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Worland – Producers in western Wyoming deal with a number of challenges that impact production on their operations, but for livestock producers, large predators can create significant challenges. 

Ranchers Charles Price of Sublette County and Mark McCarty of Cody discussed the influence that predators, specifically grizzly bears and wolves, have on their ranches during a panel discussion at WESTI Ag Days on Feb. 4. 

Price and McCarty were joined by Mike Jimenez of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Dan Thompson of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) to look at the cooperative efforts agencies are taking to solve problems. 

History of predators

Over the last 20 years, the impact of large predators has changed. Price remembered the first incident of a grizzly bear attack on a calf in 1993. 

“We have a large cattle allotment in the Upper Green River, and in 1993, we had a calf that was torn up,” Price said. “The younger folks didn’t know what caused it, but one of the older guys knew it was a bear kill.”

“In 1996, grizzlies were officially discovered in the Upper Green River,” he added.

The first wolf kill was confirmed in 2000.

“Wolf kills escalated rapidly,” he said. “After the wolf season for two years, wolf kills slowed down.”

In 2014, Price noted 68 confirmed grizzly bear kills in the Upper Green River grazing allotment. In 2014, eight wolf kills were confirmed.

McCarty noted similar experiences on his operation north of Cody. 

“I grew up in the South Fork Valley outside of Cody. It wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s when we started to have bear conflicts,” he said. “In July 1996, I saw our first bear on Two Dot Ranch, and we started to get verified bear kills shortly after that.”

Today, McCarty said that bears and wolves can be seen on the ranch every day.

Expansion of populations

Thompson noted that the expansion of the territory for large carnivores has been the theme of the past 10 to 20 years. 

“As an agency, we’ve seen the expansion of these carnivores,” he said. “Our issues with grizzly bears used to be in a small part of northwest Wyoming in the more rugged terrain.” 

“Over the past five years, we’ve seen populations increase. We are reaching critical mass, and bears are moving into areas they haven’t been in 100 years,” Thompson continued.

The result means more work for ranchers and landowners, he noted. 

Outside of northwest Wyoming, Thompson also mentioned that mountain lion populations have also grown, particularly in the Black Hills. 

“A lot of things have changed with carnivores over the past 10 years,” Thompson said. “Successful recovery leads to increased chances for conflict.”

Adapting management

With new challenges, Thompson said WGFD has added personnel to address the challenges associated with predators. 

“Our program started with just one person, but we now have personnel in Cody, Lander, Jackson and Pinedale,” he explained. “One thing that Wyoming has done that is helpful is to provide compensation for the loss of livestock.”

From a management perspective, Price said that changes have been made in daily activities to accommodate for predator concerns.

“We added a rider on our grazing allotment, and all of our riders have hand-held radios in their cabins so they can connect with WGFD if we get a suspected predator kill,” Price explained. “We try to get an official to confirm the kill as soon as we can.”

Education of riders has also been important to ensure the safety of people working in areas where bears and wolves live.

“We’ve had to put more labor toward finding bear and wolf kills,” McCarty added. “If kills aren’t verified, we don’t get paid for the animal.”

“We are darn lucky to have the good compensation program we have in place in Wyoming. We try really hard to make sure we are accurate when we are reporting kills,” he also said, mentioning that other states don’t have the same beneficial programs.

“We have evolved,” Price said of the management of his ranch.

Working together

 With both sides actively working to address the impacts of large carnivores, Price continued, “WGFD and FWS have been really good to work with. I’m not saying that we didn’t butt heads sometimes, but overall, we work together well.”

The most important component of ensuring a successful working relationship, Thompson mentioned, is developing trust between parties. Though disagreements sometimes happen, both Thompson and Price noted that respect is maintained, which helps agencies work with livestock owners. 

“It takes a while to build up trust and become credible,” Jimenez noted. “The agencies have stepped up to do their best.”

“We try to be available and to respond as immediately as humanly possible,” Thompson said. “We’ve increased our personnel to accomplish that goal.”

“We feel like we are able to work with the agencies well,” McCarty added.

Jimenez noted, “Our positive relationship with ranches gets understated.”

Public concerns

Thompson said that working with ranchers is fairly easy, but social media has changed interacting with the rest of the public.  

“In the early days, managing these types of conflicts was local,” Jimenez explained. “Over time, that encompasses a bigger swath of the public. Management of predators doesn’t just involve the local people who deal with the problem. We get a very strong reaction from people who don’t live near or experience them. It becomes very complicated.”

