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Just had another wolf story on Saturday.

This time, two wolves had been observed in the Horse Heaven area of the Rattlesnakes in December.

Don't know when, but someone recently found a dead wolf on Dry Creek Road north of Pathfinder Reservoir. The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating, because it's a crime to kill an animal on the endangered species list.

Once again, I and anyone covering this issue gets hammered on this primary issue: How many wolves, and how much wolf predation, really is out there?

The Fish and Wildlife Service says as of two weeks ago, about 348 wolves -- 247 outside Yellowstone National Park -- were in Wyoming in a total of about 45 packs, with 34 of those packs outside the park, according to a preliminary report released by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2010, the Fish and Wildlife service documented 58 wolf deaths, with 40 of those killed because of livestock predation, two from natural causes, nine that were illegal or are under investigation, three unknown causes, and four others, according to the report.

Total documented predation in 2010 of sheep, cattle and other animals by wolves amounted to 65, the lowest number since 2003, according to the report.

Anti-wolf folks say wolves are everywhere and eating/devastating/destroying livestock herds and elk herds and everything else. As one person who wrote me after Saturday's story sent an e-mail saying in part:

"I have concluded from that litigation that the wolf is just a tool to remove ranchers from public lands. If that is a reasonable conclusion, then there are consequences to that action. First, ranches will have to retreat to private lands keeping smaller herds. Result; less beef entering the market forcing prices even higher.

"Second, there will be many smaller ranches that will have no other choice but to sell to developers. Result; less habitat for native species, uncontrolled growth, strains on public services, water, sewer, electric grid and transportation."

Pro-wolf folks usually cite the Fish and Wildlife Service statistics, with the idea that yes, some livestock is lost, but it's not the end of the world.

So which is it?

I don't want comments about Obama (or Bush or Clinton or Bush), subprime mortgages, conspiracy theories, climate change, or why other commenters' ancestry is in question.

I just want to know why there's such a difference in numbers and or perceptions.

Thanks.

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