trespass complaint with the Park County Attorney's Office and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation is currently looking into the allegations at the request of Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric. The DCI will interview witnesses, review documents, and conduct mapping studies to determine if a trespass occurred.

"The DCI report will tell me where we go from here," Skoric said. "I want to have all the facts in front of me before I charge anyone."


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