“The media feeds off extremes,” he continued. “If everything is working well, it doesn’t make the news.”

However, when conflict occurs or one side offers an extreme view, headlines pop up. 

“We spend a lot of time justifying all of our actions,” Thompson added. “Social media has changed the game.”

“If people could understand on a larger scale how we work with predators and see the issue from a more toned-down standpoint, rather than the extremes, that would be helpful,” Jimenez said.

McCarty noted, “I wish people could see how successful the recovery plan has been. Populations of wolves and bears are strong.”

In next week’s Roundup, look for an update on wolves from Mike Jimenez of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cody – “The mission of the Society for Range Management (SRM) is to provide leadership for the stewards of rangelands based on sound ecological principles,” said the Wyoming Section for SRM President Jessica Crowder. “The reason I bring that up is because I think it meshes perfectly with the Wildlife Society mission and the reason each and every one of us are here today – to learn more about the sound ecological principles and stewardship of lands that support rangelands and wildlife populations.”

From Nov. 15-17, Wyoming SRM met in Cody for their annual meeting in conjunction with the Wyoming’s chapter of The Wildlife Society (TWS). The two groups met together to discuss the areas in which their organizations unite to accomplish their goals.

The conferenced opened with Larry Butler, renowned television host of RFD-TV’s “Out on the Land,” sharing his perspectives about the confluence of wildlife and rangeland management.

“It’s not what the cows, goats, sheep, elk, deer or whatever do. It’s the decisions humans make that results in conflict or complement between range and wildlife,” Butler opened. “And the first step is talking to each other.”

Social differences

Butler noted that there are differences between range managers and wildlife managers, but he theorized that those differences result based on experiences.

“We have differences, and they may be based on our social background, our educational differences or different experiences that we have,” he said. “Some people also have biases. But TWS and SRM can find common ground.”

He continued, “TWS and SRM use some of the same ideas but use different words to express them. Overall, we use an interdisciplinary approach and natural resources, promoting professional development of our members and exchanging ideas and information.”

Overall, Butler sees far more similarities between wildlife and range management than differences.

“I don’t think there are as many gaps as some people think,” he said. “No two people are going to have the same thoughts or ideas, and no two people are going to do things the same way, but range and wildlife people think a lot alike.”

Sharing secrets

Butler also noted that he learned early in his career that the job of range and wildlife professionals was to share secrets.

“In my early work experiences, I was down in Texas on the Rio Grande, and there was an old rancher name Ima Jean Thompson.  She’s passed on now, but she taught me something important,” Butler said.

He quipped that, as Thompson asked him what he did, he began to talk about his job title with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and she quickly corrected him, saying, “That’s your government job description, but here’s your job – share secrets.”

Thompson explained that, as a natural resources manager, his job was to visit ranches, find out the things they did right and the things they did wrong – and then share them with other ranches.

“When we do this, we don’t mention names. We share secrets, but we don't dare tell anyone who’s secrets they are,” Butler said.

He also noted that it’s important to tell others that the source is a rancher in the same area or same county.

“Ranchers are a lot more likely to take our advice when they know something worked and that we learned that something from another ranch,” Butler said. “Sharing secrets is very important.”

Plants

Butler also said that one very important piece to the puzzle is the plant communities in which wildlife are managed.

“It isn’t about our selected animals, whether they are livestock or wildlife,” he explained. “It’s the plant communities we have to concern ourselves with first and foremost. Whatever our use it – whether that’s elk range or cattle range – it depends on the plan community there.”

Range managers can work with wildlife managers to determine the soil types and ecological sites to make decisions based on habitat.

“I don’t care how much we love cows, sheep or a certain wildlife species, they have to have a place to live, and they have to have water and shelter,” Butler commented. “It’s really about that habitat.”

The arena where range professionals add value is knowing how to make changes in habitats, whereas wildlife managers can provide insight on what species are preferred by the desired species of wildlife.

“We can work together to get it right between the two of us,” Butler said.

Advice from Leopold

“I can talk about these things,” he said, “but I’m just Larry. Let’s be reminded of what Aldo Leopold understood.”

Leopold cited five things that destroy wildlife habitat – the cow, the plow, the ax, the fire and the gun.

“The cow destroys habitat through overstock or overgrazing of domestic livestock species, whatever the species is,” Butler explained. “The plow – or any kind of implement – can cause erosion.”

The ax results in habitat destruction resulted in forest removal, through huge tracts of land that are altered, and finally the gun can result in degradation through overhunting.

