Wolves take a toll on Big Horn sheepWritten by Jennifer Womack
On Sunday morning when the couple went out to check their sheep, which were trucked into the area the day before, they discovered 10 dead lambs. Others are expected to die as a result of the infections that develop following wolf bites. Carricaburu says they called the Buffalo game warden whose investigation was followed by that of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) employee from Worland.
Carricaburu applauds the efforts of Jim Seeman with Game and Fish, Mike Petersen with the FWS and Brad Seaman of Wildlife Services for their professionalism. “These are the three guys who came and did the investigation and all three were professional, they were concerned and gave the feeling they were there to help us.” The kills were, without a doubt, attributed to wolves.
They’re not the first to occur in the area, but the latest in a series of losses that have taken their toll on sheep producers who summer their sheep in the area. Also experiencing losses, some surpassing 42 head, are the Brubakers of Worland, the Curuchets of Kaycee and the Lymans of Ten Sleep. Carricaburu says that much of the land where the sheep graze, including the piece he leases, is private property.
“The massive trauma from a single bite is impressive,” says Carricaburu of the wolf’s impact. It is estimated that two wolves, one larger and the other smaller, killed his sheep. At first FWS thought there were just a few wolves in the area, but now the agency is telling livestock producers there may be two or three packs comprised of a few wolves each.
“We have about 800 ewes and lambs and we take immaculate care of our sheep,” says Carricaburu whose family has ran sheep in Wyoming since 1922. The couple’s lambs have been recognized as some of the top by the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative, of which they are founding members. “We shed lamb these sheep and these are our babies. To see them brutally killed like that, we feel violated. Not just our sheep, but us personally. We found a couple lambs trailing the herd with their guts hanging out. We cried. We feel like we’ve been terrorized.”
Carricaburu says, “They didn’t eat a bite.”
Efforts are underway to trap and collar at least one wolf so the others can be located. A kill order is also in place. So far, however, Wildlife Services has been unable to locate the wolves.
FWS has ordered that all M-44s, a device used to control coyotes, be pulled in Johnson County. Carricaburu explains that an Environmental Protection Agency rule, passed when use of the devices was regained in the mid-1990s, says M-44s must be pulled when wolves are present. “EPA rules say whenever a wolf pulls an M–44 or there is wolf activity that the M-44s have to be pulled for two weeks or until wolf predation or any sign of wolf activity ceases.” As long as the ban is in place the Carricaburus won’t be able to utilize the tool they’ve relied upon to address predation by coyotes.
Asked if he’ll leave his sheep in the area for the remainder of the year, Carricaburu says, “I don’t have any other place to put them this year.” Long-term, however, his answer may be different. “I don’t have to lose too many sheep before, economically, I can’t afford to go up there.”