A Gardiner-area landowner shot a research wolf from Yellowstone National Park over the weekend after losing more than a dozen sheep to wolves two weeks ago.

On Sunday evening, landowner Bill Hoppe legally shot a wolf that ventured onto his property northwest of Gardiner along the Yellowstone River.

Hoppe called Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks warden Chris Kerin to report the kill because he had used one of two shoot-on-sight permits issued to him by FWP. From wolf tracks he found, Kerin verified that Hoppe killed the wolf on his property.

FWP issues shoot-on-sight permits in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, said FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim. The permits are good for 45 days and do not allow ranchers to shoot wolves outside of the property where a livestock loss happened.

“Depending on the circumstances, any livestock producer can receive shoot-on-sight permits. They have a right for recourse,” Aasheim said.

The black wolf was wearing a VHF radio collar that identified it as “831F,” a member of the park’s Canyon Pack.

Yellowstone Park wolf biologist Doug Smith learned of the dead wolf Monday morning from FWP wolf biologist Abby Nelson.

Smith said park wolves were not responsible for the 13 sheep killed on Hoppe’s property April 24. Nelson said the wolf tracks she found two weeks ago came from the east side of the Gardiner Valley, down Little Trail Creek and across U.S. Route 89.

Smith said 831F was a 2-year-old female that normally lives farther south in the park’s Hayden Valley.

“She was showing dispersal behavior — with the pack, then gone, then back — but we did not have her close to the scene at the time of the sheep kill,” Smith said. “She had bad luck — wrong place at the wrong time.”

The wolf may have her nose to blame for that bad luck.

In mid-April, Hoppe, a cattle rancher and hunting outfitter, bought about 30 sheep and started raising them on his property.

On April 24, he awoke to find that two wolves had killed five ewes and eight lambs along the river. After Wildlife Services investigated the scene, Hoppe told the Chronicle that he would transplant the remaining sheep and leave the carcasses on a bone pile on his property.

Carnivores, including wolves and grizzly bears, can smell carcasses a mile away, sometimes farther if conditions are right, Smith said. Wolf 813F may have smelled the decaying meat.

Hoppe has one permit left, and the carcasses remain.

News of the wolf kill spread quickly among the wildlife watchers who follow the park’s wolf packs. On wolf-advocacy Facebook pages, photographers posted several photographs taken when 831F was alive, along with expressions of sorrow.

Meanwhile, on anti-wolf Facebook pages, photos of a bloody, dead 831F spread, along with comments like “Another Yellowstone wolf is dead in Montana. Keep up the good work Montana.”

Wolves of the Rockies vice president Kim Beam said the issue would be brought up at Thursday’s FWP commission meeting in Helena, where the commissioners will consider the 2013 wolf hunting season.

“All the FWP phone lines were lit up this morning. This man needs to be held accountable for baiting,” said Beam. “We’ve tried the middle of the road. We recognize hunting is part of management, but this is not responsible.”

Aasheim said many wildlife managers were participating in a deer symposium Tuesday but were open to public comments anytime.

“Our job is to listen and we do, even if we don’t do what everyone asks,” Aasheim said.

Hoppe is an outspoken opponent of wolf and bison restoration. He did not return calls for comment.

Laura Lundquist can be reached at 582-2638 or llundquist@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter at @llundquist.

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