“I’d say we can throw in a sixth thing, and that’s government policy,” Butler said, “but overall, human decisions are the big tool that we need to use.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

With several large wildfires in 2018, some ranchers across the state of Wyoming have experienced loss of forage, loss of property or even loss of livestock. The period after a fire, however, brings critical concerns for producers as far as recovery.

“Post fire-recovery for production is very different than post-fire recovery for ecology,” said Matt Reeves, U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station research ecologist.

Reeves, who spends his time working on remoting sensing and modeling to characterize rangeland dynamics and serves as the U.S. Forest Service liaison to USDA’s Climate Hubs, says production recovery is largely variable and unquantifiable. 

“There is a lack of information about post-fire recovery,” Reeves said. “As a critical ‘good,’ one of the things most people think about is grass growing back, and it’s critical for rangelands.” 

In general, the U.S. Forest Service utilizes guidelines for grazing allotments recommending a two-year rest period. 

“This is confusing and frustrating because it’s a carte blanche strategy,” Reeves said. “In some fires, however, post-fire recovery is very good, and rest can be frustrating. We have conflicting viewpoints between managers, agencies, permittees and the general public.” 

Vegetation recovery

Each year after a fire, Reeves said studies have looked at how long it takes a burned area to return to a state that is indistinguishable from areas that have not been burned. Using statistical analysis and modeling, Reeves and a team of researchers looked at recovery time for 111 reference species across 662 million acres in the West. 

“When we ask how long until post-fire period equaled the land that didn’t burn, we average 1.5 years, plus or minus,” he said. “This surprised me.” 

Looking deeper, he noted that mixed grass prairie took about two years to recovery, with about a year, plus or minus, depending on conditions. Intermountain basin big sagebrush shrubland recovered in about 1.78 years, and the big sagebrush steppe was comparable at 1.86 years. 

“These are broad averages,” Reeves said. “The time could be as much as seven years, according to the site, for recovery. However, on average, they’re pretty low, between 1.5 and two years.”

A look over time showed that, after lands are recovered, they tend to stay recovered, though Reeves said there are questions about other complicating factors. 

Producer solutions

For those who have experienced fire impacts, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) wants to hear from livestock producers, landowners and grazing permittees who suffered ag-related losses.

“In general, we’re looking at lost grazing on private property or permitted allotments,” said FSA’s Jennifer Dutton, who visited Pinedale and Big Piney in mid-October to visit with producers affected by the Roosevelt Fire. “Those grazing on federal lands are potentially eligible.”

Fences destroyed in the recent fire are one place where the FSA can assist, she said. Dutton and coworker Sadie St. Clair are contacting ranchers within the Roosevelt Fire burn area and small landowners have contacted them, as well.

FSA may be able to cover fence damages on private lands, and for people who lease land to a livestock producer, FSA might cover fence damages and the producer could be eligible for actual forage loss. She wants to know about any damages, including damaged haystacks, as soon as possible so she can request funding, Dutton said.

“For those who are not ag producers or are not on their own land which is used for agricultural purposes, it is highly unlikely to get fences replaced,” she said. “All of our programs are geared toward agriculture.”

Public lands leases

Most U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management permittees who moved their cattle from allotments can apply for loss of grazing now and for two years into the future – most fire-burned public lands are closed for up to three years.

Expenses related to shipping livestock away from the Roosevelt Fire are not eligible, such as “actual trucking, no.” She hasn’t heard of any direct livestock losses due to the fire but some died during or after moves.

“We’re going to have to look closely at every situation because no two situations are the same,” she said. “I’ve heard from very few people so far, but things are just starting to settle down. It’s been really hectic for many producers.”

“Producers who have been affected by the fire and are ag producers, they should call us,” she advised. “We deal with a lot of people who are unfamiliar with the process. There are so many programs that differ just a little bit.”

Dutton said USDA’s recent designation of Sweetwater County as a drought disaster county makes adjacent Sublette County eligible for FSA emergency assistance for crop losses and other drought damages.

Some Sublette customers are already enrolled in catastrophic and non-insured crop insurance programs that cover drought losses. FSA’s team will provide more information about these programs.

“There are people who don’t want federal help – that’s been true in Sublette County for a long time,” Dutton said. “That’s okay. We’re here if they want us. Sometimes things like this can change their minds.”

Saige Albert and Joy Ufford collaborated to write this article, with Albert covering Reeves’ presentation and Ufford covering FSA information. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Pinedale – The Sublette County Advisory Committee of the Wyoming Public Lands Initiative (WPLI) is getting down to the nitty-gritty with ongoing discussions about the future of the county’s three wilderness study areas.

A Feb. 21 meeting of the group led to a working proposal for the Scab Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA), a “national conservation area” with management prescriptions for the Bureau of Land Management to follow, pending answers to a question about whether or not grazing permittees might be affected in the future.

The group also discussed the Lake Mountain WSA, opting to continue discussions about the Shoal Creek WSA – the most contentious of the WSAs being considered – at future meetings.

Scab Creek

The Scab Creek WSA sits east of Boulder, and members of the public familiar with the area shared their insights on the WSA during the meeting, noting access to the area is extremely difficult at best on foot or horseback.

Cotton Bousman of Eastfork Livestock Inc. in Boulder, noted “a sad decline” in the Bridger Wilderness surrounding the WSA, with old signs gone and trails impassable. His family owns private ranch lands near the WSA and grazes cattle above Scab Creek.

“It can take a full day to go two miles to get cattle out of there,” he said of the WSA, adding, “It’s a de facto wilderness.”

As chair of the Pinedale Grazing Board, Bousman said, “We have extensive wilderness discussions. The position of the Wyoming State Grazing Board would be to either make it wilderness or release it back to multiple-use.”

Proposals

Amid tense discussions, Sublette County Conservation District Member Mike Henn offered one proposal, commenting, “Turn it all back as a ‘soft release’ for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to run under its resource management plan.”

A “soft release” would mean it could be reintroduced for wilderness, while a “hard release” means it goes back to BLM’s current management.

Henn suggested having “no surface occupancy” and leaving the trails and roads open in a soft release.

Concerns from recreation members on the board included potential lack of access, as the WSA is only accessible through private land. 

Dave Bell, general public member, spoke up, saying, “I’ve gone around and around like a cat chasing its tail on Scab Creek, from 100-percent wilderness to a hard release. I’m still undecided. The only thing that makes sense to me is a national conservation area with prescriptive management. It would be a gain for everybody and satisfy a lot of concerns. I really struggle with this one personally.”

Decision

Coke Landers, who represents agriculture on the committee, asked Henn about “legal ins and outs” of how permittees might be affected in the long run with prescriptive management. “I want to make sure it’s in order.”

“We’ll have the same kind of questions for each WSA,” Henn agreed, adding the sole Scab Creek grazing allotment is currently vacant.

Steve Smutko of USFS, who serves as facilitator, asked if the committee was willing to move forward with the “middle” management prescription proposal until they get a clear answer to that question.

“We’ve had the most constructive, fluid conversation of the three proposals on proposal three,” Landers agreed.

Lake Mountain

Moving on to the Lake Mountain WSA, an emphasis on give and take by all members of the group was heard.

Previously, co-chair Dan Smitherman, conservation member, proposed adding 5,500 acres of adjacent “land with wilderness characteristics” to the Lake Mountain WSA, commenting, “We’re missing an opportunity with the land outside Lake Mountain even though it’s not part of the WSA.”

Bill Lanning, motorized recreation member of the group, outlined “a national conservation area (NCA) designation versus the current Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC)” to protect a pure strain of Colorado cutthroat trout in the Rock Creek drainage. 

His proposal included adjusting the NCA boundary to “hydrographic breaks,” not allowing off-highway vehicles or mountain bike use, withdrawing mineral entry, not permitting new surface disturbance or new oil and gas leases, only allowing directional drilling from existing oil and gas leases outside the boundary, keeping it open to hunting and fishing and allowing no road or motorized fire trails, no vegetation treatments except those that maintain or benefit the Colorado cutthroat trout habitat and population and no geophysical exploration.

For the rest of the WSA, Lanning proposed a “hard release,” meaning it could not be re-designated for wilderness and recommended making it the Lake Mountain Management Area.

Reactions

The group agreed on Rock Creek protections, but Mike Smith, a member of the group representing the energy industry, said, “I didn’t see anything that justifies any kind of strong preventative protective management. I don’t think we plop a wilderness area next to a historic gas field, but I’m comfortable making some sort of designation on Rock Creek.”

“There are 14,000 acres protected here as a WSA,” Smitherman said. “So now I’ve lost 9,000 acres of protected land without any gains in the region.”

After more back and forth, Smutko paused the discussion, saying, “I want this committee to continue with this. Lake Mountain is at a good holding point.”

Joy Ufford is a reporter for the Pinedale Roundup and Sublette Examiner and writes for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..