Livestock Reimbursement For Wolf Predation A Boondoogle

March 30, 2010

The Montana Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board, who pay ranchers for the MINUSCULE numbers of livestock lost to wolf predation, is running low on cash.

Not surprisingly, none of the money handed out to ranchers from the fund has been used for prevention. You know, guard dogs, electrified fladry , sheep herders..etc.

From the Missoulian:

“The goal of the board, created after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service turned wolf management over to the state in May 2009, is to build acceptance of wolves by compensating livestock producers for losses caused by wolves. Part of the plan includes preventing conflict.

“If you’re not addressing the underlying problems that cause depredations, it’s going back to this cycle of livestock losses and wolf loss,” said Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife.”

The money was slated not only for reimbursement for losses but for prevention. In other words, to improve ranchers abysmal animal husbandry practices that encourages predation. But that hasn’t happened. Big surprise!

The fund was created in 2009 after Defenders of Wildlife stopped paying ranchers for wolf predation, when gray wolves were delisted. BUT the group did donate $100,000 in seed money to launch the board. Up until that time, between “1987 and 2009, Defenders gave livestock producers in the Northern Rockies $1.3 million.” That’s a lot of cash for so little damage. All this to address a microscopic problem of wolf predation in the Northern Rockies.

Officials say wolves account for a fraction of livestock losses.

“In 2009, sheep producers reported losing 56,000 animals for reasons other than predators, such as disease and weather. They also reported losing another 18,800 animals to all predators, mostly coyotes. Eagles were blamed for another 600 sheep deaths, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service reports.”

Yet Carolyn Sime, Montana’s Wolf Coordinator, felt compelled to defend the killing of hundreds of wolves each year for agribusiness this way:

“But that doesn’t mean it is not a big deal if it’s your livestock,” Sime said of losses to wolves. (So hundreds of wolves should be killed each year for a few livestock owners?)

“And losses can be frequent.” (Losses from what, certainly not wolves?)

“It’s one more reason these guys may lose livestock. “( One reason out of many, many others, yet we’re only talking about wolves)

 “Profit margins are already low.” (Are Montanans responsible for ranchers low profit margins?)

What does that statement even mean?  It means she can’t give a clear answer on why wolves are harassed, hounded, darted, collared, tracked, chased and killed every year.  That explanation doesn’t cut it.

Did you know thousands of calves died in Southeast Montana  last year in a Spring snowstorm?  Were ranchers reimbursed for that?  No, because it’s part of the risk of ranching and that’s how it should be.

So here’s my question? Why are ranchers getting paid for teeny-weeny losses in the first place? Since they lose most of their livestock to disease and weather and the main predator of livestock is the coyote, not the wolf, why does the fund exist in the first place? Or to put it another way, what the heck is all this fuss about nothing?

The answer, dear readers, is nobody is going to pay ranchers for the majority of their losses from other causes.

There is no Livestock Lost To Weather Reimbursement Fund or Livestock Lost to Disease Reimbursement Fund so what do they have left? You guessed it. The Livestock Lost To Wolves Reimbursement Fund.

Hmmm. Is it in the interest of ranchers to complain to the high heavens about wolf predation? Of course. They’re not going to get compensated for their other bigger losses.

In 2009 the Loss Mitigation Board paid ranchers $142,000 for 369 livestock losses to wolves. But sheep producers stated they lost 56,000 sheep to causes other than predation. Why aren’t they being reimbursed for their losses not related to predation? As long as we’re handing out subsidies why aren’t we reimbursing all ranchers for all losses? Why the selective payments?

To add insult to injury the taxpayer is now being burdened with more debt from the practically non-existent wolf predation issue. Congress has approved and Obama has signed legislation that doles out a million dollars for wolf predation . That means Montana will get part of that fund. More handouts to ranching.

So it begs the question why are we paying ranchers again? And why are entire agencies set up to kill wolves even though everyone seems to agree wolves do very little damage to livestock?

The answer is grounded in history. Wolves are hated for being wolves. Wolf and predator hatred started in Europe and was brought to this country by the European settlers. They set out to kill every wolf and predator they could get their hands on. In the process they also killed all the prey animals as well. They literally sanitized the landscape of life. Why did the they do this? Well it’s obvious they didn’t respect animal life one whit. Ultimately predators turned to cattle because their prey base had been wiped out.

From Nova Online with Ed Bangs, Wolf Recovery Coordinator, USFWS

“A hundred years ago, our society placed very low value on all wildlife. We got rid of all the deer, the elk, the bison, the turkeys, you know, everything, in deference to other social objectives, primarily agriculture and settlement. And you can imagine being a grizzly bear or a black bear or a wolf or a coyote—when there was nothing else to eat but livestock, that’s what you ate. And as a consequence, settlers really hated grizzlies, wolves and other predatory animals and they deliberately tried to get rid of them all. The federal government actually sent out trappers who spent years hunting down the last wolf and killing it. The last wolves were actually killed by the U.S. Biological Survey, which is the agency that transformed itself into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Wolves were killed by the most brutal of means, trapped and shot, poisoned with strychnine, set on fire, fed broken glass. Whatever a sick imagination could come up with that’s what was used on wolves. This is the sad legacy of the Western wolf extermination. BUT just because the feds and ranchers set out to wipe the wolf off the face of the map doesn’t change the reality that wolves have been around for the last 300,000 years. They survived the Great Ice Age. They were here long before there was an Idaho, or Montana or Wyoming. They are the natives, we are the trespassers. The wolves that were reintroduced from Canada are not interlopers that were forced on anyone. Those wolves have been crossing back and forth across the border between Canada and the US for thousands of years, before there were borders. Interbreeding among sub-species makes this argument moot. They are all gray wolves and they have a right to be here. This is their home.

I might be wrong but I was laboring under the assumption that we lived in a capitalist society. There is something called RISK involved in any business. Americans are not responsible for bailing out every business that experiences risk. I was against the bank bailouts and I’m not in favor of handing over money to ranchers for teeny tiny livestock losses from predation. That’s not how our system works. If anyone is belaboring under the misguided premise that paying ranchers subsidies somehow will increase their tolerance of wolves or get them to change their lazy animal husbandry practices I only have to direct you to the pitiful Mexican wolf program, down to  just 42 wolves in 2009. They lost ten wolves last year. Two wolves were found shot and an “investigation” is being conducted on the rest. If 42 wolves can’t be tolerated in the Southwest, where cows outnumber people, what makes anyone think compensating ranchers is going to make them more tolerant? It won’t and it hasn’t.

Buying off ranchers gives them a sense of entitlement. It says they are somehow special and should be treated differently than the rest of society.  It’s been twenty-three years since Defenders of Wildlife started compensating ranchers. Has the program worked? NO. Hostility toward wolves is at its highest since their reintroduction.

Instead of throwing cash at ranchers why not concentrate on getting their cattle off our public lands?  Public land grazing of cattle is one of the biggest obstacles to wolf recovery. It would literally save wolves lives and take the focus off cows.  What a concept.

Boondoggle: “An unnecessary or wasteful project or activity.”


Livestock Loss Board Compensated Producers In 21 of 56 Counties


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in:  Montana wolves, howling for justice, gray wolf/canis lupus

Tags:  wolves or livestock, wolf intolerance, wolves in the crossfire

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 12:40 am  Comments (9)  
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