Three of the losses occurred this September, and one occurred in the summer of 1994. The ranchers received $1,633 for the stock, their own estimate of the calves' value.
Hank Fischer, Defenders' Northern Rockies Representative, stated the following in a letter accompanying the compensation payment:
The payment to one of the ranchers included compensation for a calf that was lost in 1994. Although it is unorthodox for Defenders to compensate now for a livestock loss that occurred a year earlier, the livestock producer provided photos and information that allowed animal damage control expert Carter Niemeyer to verify the loss.
Fischer said, "Defenders believes it has gone the extra mile to make its Wolf Compensation Fund fair to livestock producers. Several ranchers told us that paying market value for young calves didn't reflect the significant investment that producers have in their calf crop. Consequently, we changed our compensation policy and now pay fall value for calves killed at any time of the year."
Fischer points out that in the occasional situation where a loss cannot be verified, yet substantial circumstantial evidence of wolf predation exists, Defenders has compensated the ranchers at 50% of market value.
Defenders' Wolf Compensation Fund was attacked last week in Montana and Wyoming newspapers by the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation because Defenders refused to pay for a calf that died near Salmon, Idaho. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensics lab autopsy concluded that the calf had died of natural causes shortly after birth.
Fischer stated, "While we refuse to pay for claims that cannot be verified, we stand firmly behind our commitment to pay for all legitimate claims. Because the Farm Bureau is an insurance agency, it should understand better than anyone that the success and credibility of Defenders' Wolf Compensation Fund depends on making payments only to people who deserve them. Does the Farm Bureau's insurance business pay for unverified losses? Would the Farm Bureau make a payment if its adjusters determined no loss had occurred? We don't think so. It's frustrating for us to offer a helping hand and have it slapped away. Fortunately, many ranchers and most mainstream livestock organizations have expressed heartfelt appreciation for our voluntary program."
Defenders of Wildlife has operated its Wolf Compensation Fund in Montana since 1987. During that time, it has paid approximately $20,000 to more than twenty ranchers. The program was expanded in 1994 to cover any livestock losses caused by the recently reintroduced wolf populations in the Yellowstone and central Idaho. Defenders has also pledged to pay for any livestock losses caused by wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, where reintroductions are being contemplated.
Contact(s):Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270