As feared, the Montana wolf damage mitigation board is just a rancher slush fund

Defenders’ handover to Montana fails to initiate a single proactive project in its first year-

When the wolf was delisted, Defenders of  Wildlife stopped paying compensation for the loss of livestock to wolves in Montana. However, Defenders gave the state $100,000 to get the “Montana Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board” started. It was to not just pay for losses, but fund preventative measures too. The Fund also received additional private contributions, mostly from conservation groups.

In the first year, the Board simply handed out money to those who lost livestock, and apparently required nothing in return. Now the Fund is a bit short of cash. Can we feel bad about that? Yes, and maybe they got their training from those who insured junk mortgages.

Montana media are running stories with headlines such as this: “Montana livestock board pays for 369 wolf kills in 2009.”  That is not the real story, however. The story is the waste of the money in the fund.

The story above says, “some question whether it is doing enough funding preventative measures.”  It turns out the “some” who question are those who gave the money for the Fund — just a small detail!

The story also fails to say that most of the losses came in a few big sheep killing incidents.

Here is what Montana wrote about the financial status of the fund in the 2009 wolf report:

The Montana Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board met twice in 2009. With the 2009
funding available, the Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board prioritized payments for
animals that were attacked by wolves and died, as verified (probable or confirmed) by USDA
WS. Claims were paid on a first-come, first-served basis. Private organizations provided most
some of LLRMP’s available funding for 2009, including a $50,000 donation from Defenders of
Wildlife. Donations were also received from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Western Wolf
Coalition, Keystone Conservation and the Montana Cattlemen’s Association. No grant
applications submitted in 2008 were funded. A total of $87,318 was paid to livestock owners for
238 dead animals between April 15 and December 31, 2008. A total of $141,462 was paid to
livestock owners for 367 dead animals in 2009. Federal legislation introduced by Montana
Senator Jon Tester has been signed by the President. This legislation provides for $1,000,000 for
wolf loss prevention efforts and loss payments in all states. Montana will be eligible for a portion
of this appropriation in federal fiscal year 2010 (which began October 1, 2009). Montana will
have to match the federal dollars with state funds or private donations. [see Montana Report, p. 43]

66 Responses to “As feared, the Montana wolf damage mitigation board is just a rancher slush fund”

  1. Virginia Says:

    What a great reason NOT to donate to Defenders!

    • Ralph Maughan Says:

      Virginia,

      I don’t think this is a Defenders’ problem. They quit compensating but gave a big grant to Montana so the state couldn’t say Defenders’ just walked away from the program.

      The state then wasted the money.

      Suzanne Stone of Defenders (see the article) was clearly angry about Montana’s use of the money.

  2. Ken Cole Says:

    I don’t know what else anyone would have expected from this. The Montana Department of Livestock, the same creeps who loath, despise, and slaughter buffalo for a made up problem are who administers the fund.

    Did Defenders or GYC, or any of the other groups expect any different? Why in the hell would anyone willingly give money to these murderous bastards?

    Do I sound resentful? Hell yeah I am!

    • Ralph Maughan Says:

      Ken,

      If you go to the Montana 2009 wolf report, it isn’t clear to me that this Board is just Montana DOL, but I might be wrong. I spent about 10 minutes reading before I wrote.

    • Ken Cole Says:

      Here is their web page on the DoL website.

      http://liv.mt.gov/liv/LLRMB/index.asp

    • Ralph Maughan Says:

      Damn! You are right, Ken.

      How could we expect anything different than what happened?

    • JB Says:

      It’s likely strategic on the part of MT DOL. That is, they have no reason to put money into prevention (this would simply give Defenders examples that wolves can live with livestock) so long as money is forthcoming. The faster they spend down the money, the more they can claim that conservation groups are not really interested in helping out ranchers.

      Expect a press release that goes something like…

      Conservation groups say they will pony up funds for wolf management, but the well is dry after only ??? months.

    • JimT Says:

      Ken, look it at from DOW’s view. Damned if they pay, damned if they don’t. I think this wolf battle from the start has been one fought on many fronts, including public perception. And DOW’s fund efforts brought them credibility for trying a different approach than confrontation, something a lot of folks on this list have called for, leaving aside for the moment the wisdom of consensus and compromising as a tactical strategy.

      I also give DOW credit for changing the rules when the wolf was delisted. As far as DOW knowing DOL would administer the money at issue when they made it happen, I don’t know. I suspect strongly that IF funds are made available in the future, there will be safeguards and conditions.

      Frankly, DOW doesn’t need its own, so to speak, nipping at its flanks. That is exactly what DOL and other groups want to see.. a fractured environmental community. Take your anger out on the DOL, the true villians in this tragedy.

    • SAP Says:

      The fund is administered through DOL, but it’s run by a board, best I can tell. See

      http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/2/15/2-15-3110.htm

      for the actual law setting up the board. You can also read the minutes of recent board meetings

      http://liv.mt.gov/liv/LLRMB/board.asp

      to get a sense for what they do and how they make decisions.

      Occam’s Razor says go with the simplest explanation: LLRMP is not very good at fundraising, AND they got swamped with a boatload of loss claims due to the Konen sheep fiasco. I don’t see anything sinister going on with the program.

      That said, I also think that its trajectory could be just about the same as DOW’s fund over the years: no one will ever draw the line on some producers and say, no more death loss payments until you take some preventive steps.

    • Brian Ertz Says:

      All Idahoans should shoulder costs of wildlife

      Did Defenders or GYC, or any of the other groups expect any different? Why in the hell would anyone willingly give money to these murderous bastards?

      would it be any different at IDFG ? with “Butch” ?

      Don’t give dirty crooks money hoping it’ll turn them clean.

  3. Virginia Says:

    Well, in my opinion, if Defenders’ isn’t smart enough to see what the DOL/State of Montana really is up to do I want to give them money? No matter what Suzanne Stone says, the answer is still “No.”

  4. steve c Says:

    Defenders should have used the 100k to publicly go after obama for picking salazar and allowing the wolf delisting to stand.

