Authorities removing wolves, bobcats from Idaho residence

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Authorities say they plan to remove most of the 19 wolves, 17 bobcats, more than 60 house cats and numerous dogs they found living in poor conditions at a private residence in Owyhee County.

Authorities say all but four of the animals are scheduled to be transported to temporary shelters.

The removal from the home near Melba follows a lengthy investigation by the Owyhee County sheriff's department, the Idaho Humane Society and state and federal wildlife agencies. Owyhee County Sheriff Gary Aman said Wednesday the woman who lives at the residence has owned the animals for about 14 years but can no longer care for them because of her own declining health.

Under an agreement with authorities, the owner will not face charges.

It's legal in Idaho to own wolves or hybrids that display wolf characteristics, provided a $10 annual permit is obtained for each adult animal. The animals' ears also must be tattooed to help distinguish them from wild wolves should they escape.

Authorities began investigating the residence after a wolf escaped in October and killed some livestock. At the time, Jeff Wolfe, the state Department of Fish and Game's regional conservation officer in southwestern Idaho, told the Associated Press the owner had registered 21 animals with the state.

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While initial reports Wednesday indicated the animals were underfed, authorities say the animals were not starved or malnourished, but were in good health despite their poor living conditions.

Under a deal worked out by authorities, the woman will be allowed to keep two wolves and two bobcats.

Some of the animals were being transported to the Humane Society. Aman said five wolves were going to a private facility in Winchester, Idaho, and 12 wolves were going to a private facility in Florida.

"The owner considers these animals more than pets. She calls them her children," Aman told the Idaho Statesman. "It took a lot for her to admit that she can no longer care for them."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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