wyoming elk
The elk killed in this unusual wolf attackWyoming Game and Fish Department

A wolf pack in the remote American state of Wyoming has killed a herd of 19 elk in what seems to be a hunt for sport rather than food – with wildlife officials stating this is very rare. Nineteen elk were found dead this week, 17 of them calves, at a feeding ground near Bondurant, a small town in the rural western part of the state with a population of just 93. A contractor hired to deliver the herd their feed found them, according to local officials who are concerned by the unusual nature of the attack.

John Lund of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department told county10.com that wolves usually eat what they kill on the spot, or come back later to feed, and that in this instance, the dead elk were found mostly whole.

"This is a rare event. A lot of people call it surplus killing," he said . "It has been observed on other occasions, just not very often. This was one of those events. Several wolves came in over one night and killed 19 elk. Normally one or two elk a night here and there is no big deal, but 19 in one night is fairly rare."

There are about 1,100 elk in the area, while the wolf pack suspected of the attack, known locally as the Rim pack, contains nine individuals. Wolf attacks have accounted for the death of about 7% of the elk population this winter, an unusually high percentage, another cause for official concern.

"There is a significant concern among wildlife managers," he said, adding that his agency's hands are tied by the law: wolves are officially an endangered species, and are federally protected and managed.

"We are kind of in a bind right now because we don't have any management authority over wolves. That is strictly the US Fish and Wildlife Service that has that authority," said Lund. "We manage the elk on the feedgrounds, but with wolves, we don't have any management authority."