Wednesday 30 March 2016

Wyoming wolves slaughter 19 elk in rare 'surplus killing', say wildlife officials

Carcasses of 17 calves and two adults found earlier this week
Wildlife officials say nine wolves in pack were responsible for deaths

Saturday 26 March 2016 19.00 GMTLast modified on Saturday 26 March 201620.03 GMT

A pack of Wyoming wolves killed 19 elk in a rare “surplus killing”, wildlife officials said late on Friday after finding the carcasses of 17 calves and two adults on a snowy plain near the tiny town of Bondurant.

A contractor delivering hay to the elk herd, which is supported by wildlife officials to counteract loss of territory, found the dead animals earlier this week.

“This is a rare event,” John Lund, regional wildlife supervisor for Wyoming’s game and fish department, told local County 10 news. “A lot of people call it surplus killing.

“Normally one or two elk a night [are killed] here and there is no big deal. But 19 in one night is fairly rare.”

Lund also described the kill to CNN as “sport killing”, although the consensus among biologists and wildlife officials is that wolves do not hunt for “sport” but sometimes kill more than they can eat at one point, especially in winter, when frigid temperatures preserve the killed prey for later consumption.

Lund said there were 1,100 elk in the area and nine wolves in the pack believed to be responsible for the killing. Wolves are an endangered species in Wyoming, federally managed and protected. Lund said they were responsible for about 70 elk kills this winter, more than average and enough to affect the hunting season for humans.

“Surplus killing”, though an unusual behavior, is recorded in many predator species, including mountain lions and bears. Livestock seem especially vulnerable to it. Sheep, for instance, sometimes respond to predators as they would to a sheep dog, by running in circles, allowing hunters to pick off many animals.

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