Monday, July 25, 2016

Western ranchers say resurgence of gray wolves is putting livestock at risk

A resurgence of gray wolves in Western states has put livestock in harm's way, Elaine S. Povich reports for Stateline. "As gray wolves multiply and come off endangered species lists in Western states, a new problem has emerged: Packs of wolves are harassing ranchers, their sheep and cattle. And states are trying to walk the line between the ranchers, who view the animals as an economic and physical menace, and environmentalists, who see their reintroduction as a success story." (National Geographic photo)

Donny Martorello, wolf-policy chief in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told Povich, “It really is about having a large carnivore back on the landscape that has been absent for decades. If you are in a rural community, there is that uncertainty that it will threaten your way of life and how you support your family. The larger society has made the call that they value wildlife and our job is to steer [wolves] toward recovery. Wolves are doing quite well. Is there an option not to have wolves in Washington? That is not in our foreseeable future.”

Gray wolves, which have been listed as endangered or threatened in many states, have been de-listed in Montana, Idaho, the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, and north-central Utah, Povich writes. "In Montana and Idaho, wolves may be hunted, within tight restrictions and seasons. In the other states, there is no legal hunting of wolves. But in the parts of Oregon, Utah and Washington where wolves have been de-listed, states are empowered to eliminate wolves that have been proven to be a menace to livestock, dogs or humans, and to provide compensation for lost livestock."

Some ranchers complain that an increase in wolves has negatively affected numbers in other ways, Povich writes. Washington rancher Len McIrvin said an increase in wolves has made his cows "more skittish and haven’t calved as often since the wolves have been around." He said "when wolves harass cattle, 20 percent of the cows don’t calve in the spring, compared with a normal 2 to 3 percent." Sheep herders say the same can be said for their numbers. (Read more)

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