Defenders Compensates Nearly $50,000 from Wolf, Grizzly Funds in 1999

(12/29/1999) - Defenders of Wildlife today announced that it has paid almost $50,000 to compensate ranchers for livestock losses from wolf and grizzly activity in 1999. The conservation group asserted that its pioneering program to compensate ranchers for livestock predation continues to buy tolerance for wolves and grizzly bears.

The 1999 compensation figures total almost $50,000 with $35,070.77 paid for wolf incidences and $14,001 paid for grizzly occurrences. Of the $35,070.77 paid in wolf compensation, $2,152 was paid in Arizona for predation by recently-reintroduced Mexican wolves. Defenders notes that some ranchers have returned compensation checks citing support for wildlife recovery efforts.

"We’re replacing ‘shoot, shovel, and shut up’ with ‘prevent and pay,’" said Hank Fischer, Defenders Northern Rockies representative who initiated the wolf compensation program in 1987. "It’s important to note that we’re developing ways to prevent predation and that we step in to alleviate financial concerns when predation does occur."

Defenders contends that ranchers have welcomed initiatives to prevent predation before it becomes an issue. The group has been working with methods such as installing electric fences, setting up light and sound displays, using guard dogs, and other measures to ward off wolves and grizzlies from livestock areas. Examples of efforts to prevent predation in 1999 include:

  • the purchase of two livestock guard dogs for a Paradise Valley, MT sheep rancher whose guard dog was killed by members of the Chief Joseph wolf pack;

  • providing hay for an Idaho cattle rancher so he could feed his cattle on private land rather than have them graze on public land near the Moyer Basin wolf pack;

  • the purchase of a first-of-its-kind scare device that uses sirens and flashing lights to startle wolves from the Bass Creek wolf pack from the pasture where a Bitterroot Valleyrancher’s cows give birth;

  • providing horseback riders to monitor cattle-grazing allotments near a rendezvous site for the Sheep Mountain wolf pack and;

  • providing electric fencing to protect eight beeyards in an area on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation with frequent grizzly activity.

"You can have both wild predators and successful livestock operations; it doesn’t have to be one or the other," said Fischer. "Our compensation programs are multi-faceted in that they are pre-emptive in nature, they provide a level of insurance to ranchers in recovery areas, and they serve to reduce illegal killing of wolves and grizzlies. It can be a win-win situation for everyone involved."

In 2000, Defenders will support the research of Dr. Dan Pletscher of the University of Montana on various non-lethal approaches to preventing wolf attacks on livestock. The research will focus on adversely conditioning wolves that have previously killed livestock.

Fischer believes that cooperating ranchers have been supportive of – and intrigued by --experiments in preventing predation. "Ranchers have brought considerable creativity to figuring out how to live with wolves and grizzlies on the landscape. It’s refreshing that many ranchers accept wolves as a fact of life and work closely with us to solve problems the animals sometimes cause."

To keep in step with conservation developments, Defenders made important changes in the compensation program in 1999 which included:

  • Expanding the grizzly program, which covered the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem, to include Idaho, the western third of Montana, and the Yellowstone ecosystem outside the borders of Wyoming (Wyoming has its own state compensation program). The original impetus for including Yellowstone came from a letter sent to Defenders from Fishtail, Montana, rancher Vern Keller, who lost sheep to grizzlies. Conservation groups and wildlife officials echoed his request and;

  • Defenders made the commitment to pay for verified predation by any wolves that migrate into Maine, Oregon, Colorado, California, and Washington, and by wolves in Maine, New York, and the Olympic Peninsula should wolf reintroduction proposed for those locations take place. These areas join the original covered areas of northwest Montana, Yellowstone, central Idaho, and the Southwest.

"Tolerance toward individual grizzly bears is especially important," added Minette Johnson, Defenders Program Associate who administers the grizzly compensation program. "Because grizzly bears reproduce so slowly, reducing mortality is essential to their survival."

"These programs help wildlife because they’re realistic," said Fischer. "The most vocal objection to predators has been loss of livestock. We acknowledge that predation sometimes occurs, and when it does, we’ll pay for it. Wolves and bears don’t need to be as controversial as some people want to make them."

Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 380,000 members and supporters. Defenders maintains its Wolf Compensation Trust at $200,000 and its Grizzly Compensation Trust at $100,000. Contributions to the trusts may be sent to Defenders of Wildlife, 1534 Mansfield Avenue, Missoula, Montana 59801.

Defenders Compensation Program by the Numbers

1999: $35,070.77
1998: $12,156
1997: $32,690

Wolf total 1987 through 1999: 108 ranchers paid $105,746.77

Wolf Totals by Region:
Yellowstone National Park population:  $26,682
Central Idaho population:   $34,722.02
Montana (naturally recolonizing) population:  $41,724.75
Mexican Wolves in Arizona:  $2,618

Grizzly Bears:
Defenders compensates ranchers for predation by grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide and, starting in 1999, Yellowstone ecosystems.

1999: $14,001
1998: $12,893
1997: $ 8,500

Grizzly bear total 1997 through 1999: 53 ranchers paid $35,394

Grizzly Bear Totals by Region:
Yellowstone Ecosystem: $1,904
Blackfeet Reservation: $6,319
Remainder of Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem:   $5,778



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270