Gray Wolf Livestock Loss Mitigation Act

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) have introduced federal legislation to line the pockets of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana in their efforts at compensating livestock producers for animals probably maybe killed by wolves.

Senators seek to compensate owners for livestock killed by wolves

In addition to compensation:

The proposed bill allows for federal grants to states to help lower the risk of wolf kills by improving fencing and grazing practices, using guard dogs and paying for range riders to protect herds of cattle.

Shouldn’t livestock producers be doing these things anyway ?

Boy, it’s a sure good thing those wolves got re-introduced, otherwise people might start expecting that these people ought have to pay their own costs of production to run a business like everyone else.

If it saves wolves then it’ll be worth it… I suppose, but  with the liberal wolf-kill laws on the books it seems there’s little chance of that, and unless I’m way-off-base, there’ll be no requirement for it.

Instead, wolves are being deprived meaningful protections by these states, welfare ranchers are being forked over more subsidies than ever, and the states responsible for non-existent protections for wolves get their cut of federal dollars on top of it all.

Checkout my previous thoughts on compensation programs (they’re not good).


  1. Nathan Hobbs Avatar

    Improved Fencing and Grazing Tactics…Yeah Right..personally I do not buy it one bit.

    This Bill is ALL about the “Range Riders”, its a soft and fluffy way to say, lets take federal money and use our state legislation to hire a group to spend days even weeks in the mountains with the sole intent and purpose of finding and destroying every living predator they encounter that could pose a threat to cattle. A good wolf will be a dead wolf to the group of “Range Riders” that are hired because the ranchers themselves will hire them( the ‘Range riders’ name has a nice western politically correct ring to it dont it….)

    In my eyes the two representatives are trying to get a Federally funded State Milita against wolves. Now not only is it legal to shoot a wolf almost anywhere in Wyoming if this legislation were to pass you can get Uncle Sam to pay you to do it.

    Ohh one thing,
    Channel 8 news here in Idaho Falls has had a slew of anti wolf news stories lately I count four on there website published within the past two days, they attended the anti wolf petition meeting in Ashton, Interveiwed the person who shot the wolfs in Ashton recently, and also published a story about how one family is scared of the animals and wont go in the wilderness without a gun now ect ect….

    The link to Channel 8 is here,

    Anyways I am quite upset about it and feel they need to be more fair and balanced with there coverage, I will be voicing my own complaint, but thought maybe you or others could help out with it as well.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes, channel 8 is certainly unbalanced.

    They interviewed me for a long time recently, and almost none of it showed up on their news feature.

    That was also the day after Ron Gillette was accused of attacking Lynne Stone. They did a long interview of Gillett. I had to tell them who he had confronted. They hadn’t bothered to even find out.

  3. Layton Avatar

    “The proposed bill allows for federal grants to states to help lower the risk of wolf kills by improving fencing and grazing practices, using guard dogs and paying for range riders to protect herds of cattle.

    “improving fencing and grazing practices” etc. — Isn’t that what wolf advocates have been asking for — a lot?? Why look a gift horse in the mouth? It really seems that it’s something that has been wanted, but now it’s somehow wrong — BEFORE it’s been passed, or tried.

    As for the TV news stories, are these people lying?? Are they somehow joining the great conspiracy against the wolf? I remember the first post — on another forum — from a member of this blog — that flat out called the person relating a story of being surrounded by a pack of wolves a liar — and I know why I carry a sidearm when I’m bowhunting — I didn’t for 20 years.

    Do you folks REALLY think that these things don’t happen? Is that rancher referenced in one of the news stories supposed to just let his kids roam until something happens to one of them?? Would that make you happy with folks taking precautions?? I guess I just don’t understand the mentality.

    I was raised here in Idaho with many of the same experiences Ralph mentions on another thread, and yet we see things so differently — not about an appreciation for the “outdoors,” but in how we see this predator — how is (my) a viewpoint against wolves somehow invalid ?

    I guess I’m just curious while drinking coffee on a Saturday morning.

  4. Brian Ertz Avatar


    there is nothing wrong with improved fences and grazing practices.

    There is something odd about the federal government paying for it.

    So, livestock producers on federal land will enjoy forage subsidized by the American taxpayer, fencing subsidized by the America taxpayer, water developments subsidized by the American taxpayer, road infrastructure subsidized by the America taxpayer, work-force (range rider) subsidized by the American taxpayer, ~ and should a wolf “get into trouble” – the reimbursement of the cost of their livestock subsidized by the American taxpayer followed by predator extermination services subsidized by the American taxpayer.

    weed abatement subsidized by the American taxpayer, etc. etc. etc.

  5. Layton Avatar


    Public land recreationalist are “enjoying” the benefits of smaller game herds, courtesy of the wolves introduced with funds donated by the American taxpayer.

