DARBY - A female gray wolf was caught in a trap and euthanized Tuesday morning on a Darby area ranch where a horse was killed two weeks ago.
The owners of the Two Feathers Ranch were granted a kill permit to take up to five wolves after the horse's death.
Ranch manager Jeff Rennaker said the wolf was captured about 300 yards from his home and within 100 yards from where the horse was killed.
A government trapper set traps for the wolves shortly after the depredation.
Rennaker said the wolves have come very close to being captured over the past two weeks.
One stepped on the jaws of the trap, but managed not to hit the pan that springs the trap. And Sunday night, one laid down on the jaws of the trap, but the trap didn't snap shut.
Rennaker said a trail camera captured images of the wolves next to the traps Sunday night.
Officials suspect the Trapper Creek pack is responsible for the depredation.
Rennaker said no one is sure just how many wolves are left in that pack.
"We know there is one less," he said.
The pack has been involved in livestock depredations before, but control actions were discontinued after the 45-day kill permit expired.
"The pack has been in trouble for four years in a row," Rennaker said. "They have been given permission to remove it two or three times now, but that hasn't happened because of the 45 day rule.
"I don't want to be in the situation where we have to wait again to have a dog, a cow, a horse killed again. That doesn't make any sense."
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf biologist Liz Bradley said four or five wolves from the Trapper Creek pack were removed last year following livestock depredations.
"We weren't sure if we got the whole pack, but we did remove a good number of wolves at that time," Bradley said. "You can get a lot of turnover in a wolf population, especially when you start doing these control actions."
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Bradley said the focus of control actions is to remove wolves that are keying in on livestock.
"Once you start killing wolves, you might get new wolves moving in," she said. "We try to target the offending animals as much as we can. The best scenario is to catch them on site."
The wolf that was killed was still on the Two Feathers Ranch.
"We're just glad that we got one captured before something else happened," she said. "We want to stop anything further from happening there."
Rennaker said the horse that was killed was neither sick, injured or aged.
"He was as healthy as he could possibly be," Rennaker said. "It has been confirmed by two government officials that the horse died after being run through a fence by the wolves."
Two Feathers Ranch owner Paul Shirley said he was "stunned" when the horse was killed.
"I never imagined that a wolf would kill one of our horses," he said. "That never came into my mind. We see elk and deer killed. I wouldn't be surprised if a calf was killed, but there have been relatively few horses killed by wolves."
The ranch's horses are kept in a pasture right next to Rennaker's home.
"He just looks out the window and there they are," Shirley said.
Officials recently euthanized two wolves from the Divide Creek Pack on the east side of U.S. Highway 93 after the predators killed a calf.
Owners of the CB Ranch have been granted a kill permit as well to remove up to four wolves from that pack.