wolf livestock depredations hit another record
SEAN ELLIS Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
Jones, a trapper for USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, skins out a
mother cow at the Davis Ranch in Cascade. There were no outward
signs of trauma, but after skinning the animal, Jones confirmed
multiple wounds under the skin caused by at least one wolf, if
not two working together. Wolf depredations in Idaho recently
hit a new record
BOISE – Wolf depredations on
livestock in Idaho reached a record level during the past fiscal
year, which ended June 30.
From July 1, 2018, to June 30,
2019, Idaho Wildlife Services conducted 264 depredation
investigations related to wolf complaints from 136 livestock
producers in 17 counties.
Of those 264 investigations, 175
involved confirmed wolf depredations, said Todd Grimm, the Idaho
state director of Wildlife Services, which is a federal agency
that helps solve conflicts between humans and animals.
“Last year we had a pretty busy
year,” he said during the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board’s
Aug. 21 meeting.
“The cattle guys the last four or
five years are the ones who have really been taking the brunt of
the wolf depredations,” Grimm added.
The 175 wolf depredations of Idaho
livestock during fiscal year 2019 was a record for the second
During the previous fiscal year
that ended June 30, 2018, Wildlife Services conducted 217 wolf
depredation investigations for Idaho livestock producers and
determined 140 involved confirmed wolf attacks.
The wolf control board was created
by the state in 2014 and tasked with funding lethal control
efforts of problem wolves. The board has a cooperative service
agreement with Wildlife Services, which conducts wolf control
actions as directed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
The wolf control board’s recent
meeting was attended by five wolf advocates and an equal number
of people who support the board’s mission to fund lethal control
actions of wolves that cause chronic problems to livestock and
Weiser-area rancher Cody Chandler
told board members that wolves in his area are having a major
impact on his operation. He described how early in the morning
on Aug. 20 “the wolves just went wild that night. They were so
loud and you could hear them running around. It was scary. That
night, they were too close for comfort.”
His father, Kirk Chandler, a
rancher and Washington County Commissioner, said ranchers in the
area “are all having the same experiences. It’s a big problem.
It really affects the economy of our county.”
Braden Jensen, who handles natural
resource issues for Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, told the board
that the presence of wolves has caused some wildlife to change
their habitat and migration patterns, which in turn is causing
increased wildlife depredation on cropland “where those herds
haven’t traditionally been in the past.”
“We hear repeatedly from many of
our members just how big an issue this is … and it’s a growing
issue,” he said.
During the meeting, wolf advocates
had a far different take on the presence of wolves in Idaho.
Conservationist and wolf advocate
Suzanne Stone said one of the biggest thrills in her life was
when she took her daughter into the wilderness to hear wolves
“To me, those wolves do belong
there,” she said. “They have … a right to be there. Our family
does support agriculture but not at the cost of our wildlife.”
She said the board’s money would be
better spent proactively preventing wolves from attacking
Talasi Brooks, staff attorney for
Western Watersheds Project, said she was concerned about the
board’s emphasis on lethal methods of controlling wolves rather
than non-lethal methods, which can include hazing and scaring
devices that emit flashing lights and sounds.
Federal funding for wolf control
actions in Idaho declined by about $620,000 from 2009 to 2014.
The wolf control board was created to make up for that deficit.
The board has received $400,000 in
state funds annually and the state’s cattle and sheep producers
provide another $110,000 each year, as do Idaho sportsmen. That
has provided the board $620,000 per year to fund lethal wolf
But for the first time this past
year, at the governor’s request, the Idaho Legislature provided
the board just $200,000 in state funds.
Gov. Brad Little told Idaho Farm
Bureau Federation during a recent interview that he recommended
the board receive $200,000 this year because it had built up a
big reserve fund and he wanted the board to use that reserve
Little, a rancher, said he fully
understands the impact wolves are having on Idaho livestock and
wildlife and that he supports the board’s mission. He told Farm
Bureau members earlier this year not to worry about where he
stands on wolves.
“They will have the resources they
need,” he said about the wolf board during his recent interview
with Farm Bureau.
“Fish and game is doing a pretty
good job of managing them but … I talk to ranchers all over the
state and there are areas where they are causing huge problems,”
According to a Wildlife Services
report, in addition to the 175 confirmed wolf depredation
incidents involving Idaho livestock during the past fiscal year,
16 of the agency’s depredation investigations involved
probable wolf attacks, 35 were
possible wolf depredations and 38 were determined to have not
been wolf related.
A minimum of 53 cows were killed by
wolves last year and another eight injured, according to the
report. Eighty-three calves were killed and 18 injured, 107
sheep were killed and two injured, four dogs were killed and one
injured, two llamas were killed and one horse was killed.
Probable wolf attacks included 11
cows killed, seven calves killed and two injured, 10 sheep
killed and 14 missing, three dogs killed, one llama killed and
one domestic bison killed.
In response to confirmed wolf
depredations, Wildlife Services lethally removed 66 wolves
during fiscal 2019. During fiscal 2018, the agency removed 76
wolves for livestock depredations and another 10 to protect
During the first two months of the
current fiscal year, Wildlife Services has confirmed 40 percent
fewer wolf livestock depredations compared to the same period
“That’s a good sign because July
and August are always our biggest months for depredations,”
He said it is now known for sure
why the number of depredations is down but that it could have
something to do with control actions taken earlier in the spring
in some areas with chronic wolf problems. That resulted in the
removal of some wolves that likely would have caused problems
later in the summer, he said.
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