Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cattle kills by wolves cost Park County, WY ranchers $20,000

Cattle kills by wolves cost ranchers $20,000 -

By Carole Cloudwalker

Cody, Wyoming

Twenty domestic animals, primarily cattle, valued at a total of $20,000 were confirmed killed by wolves in Park County last year.

Craig Acres, eastern district supervisor for Wildlife Services, told the county commissioners Tuesday the predation took place between Oct. 1, 2004, and late September 2005.

He added that the confirmed kills varied from the reported animal deaths and values, which came to 40 animals valued at roughly $40,000.

Confirmed wolf kills result in reimbursement to producers.

He cautioned people not to draw conclusions about the confirmed numbers, because unconfirmed kills are often those in which the livestock is discovered too late to actually identify, by tracks, tooth marks or other means, the actual cause of death.

Acres, along with Jeremy Johnson, the Park County wildlife specialist, and wolf specialist Jim Pehringer, all with the federal Wildlife Services agency, were hired to resolve predator problems.

Their agency is part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, though they often are mistaken for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is part of the Interior Department, Acres said.

The tools of their trade range from hazing and “harassing” wolves into leaving an area via rubber bullets and cracker shots to “lethal solutions,” they said.

“We are here to get results,” Acres told the county commissioners, who provided $22,000 last year via an annual contract that expires in May.

The group again will seek county funding in budget sessions this spring, but likely will not ask for as much money this year.

“We would like to continue our agreement with the county,” Stutzman said.

The county predator board, which contracts with Wildlife Services, likely will ask for less money in the upcoming fiscal year, in part because of other possible funding sources.

New state legislation, HB 24, if passed could change the funding structure for predator control efforts by granting money to a single entity through which money would flow to counties.

“The Park County board is in favor of the legislation in its present form,” which would alleviate some current financial problems and “shoestring” budgets, Stutzman said.

Acres said there is a “terrific need” for assistance with predator control for livestock producers and others throughout the Big Horn Basin and in Park County.

Help is needed not only for wolves but for coyotes, bats, skunks and even raccoons, as rabies becomes a concern, Acres added.

“People don't even know there's a service available,” Johnson said.

The men say their busiest times of year for predator activities are calving and lambing in the spring and through the summer until animals are rounded up to go to market in the fall.

Pehringer said before last year, “ranchers didn't feel they were getting a fair shake” with wolf predation, but now help is available upon request.

“It's still emotional ... with people seeing wolves in their sleep,” Pehringer said. “We are not into wolf m anagement ... this is a service where, if they want to call, there are things we can do to help - if there's a problem, we want to deal with that on the spot - immediately.”

“Depredation has dropped off in a year's time” because of the program, Pehringer added.


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