According to Northern Rockies Representative Hank Fischer, "We support the recovery of wolves in the Northern Rockies, but it's not our intent for this restoration to occur at the expense of livestock producers. Our goal is to have wolf supporters take responsibility for the wolf's indiscretions." Since 1987 Defenders of Wildlife has compensated ranchers for every verified livestock loss caused by wolves. The organization has paid about $22,000 to approximately 28 producers. In each of these incidents, the offending wolves have been controlled and the depredations have stopped.
Says Fischer, who has administered the program since its inception, "We hope this solid record of responsiveness brings the one thing we seek in exchange: tolerance on the part of ranchers and other members of the public for wolves that do not bother livestock. We remain committed to upholding our side of the bargain."
Before the three incidents this summer, the only verified livestock losses attributed to the reintroduced wolves were two sheep killed in Montana's Paradise Valley in September of 1995. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Reintroduction of Gray Wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho anticipates that the amount of livestock lost to a recovered (100 wolves) wolf population will average 19 cows and 68 sheep per year in Yellowstone, and 10 cows and 57 sheep for Idaho, but to this point loss rates have been much lower. Currently there are about thirty wolves in Yellowstone, and slightly more in central Idaho. Says Fischer, "Although we have consistently represented that wolves will kill livestock, we have also maintained that the losses will be small. Our experience of the last ten years bears this out."
A Yellowstone Park area rancher from Fishtail, Montana, received $961.50 for the loss of 6 ewes and 2 lambs. In Idaho, a rancher from Cascade received $770 for the loss of two calves while an Emmett area rancher received $347.20 for a single calf. All ranchers received market value for their livestock based on an estimated fall weight. These livestock losses were verified by trained specialists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's division of Animal Damage Control.
Defenders' Wolf Compensation Fund is a citizen- supported endeavor that receives no government funding. The organization strives to maintain a balance of at least $100,000 in the fund at all times. Those who wish to support the fund should write to The Wolf Compensation Fund, 1534 Mansfield Avenue, Missoula, MT 59801.
Contact(s):Ken Goldman, 202-682-9400 x221 (Media)
Hank Fischer, 406-549-0761 (Northern Rockies)