Tuesday 17 May 2016

'Killed this here critter': outrage after US rancher shoots rare wolverine

A North Dakota rancher shot and killed the first wolverine documented in the state for more than 150 years, allegedly saying it was a threat to his cows

Sam Levin in San Francisco

Friday 13 May 201621.20 BSTLast modified on Friday 13 May 201622.59 BST

Gulo gulo 2.jpgA North Dakota rancher fatally shot the first wolverine documented in the state in more than 150 years, outraging wildlife advocates across the US who said the killing was cruel and unnecessary.

The rancher, who allegedly posted photos of the dead wolverine on Facebook, with the caption “killed this here critter out tormenting the cows”, was justified in shooting the animal, according to state wildlife officials, who said the wolverine had traveled in numerous states in the west.

“If there’s a situation where their livestock or property is in danger, they have the ability to take out the animal,” said Greg Link, chief of conservation and communication with the North Dakota game and fish department. “The statute says you can protect your personal property.”

Link said the state investigated the shooting, which happened last month but spread on social media this week, and determined that the killing complied with state laws.

Wildlife officials had originally placed a transmitter on the wolverine, identified as M-56, when the animal was located south of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in 2008, according to Link. The wolverine, a male who was eight or nine years old, was healthy when he was killed and had also previously traveled to Colorado, he said.

Because wolverines are not classified as endangered or threatened, ranchers are free under state law to kill them if they are a threat.

Even though federal officials believe the wolverine is not in danger of extinction in the “foreseeable future”, sightings of the species in North Dakota are unheard of. Link said the last formal documentation of a wolverine in the state was in the 1850s.

Ray Rafiti, a wildlife photographer based in Fort Collins, Colorado, said he took photos of M-56 when he spotted him in 2009 in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“After a couple weeks of wandering across Wyoming [the wolverine] found his way to Colorado,” Rafiti wrote on his Wild Faces Wild Places Photography Facebook page this week, after learning of the killing. “On that evening he walked right in our laps. I was fortunate to capture several photographs before he ran up the hillside and out of sight.”

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