September 29, 2022

Wolf Population Grows, Number Of Livestock Kills Go Up

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In Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the wolf population has fully recovered to levels even biologists didn’t believe possible. Now with a growing population and more mouths to feed, more livestock and family pets are becoming the main course for wolf meals.

So far this year, wolves in the three states have killed 170 cows, 344 sheep, eight dogs, a horse, a mule and two llamas, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. The kills – greater for sheep and cattle than any other year – are almost certainly higher than the numbers show because confirming wolf kills can be difficult.

In all reality, these numbers are not accurate as it states. Confirming a wolf kill is more that “difficult”. It’s near impossible in some cases. Unless an “official” observes or happens to be able to be on the scene of a supposed wolf kill very quickly, evidence is gone and proof is wiped out. With few officials with whom the U.S. Fish and Wildlife can rely on for confirmation, it is impossible to say just how many kills wolves make each year that are not confirmed by government officials.

The Billings Gazette covered this story today and I found one section of the article interesting, almost amusing.

A University of Calgary study published earlier this year said killing problem wolves is only a temporary solution to livestock attacks. Once the offender is removed, another eventually moves in to take its place.

“Wolves are being killed as a corrective, punitive measure – not a preventative one,” Marco Musiani, one of the study’s authors, said earlier this year.

A better approach, he said, is to look at when and where depredations occur and take steps like changing grazing patterns and using guard dogs, fencing, wolf repellants and other measures.

The biggest problem is too many wolves. It shouldn’t matter how or which wolves get elliminated as long as numbers are reduced. I would also have to question what real impact guard dogs would have at keeping wolves at bay considering wolves eat dogs for lunch. There’s not much that is going to deter a hungry wolf.

The suggestions he gives about alternative means of protecting livestock have been tried. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers spent nearly $200 million dollars on these non-lethal alternatives for just cattle and sheep. This occurred in 1999 long before the wolf population grew to its present levels. Who’s going to pay for this and is it a practical way to deal with the overpopulation of wolves?

Once the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removes the wolf from the endangered list, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming will begin game hunting seasons on wolves. This will help to keep the population in check. Right now the majority of the culling of wolves is done by federal agents. Wyoming is still battling in court with the feds over agreement on a wolf management plan. Before the feds will delist the wolf, all three states have to have a wolf management plan that the government will accept. Wyoming wants to list the wolf as a predator not a game animal. Such a listing would not restrict hunting the animal.

The article in the Billings Gazette gives some very misleading information and failed to provide complete information about predation. They reported this.

Coyotes kill 28 times more sheep and lambs than wolves, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Foxes, dogs, bears and even eagles also rank higher, and that’s not to mention weather, diseases and lambing complications.

These figures reflect the nationwide results of predation by coyotes on sheep. When you look at the predation of sheep in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, it quite closely follows the national average. What the article failed to reveal is the predation of cattle and calves in these three states. The loss of cattle to coyotes is about the same as that of wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming where the wolf has been reintroduced. Predation by wolves in these three states exceeds that of nationwide averages significantly.

It is important not to distort the truth when it comes to issues such as this. People deserve to know the truth. How can a legitimate management plan be implemented if the truth is being hidden? The truth is the wolf numbers need to be reduced and held in check for a number of practical reasons – one being that a farmer has the right to conduct business. If he can’t protect his herds, he can’t make it and will go broke. The money they get from the Defenders of Wildlife for predation loss doesn’t replace the actual loss because they only get compensated for confirmed wolf kills.

The sooner the wolf is delisted, the sooner game hunts can be scheduled. This will benefit everyone and provide for a healthier wolf population as well.

Tom Remington