  5. Wilderness Muse Says:

    Ralph,

    It would have seemed appropriate for Defenders to put enforceable restrictions on a portion of their fund bequest to ensure that a specific amount did go specifically for preventive measures. Was that just bad strategy and money management by Defenders, or its representative, Suzanne Stone?

    If they give any money again, one would hope they fix that.

  6. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Wilderness Muse,

    I don’t know. Suzanne Stone has worked in the Northern Rockies for a long time, but is not really in a policy making position in the organization.

  7. dewey Says:

    A year ago, the big Omnibus Public Lands bill passed, early in the Obama administration’s legislative docket. In that bill was a provision inserted by none other than Sen. John Barrasso R-Wy , among thers, to establish a $ 1 million matching fund to be administered by the individual states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho specifically for proactive nonlethal wolf-livestock conflict mitigation.

    Repeat: Proactive, Nonlethal, Wolf-Livestock conflict mitigation.

    I haven’t heard a word about that since.

    At the annual report to my County Commissioners by the local predator management boys and Wildlife Services back in early January, I asked the Wildlife Services agent about nonlethal wolf management and this particular fund. He said flatly that wolf eradication is always their first choice ; that nonlethal wolf management is a waste of time and money . If that 3-state fund to advance nonlethal wolf control does in fact exist, it is invisible and silent , and probably being fed bread and water in a dank dungeon somewhere. WS and my county predator agents default to killing any problem wolves straightaway without considering alternatives. Plus ca change….

    Does anyone have an update or informed anecdote on nonlethal wolf management in the Northern Rockies recovery area ?

  8. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Dewey,

    I don’t know. I think people should contact Tester and complain about how this private money has been used because it is likely his (if funded will be used the same way).

    I just got a campaign fund-raising appeal from him. I did give him a donation back when he ran against Conrad Burns. I wish he knew why he hasn’t gotten any money again.

  9. Rose Says:

    “In the first year, the Board simply handed out money to those who lost livestock, and apparently required nothing in return.”

    Required nothing in return, what a crock! How about the loss of animals, income, investment, and too many other things to list. So you all think that those that lose livestock should not be compensated, but that all the money should go to preventative measures. Do you think that ranchers don’t try to stop the attacks, do you think they enjoy watching their herds be decimated by wolves? One solution would be allowing shoot on site permits for all livestock owners, this would be a cheap way to make wolves afraid of humans, and our livestock, and would solve some of the problems. How many of you actually are involved in Agriculture, and are not just an outside interest with no stake in this. And by no stake I mean loss of a way of life like ranching. Have you ever seen how a wolf kills? They don’t so it just for food, they do it for fun. Large kills are not just for food. A pack cannot eat a hundred sheep at one time, or even a few cows.

    Ranchers deserve to be compensated for their losses, and it should be by those who crammed wolves down our throats, even when the people who live here and have a stake in it spoke out against reintroduction. Why should we be the ones to pay for the introduction by losses not compensated, and be expected to help fund the preventative measures by no compensation for losses? What say do we get in your businesses, and what difficulties you have to face? We don’t meddle in your business and you should not meddle in what you don’t understand, and our business.

    • JimT Says:

      What Ralph said… AND…

      Despite what you may think of those of us who are conservationists, or wolf advocates, or dedicated to a balance in the management of lands and resources, there are some of us who are pretty damned connected to the land. I grew up in dairy farm country in upstate NY and Vermont; John and Ray Calhoun were a half mile from our house, and delivered milk and cream every morning. Half of my classmates growing up were from farming families. So, yeah, I know agriculture, I know family farming…true family farming where the kids got out of school early in the fall to help with the haying; where neighbors pitched in, where kids got up at 4 to help with the first milking, and then got on the school bus.

      I also watched those very same neighbors go out of business for various reasons related both to the demands and expense of their business, and the nature of the economy and the dairy business. I never heard them scream for the government to rescue them, or make sweetheart deals like I hear the public land ranchers whine for in government subsidies. They didn’t feel they were OWED A LIVING by anyone, least of all the Federal government. They assessed the reality of the situation, and found other ways to make a living. Did it hurt to leave farming? Sure, but they didn’t go around looking for scapegoats. What the hell is it about Western ranchers that makes them think they are entitled to this lifestyle no matter what the conditions or cost? Especially those public welfare/socialist ranchers who wouldn’t be able to make a living without public land access, and they still belly ache and moan even though their costs are 4 to 5 times less than those ranchers using their own lands. If all of the public land ranchers went out of business, we would lose less than 3 % of our beef supply. Given the damage to the public lands by public land ranching, I would take that deal. Hell, the private property ranchers could charge more for their beef.

      As for paying for the re-introduction, did you and your fellow ranchers get a bill specifically for the re-introduction? Or did all of the taxpayers contribute to the budget of the Federal agencies that participated?

      If you took care of the animals; if you hired range riders; if you penned the sheep; if you took preventative measures, I might have some sympathy for the loss of a calf or two from wolves. But I am willing to bet that you lose more of your livestock to illness and disease than you do to wolves. Should we compensate you for those as well?

      As I said on another thread in response to a rancher’s claim that losing 2.5 percent of his herd would put him out of business, I say if you are operating any business on that kind of razor thin margin, you need to find a way to supplement your income.

      And read some biology about wolves. The idea that they kill for fun is just a myth made up by folks like you who want to demonize them. The fact is that a pack of wolves would come back to the kill site repeatedly to feed over time if they were allowed to. They are opportunistic predators. We all know that isn’t going to happen; they will be hunted down and shot. The rancher gets money, and then goes on doing the same damn non protective practices as before, in essence, staking out meals for the wolves.

  10. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Rose,

    I don’t speak for Defenders of Wildlife. I’m not even a member, but I do know that they have done a lot of surveys of whether ranchers like being reimbursed. The most common response from ranchers has been to “take your reimbursement money and shove it.” So maybe you are in the minority of ranchers. You do expect it to be paid.

    In Idaho ranchers can pretty much shoot wolves they see on their property and then claim the wolves were harassing their livestock. They are almost never asked for proof.

    Wolves sometimes kill large numbers of sheep. Almost any canid will kill or harass sheep.

