BASIN CREEK – Officials believe that a pack of wolves are responsible for the death of eight llamas in the Basin Creek area, southeast of Butte, Montana. “Three llamas were confirmed wolf kills” and 5 additional were “probable” in the incident last month according to John Steuber, state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. “It was all in the same area,” stated Steuber. “Five were older but it was pretty clear they were all killed by wolves.”
In a state where livestock depredation by wolves, mountain lions, and grizzly bears is common, this incident is unique in that the wolves killed several animals at the same time, unlike most depredation incidents in which a single animal is killed. “Most commonly, they get one kill at a time” said Steuber.
According to the Montana Standard, the incident has local residents, hikers, bikers, hunters, and others concerned for their own, and their animals’ safety with the presence of wolves in the Basin Creek Reservoir. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf biologist Nathan Lance tried to alleviate concerns reminding residents and visitors that “wolf attacks on humans are rare.” Lance suggested that those with concerns carry peppers spray. “I work with wolves in the field, I trap them, I work by myself, I don’t carry a gun or pepper spray. My biggest concern with humans [and wolf encounters] is their dogs.”
Due to the incident, residents may want to keep their pets and livestock until the wolves are located and lethally removed, said Steuber. “Once a pack gets into trouble, it can be difficult to relocate them, and there are liability issues with relocating problem animals.”
The pack believed to be responsible for the incidents is called the Spire Pack. Consisting of approximately eight wolves they live in the Highland Mountains south of Butte. Officials hope to capture at least one member of the pack and fit it with a tracking collar to monitor the packs movement and activities.
According to Lance, Mount Haggin and Fleecer Mountains west of Butte is home to another pack, as is the Deer Lodge area. There are also documented cases of smaller packs, consisting of two or three wolves roaming large territories.
Updates to this article will be made as they become available.