frustrate ranchers By the Associated Press
Montana officials want to loosen rules on
shooting protected animals
BOZEMAN - A wolf pack attack in the Madison Valley last week brought
stern demands for action from local officials, two members of
Congress, Gov. Judy Martz and the Montana Stockgrowers Association.
Rep. Denny Rehberg, Sen. Conrad Burns and the governor, all
Republicans, called for liberalized authority for residents to kill
troublesome wolves, action that is now restricted under the animals'
federally protected status.
The stockgrowers association reiterated its
appeal for wolf control.
Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, defended his agency's response to the killing of a dog on the
Durham ranch, saying he had a helicopter en route within half an hour
to kill all seven wolves in the Sentinel pack.
The wolves have been hanging around Todd and Barbie Durham's home
since mid-February. Early last week, the wolves killed a neighbor's
yearling steer within 200 yards of three homes.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents darted one of the female wolves
and fitted a radio collar on it after the pack killed the steer. FWS
officials said then that three of the wolves in the pack would be
However, the collared wolf was found shot to death later Friday in a
field several miles away from the Durham home. The killing appeared to
be illegal, but it was "absolutely not" the Durham family
that did the shooting, Bangs said.
The latest conflict began Friday at 5:30 a.m. when Todd Durham was
checking cattle on his property east of Cameron. He spotted four
wolves running pregnant heifers, said his wife Barbie Durham. The
Durhams' Australian shepherd ran into the mix to protect the cattle.
"They killed him instead of the cows," Barbie Durham said.
"If he hadn't have went out there, they would have taken a
The attack infuriated Madison County commissioners, who said federal
officials dragged their feet while wolves wreaked havoc on ranchers
during calving season.
"We lose four animals, and then we lose a dog, which I consider a
member of that family," Commissioner Dave Schulz said. "All
of a sudden the Fish and Wildlife Service is saying, 'Maybe we should
do something?' "
The killing of the Durhams' dog changed everything, Bangs said.
"It was an Australian shepherd that we had had for quite
awhile," Barbie Durham told the Montana Standard. "It was
one of the dogs that my kids loved the most. We're just really, really
frustrated right now."
"It's like we're being terrorized," she said. "And it's
something that you just don't have any control over."
Local ranchers have a right to be frustrated over the killing, Bangs
"The people we've been working with have been very understanding
and doing everything they can to help," he said.
"I didn't give any shoot-to-kill permits to people because I
wanted to let the professionals do their job," Bangs said.
"I didn't want to take a chance that someone would shoot the
collared wolf and make our job of control that much more
Bangs said he wasn't sure what caused the pack to start killing cattle
and get so close to homes. The pack has been around since 2002 and
hasn't been involved in depredations until now.
Three collared wolves in the pack were illegally killed last year, and
officials hadn't been able to collar another one until the female was
darted last week.
Losing that collared wolf will make finding and killing the other
wolves much more difficult, and it may take substantially more time,
"If wolves cause problems, we have no problem instituting lethal
control," he said. "We'll keep working on it until we
resolve the situation. But it's going to drag on for a while, I'm
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