Defenders Makes Grizzly Compensation Payments On Blackfeet Reservation

(09/12/1997) - MISSOULA, MT -- Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit conservation organization historically committed to the conservation of large predators, today announced it has paid a total of $2,532 to two Montana ranchers for livestock that were killed by grizzly bears on the Blackfeet Reservation in late July. Defenders recently assumed responsibility for compensating livestock owners for grizzly kills.

The first compensation payment was for a single calf killed on tribal land south of Chief Mountain. Its value was estimated at $480. In the second incident, which occurred on private land about three miles north of East Glacier, one calf was killed and four others were lost and could not be found. The rancher received full fall market value for the verified loss ($684) and 50 percent value ($342 each) for the four calves that were lost.

"Grizzlies don't kill livestock often, but when they do, it's important for conservationists to take responsibility," said Hank Fischer, Defenders' Northern Rockies representative. "When private landowners are forced to shoulder alone the economic burden for endangered species, it can create ill will toward wildlife."

Defenders has been operating a compensation fund for a different species, the wolf, since 1987, and during that time has paid nearly $40,000 to more than 40 ranchers. In July, Defenders assumed responsibility for the grizzly compensation program that had previously been administered by the Great Bear Foundation. Defenders' program was expanded to cover the entire area surrounding Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, including both the Blackfeet and Flathead Reservations.

According to Fischer, who administers Defenders' compensation funds, "Our goal is to establish a compensation program that's viewed as fair and reliable. We believe the payoff will be increased tolerance for large predators."

Defenders explained that the grizzly compensation fund works as follows: If a landowner thinks a grizzly has killed livestock, he or she should cover the remains with a tarp and call either state or federal officials. If a loss is verified, the officials notify Defenders. Defenders then contacts the landowner, ascertains the market value of the livestock, and sends the landowner a check. Defenders strives to get a check to the livestock 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 Agriculture Department's county extension agent. There is a $2,000 cap on compensation for any single animal that is lost.

Defenders' Board of Directors has authorized expenditures of up to $25,000 until a permanent grizzly fund is established. The nonprofit organization hopes to establish a permanent fund of approximately $50,000 to cover grizzly damage, which averages about $5,000 per year. People interested in supporting this compensation fund and grizzly conservation through a contribution should write to:

Grizzly Fund
Defenders of Wildlife
1101 Fourteenth St. NW, Suite 1400
Washington, DC 20005