    Wolves rarely kill large numbers of cattle, and yes I’ve seen cattle (they are usually calves) killed by wolves. It is not a shock unless you have never seen a killed animal before.

    When I wrote, “In the first year, the Board simply handed out money to those who lost livestock, and apparently required nothing in return.” What I meant is that the Board is supposed to be doing some proactive projects that make wolf predation less likely to start with. The idea is that living livestock are better than a payment for dead livestock.

    But the Board did none of this — they didn’t require of the ranchers to try any changes in how the livestock were pastured, watched for, etc..

    As for your way of life, there are lots of people who lose their way of life, but few get as “bent out of shape” as some ranchers.

    Families might have a business for 3 generations, or they might have a craft of some sort, but they day comes when they have to change.

    I hear commentators nowadays telling people they should expect to have 3 or 4 careers in their lifetime. I think that is just bullshit, but they are saying it nonetheless. Taking this into consideration — how the average person today has to live and work — ranchers don’t have it so bad.

    I think you need to get some perspective.

    • Suzanne Stone Says:

      Hi Ralph and all,
      There are so many inaccuracies here I don’t know where or if to start addressing them but I’m sorry that I didn’t see this months ago. We did survey the our compensation program recipients and the most common response was the ranchers were satisfied with our program and often grateful for the reimbursement for their losses to wolves. The results of that study are published in this book: http://www.amazon.com/New-Era-Wolves-People-Environment/dp/1552382702/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1293549285&sr=1-1 The Montana livestock mitigation board is overseen by a public committee. Yes, they have problems but before we gave the state our donation, we did establish clear parameters for how our funds were spent, so none of Defenders funding was used to pay for unconfirmed losses. Before criticizing, perhaps check the facts first? And thank you, JimT. We all need to give each other the benefit of the doubt more often.

  11. jon Says:

    I did not know where to put this article, so I’ll post it here.

    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/mar/31/first-wolf-hunting-season-success-official-says/

    “In the back country, it’s rugged, they’re cunning, they’re smart,” Groen said, “We’ll be looking at other tools.” Those might include changing bag limits to allow a hunter to take a second wolf in a year; partnering with outfitters; trapping; adjusting zone boundaries; and possibly allowing the use of electronic wolf calls to give hunters an advantage.

    • JimT Says:

      With remarks like this, is there any question that their agenda is to rid the state of wolves, period? I am waiting for the state to petition to use poison again as a “economic necessity”.

      Pray Malloy comes to the humane and ethical decision to re-list. With attitudes like this, how could anyone believe that states would ‘manage” wolves according to the best science and with an eye to the overall health of the ecosystem, and not just the health of four legged ungulates.

  12. Nancy Says:

    Have you ever seen how a wolf kills? They don’t do it just for food, they do it for fun.

    Rose,
    Do me a favor and google the movie Earthlings, gather the family around, and watch what kind of “fun” humans have at slaughterhouses with your livestock. And I’ll warn you, its very hard to watch. I would think barbaric treatment of animals would be a major concern to anyone in the livestock industry or, is it simply a matter of – Out of sight, Out of mind?

    • JimT Says:

      I guess Rose is a “one post and done’ kind of poster…;*)

      Feedlots are almost as bad as the slaughter houses. That is why when we eat beef in this house..rarer and rarer, it is always local beef, grass raised and finished, and humanely dispatched. Our local farmer’s market opens Saturday here in Boulder, and there is a bison rancher who raises his bison organically, etc. He used to have cows, but switched over. He said not only does it make sense from a ecologically appropriate animal perspective, but “there is something there behind a bison’s eyes, an intelligence. With cows, not so much”..

      Made my morning…~S~

    • Ralph Maughan Says:

      We get those. Most of them are short and not sweet, and we don’t bother to approve them because apparently like Rose, they want to tell us how it is, but don’t want to listen.

    • bob jackson Says:

      Jim T,

      Your bison rancher is half correct. There is better “life” in a bisons eyes while it is with mommy and the rest of the familiar herd while on pasture. But all these same animals, 90-95% of these bison with sharp eyes end up in feed lots…..with dull cattle eyes. Try going to the Denver Stock Show and seeing the heads hanging on bison in their pens. And unless your bison producer mentioned has bison in family groups the most “play” he will see is limited to the very young.

      As an analogy think of a bunch of prisoners playing basketball in the prison court yard. “Laughing on the outside but crying on the inside” (old cult song quote). The meat you get from “organic and natural” grass fed comes from chronic stressed animals, whether bison or beef,…yes much better than what comes from a feed lot but not close to what nature evolutionary gave us.

    • mikarooni Says:

      When the fantasy takes over, the options for improvement in the real get pretty limited. The search for perfection truly can be the enemy of the good.

    • Salle Says:

      A good friend of mine, a chef, only uses meat of any kind that is organically and ethically raised and slaughtered. this individual claims that the “bad juju” that comes with feedlot/slaughterhouse animals transfers into the meal that is made with them.

      I have to agree with that given my spiritual belief system that recognizes the preparation and consumption of food are sacred acts and should be observed as such.

    • bob jackson Says:

      Mickarooni,

      Even conventional meat packers are becoming aware of the effect of PH levels in slaughtered animals. PH affects toughness and flavor. These packers have two concerns with adverse PH…..chonic and short term stress. You see, this kind of way out stuff has even hit main stream exploiters.

    • WM Says:

      My parents for many years while I was growing up raised about a half – dozen head of beef every year. My mother would go to the local stock yard sale and purchase older calves in the early fall. We would winter them over, and they would feed on sweet grass through the summer on our pasture. My mother, rest her soul, would let a few friends know we had a beef or two for sale. They woulld be be pre-purchased, and if mother had not already named them, the new partial owner would participate in naming their beef. We used that as an excuse to invite our city friends out for dinner to check out their investment. In the early fall the beef would have access to the corral where molasses covered rolled oats and corn would await them morning and night for 45 days, or so. It was my job before and after school (high school at that point, and sometimes hard to get done with football practice and all) to make sure the beef were fed their daily fattening ration. Then one pre-appointed saturday morning the custom butcher would drive his refrigerated truck down to the pasture. He would set up his heavy duty tripod with chain hoist and begin the methodical processing of that year’s bounty.

