SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food said it has confirmed a wolf is in Rich County, another sign the species has likely returned to the state.
The agency told FOX 13 on Tuesday that a calf was found dead and bite marks were consistent with those of a wolf. The initial investigation has determined the calf was killed sometime in the past four days.
"Wolves can cover some serious country so we’re doing our best to locate the animal as soon as possible," Leann Hunting, UDAF's director of Animal Industry and Food, said in a statement to FOX 13.
The agency said it is actively investigating the incident to determine what to do next in response to livestock loss, as well as trapping the wolf. Under state law, anytime a predator takes livestock it is trapped and killed.
Wolves in Utah have been a controversial topic for some time. The state has a "Wolf Management Plan," but it does not take effect until wolves are delisted statewide from the Endangered Species Act.
"Wolves are currently delisted in a small portion of northeastern Utah (north of I-80 and east of I-84.) Outside of that area, they are still protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and management falls to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," the Division of Wildlife Resources wrote in a statement to FOX 13.
The DWR has contracted with the Big Game Forever Foundation, a group that is working to remove the gray wolf from the ESA. The program has an area carved out in northern Utah (that includes Rich County) where the state has the authority to trap, capture or kill wolves, deeming them a risk to livestock and wildlife.
The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club said aggressive predator extermination efforts eliminated gray wolves from Utah by the early 1900s. However, it is believed that a handful have been in the state for a number of years now, although there are no known established packs. In 2014, a hunter near Beaver accidentally killed a gray wolf.
The Utah State Legislature has passed a number of bills and resolutions. Most recently, a resolution passed that opposes the artificial introduction of wolves into the state. That resolution was run by then-Rep. Logan Wilde, R-Croydon. He is now the Commissioner for Utah's Department of Agriculture and Food.