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Rancher takes precautions after wolves kill nearly 20 of his sheep

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 26 2013 07:53:33 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 26 2013 08:17:32 PM MDT
GARDINER, Mont. -

Rancher Bill Hoppe nails wire to his wooden fence. He wants to move his sheep closer to the house so he can keep an eye on them at night. He hopes the wire will keep wolves out, to avoid a what he awoke to Tuesday morning.

"First thing I saw was a ewe standing there, bleeding from her neck. I could see a bunch of sheep were missing, so I walked to the riverbank and all I could see were dead sheep," recalls Hoppe.

Hoppe says the final count is five ewes and 14 lambs -- his grandchildren's lambs. He says that's the worst part.

"The grandkids, those were their sheep, their lambs. They had a lot of them named, could catch them," explains Hoppe.

Hoppe tells me he's stayed up the past two nights, keeping watch, waiting for the wolves to return.

Hoppe says he now has a permit to shoot the two wolves on sight if they return to his property and he tells NBC Montana he plans to shoot any wolves that come onto his land and threaten his livestock.  

"I'd sure like to kill the wolves if they come back in the sheep, and I will. Eventually I'll get them, but it's not the wolves' fault. Wolves are just doing what wolves do," says Hoppe.

Hoppe's a fifth-generation Montanan and has lived in the Paradise Valley his whole life. He says he's never had a problem with wolves attacking his livestock until now. Hoppe says times have changed in the last 25 years and blames mismanagement and special interest groups that get in the way of controlling the population.

"Anyone in the sheep business knows it's not a good place to raise sheep," says Alliance for the Wold Rockies' Steve Kelly.

Kelly argues there are better ways and better places to manage his livestock.

"Two wolves near Yellowstone National Park is probably not the end of the world but this is a precedent. Shoot-on-sight permits or just this idea this is a good business model," explains Kelly.

Hoppe tells me moving is not an option.

"This land is important to you?" We asked. "Well, yeah. Yeah, and that's the thing that most people don't realize," says Hoppe.

Hoppe says he plans on replacing the sheep.