Wolf foes get medieval

As feds prepare to take wolves off the endangered list, a rash of animal poisonings causes concerns

  • Mack McFarland and Salix, the dog that survived eating a poisoned hot dog in Buffalo Valley, Wyoming

    Lucas J. Gilman
 

JACKSON, WYOMING — The hot dog had been left on the ground beside a forest road in Buffalo Valley, where cattle and dude ranches border Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park. Minutes after a mixed-breed border collie named Salix discovered it and gobbled it down, she was racked by convulsions.

An investigation revealed that the hot dog had been hollowed out, packed with a pesticide called Temik, and then sealed with a plug of cheese. "It’s a dreadful thing," says veterinarian Michael Dennis, who helped flush the poison from the collie over the next four days.

Another dog ate a hot dog in Buffalo Valley that week in late March, and suffered a "wretched" death, wildly hurling itself into a glass door with enough force to shatter the glass, its owner reported.

Since February, poisoned meat planted on public and private land around northwest Wyoming and near Salmon, Idaho, has killed at least seven dogs, and sickened at least 13 others. Some locals think the poisoner hates dogs, but Dominic Domenici, a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Casper, believes it’s probably a clumsy attempt to kill gray wolves.

Other wildlife agents, environmentalists and wolf opponents also see the poisonings in the context of the bitter local resistance to the federal program that first reintroduced wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. More than 700 wolves now roam Montana, Idaho and northwest Wyoming.

"Whoever is putting out the poison ... why else ... if it wasn’t for the wolves?" says Lynn Madsen, a hunting outfitter who uses a forest trailhead on the Buffalo Valley road. Though not a fan of wolves, Madsen calls the poisonings irresponsible, and worries his own dogs could be at risk. The poisoners, he says, are "not very smart."

So far, no wolves have been reported victims of the poison, but the casualties apparently include coyotes, foxes and magpies. Federal and state investigations have been launched. On March 20, Idaho wildlife agents led a search of the Salmon home of Tim Sundles, an ammunition manufacturer who used his Web site to publish an article titled, "How to Successfully Poison Wolves." The article recommended the bait method and the pesticide, which is used by potato and beet farmers and sold under various brand names.

The deadly recipe was published in late March in The Advertiser, a shopper printed in Riverton, Wyo. Both Advertiser publisher Mike Rinehart, another vocal wolf opponent, and Sundles have declined to comment. Sundles has admitted shooting a wolf in Idaho, claiming that it had attacked him, his wife and his horses. Anti-wolf activists charge that wolves destroy herds of big game (an exaggeration, according to most biologists) and attack pet dogs.

"It is most unfortunate that these pets (dogs) were victims" of poisoning, wrote Ron Gillet of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, in a letter to the editor published April 8 in the Challis Messenger. "However, it would seem obvious that the poison was not put out for pets but for (imported) Canadian wolves which are devastating our wildlife and also mutilating our pets."

The pesticide can be lethal to humans who merely absorb it through the skin or breathe its dust, so officials have warned people not to touch anything that might be poisoned bait.

The poisonings come even as the Fish and Wildlife Service moves to take gray wolves off the endangered species list, and turn over wolf management to the states (HCN, 4/14/03: Debate rages over ‘de-listing’ wolves). The agency just finished gathering public comment on proposed regulations that in effect would allow Idaho and Montana to begin putting their own plans into action, making it easier to kill wolves that prey on game animals as well as on livestock.

But the agency rejected Wyoming’s wolf plan in January, because the state would classify any wolves found outside of two national parks and a few wilderness areas as predators that can be shot on sight. Wyoming’s government has refused to back down, however, and the state sued the federal government on April 22, demanding that its plan be approved. The poisonings are "a perfect example of why the federal government is feeling leery about Wyoming," says Mac Blewer of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. "We’re not ready to manage our own wolves with this sort of lunacy."

The author is a reporter for the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

The following sidebar article accompanies this story:

- New Mexico may change wolf policy

Anyone with information about the location of these suspicious food items, or about the person(s) responsible, is asked to call Crimestoppers Inc., 307-733-5148; U.S. Forest Service Special Agent Dave Griffel, 208-542-5822; or the Bridger-Teton Law Enforcement Officer, Shane Wasem, 307-739-5573.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...
  • EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Position Description: The Education Director is the primary leader of Colorado Canyons Association's (CCA) education programs for students and adults on the land and rivers...
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...