    These wolves are protected/managed and were allowed to breed, uncontrolled, for a lot of years, subsidized by the American taxpayer. When required these same wolves are controlled by Wildlive Services, subsidized by the American taxpayer — etc. etc.

    Almost seems like the “American taxpayer” is getting screwed both ways!!

    By the way, that public land rancher DOES pay a price for the land that he uses — the fairness of that price is admittedly subject to a completely different discussion.

  6. Buffaloed Avatar

    Which game herds are smaller because of wolves?

  7. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Actually the Northern elk herd has declined since the introduction of the wolf, and yes that was the desired effect as the hunter’s numbers were not accomplishing the goal, which is beside the point, the wolves have reduced that herd, in addition to other factors.

  8. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    And to add, I don’t like the idea of Ranchers using public lands, unless they are willing to accept the rights of the public, that includes having the wildlife, the public wants, the price the rancher pays, is actually shameful to use the public resources, then in addition demand they be paid for losses, it is pure and simple, a subsidized industry…and I, for one am tired of paying for it..I am not opposed to ranchers on public lands, as long as they pay a fair price, as well as the costs for recovering the damage they do, which they have never done..

  9. Mike Avatar

    What’s so interesting about all this is ranchers are generally anit-govenrment. I work for the feds and used to be involved with a family that ranched part time in Utah. They were anit-law enforcement, anti-environmentalist, always complaining about how the government was taking their land, restricting thier rights, etc. I heard stories about poaching, letting the air out of tires on police cars, witnessed illegal baiting, littering, driving atv’s into wilderness area’s and laughing about it all. They shot rabbits and coyotes just for fun. But, they never complained about the subsidized handouts that evil government gave them. They are users and abusers, selfish and ignorant. Socialism at it’s best.

  10. JB Avatar

    Brian said: “So, livestock producers on federal land will enjoy forage subsidized by the American taxpayer, fencing subsidized by the America taxpayer, water developments subsidized by the American taxpayer, road infrastructure subsidized by the America taxpayer, work-force (range rider) subsidized by the American taxpayer, ~ and should a wolf “get into trouble” – the reimbursement of the cost of their livestock subsidized by the American taxpayer followed by predator extermination services subsidized by the American taxpayer.”

    Don’t forget the main point: these subsidies are given so that livestock producers living in arid and semi-arid regions of the country can compete with producers back East, who either graze livestock on their own property or supplement grazing with feed–neither of which are paid for by the American tax payer. Frankly, I’m growing tired of subsidizing a “way of life” that is not sustainable or competitive.

  11. Buffaloed Avatar

    Save Bears, I am aware of the Northern Range declines and yes it was the desired effect of wolves and the late season hunt. It hasn’t been demonstrated in any other area that wolves have been the source of decline for game populations.

    I also argue that habitat conditions in other areas, specifically in the Clearwater area, are the cause for declines of elk populations but some insist that it is predation. Predation may be heightened by the condition of the habitat in those areas but the underlying cause is habitat. Bears are a big predator of calves, as we know, but bear populations are not affected by the same habitat changes as the elk are which may give bears the upper hand in those areas. If predators are sharply reduced by control or hunting there is serious disagreement as to whether elk populations would rebound in those specific areas. If there is a rebound it would be seriously impacted by severe winters like the one we are experiencing now.

    I think it is a red herring to blame predation as the cause of elk declines in the Clearwater. It’s habitat.

    I liken it to the “problem” with the northern pikeminnow in Cascade Reservoir. Essentially you have a fish that opportunistically preys on perch and can severely impact the population but it doesn’t require perch to survive in the good habitat provided by the reservoir. I think the same situation is occurring with bears and elk in the Clearwater. Bears don’t require elk in the good habitat provided by the Clearwater forests and can have a large impact on the elk which are in marginal habitat for them. Should bears be killed just so that there are more elk than would be there? I don’t think that it would do much good and I don’t think that it would be very good holistic management of the area.

    This scenario doesn’t really apply to wolves which REQUIRE elk and deer and because of that they are at low densities in the Clearwater and would become lower because their prey dictate densities not the other way around.

  12. Buffaloed Avatar

    Mike, it is a very similar situation here in Central Idaho. Essentially for every dollar that Idahoans pay in Federal taxes we get about $1.50 back. Most of it is used to manage public lands or maintain roads. Yes, I live in a anti-government state that loves its socialism.

  13. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Buffaloed, you asked, I provided an answer, that is all, I didn’t say anything about any other herd.

  14. Buffaloed Avatar

    I know, the question was in response to a claim made by someone else.

  15. Layton Avatar

    Gee whiz Buffaloed,

    Amazingly enough we come to the same place again!!

    Odd that you and I could read the same sentence and come to different conclusions.

