19 Dec 2010, 10:22am
Bears Cougars Wildlife Agencies Wolves
by admin

Depredations of Livestock Up 450 to 1,000 Percent in Montana

by MT St. Sen. Greg Hinkle, Clark Fork Chronicle, December 19 2010 [here]

A few weeks ago I was talking with Hot Springs area rancher Kim Baker, President of Montana Cattlemen’s Association, about depredation of livestock. Since we have seen an increase in wolf depredation in Montana I was wondering if there was a relationship with other predator livestock losses. Kim told me she would see if those figures were available from predator control specialists. I wanted to compare the preceding years with current statistics. Kim went to John Steuber, State Director/Supervisory Wildlife Biologist (USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services) to have a look at those figures. I have received those figures for 2006 and 2010. What I see is more than alarming and it is a side of the wolf issue that has not been adequately addressed.

Mr.Steuber stated in an email, “The attachment shows all verified and report predator damage for the years 2006 and 2010. I’m stunned at the increase in depredations from 2006 to 2010.” “Remember that this includes damage that was reported to us as well as damage we verified. I’m guessing that one of the reasons other predator damage went up is because we were forced to spend more and more time trying to deal with the exploding wolf population and the damage wolves do. Wolves have made it almost impossible to do much preventative work on coyotes, that is work to prevent livestock depredations before they occur. We are just not able to get up on summer range ahead of the cattle and sheep anymore since we are so busy with wolf work. During this same time period we did not get any additional money from the Federal government or from the state (Fish, Wildlife and Parks). We are losing the battle. I am appalled that the number of livestock killed by predators has increased so dramatically.”

To give you an idea of the problem, here are a few comparisons. In 2006 coyotes killed 111 calves and 698 lambs, in 2010 (to date) there have been 1,348 calves and 2,488 lambs killed. This is about a 474% increase in four years! There has been a tenfold increase with the same type livestock killed by grizzly bears. Black bears are responsible for a 150% increase in the same time period. I also have the figures for lion, and fox kills. These show dramatic increases as well. As the wolf continues to decimate game animals the other predators will be forced to seek other food sources such as livestock and pets. The problem is going get much worse if the wolf population is not controlled soon.

On top of that are the funding problems Wildlife Services are experiencing. Resources have been diverted to mitigate wolf depredation. This has resulted in less aircraft control of coyotes and less time on the ground by control specialists. In this year alone, collections paid by stock growers amounted to $251,660 and expenditures are estimated to be $528,250. Per-capita fees, 100% paid by livestock producers, are used for predator control and it should be noted that predator control is the only benefit some ranchers may get for the taxes they pay.

I find it unconscionable that they are experiencing a dramatic increase in livestock losses and a decrease in the protection they pay for. To put it another way, the per-capita paid has increased while the predator control has decreased. The control of coyotes by aircraft is in jeopardy which will further compound the losses to Montana’s livestock industry.

Our elected leaders are slow to resolve the issue. I have been convinced for years that the wolf introduction/protection will prove to be a ecological disaster that will take decades to recover from, if ever. Montana’s ranchers and sportsmen deserve better and the wolf should be treated like the vermin it is.



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