Producers: Wildlife Services is important
Cheyenne – When Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Wyoming on May 16 to hear ideas and concerns from local farmers, ranchers, producers, foresters, agriculture students, business owners, community leaders and USDA employees on his fourth “Back to Our Roots” tour, ranchers across the state emphasized the importance of Wildlife Services in controlling predators.
Vance Broadbent, a southwest Wyoming sheep producer explained to Secretary Perdue, “Some days, I think we’re in the business of fattening coyotes. Wildlife Services and the trappers are a big part of our operation.”
“Making sure funding for the agency gets down to those of us on the ground is one of our challenges,” Broadbent continued. “These programs are really important to the success of our ranches.”
He further noted a number of good programs for predator control are currently occurring in the state, but predators are a constant concern.
Perdue inquired about coyote control mechanisms available, and Broadbent explained local predator boards are in place and utilize trappers and helicopters to control coyotes. M-44s are also available for control, though stringent restrictions are in place.
“We also dip into our own pockets often for helicopters and airplanes to control coyotes,” he said. “Some counties have had to get rid of government trappers because their budgets don’t allow for them.”
Additionally, Broadbent cited the use of dogs in sheep herds, along with sheepherders, to eliminate the impacts of predators.
Shaun Sims, who ranches next to Broadbent, noted they use deterrents, like flashing lights and bells, as well, in an attempt to dissuade coyotes from attacking sheep herds. Snares, traps and private coyote hunters are also used.
Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director Doug Miyamoto cited between 15 and 18 percent of lambs are lost each year as a result of predators.
“Predator control is one of our top issues,” added Sims. “The coyotes don’t just eat lambs and calves. They eat every furry creature out there, which impact deer, sage grouse and more.”
Sims added, “We’ve seen an influx of coyote populations in areas where it’s hard to get to for control, which is another big challenge.”
Ken Macy of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union noted, “Wildlife Services and predator control services are important in Wyoming.”
With endangered and threatened species like wolves and grizzly bears, Wildlife Service has been essential in resolving wildlife-livestock conflicts, said Macy.
“Keeping all of that together is an important part of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service,” Macy said.
Perdue visited the National Wildlife Research Center on earlier that day and said, “I’m proud of what Wildlife Services does. That’s one of the best parts of USDA, and I brag on Wildlife Services more than anybody.”
“There’s a lot of science that goes into what Wildlife Services does, and they are trying to what they can in cooperation with what goes on in the state for predator control,” Perdue said, noting that species from coyotes to feral hogs all fall under the purview of the agency. “It’s always a battle, and there’s always something trying to eat what we grow, but we’re going to continue to build up Wildlife Services.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.