Agency collaboration strengthens predator control in state
“In talking to my counterparts in the West, I am pretty comfortable in saying Wyoming has a fairly enviable program when it comes to predator management, and we are able to address a lot more problems than some of the surrounding states,” said Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) Director Doug Miyamoto.
During the Wyoming Wool Growers Association Summer Convention held Aug. 10-11, Miyamoto joined U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services Deputy Administrator Janet Bucknall to discuss predator management agreements and work towards better solutions.
“In Wyoming, Wildlife Services can’t do what they do without partnerships with the WDA, Wool Growers, producers in the sheep industry and wildlife departments,” said Bucknall. “We have programs in every state, and the programs differ a lot between states, but they all include framework for wildlife damage management. In Wyoming, the program is focused on protecting livestock.”
APHIS Wildlife Services
According to Bucknall, Wildlife Services has been serving farmers and ranchers, natural resources and wildlife for decades.
“Here in Wyoming, our program is primarily about livestock protection,” she said. “In many ways, this is the heart and soul of Wildlife Services – the reason we came into existence and one of the core reasons we are able to keep doing what we are doing.”
Two major components of APHIS Wildlife Services Bucknall shared include the National Wildlife Services Advisories Committee – a group including members of the agricultural community designed to generate relevant recommendations for the direction of the agency, and the National Wildlife Research Center, the only research center focused on finding solutions for animal damage management.
“Livestock protection is a major focus of Wildlife Services, but we also work on swine control, rabies management and airport protection,” Bucknall explained.
WDA animal management
Sheep producers are heavily impacted by the activities and success of the Animal Damage Management Board (ADMB), a program sponsored by the WDA, Miyamoto shared. The ADMB is the largest program existing within WDA and operates on roughly $2.5 to $3 million annually.
“The ADMB, as well as the Aerial Gunning Permit Program and pesticide registrations make up the large majority of predator control at WDA,” Miyamoto explained, noting the list of what producers are impacted by only continues to grow and WDA works to solve problems for Wyoming’s agriculturists as they arise.
The largest challenge presented to WDA in terms of animal management and predator control is the budget, Miyamoto shared. Roughly half of the funding for predator control activities comes from the State General Fund, allocated through the ADMB, another part comes from contributions of APHIS Wildlife Services and another part from brand inspection fees.
“Our biggest challenge is vacillations in the amount of money available to pass through to county predator boards, and this makes it really hard to plan for management projects,” he said. “Within the last round of budget cuts, we tried to provide more predictability and hopefully operate at a more stable point that is sustainable for us.”
At this point in time, Miyamoto reported he isn’t looking to make large budget reductions for WDA and the ADMB coming into the next fiscal year.
Agreements and issues
Miyamoto shared he and WDA have spent many hours working to find reasonable solutions to predator control issues facing producers, especially in situations involving multiple agencies.
“From my standpoint, a lot of time over this last year has been spent trying to diffuse situations brought to us by county predator boards, including enforcement letters from federal agencies,” he said. “My goal is to get to a place where everybody can comply with their own policy, but we have reasonable ability to conduct predator control activities as we have in the past.”
Going forward, management activities between WDA and APHIS Wildlife Services will include data collection and reporting outlined by a Memorandum of Understanding, which also included a program for cataloguing this data and requirements for collaborative meetings.
“There are some good ideas about how predation control activities should be in place across the state of Wyoming in this document,” he said. “WDA and Wildlife Services are working to combine our data to document what we have done over the past year and our plans for the following year.”
He continued, “Partnerships, including WDA’s partnership with APHIS Wildlife Services, are really important.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.