SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Idaho ranchers have seen a decrease in livestock killed by wolves for a second consecutive year, according to Todd Grimm, state director of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Service.
Grimm attributes the decline to the success of the state’s wolf hunt and increased funding toward his department’s efforts this year.
Grimm said there were 78 confirmed depredations in the state during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, including 49 cattle depredations, down 44 percent from last year, and 29 sheep depredations, down 67 percent.
A depredation represents a general attack that could involve multiple deaths and injuries. During FY 2014, 36 calves were killed and seven were injured, four cows were killed and six were injured, 114 sheep were killed and two were injured and three guard dogs were killed with three more injured.
For 2014, Idaho lawmakers approved $400,000 in state money for Wildlife Services, matched by $220,000 from cattle and sheep groups and Idaho sportsmen, to direct toward lethal wolf control efforts. Grimm said the funding helped offset federal budget cuts, enabling him to add four additional staff members on July 30 and to authorize overtime to keep up with predator removal in August.
During FY 2014, Grimm said his staff and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game removed 30 wolves involved in depredations, compared with 107 wolves in 2009, before Idaho’s wolf hunt started.
“Those (wolves) that are still around are learning it’s not so safe to be around humans,” Grimm said.
Grimm said a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft were both used only once this year due to the poor longevity lately of wolves fitted with radio collars.
This year, Fish and Game has sold 41,237 wolf hunting tags and 209 trapping tags, slightly below last year’s tag sales. Since the implementation of the wolf hunt, Fish and Game staff biologist Jim Hayden said pack sizes have shrunk from an average of 8.1 wolves to 5.4 wolves, though the total number of packs is unchanged.
Idaho ranchers also recently received some unexpected help to address wolf kills. John Beals, project manager with the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, said the state learned a couple of weeks ago that it had been awarded $100,000 from the federal government for depredation compensation.
“It caught us by surprise. For all intents and purposes, we thought the program had been wrapped up,” Beals said.
Beals said the funding is “within the realm of what we’ve compensated in years past,” and application forms are available at www.species.idaho.gov/. He said the state will accept applications throughout November and into December and will award funding based on the number of requests received.
Beals explained the state received the funding for 2013 but used it all to pay outstanding claims from the prior year. The new funds will be awarded only for 2014 losses, with kills documented by Wildlife Services.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency also has funding under the Livestock Indemnity Program in the new farm bill, which is available retroactively for documented losses dating back to 2012. The program covers 75 percent of the market value of an animal, and the deadline for losses through 2014 is Jan. 30.