Feds investigating shooting of a possible gray wolf in Marshall County

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Britton-area man Mike Werner shot and killed this animal that may be a gray wolf. Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating the case, according to a state conservation officer. (Courtesy photo)

A Britton-area man is caught up in a federal investigation after shooting an animal that may be a gray wolf.

Mike Werner said he was hunting coyotes by a slough near Clear Lake in Marshall County on Jan. 13 when he shot and killed what he thought was a bigger, dark coyote that came up behind him about 100 yards away.

Immediately after shooting the animal, Werner said he realized it was much larger than a coyote and resembled a wolf.

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating the case.

Casey Dowler, a conservation officer with the state Game, Fish and Parks Department in Marshall County, said the animal is being tested at a federal lab.

Dowler would not give anymore information on the case since there is an active federal investigation into the shooting of the animal.

GFP Conservation Officer Supervisor Mike Klosowski said harvesting, trapping or recreational hunting of wolves is illegal.

Klosowski said any case involving gray wolves falls under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said GFP has no wolf management authority at this time.

“So when we have an incident where a gray wolf is killed by a member of the public, we’d likely respond to the call, do a preliminary investigation then pass it off to Fish and Wildlife Service,” Klosowski said. “Then they would do any kind of prosecution on their end, or not prosecute on their end.”

Klosowski said gray wolf sightings are uncommon in northeastern South Dakota, but transient wolves do come through the state from time to time.

“To the east we have Minnesota. Northern Minnesota has a healthy population of gray wolves,” he said. “Then when you go out west near Yellowstone National Park, you have a very healthy population of wolves out there too.”

He explained that wolves are known to venture away from their pack to start their own pack in a new territory.

 Although gray wolves have not established populations in South Dakota, the species is still illegal to kill in the state.

Klosowski said if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were to prosecute someone for killing a gray wolf the case would go to court.

Knowing that wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act and in South Dakota, Werner said he left the animal where it was shot and called the local game warden.

Werner said the animal had an old trapping injury on its foot, where it was missing a couple toes and part of its foot pad.

On another foot, the animal had a trapping device. Werner believes the animal was trapped and was able to break free of the chains that kept him immobilized.

Werner said if the lab testing results show the animal to be a dog-coyote hybrid, he will be able to take the animal home.

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were unable to comment on the ongoing investigation.

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South Dakota Officials: More Pronghorns Mean More Hunting

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/south-dakota/articles/2017-07-14/south-dakota-officials-more-pronghorns-mean-more-hunting

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Wildlife officials in South Dakota have decided that a slowly growing pronghorn population justifies a slight increase in the number of hunting licenses available for the next two years.

The state’s Game, Fish and Parks Commission decided Thursday that it will issue resident hunters over 900 more buck-antelope hunting licenses and 1,400 more doe-antelope licenses in 2017 and 2018 than it did last year, when hunter success reached 70 percent. The hunting unit in Stanley County will allocate 40 licenses and the unit in Hughes County will have 50 licenses for each of the next two years.

The pronghorn is a land mammal known for its speed. They’re unique to North America but are commonly called antelope because of their resemblance to the African animal, the Pierre Capital Journal (http://bit.ly/2taKWqT ) reported.

Population surveys by the commission said there will be about 48,000 pronghorns in the state, still about 10,000 short of the statewide-population objective called for in the department’s antelope-management plan.

In the last five years, the state’s pronghorn-antelope herd has been recovering from a decline. Harvest and hunter success has steadily increased since bottoming out in 2013.

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Information from: Pierre Capital Journal, http://www.capjournal.com

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press

Early snow–Not Wolves–kills thousands of cattle in S.D.

This sad story backs up what I wrote about the cruel treatment of cows in my recent post, Animal Industry = Animal Abuse.

It also highlights just one of the many ways that ranchers lose livestock which make the occasional wolf depredation pale in comparison. Because they can’t go out and trap or shoot a snowstorm, they shrug it off and accept their losses in stride. But if a wolf wanders through, it’s panic time. Scapegoating and killing a few wolves and coyotes must make them feel better about their powerlessness to stop a snowstorm.

Also, how many times do the deniers have to hear the word “record-breaking” before they take climate change seriously…

http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2021983379_apusautumnstormsouthdakota.html

A record-breaking storm that dumped 4 feet of snow in parts of western South Dakota left ranchers dealing with heavy losses, in some cases perhaps up to half their herds, as they assess how many of their cattle died during the unseasonably early blizzard.

