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JACKSON - A Sublette County man said this week it appears one of his horses was attacked by wolves, but the animals didn't eat the horse.

Bill Saunders of the Riverbend Ranch near Bondurant on the Hoback River, just outside Teton County, said he had seen wolves in fields near the ranch in the weeks before. He discovered the injured horse Oct. 8 and speculated it was attacked the night before or on the same day.

"He cut all the tendons in his hind legs, and we had to put him down," Saunders said.

The horse, a 7-year-old weighing about 1,200 pounds, cut his legs on a fence either during or after the wolf attack, Saunders speculated. He said the inside of the horse's hind legs were where the wolves attacked.

"I have no idea how many wolves attacked him," he said. "We have three other horses in that pasture. They were OK."

Saunders said Mike Jimenez, Wyoming's wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, came to the ranch this week to investigate the death. Repeated calls to Jimenez on Thursday and Friday were not returned.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the Rocky Mountain region, said Friday he did not know what Jimenez found. He said three other horses were attacked in Wyoming this year, but none were killed.

Bangs said, too, it is unlikely that wolves can catch horses to kill them.

"Horses are about the least likely to be attacked," Bangs said.

Bangs said horses and wolves are from Asia, and horses evolved with wolves.

"Horses, they evolved with these big predators," he said. "The reason a horse looks like they do is because of wolves."

He said horses have been attacked by wolves in corrals, like the situation of which Saunders was speaking, but Bangs hadn't seen the case and couldn't confirm it was a wolf attack.

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Saunders said Jimenez was "positive it was a wolf."

Saunders said in early October a mare owned by his daughter-in-law was found dead near the ranch.

"They didn't know what happened to her," he said. "They thought maybe she had a heart attack or hit a hole and broke her leg. But after this incident, I think the wolves… I think they ran them off of that steep hill and I think maybe they fell and broke her neck."

In 2000, Jon Robinett, manager of the Diamond G Ranch near Dubois, had one adult horse and two colts killed in a suspected wolf attack.

Bite marks on the carcass and tracks around it indicated a possible wolf kill, Jimenez said at the time, but he said it would be "extremely difficult" for wolves to kill an adult of that size.

"We've known (wolves) were around all the time," Saunders said. "It's not making me change what I'm doing. We don't do anything different. It's one of those things that happens."

Environmental reporter Whitney Royster can be reached at (307) 734-0260 or at royster@trib.com.

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