Questions remain after wolves attack Wyoming pack horse

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Wolf attack of pack horse leaves questions unanswered

By BUZZY HASSRICK, Cody Enterprise

5/26/02

Three weeks after being attacked by four wolves above Pahaska Tepee, a pack horse returned to the trail last weekend.

Randy Blackburn said the wolves scraped and punctured the horse's hide but left vital organs untouched.

Wildlife Services agents who investigated the incident for U.S. Fish and Wildlife found "no injuries to the horse"and saw no scraping of the hide, said Mike Jimenez of Lander, wolf project leader in Wyoming.

Blackburn said he aided the horse's recovery by pumping it full of penicillin. He said the animal was "pretty stove up" from the encounter.

The incident occurred May 6 near the confluence of Red Creek with the North Fork. Blackburn was on horseback leading a pack horse up the trail when a herd of elk came galloping down the trail past him.

From his experience he expected to see a grizzly, not wolves, chasing the elk. The wolves ran by his horse and, instead of pursuing the elk, targeted his pack horse.

The wolves began biting the horse "while I still held the rope," Blackburn recalled.

The pack horse jerked the lead rope out of Blackburn's hand. Reaching for his rifle, he realized he'd tied it into the scabbard.

"I don't usually do that," he said, vowing never to do it again.

Blackburn had his hands full trying to quiet his mount. That accomplished, he went to find the pack horse and discovered an animal wounded but not fatally.

Blackburn figured the wolves saw the pack horse as an elk.

"We were in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.

But there's no right place or time for wolves in his opinion. Blackburn said he wishes no wolves were around.

"I'm on record as opposing re-introduction," he said.

But the wolves are there and are protected on public land unless they're threatening human safety, Jimenez said.

People can shoot wolves on private land only if they're attacking domestic animals, which doesn't include pets, he noted.

Jimenez said he finds Blackburn's theory about the wolves seeing his pack horse as an elk "possible." The incident marks the first time he's heard of wolves attacking a pack horse.

"It's unusual for wolves to mess with horses," Jimenez said.

He's heard of wolves spooking or chasing horses, and his records show three colts and one horse killed in the last 3-4 years.

"I don't dispute" Blackburn's story, Jimenez said.

In incidents between wolves and domestic animals, Jimenez explained, Wildlife Services handles the investigations. Agents in the Casper office did not return phone calls from the Enterprise.
 
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