Sunday, February 29, 2004

Federal "Wolf" Agent Caught Trespassing on Private Land

Rancher: Wolf agent 'trespassed'

A Meeteetse rancher says the federal official in charge of wolves in Wyoming illegally handled four wolves in his calving pasture recently.

Mike Jimenez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not have permission to be on private land when he was discovered with four tranquilized wolves south of Meeteetse on Feb. 14, rancher Randy Kruger said.

Larsen Ranch Co. owners say they may ask Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric to file criminal trespass charges against the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Unclear is whether the federal official found the wolves on private land or transported them there.

F&WS officials could not be reached for comment, but agency representatives have called rancher Ralph Larsen to apologize, his son-in-law Randy Kruger said.

A ranch stockholder and employee, Kruger said Wednesday he was driving across a pasture off Gooseberry Creek at 3 p.m. Feb. 14 when he "caught two men hiding in the bushes." They were under a high bank by the road, out of sight.

"It seemed quite alarming to me," he added. "I stopped to see what they were up to."

They had four wolves laid out, tranquilized. Kruger identified the men as Jimenez and Wes Livingston of Cody.

"They acted guilty, in my view," Kruger said. "They said they were trying to get the wolves collared.

"They were on our deeded land and in our calving pasture."

Because about 350 bred calves are on nearby land and due to calve March 20, he told the men, "We don't need this sort of thing."

Kruger drove on to a shop about one mile away and later thought he heard a helicopter, figuring it had left the men to go get fuel. The two men apparently had no vehicle.

"It's aggravating and upsetting," Kruger said. "It's causing me loss of sleep. It's a matter of terrorism."

The men told Kruger they had trapped and collared the wolves "in the area." When Kruger drove off, the wolves were beginning to stir.

"They were nice, well-fed looking wolves, right in their prime," he said.

Kruger presented the information to Park County Commissioner Tim Morrison on Wednesday morning and said Morrison will turn over the details to the county attorney to decide about "prosecuting the Fish and Wildlife Service or letting it go."

"We're pushing them to file charges," said Joe Tilden of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, who thinks the men flew in with the wolves. "Where does the federal government have the right to land on private property?"

For two men to be hiding in the brush with wolves strikes him as odd.

"It's bizarre," Tilden said.

During his recent trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with F&WS officials about the wolf issue, he recalled them asking him to place their faith in them.

"They want us to trust them when they're doing this kind of stuff?" he asked. "I back Larsen and Kruger 100 percent. It's pretty blatant."

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