DARBY - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials have authorized the killing of up to nine wolves south of Darby after recent attacks on a horse and a calf.
The horse was killed within 200 yards of the Two Feathers Ranch manager's home Thursday night. The ranch is about 1 1/2 miles south of Darby.
"Our favorite horse was killed by a wolf last night," said ranch owner Paul Shirley. "He was always the one who would come up for treats and we could give kids rides on him without any worry."
The quarter horse was named Jack.
"The wolves ran him through a fence and then tore his guts out," Shirley said. "It was terrible. ... These wolves are on our property most nights, and I'm terrified for my animals. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with my livestock."
Rancher manager Jeff Rennaker spent Friday morning alongside a federal government trapper who looked over the kill site and then set four traps around the property.
"We are going to be pretty proactive the next couple of days," Rennaker said. "We're going to have to wait to see what the night brings. I've got 13 horses out there and 160 cattle. I'll be out there most of the night."
FWP wolf biologist Liz Bradley suspects wolves in the Trapper Peak Pack were responsible.
"They were in trouble last year on a different ranch," Bradley said. "We authorized the removal of the pack at that time."
Some of the wolves were killed, but not all.
"It's pretty likely that pack," Bradley said. "We know that they cycle through that area."
Five kill permits were issued to the landowner.
"We're hoping to get it wrapped up as quickly as possible so we don't have any more problems," she said.
The Trapper Peak Pack has frequented the ranch in the past, but Rennaker said they haven't had any losses of livestock up until now.
Rennaker said he's seen wolves in his front yard on a several occasions.
Just across the highway, CB Ranch cattle manager Jeff Snavely said that operation lost a calf about a week ago. The attack also marked the first time that ranching operation had a confirmed wolf kill.
"We've had them on the ranch for a long time," Snavely said. "They have killed elk and deer before, but we've never had any kills on livestock."
Officials authorized the removal of four wolves from the Divide Creek Pack as a result of the depredation.
Last week, a Hamilton man shot a wolf just outside of town after it attacked one of his dogs.
With the amount of snow remaining in the high country, Bradley said wolves and other wildlife are at lower elevations this spring. As the snow begins to melt and wolf pups get bigger, she expects them to start pulling up into higher elevations.
Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 363-3300 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.