Dead and Dying Cattle Litter Gila Region, Drawing Mexican Wolves

This is a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity.

Dead and Dying Cattle Litter Gila Region, Drawing Mexican Wolves

After looking at the central Idaho range and mountains, it is obvious to me that cattle in Idaho are going to die this summer for lack of water, forage, and neglect. No doubt scavenging wolves will be blamed in those cases where they think the blame can be shifted.

Update. In response to “KT’s” comment (see the comments), here is a classic example from this June 29 in the Horse Heaven country on the backside of the Lost River Range — a herd of cattle with nothing to drink but filthy fecal water. The trickle flowing from the dying spring (which came out of a small hose) wasn’t even connected to the water trough!

This is NOT the Gila Region, where things are probably much worse. This is in east central Idaho

Photo by Ralph Maughan. June 29, 2007. A mile or two north of Mahogany Creek

More photos below-

Here you can see the hose from the spring.
Photo by Ralph Maughan.

Photo by Ralph Maughan.







  1. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    This is one of those aspects of the NRM Wolf Recovery Plan that is sadly never enforced, never even considered.

    Livestock are not supposed to be allowed to be left dead on the range. This is paramount to baiting. And if carcasses are present, lethal force isn’t supposed to be used.

    Yes, wolves are going to scavenge. And in all likelihood, they may acquire a taste for cattle, a species they don’t normally hunt because cattle don’t act like their normal prey.

    The weather, irresponsible ranchers, and a lack of adherence to the Wolf Recovery Plan by FWS plays right into the hands of wolf haters.

  2. kt Avatar

    Ralph is very prescient about the disasters this summer is going to bring in central and southern Idaho, and much of Nevada.

    Cattle are being turned out on places where spring and stream flows are already at October or November minimum flow levels – or lower. And in many areas, the spring-gutting projects – which serve to reduce or de-water flows at wild land springs and pipe water off to cattle troughs that degrade uplands – are already going dry or are reduced to a dribble.

    If ranchers in places like Copper Basin, or the Pahsimeroi, or the Little Lost in Idaho cared even one whit about their cattle, they would NOT turn them out on public lands to desperately seek water and be reduced to drinking “water” that is often largely mud and cattle wastes …

    Yet, anyone who is familiar with public lands grazing knows that cows are turned out no matter how adverse the conditions – to take advantage of the virtually free “forage” on our pulblic lands. And when the cows die in summer 2007 from limited water and filth – you can bet predators will bear the brunt of the blame …

    Get ready for the whines of the public lands livestock industry when, by August is my prediction, some agency managers dare to order the cows OFF THE RANGE.

  3. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    Um…that’s just a really irresponsible rancher there.

    I worked on an allotment last summer near Salmon. The producer, with about 2,000 head, trucked water to some of his water sites.

    Why the producers in NM can’t truck water is beyond me. They are both BLM allotments. If there isn’t a way to get water, there shouldn’t be livestock, period.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    We told the Forest Service/BLM managers that. I think, they are trying to figure out if they will get in more trouble by doing the right thing or should go along with the grazing permittees and let the cattle struggle for survival and deplete the drought damaged range.

  5. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    Yeah, funny thing that…if you make producers like this obey the rules…the rules get obeyed. Conversely, if you let them get away with it; and continue to do so, it becomes habit.

    So I guess this really boils down to an irresponsible BLM office. Or does it?

    Aren’t ranchers supposed to be stewards of the land? I’ve witnessed some damn fine stewardship from ranchers up here. Yet down there in Gila, the ranchers bitch and whine like you have never heard up here (that’s the area where the Sagebrush Rebellion was born after all.) And this shows just how little credibility they should have. You don’t want wolves? HA! Go fix your damn water troughs and stop abusing the PUBLIC lands you graze your animals on, and then MAYBE we’ll listen to you.

  6. Jean Ossorio Avatar
    Jean Ossorio

    Mike, you are correct that in the Final Rules covering wolf reintroduction in the Yellowstone area and in central Idaho, there was language requiring that dead animals not be left lying around the range, or the wolves could be basically held harmless if they depredated. Unfortunately, no such language exists in the Final Rule (1998) governing the Mexican wolf reintroduction–a most unfortunate omission.

    The allotments in question in the Mexican wolf recovery area are all USFS allotments, not BLM, by the way, as the recovery area covers only the Gila NF in NM and the Apache NF in AZ. I have heard that BLM actually has somewhat more stringent requirements on the permittee for keeping things “cleaned up,” so to speak, although I have no first hand knowledge of their practices.

