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
  • WATERSHED PROGRAMS COORDINATOR
    Are you looking for a positive and success oriented work environment, the opportunity to join a (small but) dynamic group of people supporting watershed activities...
  • BACKCOUNTRY FILM FESTIVAL MANAGER
    Boise-based Winter Wildlands Alliance is looking for an experienced and highly motivated individual to organize our annual Backcountry Film Festival and Tour and coordinate additional...
  • LAND CONSERVATION MANAGER
    SUMMARY Leads, administers and manages the land conservation, conservation easement stewardship, and property management activities of the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department within...
  • CLEAN ENERGY PROGRAM ATTORNEY, NEVADA
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Staff Attorney who is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Deschutes River Conservancy in Bend, Oregon
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...