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Wolf Crossings

A Rural Viewpoint On Wolf Reintroduction And Protection

Reality Bites 

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Updated 10-06

 

REBUTTAL TO DENVER POST GUEST COMMENTARY:  WOLVES, COWBOYS, AND THE TRUTH (10/31/06)

 

In response to Wolves, Cowboys, and the Truth authored by Rob Edward and Wendy Keefover-Ring; perhaps it would be useful to actually talk about the truth.  It has been said that if someone repeats a lie often enough, it will end up sounding like the truth.  The two Sinapu employees stated, “Wild carnivores and domestic dogs take a larger bite out of America’s sheep inventory, partly due to the profoundly defenseless nature of sheep, and partly owing to lackadaisical husbandry practices including turning bands of unguarded sheep out on open range.”

 

Fact:  Other wild carnivores and domestic dogs do kill more sheep than wolves.

Deliberate Lie:  Stating that sheep are killed because of lackadaisical husbandry practices including turning bands of unguarded sheep out on the open range.

Fact:  Western range producers guard their bands of sheep 24 hours/day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year using shepherds and guard dogs because sheep do not have any natural defenses.

 

It is easy to make a compelling argument when you ONLY tell one side of the story; or choose to cherry-pick information while ignoring data that doesn’t support your agenda.

 

In 2003, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) peer-reviewed Wyoming’s wolf management plan.  As stated in the November 26, 2003 letter from the USFWS to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, “The Service asked 12 of the top recognized wolf researchers, wolf management and livestock depredation experts in North America to independently review and evaluate each of these state wolf management plans (WY, MT, ID).  The reviewers were asked the primary question:  Collectively, will the three state management plans conserve a recovered wolf population should the Endangered Species Act protections be removed?”  Eleven experts responded and 10 out of 11 of the USFWS’s hand-picked peer reviewers approved Wyoming’s plan.  The USFWS later recanted their approval out of fear of potential lawsuits from groups such as Sinapu; not because of perceived inadequacies in the plan.

 

Rob and Wendy accuse the Wyoming government of acting like it is 1906, blissfully unaware that they are guilty of same thing by ignoring the many complexities that a century of growth has created on our western landscape.  It is an urban wildlife fantasy to believe that we can have large carnivores cavorting across the landscape without conflict; and that one segment of society should bear the burden for everyone else.   As the federal wolf recovery program continues to create hardships for ranchers, carnivore advocates remain safely nestled in their Boulder condos and are completely insulated from the impacts of the federal wolf recovery program.

 

Rob and Wendy generously toss out some statistics to bolster their viewpoint, but under closer scrutiny one can find many chinks in their armor.  Wolf advocates go to great lengths to water down any damages caused by wolves and the federal recovery program.  Additionally, the federal government needs to provide statistics for the number of livestock killed, injured, and lost due to wolf depredation in the context of number of livestock located in wolf recovery areas.  Instead, they couch the depredation numbers in total head of livestock statewide, which significantly reduces the depredation rate and grossly misrepresents the actual impacts of wolves killing livestock.  Depredation numbers would be much higher and more reflective of the actual damage caused if the numbers were published in a more accurate and useful format.  Furthermore, it is ridiculous to compare the number of livestock killed by wolves to other losses in the livestock industry.  Sheep and cattle ranchers diligently work to minimize any losses due to other predators, health issues, weather, etc.  The federal government doesn’t tie your hands behind your back and tell you that you can’t vaccinate, feed, water or otherwise manage for your animal’s well-being.  However, the Endangered Species Act and current wolf recovery program takes away a rancher’s ability to effectively protect his livestock against wolf attacks. The ESA can instantly turn a rancher into a criminal if he instinctively tries to protect his livestock from wolves without first jumping through days and weeks of regulatory hoops. 

 

Mr. Edward and Ms. Keefover-Ring also fail to mention another reason that wolf depredation seems really low.  The federal government has been somewhat pro-active in removing depredating wolves.  This is to say that if wolves are killing livestock, then the wolves may be lethally removed at some point.  Without this management tool, depredation rates would be much higher; and Sinapu is a staunch advocate of taking away all of our management tools and making it impossible for ranchers to co-exist on the landscape.

 

In Wolves, Cowboys, and the Truth the authors conveniently omit any reference to additional hardships the federal wolf recovery program has created on ranchers that have wolves in proximity of their livestock.   Because of the vast acreages utilized in an effective rotational grazing program, it is difficult to find carcasses that have been almost completely consumed by wolves and get government agents on-site to confirm wolf attacks.  Wolf attacks cause injuries and stray loss due to harassment.  It is generally accepted that when wolves attack, for every 1 confirmed head of livestock killed there are probably at least another 5 head missing.  Wolves kill guard dogs, herding dogs, hunting dogs, and family pets.  Wolves in proximity of livestock often run  the frightened animals through fences and down timber.  Ranchers incur additional fuel, labor, and veterinary costs as the result of having wolves near their ranching operations.  Their time is diverted away from other ranch management activities such as putting up hay or managing their rotational grazing program, as they are forced to increase herd monitoring and attend meetings in town as a result of having wolves in proximity of their livestock.  Perhaps this is what Edward and Keefover-Ring refer to as “relatively minor damage.”

 

In Wolves, Cowboys, and the Truth the authors disdain for the livestock industry is readily apparent.  Their utter disrespect and disregard for our industry and ancestors continues to amaze me.  Sheep were one of the earliest domesticated animals, and provided mankind with a source of nutrition and fiber that enabled our earliest ancestors to survive.  Domesticated sheep have always required a shepherd; a quick historical reference check would be to read the Bible.  Hardy pioneers ancestors from a century ago settled the West and enabled the United States to prosper.  It is upon their unequalled sacrifices of blood, sweat, and tears that the rest of us are able to enjoy the many luxuries of our modern society.

 

The ranchers of western United States provide thousands of acres of open space and wildlife habitat; they cherish our heritage and our environment.  They also cherish their livelihoods and require the ability to protect their livestock when wolves or other predators are killing their animals.  Ranchers should not incur the burden supporting the urban wildlife fantasy as publicly owned predators kill privately owned livestock.

 

The Wyoming wolf management plan is a common sense solution to a complex problem.  It safeguards the required number of wolves to maintain a long-term, sustainable population, which is an acknowledgement that many people value the presence of wolves on the landscape.  The plan enables wolves to be shot when they are out of the Parks and other designated areas if they are killing livestock and if the overall population numbers are not in jeopardy.

 

If the truth be known, carnivore advocates need to stop their temper tantrums and deliberate campaigns of misinformation.   It’s long overdue for everyone to set aside the emotional rhetoric and deal with the facts.  I say, “Go Wyoming!!”

 

Bonnie Kline, Executive Director

Colorado Wool Growers Association

November 1, 2006