By CHET BROKAW Associated Press

Frozen cattle on Monday line Highway 34 east of Sturgis, S.D.

Enlarge this photoKRISTINA BARKER / AP

Frozen cattle on Monday line Highway 34 east of Sturgis, S.D.

PIERRE, S.D. —

A record-breaking storm that dumped 4 feet of snow in parts of western South Dakota left ranchers dealing with heavy losses, in some cases perhaps up to half their herds, as they assess how many of their cattle died during the unseasonably early blizzard.

Meanwhile, utility companies were working to restore power to tens of thousands of people still without electricity Monday after the weekend storm that was part of a powerful weather system that also buried parts of Wyoming and Colorado with snow and produced destructive tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa. At least four deaths were attributed to the weather, including a South Dakota man who collapsed while cleaning snow off his roof.

Gary Cammack, who ranches on the prairie near Union Center about 40 miles northeast of the Black Hills, said he lost about 70 cows and some calves, about 15 percent of his herd. A calf would normally sell for $1,000, while a mature cow would bring $1,500 or more, he said.

“It’s bad. It’s really bad. I’m the eternal optimist and this is really bad,” Cammack said. “The livestock loss is just catastrophic. … It’s pretty unbelievable.”

Cammack said cattle were soaked by 12 hours of rain early in the storm, so many were unable to survive an additional 48 hours of snow and winds up to 60 mph.

“It’s the worst early season snowstorm I’ve seen in my lifetime,” said Cammack, 60.

Early estimates suggest western South Dakota lost at least 5 percent of its cattle, said Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. Some individual ranchers reported losses of 20 percent to 50 percent of their livestock, Christen said. The storm killed calves that were due to be sold soon as well as cows that would produce next year’s calves in an area where livestock production is a big part of the economy, she said.

“This is, from an economic standpoint, something we’re going to feel for a couple of years,” Christen said.

Some ranchers still aren’t sure how many animals they lost, because they haven’t been able to track down all of their cattle. Snowdrifts covered fences, allowing cattle to leave their pastures and drift for miles.

“Some cattle might be flat buried in a snow bank someplace,” said Shane Kolb of Meadow, who lost only one cow.

State officials are tallying livestock losses, but the extent won’t be known for several days until ranchers locate their cattle, Jamie Crew of the state Agriculture Department said.

Ranchers and officials said the losses were aggravated by the fact that a government disaster program to help ranchers recover from livestock losses has expired. Ranchers won’t be able to get federal help until Congress passes a new farm bill, said Perry Plumart, a spokesman for Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.

Meanwhile, more than 22,000 homes and businesses in western South Dakota remained without power Monday afternoon, according to utility companies. National Guard troops were helping utility crews pull equipment through the heavy, wet snow to install new electricity poles.

At least 1,600 poles were toppled in the northwest part of the state alone, and workers expect to find more, Grand River Electric Coop spokeswoman Tally Seim said.

“We’ve got guys flying over our territory, counting as they go. We’re finding more as we are able to access the roads. The roads have been pretty blocked on these rural country roads,” Seim said.

“One of our biggest challenges is getting access to areas that are still snowed in,” added Vance Crocker, vice president of operations for Black Hills Power, whose crews were being hampered by rugged terrain in the Black Hills region.

In Rapid City, where a record-breaking 23 inches of snow fell, travel was slowly getting back to normal.

The city’s airport and all major roadways in the region had reopened by Monday. The city’s streets also were being cleared, but residents were being asked to stay home so crews could clear downed power lines and tree branches, and snow from roadsides. Schools and many public offices were closed.

“It’s a pretty day outside. There’s a lot of debris, but we’re working to clear that debris,” said Calen Maningas, a Rapid City firefighter working in the Pennington County Emergency Operations Center.

Cleanup also continued after nine tornadoes hit northeast Nebraska and northwest Iowa on Friday, injuring at least 15 people and destroying several homes and businesses. Authorities also are blaming the weather for a car accident that killed three people along a slick, snow-covered road in Nebraska.

In South Dakota, the 19 inches of snow that fell in Rapid City on Friday broke the city’s 94-year-old one-day snowfall record for October by about 9 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The city also set a record for snowfall in October, with a total of 23.1 inches during the storm. The previous record was 15.1 inches in October 1919.