On ranchers and wolves

Wolves can be managed without killing them.

Published on March 6, 2014 9:56AM

I write responding to “The Realities of Ranching and Wolves.” Many friends of wolves empathize with ranchers. What disturbs us is when “kill the wolves” seems the only strategy when many “predator friendly” ranchers now raise livestock, coexisting with wolves and other predators.

In 2010, of 55,000 cattle that died before slaughter in Oregon, .4 percent were predated by wolves: 22 head. And to what degree are Oregon ranchers implementing nonlethal deterrents? The same study reports methods tried and percent of farmers using each: guard animals (27.3), exclusion fencing (24.4), herding (1.7), night penning (7.2), fright tactics (1.9), carcass removal (12.9), culling (12.6) and frequent checks (60.9).

Increasingly, Americans see wilderness in the “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” model, frustrated public lands seem devoted to businesses, which displace and harm wild animals. There’s a place for turning “a renewable resource, grass growing on public land, into usable items such as meat, leather and wool.” Many also would like to see public lands used for our purposes. Is there room for our wants and needs?

Fees to graze on public lands are very low ($1.35 per animal unit month). (The BLM would need to charge $7.64 per AUM, and the Forest Service $12.26 per AUM to actually recoup lost costs.) Rather than benefiting taxpayers, most of grazing fees are not deposited to the U.S. Treasury, but go to the “Range Betterment Fund” to support continued grazing.

Private property rights have always been curtailed by the public good. A private citizen cannot open a nuclear testing ground or other businesses on his land just because he wants to. If you choose to slaughter creatures we cherish, vital to eco-balance just because they are on your private land, surely you understand why we will resist your doing so.

Mark Mansfield

Geneva, N.Y.


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