Livestock losses to wolves put in perspective
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
February 9, 2010
The USDA-APHIS Idaho Wildlife Services' annual wolf activity report states:
"Some wolf advocacy groups have pointed out that, in relative terms, only a very small proportion of livestock losses (<1% for cattle and <2.5% for sheep) nationwide are typically caused by wolves, and that other predators, such as coyotes, are responsible for many more livestock deaths than are wolves (Defenders of Wildlife 2007).
"While both of these are valid points, it is also important to recognize that even though predation losses due to wolves represent a relatively minor portion of total overall death losses nationwide, these losses are never evenly distributed across the industry (Mack et al. 1992).
"Most livestock producers will experience no predation by wolves, while some producers in certain areas may suffer significant losses to wolves. Coyotes, by virtue of the fact that their populations are typically many times greater and more widely distributed than the wolf population, do cause more overall predation losses.
"But assessing the relative likelihood of predation by individual wolves versus individuals of other commonly implicated livestock predators provides insight as to why wolf predation is a bigger concern to some livestock producers and wildlife damage management agencies than is predation by other species.
"Collinge (2008) compared reported numbers of livestock killed by wolves and other predators with the estimated statewide populations of the four species (coyotes, wolves, mountain lions and black bears) most often implicated in predation on livestock in Idaho.
"By determining the average number of livestock killed per each individual predator on the landscape, and comparing these figures among the four species, it turns out that individual wolves in Idaho are about 170 times more likely to kill cattle than are individual coyotes or black bears.
"Individual wolves were determined to be about 21 times more likely to kill cattle than were individual mountain lions.
"These comparisons highlight the importance of being able to implement effective wolf damage management procedures."