    If the biologists say that contributing factors for a declining elk herd include BOTH predators and habitat you very quickly swing to the conclusion that it is HABITAT and ONLY HABITAT that is the underlying problem — I don’t.

    I don’t even jump to the conclusion that there is ONLY ONE
    reason for the decline. I – since I don’t claim to be an expert in the field – tend to go along with the conclusions that the people who have studied the problem have made.

    BUT, just for grins, check out when the “habitat” in the various units in the Clearwater was affected. Seems like it happened first around Kelly Creek, where were the wolves introduced first?? Then it spread to more of unit 10 and 10A — bear in mind that the unit boundaries have changed since the intro. And now the affected “habitat” has spread to unit 12. Amazingly enough that would seem to correspond with the wolf populations in those areas. What a coincidence.

    I’m not even going to get into this again — you and I have bumped heads over it before and neither one of us is going to change our views much.

    “Bears don’t require elk in the good habitat provided by the Clearwater forests and can have a large impact on the elk which are in marginal habitat for them.”

    Back in the early 90’s there was an ongoing study with bear predation on elk calves (the biologist was killed in a helicopter crash before completing it his name started with a G — I can’t remember it) that pointed out these calves as the PREFERRED diet of bears in the spring — what did that have to do with habitat?

    Even before that (middle to late 80s) I believe that a F&G biologist by the name of Schlagel (sp?) came to the same conclusion. Was the habitat that bad back then?

    AND just for a bit of levity in this whole thing — are the same folks that changed the numbers for sub-species of wolves responsible for changing the name of the species I knew as Squaw fish to Northern Pike Minnow?? 8^)

  16. Ed Avatar

    I honestly have no sympathy for ranchers who lose livestock to wolves. It’s the same attitude we had 400 years ago when we let the wild buffalo go almost extinct (1 wild tribe left in Yellowstone, and they too are hated by ranchers). You think we would evolve in that span of time, but not appearantly.

  17. Buffaloed Avatar

    Yes, Layton the habitat and elk declines started back then.

    A reminder, correlation does not mean causation. One of the first tenants of science. Just because the declines started earlier than the wolf re-introduction does not mean that wolves caused the declines.

    You are wrong that wolves were first “introduced” in Kelly Creek. There was ONE wolf there that migrated there on his own from the naturally occurring population in Montana. Hardly enough to kill a lot of elk.

    You seem incapable of understanding that habitat dictates the health of elk. If the health of an elk population declines below a certain point, due to habitat changes, they are more vulnerable to harsh winters such as that of 96/97, less productive in reproducing, and more vulnerable to predation, especially from bears which haven’t declined nearly as significantly as elk because the habitat parameters haven’t declined as much for them.

    ELK EAT GRASS not trees, or spotted knapweed which is what has replaced the grass. Also, don’t forget that there is a great big chunk of concrete named Dworshak Dam, finished in 1972, that flooded a whole lot of winter habitat. Where is that dam located Layton? Yup, right in the middle of unit 10a.

    All of these factors have contributed to the decline of elk and they were well established and becoming more influential with the health of the elk herd before wolves were even present. Just because the big declines occurred during the very harsh winter of 96/97 when wolves first started showing up in small numbers does not mean that wolves caused the problem. Again, correlation does not mean causation.

    The math doesn’t work.

  18. JB Avatar

    This might be a good time for someone who took notes at the wolf conference to mention the work of Dr. Jim Peek. If memory serves, his analysis showed a flat line (no correlation) between wolf populations and elk numbers in the state of Idaho? I also remember (please correct me if I’m wrong) that the avg. age of an elk taken by wolves in Idaho in their study was 13.8 years. Does anyone have notes on this lecture handy?

  19. JB Avatar

    Thanks Ralph! I must have missed that post…sorry.

    At the risk of being redundant: “Overall, the wolves have had little effect on elk or deer population size. The important factors are wildfires (57% of the area has burned since 1982), summer drought or adequate rainfall, and winter severity.”

    Of course, I’m quoting Ralph’s summary of Jim’s discussion, but this pretty much jives with what I remember. Note, the three factors mentioned: wildfire, rainfall and winter severity…NOT PREDATION.

    As Ralph mentioned, Peek went on to claim that wolves could potentially suppress elk populations in some areas following extremely severe winter kills. Ralph noted that he did not provide evidence for this. I believe he was citing Rolf Peterson’s work on Isle Royal. I happened to catch Rolf’s seminar here a few weeks back, and one of his messages was that wolves likely did suppress moose population recovery on Isle Royal after a very severe winter kill. However, it is important to note that there is no opportunity for in or out migration (for either wolves or Moose) on Isle Royal, so it’s applicability to Idaho (or the GYE in general) is questionable. Moreover, it is also important that in 60 years without human manipulation (and over 50 years of study) both the moose and wolf populations have crashed and recovered, due to a number of factors (for wolves: disease, prey availability; for moose, winter severity, parasites, and available forage).