      I never really appreciated the significance of the entire process. This dialog brought back some old and rather fond memories. I would like to think the “organic and natural” beef that goes to market today has a similiar path, but like Bob Jackson, I surely doubt it. We don’t eat much beef at our home, and prefer an elk, maybe one that hasn’t been predator stressed too much by wolves. Don’t want that pH to get out of balance too much. And, the little 4×5 bull I got last year had much less fat on him going into winter than those in the recent past.

  13. Nancy Says:

    Food, Inc. is another good documentary on what’s happening to our food sources in this country Jim. It’s been what? 15 years since the wolf was re-introduced and I’ve seen no attempts by any of the ranchers in my area to take preventive measures (except to pick up the phone and call WS) when a wolf shows up. Must be hard for ranchers to wrap their minds around the fact that not everyone wants to see them dead.
    Big difference between getting a chill or getting a thrill when you hear them howl. I fall under the thrill category.

  14. dewey Says:

    There’s a terse story in the April 02 Casper Star Tribune ( today ) via the AP/Helena MT bureau , entitled: “MT, ID, WY get grants to help ranchers with wolves”.

    The temporary URL for the CST story is thus and so : http://trib.com/news/updates/article_9a8d425e-3e72-11df-a001-001cc4c03286.html

    Basically , it answers a question I raised last week about when or if the $ 1 million nonlethal wolf management grants to the states with wolf populations was ever going to bear fruit. It was authorized in the Omnibus Public Lands bill about a year ago. I believe this to be the same funding program.

    That’s the good news…US Fish and Wildlife is finally disbursing the funds. The bad news is Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho each only recieve $ 140,00.00 That’s a pittance. The states have to match those funds with their own money , I believe. And the states will manage the program.

    Can’t speak to Idaho and Montana, but —Why do I feel that Wyoming will not be going gung-ho for Nonlethal wolf management ?

  15. Nancy Says:

    Its interesting that AZ & NM will also receive funds. That HUGE population of Mexican Grays – 42 at last count, down from 52 (no doubt due to the SSS policy in place) must be a big headache for the livestock industy to the south.

  16. Nancy Says:

    WM,
    Maybe it had nothing to do with wolves, maybe that little 4×5 bull spent too much time chasing the ladies around or, as in the case of the elk in my area, got run around from from one pasture to the next, from sun up to sun down, for about 6 weeks by the local outfitter, his numerous guides and clients. Makes ya wonder how much quality eating and sleeping time they actually manage to get in before winter rolls around with all that activity going on.

  17. WM Says:

    Nancy,

    I do not know how long you have been participating on this forum. I have mentioned before, in detail, what we have found in the area we have hunted for over 20 years. Thie elk here don’t get bothered that much by hunters at the start of the general bull season. There has not been signficant change in the habitat, and forage is sufficient.

    The only significant variable over the last four or five years has been the increased presence of wolves. We have seen alot of calf carcass remains, cartilage still attached to bones, showing the predators are getting a good number of calves that were never taken before. We don’t see many spikes anymore. I find that troubling, and it means fewer young healthy elk of both sexes make it through the first year. And, the few elk we see now, are always on the move, staying in the timber and on steeper ground. They do not use the game trails and old logging grades, which are now often patrolled regularly by wolves. You can tell by all the wolf poop and tracks that are there, along with the absence of elk tracks, because they stay in the trees more.

    As for that particular bull, I can’t be completely certain. It is clear he was spending less time eating, but it wasn’t all chasing the ladies, I am pretty sure.

    The reaction I usually get on this forum, when describing this, is a catagorical denial that wolves are a significant and new cause for weight loss, or lower calf recruitment (all contrary to scientific evidence); that I and my associates don’t know how to hunt and that we are lazy (despite 20 years of elk hunting in several different states and habitat types, and yes we hunt smart and hard); and, that we just need to adjust and lower our expectations to reduced success in hunting (despite the fact that bull success rate is only about 20-25 percent already for general hunters without an outfitter).

    I don’t mind sharing with wolves. Finding the equilibrium point that is acceptable to all stakeholders is the tough part.

  18. bob jackson Says:

    WM,

    What do you think the elk did on the plains, areas without trees, to defend themselves against wolves? Of course you know my answer. What is your assessment?

    Iowa, where I am from, had so many elk the first settlers lost a lot of horse and oxen teams… due to antlers being stuck in their bellies. These settlers also said the prairie would be almost all white looking after a prairie fire, shed antlers as far as the horizon.

    The reports on numbers of wolves was enormous also. Do you think these prairie elk just snuck around in tall grass?

    Of course the wolves were huge also, being sized to killing bison and elk. I always liked Laura Ingals Wilders Little House on the Prairie description of her father coming back home on his pony with those big wolves loping right along side of him. They stood so tall and it scared the be jezz out of pa.

  19. Nancy Says:

    WM,
    I’m new to posting on the site but not new to the controversy surrounding wolves on the landscape. The toughest thing is trying to sort thru all the information or as in many cases, the mis-information being tossed around out there.

    I don’t raise livestock nor am I in the business of making a living off hunting (both for profit industries) that have cast a huge shadow over everything else in this part of the country (even though hunting is on the decline and the cattle produced here is a fraction of what comes out of the rest of the country) Fact has it, most tourists who visit western states, don’t come to hunt and aren’t interested in seeing cows wandering around in the forests. They come for the scenery and the chance to see all kinds of wildlife.
    A handful of ranchers & outfitters have managed to figure that out. The rest will continue to be in denial and blame the wolf for their inability to make changes.

  20. WM Says:

    Nancy,

    Regardless of your leanings, this group will usually keep your comments honest. And, sometimes the dialog tends to get off topic, and then wanders back.

