Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bitterroot man shoots 2 wolves on property

PERRY BACKUS/Ravalli Republic
  Julie Schram covers one of two wolves killed within 300 yards of her home after they were spotted threatening goats and sheep on the family ranch northwest of Hamilton.
HAMILTON - For the second time in five weeks, a sheep rancher shot and killed wolves threatening his livestock within 300 yards of his home just northwest of Hamilton.
Julie Schram said her husband, Dave, knew something was wrong early Monday morning when the couple's older Australian shepherd refused to go outside.
"He just went stiff and wouldn't go out the door," she said. "Dave knew that something was going on."
From a window, Schram spotted a black wolf standing a few feet away from a large pile of rocks where 10 goats and some sheep had taken refuge.

"The goats were all standing together facing the wolf and the sheep were on top of the hill," she said. "They were obviously scared."
Schram's husband grabbed his .22-250 rifle and ran to the nearby corral.
"The spooky thing for me is the black wolf looked right at him and then continued on with what it was doing," Schram said. "If it had been a coyote, it would have been long gone. It didn't show any fear."
Schram's husband killed the black wolf with a single shot. He then spotted a lighter-colored wolf about 50 feet farther away. When it turned broadside to him, he shot and killed it, too.

The black wolf was male. The lighter-colored wolf was a female. Both appeared to be yearlings.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Joe Jaquith investigated the incident and said it appeared to be a legitimate shooting.
"The landowner acted according to the law," Jaquith said. "As far as I'm concerned, the investigation is pretty much done."
The two wolves will be turned over to a FWP wolf biologist.
"My guess is they were a couple of siblings out hitting the ground and just getting started," Jaquith said.
The Schrams own 120 acres off Mill Creek Road. For the most part, the property is surrounded by subdivisions and small farms.
Jaquith said it would be possible for wolves to get to the Schram property from the mountains to the west through adjoining pasture lands.

Since wolves are the relative newcomer in the local predator world, Jaquith said people are still learning about how they will operate in places like the Bitterroot.
"I'm a lot better at predicting what a black bear is going to do," he said. "Wolves seem more akin to mountain lions. Lions turn up where they turn up. It seems like wolves are doing the same thing."
Jaquith said wardens receive reports of wolves showing up in different locations up and down the west side of the Bitterroot. They don't receive as many reports from the east side.

Schram was surprised that wolves were so near the valley floor this time of year.
"We expect that a bit more when there is snow in the high country," she said. "Our cows are summering on the Skalkaho/Sleeping Child range. That's where I would expect to find wolves this time of year. So far, we've not seen anything there."
The government trapper who investigated the first shooting was surprised too that the family was having trouble with wolves.
In the first case, an 80-pound female wolf was shot and killed.

"It's been five weeks to the day since that first one," Schram said. "At that time, the government trapper told us that he would understand it if we were having trouble with neighborhood dogs, but not wolves.
"He said this isn't wolf territory. He said this doesn't make sense. This place is almost the valley floor."
Since that first incident, Schram said she's heard people say that her family should expect issues with wolves because of where they live.
"We are surrounded by houses," she said. "They said that I should expect it because I live in the trees. I have a handful of trees on the whole 120 acres."