A wolf responsible for killing sheep and goats while eluding federal trappers for four months was shot and killed from a helicopter Friday morning north of Reed Point.
"I'm glad he's gone," said rancher Sven Svenson, who said the wolf and its mate killed 30 head of his livestock.
The wolf's mate was killed in late November. Officials believe no more wolves are in the area.
Svenson said the time he spent trying to protect his animals was more costly than the livestock losses, which he estimated at $5,000 to $6,000. Montana has a program to compensate ranchers for documented livestock losses to wolves.
"There was a lot of fall work that didn't get done because we were chasing this ghost," Svenson said. "The livestock loss was the cheapest loss for me."
Although wolves are managed by the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Montana, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services is in charge of control actions, although FWP will issue kill permits to landowners suffering from wolf depredations.
Svenson had tried without success to keep his sheep safe by using lights, noise makers, herders, night patrols and guard dogs. Two of his guard dogs were attacked and injured by the wolf on New Year's Eve.
"It was definitely one of our more difficult projects," said John Steuber, of Wildlife Services in Billings.
The carcass of the white-coated wolf, estimated at 112 to 120 pounds, was retrieved by a Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist and taken to a state laboratory for study.
"It was a wild wolf" and not a hybrid, said Bob Gibson, FWP information officer in Billings.
A wolf hybrid was blamed for extensive livestock losses in Eastern Montana in 2006 before it was killed.
Wolves were taken off the endangered-species list in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho this spring, but a lawsuit by environmental groups resulted in reinstatement of protection for the animals. The court action forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider its delisting rule that turns management over to the states.
Despite the protection of the Endangered Species Act, wolves that kill livestock can be shot, and 2008 was particularly lethal. Through early December, 245 wolves were legally killed by wildlife agents and ranchers in the Northern Rockies - a 31 percent increase over last year's figure, according to an Associated Press report.
That compared with a total of 532 livestock kills attributed to wolves in 2008 through early December, up from 420 kills in 2007, the report said.
"It's unfortunate this particular rancher was getting hit," said Mike Leahy of Defenders of Wildlife, a group that works to help ranchers limit livestock losses to wolves. "Hopefully in the future we can find strategies to protect his livestock."
Wolves were exterminated from Montana in the early 1900s. They were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 and 1996 and have since dispersed as the wolves filled all of the park's niches.
Svenson called the reintroduction "totally asinine."
"They can have all the wolves they want in Yellowstone National Park," he said. "But they're not welcome on the Svenson ranch."
Contact Brett French at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 657-1387.