    The lack of effort on the part of the Mt livestock board to put any money or emphasis so far on preventive measures to keep wolves from chowing down on livestock is disappointing. Some people want to know for certain how well best management practices (BMP’s) will work over the long term to keep wolves from going after cows and sheep. It seems clear to this point, the Mt board does not want to address it, notwithstanding a pretty clear mission statement for the agency to address it. I am particularly interested in knowing how a fladry works to keep wolves out of a penning area as a deterrent over the long term. For someone who is inclined it might make a pretty good letter to the editor piece.
    ____________

    Bob Jackson,

    Are we back to talking about how it was 150 years ago, again? I suppose elk as plains animals were probably not alot different from the large herd animals of Africa of today. Travel together in large groups and the predation risk to an individual animal goes down. But, no matter how much we would like to go back, that is highly unlikely for most of the West. If we wait about five years, and wolves move into a plains elk herd on the Hanford Military Reservation area of Eastern Washington, we might see how things go in that very arid (7-9 inches of rain), hot (up to 103 degrees), open (no cover in winter), sage brush country. I am curious to see if wolves will even head into the interior Columbia basin, or whether they concentrate in the mountainous areas. I am thinking those Hanford elk are safe for a long while.

    I am still guessing in a plains herd of elk or buffalo no bull(s) will rush to the defense of a helpless calf or cow-calf combination confronted by wolves. Just like Dr. Dale Lott (buffalo ecologist) says of the buffalo in Wood Buffalo Park, and elsewhere he has studied them.

    I am thinking wolves in Iowa. Are you up for a little experiment with your own buffalo families? Just to see if Lott is right about those lazy breeding bulls and their desire to just hang out with the guys, and save their genetic contribution to do their real life’s work, rather than come to the aid of a calf or vulnerable cow.

    • JB Says:

      WM:

      I haven’t seen any peer-reviewed literature on the efficacy of fladry. However, I do recall Rick Williamson discussing WS use of fladry a few years back at the NA Wolf Conference. Rick suggested it works for a time (~ a month, if I recall), but eventually, wolves will habituate and cross it. Ralph was at the conference, perhaps he remembers more?

      The take home message for me was that fladry should be used for a short time (i.e. when calves are most vulnerable) and then taken down so wolves don’t habituate.

    • Salle Says:

      JB et al,

      I have been acquainted with Rick Williamson for a number of years and was also at that, and numerous other, presentation(s) on nonlethal management techniques and I can tell you that JB has the info right – fladry is effective for about 30 days. Ken Cole tested “turbo-fladry” ~ fladry applied to an electric fence that provides a charge to the little flags on the fence. I don’t recall exactly how long that stays effective but it seems it was a little longer than the noncharged type.

      There are other methods that are effective and if a variety of these are employed in a rotational series of events, I suspect, they would be pretty effective throughout the year if ranchers were willing to put them to use. Most ranchers aren’t even willing t consider using any of these tested methods other than killing the wolves. I, personally, have witnessed the lack of initiative on the part of many ranchers to actually do their jobs in the first place. If ranching means that you can just put live animals out in the wild and leave them there unattended for months (out of some idealism related to convenience) while you find something else to do, then you need to find another lifestyle.

      I can’t think of another industry where constantly losing money and livestock and outright negligence with no job performance reviews or consequence provides an guaranteed flow of taxpayer $upport.

      Something needs to change and I think it would be on the part of the livestock and hunting guide industries ~ who rely on public lands and wildlife removal for their livelihood ~ should be the ones to be re-evaluated for their use and misuse of that which belongs to all citizens regardless of where they live.

  21. bob jackson Says:

    Ok Wm,

    If you are not going to read it I will print it. The Plains of the Great West by Colonel Dodge a great hunter, Indian campaign military man and excellent observer of wildlife.

    page 124 “I have, unobserved,carefully watched herds while feeding. I have seen two or more small herds merge into one, or one larger herd seperate into two or more. This is done quietly, gradually, and as it were accidently, in the act of feeding, each buffalo seemingly only intent on getting his full share of the best grass. The cows and calves are always in the center, the bulls on the outside. When two feeding herds approach each other and merge into one, the only perceptible change- and this is so gradual as scarely be noticeable- is that the bulls on the sides of contact work themselves out towards a new circumference, which is to enclose the whole; and when a larger herd breaks by the same gradual process into smaller ones, the bulls instinctively place themselves on the outside of each”.

    Not the smoking gun yet? Try the next page. You can either read it yourself or I can print it here. If you don’t have the book I have in the past found it in reading content online.

    I’ll give you a few days unless you want me to write it up this evening.

    And yes large numbers of herd animals on migration do hinder efforts of predators. But most of the time herds, no matter what the species, are in no more than 300. And most of the time it is less than sixty. Only under siege will they block up. So again I ask, how do they defend themselves against wolves during the majority of the year?

  22. Nancy Says:

    WM,
    I’ve often wondered how the dynamics would change if cow dogs were not used to sort and move cattle? From birth, calves are brought up to fear canines, forcing them to flee rather than stand their ground.

    Witnessed a rather interesting scene early last summer in the pasture across from me – a large coyote (or it could of been a lone wolf, to far away to tell) was working its way thru a large herd of cattle. Suddenly about a dozen cows, calves and one energetic bull, starting running after the coyote. They chased it half way across the pasture and only stopped when they put it under the fence. Which brings me to another question. Why is it necessary to break down the herd? The bulls are only in for a short period of time, then the calves are seperated come fall, and from most depredation reports, its the calves that get hit over and over by wolves (even though coyotes kill far more young livestock)
    I’m not familiar with how fladry works but electric fencing certainly seems to do the trick and it can be set up to work off solar power. I’d much rather see the millions that are wasted on WS (the planes are up at the drop of a hat around here, when wolves show up) go instead, towards preventive measures.

    • mikarooni Says:

      I’m sorry to be a broken record; but…

      I raise grassfed, range-raised longhorns in country that’s just filthy with wolves, coyotes, and lions. I don’t tend them; I let them go wherever they will within my fence-lines, they bed under the trees and come in to the pens to visit when I bring them some soft hay for a treat; I often don’t see them otherwise; yet, I don’t have significant loses to predators. Yes, I lose an occasional poorly timed calf to a deep snow and I’ve lost animals to accidents and snakes; but, my longhorns are fast and strong, run and don’t waddle, and work as a team to keep the herd together and safe. I separate my cattle, but always keep several steers being grown out for trophy heads with the calves as baby sitters …and they do their job.

