PLC spring conference addresses predator damage
On March 30, the Public Lands Council hosted a virtual 2022 Spring Legislative Conference. During the event, several industry leaders met to discuss topics impacting the West.
Of the speakers, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services (WS) Assistant Regional Director for the Western Region John Steuber provided an outlook on agency activity across the West and highlighted emerging challenges in predator management.
Fiscal Year 2021 in review
“WS is a program within USDA established to provide federal leadership in resolving wildlife conflict,” shared Steuber. “Every state deals with different wildlife conflicts, but a big part of our program is the protection of livestock and predator damage management.”
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, WS responded to 23,461 requests for direct control assistance from livestock producers throughout the U.S., with a majority of requests in the West, he noted.
In addition to providing direct control operations where WS removes predators causing depredations, WS also provides technical assistance to producers to help mitigate livestock losses to predators. This includes guard dogs, shed lambing, night penning, electric fencing and turbo fladry.
“Grizzly bears and wolf conflicts with livestock have increased over the years,” he said. “In FY 2021, WS worked in seven different states on wolf damage management issues for protection of livestock.”
In total, WS captured 36 wolves and lethally removed 324 wolves. In addition, WS conducted grizzly bear depredation activities in three states, he added.
“We dispersed 59 grizzly bears to keep them away from livestock and captured and transferred custody of 15 grizzly bears – turning them over to a Tribe when working in a reservation or over to the state wildlife department for final disposition,” he said. “In addition, WS lethally removed six grizzly bears causing livestock depredations.”
WS tried to do preventative management where they could. Installing turbo fladry and electric fences, introducing producers to guard dogs and hiring range riders were a few methods utilized with noted success, mentioned Steuber.
“There has been some success with the non-lethal methods, and some of the success has led support from some nongovernment organizations – some who have not worked with us in the past,” he shared. “Beginning in FY 2020, there was $1.38 million of new Federal appropriations for non-lethal livestock protection work. That funding was continued in FY 2021. This current fiscal year, there is additional available federal funding for non-lethal livestock protection work with a total of $2.5 million.”
This funding is divided up among a number of states, typically states who have grizzly bears and wolves. The federal funding should be going out to the various states soon, so the states can start implementing some of those nonlethal methods, he continued.
Hot topics: grizzly bear and wolf conflicts
“Between 2007 and 2021, WS documented a twelve-fold increase in confirmed livestock kills from grizzly bears – 12 in 2007 and 153 kills in 2021,” he said.
With recent available funding, there has been an increase in grizzly bear management personnel who answer calls regarding depredation investigations and work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This has been very helpful, he added.
The February 2022 wolf relisting excluded the states of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Eastern Oregon and Washington. Mexican gray wolves were listed as endangered before the February 2020 relisting and remain listed as endangered in Arizona and New Mexico.
“Ultimately, the relisting impacts WS activities in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Colorado, Washington and western Oregon,” shared Steuber.
WS is committed to providing assistance to impacted states, he shared.
“There are a number of challenges today,” Steuber concluded. “We know there are a lot of challenges in the ranching industry with drought, depredations, reduced allotment availability, silver tide, aging of the WS workforce and so on.”
Several goals of WS include: delivering a livestock protection program; further developing methods to protect livestock; develop metrics to measure success; invest in and develop personnel; increase outreach; and enhance and develop communications.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.