Wyoming wildlife officials suspect that a pack of wolves near Bondurant may have killed as many as 19 elk in just one night earlier this month. The strangest thing however, is that the wolves did not appear to eat any of the animals, making it a very rare case of surplus killing.
“This is a rare event. A lot of people call it surplus killing,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) wildlife supervisor John Lund told County 10. “It has been observed on other occasions, just not very often. This was one of those events. Several wolves came in over one night and killed 19 elk. Normally one or two elk a night here and there is no big deal, but 19 in one night is fairly rare.”
Officials say they currently suspect the Rim Pack, which has nine wolves, to be behind the unprecedented attack. Generally, experts say that wolves rarely kill for sport—but it does happen. Surplus killings occur more commonly during late winter and is sometimes used as a method for wolves to store extra food. Sometimes the wolves may have killed more animals than they intended and were unable to finish eating their prize, and in other occasions they may have been chased off by another predator that neglected the meat. In either case, the downed animal simply becomes food for scavengers.
“This kind of event is very rare,” Mike Jimenez, a wolf coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, told the National Geographic. “Occasionally you see them kill five or six animals, but 19 is very unusual.”
Jimenez added that the incident is not likely to endear wolves with Wyoming residents, some of which are already wary over the small wolf population in the state. There are about 300 wolves in Wyoming, and they are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. Because of this, Lund says that the options available to the WGFD is limited.
“We can’t take any action proactively,” Lund told Fox News. “It’s frustrating for state wildlife management.”
Image courtesy National Park Service