    My point (yet again) is that studies consistently show that the big bad wolf is NOT A MAJOR factor affecting ungulate populations–it’s time to put this myth to bed.

  20. Brian Ertz Avatar

    it’ll be interesting to see whether these guys are apt to attribute increase ungulate numbers in the future solely to predator extermination – rather than the massive burns that have been happening.

  21. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Wolves usually do not decrease ungulate numbers, as Peek and JB indicated, but they do change the behavior of ungulates. This was expected and it was the reason for the restoration of more than a token number of wolves.

    Wolves change the ecology of an area for the better. That is ultimately why we need to keep at least 1500 wolves in the 3 state area and expand the populations of wolves into parts of adjacent states.

    As the behavior of ungulates changes, humans who hunt them have to change too — change the way they hunt — these old hunting dogs need to learn new tricks. While many rise to the challenge, others don’t want to bother. Their hunting success will be poor, and I see this as only proper, given my view that hunting today is not really for meat but adventure and connection with the great outdoors.

  22. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    Re. Dworshak Dam and impacts to wintering wildlife. If anyone has photos of deer and elk falling through the ice behind the dam in winter 1972-73 (?) and drowning, it would be useful to have those made available to myself and others. I recall seeing a slide show decades ago with those images and have never forgotten them.

  23. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    I’ve a comment about wolves and elk numbers. I live in Big Game Unit 36 which is located around Stanley, Cape Horn, the Sawtooth Valley and the upper Salmon River country. Anyone can buy a bull elk tag here. There is NO limit on the take of bull elk. There’s also lengthy cow/calf seasons with hundreds of tags issues via a draw.

    Then in November, there’s black powder season where the intent is to kill cows and calves as they come onto winter range. I’ve seen these “sportsmen” shoot cows and calves on the edge of Stanley in November and off of Highway 75. Gut piles are left right by the pavement.

    Will IDFG will cut back on any of the elk seasons after this long, snowy winter in Idaho? I’d bet not. Rather, they will blame wolves for fewer elk and issue $9.75 wolf tags to “sportsmen” and outfitters. That is, unless the pending lawsuit succeeds and Idaho will not be able to kill hundreds of wolves.

  24. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    I was just reading a clipping, saved by my mother, from the Lewiston Tribune, Saturday, Jan. 15, 1972 relating the numbers of deer falling through the then filling north end of the Dworshak Pool. In addition coyotes were taking a lot of deer on the ice. It was estimated that at the rate of drowning and being eaten, the 1300 deer wintering in the area would be half that by spring.
    “What ever the outcome in the Dworshak Pool area, the dam amounts to a major ecological change – and one that probably means disaster to deer, steelhead, salmon, and perhaps for elk.” The author was Mike Harrop.

  25. Layton Avatar


    You said:

    “Will IDFG will cut back on any of the elk seasons after this long, snowy winter in Idaho? I’d bet not. Rather, they will blame wolves for fewer elk ”

    Can I take you up on that bet?? Maybe this is the way I can get that microbrew that we’ve spoken about bought for me.

    In the 2007 Controlled hunt regs. There are 9 different controlled hunts listed for elk in unit 36 — I’m not sure which “36” you are referring to, so I’ve included 36 — 36A and 36B.

    Two of these hunts are for bulls, a total of 215 permits.

    Seven are for “anterless,” a total of 1200 permits.

    This year’s regs -2008- show a total of only 7 hunts in the same units.

    Two hunts for bulls, a total of 161 permits or something like a 25% decrease in total numbers.

    Five hunts for anterless, a total of 335 permits — about a 75% DECREASE in total numbers — with NO permits issued in Unit 36B!! (isn’t that the unit further downstream where more of the wolves are located?) Permit numbers in the main Unit 36 and Unit 36A are also SIGNIFICANTLY decreased.

    Of course the reason for a 75% (or thereabouts) decrease in the number of elk that hunters can take MUST just be F&G unjustly blaming wolves —- right??

  26. Jo Smith Avatar
    Jo Smith

    Since the wolves are decidedly not the problem with the declining elk herds, other ecological changes are (but we all know they will be blamed for it anyway). Defenders of Wildlife have reported alfa wolf populations are already begining to suffer. A stable alfa breeding pair was shot down recently and with the numerous dealths already reported not to mention the countless other that have gone unreported… a major concern is that though we saw success in the reintroduction program, it’s noted that breeding pairs were not crossing into different pack throughout the ranges to interbreed. There will be a severe problem with inbreeding within the packs. It’s estimated in less than 50-60 yrs we will find signifigant drops in litter sizes and mortality rates of the pup birthed.
    I believe education is the key. But you can’t teach what falls on deaf ears.

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Brian Ertz