Conservation Group Pays More than $12,000 in 1998 For Grizzly Depredations

(01/22/1999) - Missoula, MT - Defenders of Wildlife, a national wildlife organization committed to the conservation of large predators, today announced it paid $12,293 in 1998 to 16 livestock owners for confirmed losses to grizzly bears. ThIs is the largest amount paid since the program's inception in 1986 and the first time that payments have been made for losses west of the Continental Divide.

"Grizzly bears are turning up in areas in which we haven't seen them in a long time. This makes it critical to ensure landowner support by promptly compensating livestock producers for verified losses to bears," said Minette Johnson, Defenders' Northern Rockies program associate. "This is a small price to pay to ensure the recovery of this important species." Defenders now paid $20,793 to 23 ranchers since taking over the grizzly depredation program in 1997.

Since 1987 Defenders has offered compensation for livestock losses caused by wolves, and has paid more than $70,000 to nearly 70 ranchers during that time. Defenders, which has nearly 300,000 members nationwide, assumed responsibility for the grizzly compensation program that had previously been administered by the Great Bear Foundation. Defenders' expanded the program to cover the entire Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, surrounding national forests, and the Blackfeet and Flathead Indian Reservations.

Two of the incidents this year occurred west of the Divide, the most ever in a single year for the compensation program. In August a dairy farmer in St. Ignatius, Montana, lost one cow and another was severely injured by a grizzly bear. The farmer was compensated $1,000 for the cow that was killed and $500 for the decrease in value of the injured cow. Three goats were killed near Whitefish, Montana, in September and the producer was paid $400 for his losses.

Twelve confirmed depredations this year involved cattle. Four involved sheep, three goats, and two pigs were also killed by grizzly bears. The most recent incidents occurred in October, when two Columbian ewes were killed five miles north of Choteau, and two large pigs were killed near Heart Butte on the Blackfeet Reservation. Defenders paid $170 for the sheep and $400 for the pigs.

According to Johnson, who administers the program, "By paying for confirmed losses to grizzlies we have increased landowner tolerance and reduced one of the greatest threats to grizzly recovery, human-caused mortality."

Under the terms of the program, the following steps are taken to compensate landowners: 1. If a landowner thinks a grizzly has killed livestock, he or she should cover the remains with a tarp and call either state, tribal or federal officials. 2. If these officials verify that a grizzly caused the loss, Defenders contacts the landowner. 3. Defenders works with the landowner to ascertain the market value of the livestock, and sends the landowner a check.

"We do our best to get a check to the producer within two weeks of receiving verification of a loss." If there is any dispute over the value of the livestock, Defenders relies on the judgment of the county extension agent. Compensation for any single animal is capped at $2,000. Defenders Board of Directors has authorized expenditures of up to $25,000 until a permanent fund is established. The nonprofit organization hopes to establish a permanent fund of approximately $100,000 to cover grizzly damage, which averages about $7,000 per year. Defenders maintains this fund through contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations. People interested in supporting the compensation fund should write to Minette Johnson at Defenders of Wildlife, 204 East Pine Street, #15, Missoula, MT 59802.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270