      I don’t waste time on dogs; my longhorns come into the pens on their own when i call them and I work them on foot from there. I don’t waste money on electric fences or fladry or poisons or traps or such artificial nonsense, neither do I pull calves; longhorns have never been selectively bred to be so synthetically corpulent that they can’t even calve on their own; they do their job.

      My grassfed, range-raised longhorns yield a bit less total carcass weight; but, the meat contains ~25 to 35% of the fat and ~75 to 80% the cholesterol of northern European feedlot beef (about the same as bison without grain finishing). America is obese and greasy meat is part of it; why contribute?

      America’s ranchers have trouble, economically and with predators because they have bought into the synthetic culture, raising syntho-beef breeds from northern Europe that yield meat containing more retained water than protein. America is in trouble; waddling degenerates gumming down mushy ground syntho-beef fattened on syntho-corn, grilled with processed cheese, and swilled down with syntho-corn syrup mixed with carbonated water and flavored with petroleum distillates.

      The whole system stinks, from the monopolistic slaughterhouses that treat workers, animals, and the product as chemical commodities and prize mass-production over health or dignity to the public who will do anything and turn themselves into anything as long as it is advertised to them in the right gimmicky way.

  23. WM Says:

    Nancy,

    A fladry is a single strand perimeter rope or wire with long thin strips of cloth – traditionally red- tied equally along its lenth, typically every four feet, or so. It would encircle an area inhabited by the animals you want to temporarily protect from wolves or coyotes.

    And, to address your other comment, some ranchers are now acquiring and training herding dogs for both sheep and cattle that view their animals to be protected against predators to their death. And several dogs have been outmatched when confronted with several wolves. The rancher looses the investment in the dogs, or has expensive vet bills, and may have to incur the cost of buying and training more dogs. To my knowledge these are costs borne entirely by the rancher.

    __________
    JB,

    I read a paper a couple weeks back about a Central Michigan University field study done in the summers of 2004, and 05 on the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, but oddly just published this Spring. The fladry was up on several farms for a period of 75 days during calfing/lambing, and set up as a separate perimeter outside actual fenced pastures. They even addresssed the cost of constuction on a per kilometer (at $588/km/yr, including the fabric, fence posts w/ wire and labor). Costs were extended for a 150 hectare (330 acre) farm, or about $4,400/ year in 2005 dollars. The study was conducted by two biologists from Central Michigan U, and funded by DOW CMU, HSUS and the state of MI and a couple of other organizations.

    http://www.berrymaninstitute.org/journal/spring2010/davidson-nelson_gehring_sp10.pdf

    How applicable any of this is in the West is open for debate. DOW seems to think it is very relevant. I had a number of questions about costs, as they estimated the effort to take 40.5 person hours to construct at $326 (About $8/hr, but no detailed reference to how much time to buy and assemble materials, or to take it down, incuding pulling out posts, rolling wire and maybe taking off the cloth. Sloppy cost research or writing about it in my view).

  24. WM Says:

    mikarooni,

    Interesting description and observations. Where are you located, how much land are you running your long-horns on, and how many animals? Any federal grazing land allotments? And, do you have trees, and are you on flat or rolling or steep ground?

  25. SAP Says:

    WM – thanks for the link to the fladry article. Very interesting stuff.

    Fladry is somewhat promising. I cannot find in the article where they describe the largest single runs of fladry they deployed during the study, but Midwestern pastures tend to be a lot smaller than western rangelands.

    A few hundred acres makes for a good sized farm in the Midwest. I have put electrified fladry around 300-600 acre pastures in southwest Montana. Putting up and maintaining that much fladry — especially when there are elk and other ungulates routinely knocking it down — is a big challenge.

    When we first started putting up fladry, it was extremely time consuming. 40-50 person hours per mile would be a realistic estimate, since electrifying the line introduces a whole new set of tasks & considerations.

    At that level of (in)efficiency, the absurdity of expecting ranchers to ever adopt this technology and deploy it on their own was glaringly apparent. We were sick of it ourselves!

    Thus, a number of practitioners (including some ranchers) have been quietly working away at making fladry deployment straightforward and efficient. Using best practices (some borrowed from Management Intensive Grazing practitioners, who get really good at rapid deployment and movement of electric fencing), we are looking at — with the use of an ATV — deployment rates of around 5 person-hours per mile instead of 40, depending on terrain, vegetation, existing fences, &c.

    Still, the western rangeland context is different from the Midwest. Unless we put miles and miles of fladry around 1,000s of acres at a time, it’s really unlikely we’d leave fladry in one place for 75 days at a time because the stock would need to rotate to new pastures far sooner than 75 days. You could surround a bunch of pastures at once to save moving the fladry around, but the materials would get pretty expensive.

    [Just to illustrate: say we have a perfectly square & flat 40 acre pasture. 40 x 43,560 sq ft per acre = 1,742,400 square feet in our 40 acre pasture. The square root of the area = length of the sides, or 1320′, or a quarter mile. Thus, we’d need one mile of fladry for our 40 acre pasture, assuming it’s square and flat. The electrified fladry itself is going for around $2,000 per mile right now; that does not include posts and accessories (about $300 per mile), a suitable energizer, battery, solar panel, and ground rods (roughly $500 to adequately power a mile of fladry in all conditions). You’re in for $3000 a mile just for materials to protect our hypothetical 40 acre pasture. Surrounding 4,000 acres at once, then, would get pretty expensive but would save a lot on labor involved in moving it from pasture to pasture].

  26. JB Says:

    SAP:

    I seriously doubt that fladry will be a long-term solution given western livestock husbandry practices. Wolves and coyotes will habituate eventually and the more fladry they see, the faster this will occur. Seems to me–and this is my opinion–the best practice would be to put turbo fladry around livestock during calving and immediately following and remove it relatively quickly. Putting up huge amounts of fladry for long periods of time will likely reduce its effectiveness.

  27. SAP Says:

    JB – you may be correct, and I may agree with you.

    However, electrified fladry, ideally, has arguably indefinite effectiveness: once a wolf gets sufficiently habituated to the unpleasant stimuli (whatever it is) of fladry to explore/investigate what that novel object is, the electrical shock should “re-set” the animal’s aversion to fladry.