    Forest Service officials here in Region 3 have constantly claimed at public meetings that they have no authority to demand that permittees remove or lime and tarp cow carcasses to prevent wolves from scavenging on them. They even go so far as to claim that they or USFWS may not do the job themselves, even on public lands, without the permission of the permittee–permission that has been denied on at least one occasion unless the authorities paid for the rotting carcass! (They cite AZ and NM laws–essentially, anti-rustling statutes–to back up their claim, but to my knowledge, no opinion has ever been sought from the attorney general of either state as to whether the law applies in this instance.)

    Some folks with a knowledge of the law dispute their claim, saying that the USFS is hiding behind a “pitiful giant” defense and not applying the authority that they actually have for placing conditions on permits at the time of renewal. Public lands grazing is, after all, a privilege, not a right, as affirmed by the U. S. Supreme Court numerous times. Reasonable conditions may be placed on permits.

    In this, as in many other aspects of the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, politics trumps science.

    By the way, just for perspective: the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA) where Mexican wolves are being reintroduced, consists of 95% public, USFS land (94% in AZ and 96% in NM). The remaining 5% consists of a small amount each of private, state, and BLM land. (Source: Reintroduction of the Mexican Wolf within its Historic Range in the Southwestern United States, Final Environmental Impact Statement. 1996. p. 3-8.)

    According to USFWS sources themselves, there were a potential five “breeding pairs” this year, defined as an adult pair with at least two live pups on December 31. One has already been removed (the Saddle pair with seven pups) for depredations. The alpha female of the Durango pack has now been marked for removal, leaving only three potential breeding pairs on the ground. This compares with six at the end of last year, and 18 projected for the end of 2006 in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

    Even more worrisome is the effect of dampening population growth on the preservation of genetic diversity in the reintroduced wolves. Growth in the captive population has nearly ceased in recent years due to a lack of additional space in the 48 breeding facilities in the U.S. and in Mexico.

    Attendees at the North American Wolf Conference in April heard a presentation in which UCLA geneticists indicated that the reintroduced population in Yellowstone has retained (so far) a large amount of its genetic diversity, which is critical in a population with few founders, due to the rapid expansion of the population in the wild.

    In the case of the Mexican wolf, whose captive and wild populations all stem from only seven founders, rapid growth is the key to preserving genetic diversity. Absent some major changes in the way the reintroduction program is managed, the prognosis does not look good.

  7. Jean Ossorio Avatar
    Jean Ossorio

    Update on the Durango pack:

    Wildlife “Services” shot alpha female AF924 to death yesterday.

    AF924 was the wild-born daughter of the famous “poster wolf,” Francisco AF511 (Brunnhilde), who was removed from the wild for depredations in the summer of 2005, only to die in captivity from hyperthermia. She apparently stressed out in hundred degree heat when caretakers entered her enclosure to examine and vaccinate her litter of wild-born pups, including little f924.

    AF924 was the granddaughter of Campbell Blue AM166 (Rio), who is spending the remainder of his life in captivity in California, after being removed for depredations in 2001. He began killling livestock only after first scavenging on a tresspass bull that had fallen on a steep hillside, broken a leg, and died.

    The owner of the bull, as noted in my earlier post, refused to allow the lobo field team to remove the rotting carcass unless they paid for it. This information came from FOIA’ed documents from the FWS, and is recounted in detail (pp. 361-362) in Michael J. Robinson’s book, Predatory Bureaucracy: the extermination of wolves and the transformation of the West. (University of Colorado Press. 2005)

    With the killing of AF924, the total number of lobos shot or trapped and removed to captivity for livestock conflicts since the beginning of this year rises to 12. The number of potential breeding pairs drops to four.

    (The three breeding pairs I referenced in the post above referred to the fact that only three of these potential 2007 breeding pairs actually qualified as breeding pairs last year. The fourth [Middle Fork] has not yet successfully reared at least two pups. I apologize for the confusion.)

    This disastrously low number of breeding pairs is less than 25% of the 18 breeding pairs projected in the Final EIS to be in the wild at the end of last year.

    AF924 leaves behind her mate, genetically valuable AM973, a wild-born offspring of the Aspen pack, and four recently weaned pups.


    Factual information above comes from open, public sources including Mexican wolf project monthly updates, FWS press releases, and the Mexcian wolf studbook, maintained by Dr. Peter Siminski for the Mexican wolf SSP (Species Survival Plan), the bi-national captive breeding organization for the lobo. Monthly updates can be found on both the FWS and Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Mexican wolf web sites.

  8. elbo Avatar

    I’ve been sitting here for 3 days watching a bogged cow slowly die not more than 200 feet from my home on the North Fork of the Big Lost River in Central Idaho. In spite of repeated calls to the Lost River Ranger District office, no one has bothered to come for that cow. She’s almost done in already, but there are wolves in the area, so I am worried that one will find this bogged cow, kill it, and then be shot for killing it, all because the ranchers are too lazy and irresponsible to bother saving the animal. Or maybe they’re hoping a wolf will find it so they can collect the compensation. It’s sickening!


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan