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Take Action: Oppose MTFWP's Plan to use Wildlife Services!

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After much pressure to return wolves to state management in the Northern Rockies, a new proposal in Montana to transfer some of its newly gained state wolf-control authority to the federal level via the USDA’s Wildlife Services is disturbing.

On Aug. 21st, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced a proposal to change the process of investigating and responding to incidents of wolf-livestock conflict.  Previously, when a rancher reported livestock loss possibly caused by a predator, USDA’s Wildlife Services (a federal agency) was called in by the state to investigate the kill;  if the agents believed wolves were the cause, they reported their findings to MtFWP to seek the state’s permission to kill one or more wolves.

Under the new proposal, Wildlife Services will be allowed to investigate a livestock kill and immediately take action if they deem the wolves as the cause.  Although the agents are required to inform MtFWP of these wolf kills, they no longer need the state’s permission to carry out the action. 

Based on its proposal, it seems that Montana wants “state management” of wolves, but it refuses to assume the cost for its own state depredation investigations – leaving that to federal taxpayers!  

USDA’s Wildlife Services is a federal agency that deals with “problem wildlife.”

  • It kills over a hundred thousand mammals and several million birds each year.
  • While some of its work focuses on things like reducing rabies risk and controlling birds near airports, much of what they do is directed at protecting the livestock industry. If you think a wolf attacked one of your calves, Wildlife Services removes the offending wolf – or sometimes even an entire pack of wolves – at the taxpayers’ expense.
  • Nationwide, carnivore predators of all species, including dogs, accounted for less than 1 percent of cattle kills.  Wolves, specifically, are an insignificant factor in livestock loss.  
  • Wolves are, however, a source for which ranchers are fully compensated – ranchers are paid for cattle killed by wolves, even when cattle have been put out to pasture on public land where wolves are known to exist.

Important facts to consider:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as of January 1, 2012, Montana has 2.5 million head of cattle – a number unchanged from last year’s inventory of cattle and calves. The state’s sheep and lamb inventory approximates 225,000 head.
  • Montana’s current wolf population approximates 423 wolves (wolf population estimates at the end of 2011 included 653 wolves, 166 wolves were killed as a result of the 2011-12 hunting season, an additional 64 wolves were killed by Wildlife Services)
  • According to Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2011 Annual Report, Wildlife Services confirmed that statewide, 74 cattle, 11 sheep, 2 dogs and 1 horse were killed by wolves in 2011.  The total number of confirmed losses is DOWN from 2010 levels and are the lowest recorded in the last five years. Approximately 17% of the packs that were present at some point during 2011 were confirmed to have killed livestock. This is down from 31% in 2010.)

We believe Wildlife Services is already is too aggressive in its approach, and the numbers certainly do not support liberalizing the process of investigating and responding to incidents of wolf-livestock conflict.  We demand that Montana FWP finally join the 21st century in its approach to wildlife management.  Now that the majority of wolves are no longer federally protected, it is even more important to demonstrate practical ways for wolves and livestock to coexist. We expect the state to implement new projects that raise the profile of innovative nonlethal management deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict and build social acceptance for wolves.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is accepting public comments through Sept. 21.

Comments can be emailed to  fwpwld@mt.gov   or by regular mail to FWP, 1420 East Sixth, Helena, MT 59620.  Please feel free to cut and paste the comment below and personalize it as you see fit:

Dear Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

I oppose the proposals announced in your “Draft Montana Protocol to Address Wolf-Livestock Conflicts, Aug. 9, 2012” that allows Wildlife Services to investigate a livestock kill and immediately take action if WS agents deem the wolves as the cause.  Montana sought to assume state management of wolves, and based on the evidence in its own “Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2011 Annual Report,” the total number of confirmed livestock losses is DOWN from 2010 levels and is the lowest recorded in the last five years. Instead, I demand Montana FWP implement practical solutions to help livestock and wolves coexist by implementing new projects that raise the profile of innovative nonlethal management deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict and build social acceptance for wolves.

Thank you,

Signature

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Resources –

USDA’s Cattle Death Loss Report (released on May 12, 2011) http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/CattDeath/CattDeath-05-12-2011.pdf

Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2011 Annual Report http://fwp.mt.gov/fwpDoc.html?id=54807

Draft Montana Protocol to Address Wolf-Livestock Conflicts, Aug. 9, 2012

http://fwp.mt.gov/fwpDoc.html?id=56875

USDA Wildlife Services Statistics

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/prog_data/2010_prog_data/index.shtml

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