    To anthropomorphize, the wolf would then think “ouch! I KNEW I had a good reason to be wary of that stuff!”

    Of course, that’s under ideal circumstances: the electricity is functioning at an effective threshold; the wolf’s fear of fladry degrades gradually; and the wolf explores the fladry with nose/mouth rather than simply jumping over it.

    So: I mostly agree with you, due to the practical challenges associated with effectively deploying and maintaining long stretches of electrified fladry in remote places.

    The article from Michigan, as well as lots of anecdotal evidence, indicates that fladry is totally ineffective with coyotes. Most peculiar . . .

  28. WM Says:

    SAP,

    I once had a siberian husky that was a bit of an escape artist. We had to put electric fence around the inside perimeter of the yard, about 8 inches above ground level and a foot or so inside the yard from the wooden slat fence. He undoubtedly got zapped a few times, but adjusted so he could avoid the wire, and dug under the fence, placing his starting hole toward the wood fence, just so he would avoid the wire. He had to dig a deeper and longer tunnel beneath the fence, but he became quite good at working around the hot wire. He also knew when the fence was off.

    I have no doubt over time wolves will learn the same kind of behavior for a “turbo” fladry, going over or under a single strand of hot wire and between the flags. By the way, depending on what the flag strips are made of they are usually pretty good insulators, and will not conduct electricity unless wet, in my experience. And, I have considerable experience in that area, having backed into a hot wire while cleaning a ditch with flowing water, more than once. Talk about being grounded.

    • SAP Says:

      WM – ouch! Sounds like quite a jolt.

      The flags do cause a slight voltage leak, especially when wet, which is why electrified fladry requires a much stronger energizer than an equal length single-strand fence. However, it’s not enough voltage per flag to be part of the deterrence package in any meaningful way.

      I’ve worked with a lot of different electric fences over the past 40 years. There are some big differences in quality, based on how they’re installed and what kind of energizer you’re using.

      My point is this: a big jolt is pretty scary. I have seen dogs get stung by 6,000 volts or higher and they are in actual pain — running around yelping, hiding under things, don’t know what hit them, generalizing their pain to the entire locale where they got shocked kind of pain. It’s not just a little unpleasantness or a tickle. And it’s sad & I hate to see it & try to keep the dogs out of such situations, fwiw.

      6,000 volts plus will physically knock a person backward, and that’s a person wearing rubber-soled shoes.

      Also, different energizers have different “pulse shapes,” which I don’t fully comprehend but I do know that some are more effective at delivering energy to lighter weight, furry animals like wolves (as opposed to short-haired, sinking into the ground animals like horses and cattle).

      So: I agree that wolves CAN get used to electrified fladry and CAN eventually breach it if sufficiently motivated.

      I also contend that, if we optimize the negative reinforcement (the electrical shock) of either electrified fladry or plain old electric fence, that it’s a pretty big scare for a wolf.

      Unlike a dog trying to get out of a backyard (not to discount your observations or experience, just to point out some key differences), a wild free-roaming wolf has a lot of options, a lot of opportunities to avoid a place or a certain type of object that caused it significant pain. Give them a big jolt and they’ll remember it, and if they don’t need to go to that place, I think they’re likely to avoid it for quite a long time.

  29. Nancy Says:

    SAP,
    I live in southwest Montana and I’m curious as to whether there is much interest by ranchers in non lethal ways to control predation and are ranchers aware of organizations like DOW who will help with the costs.

    • SAP Says:

      Nancy, ranchers know about Defenders.

      The whole situation with wolves is highly dysfunctional right now. As others have mentioned here, a lot of ranchers are willing to wait for predation and then have Wildlife Services come in and kill wolves.

      What’s the alternative? From their perspective, non-lethal techniques are expensive, time consuming, and hardly foolproof. Having conservation groups come out to do all or some of the work is unappealing: strangers, many of whom may have zero accurate understanding of ranching, many of whom may be hostile to ranching, some of whom a rancher might hold responsible for all this wolf trouble in the first place, showing up to “help.” And then you’re supposed to be grateful?

      [NB: I’m not saying this attitude is completely justified, simply trying to shed light on why they do what they do]

      From a rancher’s perspective, might this seem like they’re in a position of dependency on the very folks who they think caused these problems in the first place?

      And all this hassle for methods that may or may not work. While killing wolves is clearly only a short term solution (note that the sheep massacre near Dillon ’09 started with a few kills by a trio of wolves who were removed), it is decisive, and is delivered by people ranchers trust (WS).

      So, there’s more than just a dislike of wolves behind the low rate of use of nonlethal methods, from my perspective. We need to get our heads around this whole problem to make progress. It’s far more than a technical problem, although competent and reliable implementation of non-lethal techniques remains an issue.

    • SAP Says:

      PS – Nancy, I think you were asking about cowdogs earlier. Not all ranchers use dogs on their stock; a lot of those heelers just seem to be flatbed ornaments.

      Most ranchers who do use dogs do NOT use them on mother cows with young calves — the mother cows usually will come after the dogs with lethal intent; the babies are too young to get out of the way; you end up with a very stressful and hazardous situation.

      Most competent stockdog handlers don’t just let their dogs go berzerk on the cattle. The idea is for the dog to exert very minor pressure on cattle — typically, just with presence, and by doing what we call “eye stalking”, or the classic border collie intense stare. If the cattle don’t move away from the pressure, or try to fight the dog, a couple quick nips reinforce the lesson, and then the cow is “dog broke.”

      The dog has to be under control so that it doesn’t escalate to biting without giving the beast a chance to take the easy way; and to de-escalate once the cow has chosen the easy way.

      Wolves & coyotes eye-stalk, too, so arguably the dogs really ARE teaching livestock the “wrong” thing in a wolf encounter context — turning and leaving in response to eye stalk, rather than standing their ground. In my experience, though, cattle distinguish between wolves and dogs — they know the wolves are something new. Not saying that ALL cattle figure that out, nor that ALL cattle respond with appropriate defensive tactics to wolves, but a lot of them — particularly mother cows — do.

