Wolf control costs calculated
by Cat Urbigkit
March 9, 2007
At an early March, 2007, meeting of the Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association in Pinedale, Rod Krischke of Wildlife Services gave a report of his agency’s activities in Sublette County for the last year.
Wildlife Services is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and conducts wolf control due to livestock depredation. This work is conducted under a contract his agency has with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency organized under the Interior Department. The wolf control work, although carried out by Wildlife Services, is conducted under the direction of FWS’s Mike Jimenez, who heads the wolf recovery project for Wyoming. It’s Jimenez who determines if and how many wolves may be killed in response to a depredation problem.
In the last fiscal year, Wildlife Services logged 1,802 hours of work in Sublette County. In that process, Wildlife Services verified that wolves were responsible for 16 calves killed, 3 injured; 13 adult cows or yearlings killed, 1 injured; 8 ewes and 11 lambs killed; and one mule injured. In response to these problems, 23 wolves were killed in Sublette County last year.
“Sublette County is probably the hardest hit county in the state,” Krischke said, “with Park County right behind it.”
On a statewide basis, Wildlife Services killed 55 wolves last year in response to verified damage. Statewide damage that Wildlife Services was able to verify as caused by wolves included 13 adult cattle, 111 calves, 19 sheep, 20 lambs, 1 horse, 1 mule, 1 guard dog and 1 pet.
“The whole wolf thing is changing quickly and I don’t know where it’s going to go,” Krischke said. “I expect to get through this grazing season without any change on the ground.”
What role Wildlife Services will have in controlling problem wolves as wolf delisting moves forward is unknown. In areas where wolves will be classified as trophy game animals, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department will have a responsibility to control problem animals and the state will have to provide compensation for losses. Governor Dave Freudenthal is pushing for a small trophy game area in western Wyoming.
In all areas outside the trophy game area, wolves would be classified as predators. This means that while wolves could be shot at any time, there would be no agency with responsibility to control the animals and no compensation program. It was noted that the local predator control board would then have authority to control problem wolves, but the cost of this program would be higher than the revenue the board generates. It was also pointed out that while “predator” status sounds good, actually having the opportunity to shoot a problem wolf is a very difficult undertaking.
Under questioning from cattlemen, Krischke explained that last year’s costs for wolf control was about $125 per hour. That means that about $225,000 was spent in killing 23 wolves in Sublette County ($9,793 per wolf). While cattlemen viewed that as money well spent, the $225,000 is about nine times the local predator board’s annual budget, which is currently spent on coyote control on private property.
Krischke estimated that 60 percent of the control work in Sublette County last year was outside of the Upper Green grazing allotments, so under the current state management proposal, 60 percent of the work would have been outside the trophy game status area. That means that at least $135,000 worth of the work would have fallen on the local predator board, should it have taken on the wolf control program.
At the conclusion of Krischke’s presentation, cattlemen praised the work of the Wildlife Services field crew for their expertise in responding to depredation problems.