  30. Richie, Giallanzo,NJ Says:

    This game is for the ranchers,let them prove it is a wolf kill,wolves kill calves not cows. Let the ranchers prove it was wolves, wolves kill for food only not for fun. It has been said wolf packs will hunt elk one year and dear the next ,not to destroy the heard. Does this sound like a random animal. Indians treated the wolf with respect but our founding fathers did the opposite.

    • Ken Cole Says:

      I’m pro wolf but nearly everything you have asserted about wolves in this statement is false. There are no absolutes in biology.

      Wolves kill adult cattle, even horses, and they don’t switch from one prey species to another on alternating years. I don’t know where you have gotten this information but it’s not true.

  31. WM Says:

    ++This game is for the ranchers,let them prove it is a wolf kill,wolves kill calves not cows. Let the ranchers prove it was wolves, wolves kill for food only not for fun. ++

    Richie,

    Since you seem to know it all today, perhaps you have an explanation for the miniature horses killed near St, Regis, MT a couple of weeks back, or the huge surplus killing of sheep in ID, OR and MT last summer -all documented wolf kills, and many were not eaten. A few years back wolves in MN killed something like 1,300 turkeys, dozens and dozens at a time, not all of which were eaten.

    I am going to guess that most owners of any livestock, of whatever nature, do not view proving up a wolf kill as a “game,” expecially since it takes time and effort to do so, with no assurance of payment. If you don’t prove it up it is like taking money out of your pocket. How would you personally like it if somebody went out and put a big dent in the hood of your car, keyed the paint job, and slashed or stole your wheels/tires, and you had to prove exactly who did it before an insurance company paid for vandalism and theft, less your $500 deductible, of course? What an incredibly stupid statement!

    And, I really want to see any authority you have for wolves giong after “elk one year and deer the next.” Wolves have a tendency to specialize their taking of a particular species, but more likely than not, they take whatever is easiest and available, when they need food, even eating something dead or taken by another predator, if they can. Elk, whenever present, seem to be preferred over deer, based on most studies I have seen. And then there are dozens of instances where wolves have killed cows, not just calves.
    Geez, Richie, wake up and smell the wolf poop, or not (because of those nasty tape worms that you can get from inhaling).

  32. Si'vet Says:

    Richie, has who ever been enlighting you about wolf behavior ever offered to take you on a snipe hunt?

  33. Talks with Bears Says:

    If I had a dime for everytime I checked this blog and found a pro wolf expert “telling” other people how to conduct there business I would have long ago retired. It is just amazing – all of these “ranching experts” on here that have never ranched anything but a doodle. And all of these “hunting experts” that tell experienced hunters all the time about how they need to get better and stop whining – interesting that the advice is given from the “expert” with no knowledge or experience. Has anyone here ever for one second thought just possibly that all of the hard work put in by the folks in the ranching community has kept the wolf depredation number as low as they are????? No credit here from the pro wolf experts, just the same old tired crap about how so in so did not do enough to protect his or her livestock from an apex predator. Bottomline here is most here want the free range livestock business shutdown – just most don’t have the guts to say it.

    • JB Says:

      “If I had a dime for everytime I checked this blog and found a pro wolf expert “telling” other people how to conduct there business I would have long ago retired.”

      — To whom are you referring? I searched this post for the term “expert” and yours was the first response in which it appears.

      “Has anyone here ever…thought just possibly that all of the hard work put in by the folks in the ranching community has kept the wolf depredation number as low as they are???”

      — Certainly the actions of some individual livestock producers have helped keep depredations low. But I would take issue with your assertion that a lot of “hard work” is being done to prevent depredations.

      “Bottomline here is most here want the free range livestock business shutdown – just most don’t have the guts to say it.”

      — As with Save Bears, I have seen many people here express the idea that public lands ranching needs to go. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that it is expressed on this blog on a daily basis. Personally, I’d be happy to have a system whereby public lands ranchers had to pay fair market value for the resources they used.

    • Ken Cole Says:

      I’m not afraid to say it. End public lands ranching now.

  34. Save Bears Says:

    TWB,

    I have seen quite a few state they want ranchers off public lands, and if that can’t happen, then the practice of public lands ranching needs to be completely overhauled with more accountability and less subsidies. I have made the statement on numerous occasions. I, myself favor native species over cattle and sheep. When it comes to the public’s land, the public should be what dictates use.

    And I am neither pro or anti wolf, I feel they belong here, and I feel they need to be managed with the best science available, that includes hunting and lethal control when warranted, currently it is not happening that way.

  35. Talks with Bears Says:

    Ken – once public ranching is eliminated, how do you suggest we replace the free range protein – feedlots?

    • Brian Ertz Says:

      forage production on federal public lands constitutes a meager 3% for beef production in the country.

      Given the current obesity epidemic in this country (i.e. excess consumption anyway), other economic volatility of the market (which swing much more than 3%, consider the price volatility of privately purchased feed, fuel, water, drought, etc.) a 3% reduction in forage for livestock wouldn’t be discernible with respect to protein consumption – it’d barely impact the market.

      Also — that “free range protein” isn’t “free-range”. They put that stock out for the season — when the season’s up, they put’em back in the feedlots anyway.

    • Elk275 Says:

      If public ranching is eliminated are the remaining fee lands going to be subdivided when the ranch can no longer pay its bills or is not an viable economic unit. Should we eliminate grazing on all federal lands, what about those public lands that are land locked. As a hunter I know that there are millions of acres that the public cannot access and the federal government cannot access without permission of the controlling private landowner or without a helicopter. There are lending institutions including the federal government that have secured loans on those grazing permits. Is it right to eliminate the collateral that an FDIC institution has a lien on.

  36. Jay Says:

    Elk–why do you say the lands are “locked”? If our forefathers considered access before going there, we’d still be in England. Just because there isn’t a road to get there doesn’t mean someone with a little ambition can’t travel there.

    • SAP Says:

      Jay, there are a lot of state & BLM sections that are totally surrounded by private land. I think land managers have legal access, but the public doesn’t, except maybe from aircraft.

      We even have some public sections that touch each other at corners (no common sides, surrounded by private land), but in MT it’s illegal to access via a corner, for some reason.


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