Wolves kill 120 sheep at ranch near Dillon

This is the kind of depredation where the wolves need to be shot-

This is unusual. Furthermore it took place on private land. Assuming there are no important facts left out of the story, these wolves should all be shot.

. . .  a couple sidebars to this. 1. They need to get the pack that did it. This should not be a revenge killing situation. 2. People might think this is typical because of the constant trickle of media reports of a lamb here or two or three ewes there.

Wolves kill 120 sheep at ranch near Dillon. By Eve Bryon. Helena Independent Record.

8/29 Update-Comment by Ralph Maughan




  1. catbestland Avatar

    This is really tragic and yes, I agree-THOSE wolves should be shot. What I fear most is the reprisals that are bound to occur. I wish there was some way to encourage sheep farmers to relocate to another part of the country or to get another hobby or business. Sheep and wolves don’t mix. They are just asking to be killed. That doesn’t mitigate the tragedy this particular rancher has suffered and I am really sorry for his loss. But the fact of the matter is that the wilderness needs wolves more than it needs sheep. Not those wolves though. They need to be shot.

  2. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Is Ralph saying that they should be shot, as in the moral sense of the word, or should be shot because that’s what is likely to happen in them, as in the “shall” sense of the word?

  3. Tom Woodbury Avatar

    To me, this incident highlights the need for ranchers and herders in this part of the country to tend their flocks. I guess if I had that many prize sheep in that part of Montana, I’d want to have a few of those huge dogs they use to protect the herds out here on Mt. Jumbo, and/or be sure someone is tending the flock. It isn’t a matter of blaming anyone, but rather just recognizing the reality of where you live, and taking reasonable precautions to protect your property interests. Remember cowboys? Those dudes who used to ride horses and get hired to watch livestock? We need to revive that tradition, especially where herds are on public lands (not the case here). Paying these ranchers after the fact for predations seems reactive, and doesn’t prevent these kind of unfortunate incidents. Proactive would be providing assistance to hire riders.

    As far as this incident is concerned, I know there are going to be folks screaming that this proves wolves kill for the thrill, but I’m wondering if instead this is a case where they were training their pups. Any thoughts about that?

  4. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Oh wait, I see that he obviously did mean the moral sense of should because of “need” to be shot.

    I guess I don’t agree, but I’m an extremist. For me, the lands are a commons; any claims to private land ownership are anathema. The wolves did us a favor by making it that much more difficult for these people to own private lands.

    Poor sheep caught in this system of abuse.

  5. catbestland Avatar

    I think they “need” to be shot because they are only going to continue killing sheep. This will not help the argument that wolves should not be hunted at this time. My question is; when they do get the wolves that did it will we learn that they are subordinates from a fragmented pack where the alphas have been “removed”? If so, won’t this be more proof that a hunt (which will “remove” many of the more visable alphas) may indeed result in more livestock predation?

  6. smalltownID Avatar

    First, it is not economically feasible to pay cowboys for most ranchers unless the cowboys are from Peru and even then only guys like the Faulkner’s can afford it. Unless it is a family operation and you have some teenagers you want to teach good old fashioned work ethic with little to no pay (like many families that farm do).

    However, it is poor judgment to check on animals every 3 days without any dogs to watch the flock at the foot of a mountain. Common sense tells you depredation could happen, an open fence, feral dog, etc. could cause some problems even without wolves in the west. I feel bad for the rancher because he got caught being irresponsible in the midst of a perfect storm. This isn’t a good story for any side in my opinion.

  7. Jim Macdonald Avatar


    I don’t know about the last questions and can’t speak to it. However, the first is an ethical claim, on which I guess my own instincts are to pounce.

    Wolves do what wolves do, and I’m not willing to kill them based on our arbitrary policy considerations. To save wolves, we must kill wolves is exactly the kind of utilitarian argument I have no use for whether we are talking about human warfare or wolf management. I don’t believe we should fall prey (so to speak) to our cynical political reality.

    The truth is that the livestock owners are the pariahs, and the private/public land distinction is simply a convenient excuse to accommodate abuse. I think we should take a strong line and defend wolves for being wolves and be willing to go out on a limb for them. There will be plenty of pragmatists; when enough courageous people take the morality of the situation to the logical extreme, it will give the pragmatists more room to move the needle further in the right direction.

    There is no happy West where we can all get along if only the unreasonable other side gave in. That’s one thing I admire about the livestock industry; they realize it. It’s about time we did, too, and acted accordingly, without the pretense of sacrificing wolves and other wildlife to our vanity in believing we understand what the greater good is and what expense is worth it.

  8. catbestland Avatar


    I thoroughly appreciate you view, more than you can probably know. But I think that a case like this is not “Wolves being wolves”. My understanding is that wolves traditionally prey on wild game and only become conditioned to prey on defenseless livestock when the opportunity presents itself. Packs with strong leadership will go after traditional prey. I’m not saying that complete packs will not go after easy prey, of course they will but my guess is that these wolves are absent an alpha or two. So regretfully, it might be proper under the circumstances to “remove” them.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that livestock owners are the pariahs here. What I am afraid of is that this will be more fuel thrown on the fire and that those screaming for a hunt will use this incident to justify illegal actions. When this incident could very well have been caused by the removal of important pack leaders.

  9. smalltownID Avatar

    If common sense doesn’ t prevail on both sides you won’t solve anything. You have to be proactive with problematic wildlife (predators and game species), the west is far different than when the original term was coined. Both sides need to be held accountable. Its the same old story of a few bad apples that abuse the land or tragedy of the commons, the problem is we don’t punish people for growing/being bad apples. Accountability is fleeting anymore.

  10. Jim Macdonald Avatar


    Even here, I’m not willing to impose what should be wolf behavior or family structure on them or set up a hierarchy of wolves. Humans from particular kinds of family environments may be less likely to do certain kinds of things considered deviant; we don’t destroy them for the bad luck of being from one kind of family over another – though we might throw them in jail (that’s another discussion altogether!)

    My point is that I think we are saying the wolves “need” to die because their behavior is inconvenient to our policy aims. Frankly, I think that’s just too bad; better to take a stronger line and defend these lives caught in this system (and mourn at the same time the sheep who are as well, born into a world where they are simply commodities, belonging to someone else, and then at the mercy of the inevitable wildness of the world. We all are, but we pretend there’s a proper order to it all, and it’s that pretense that drives us to pretend we have some right to property and some right to control the behavior of everything in the world.

  11. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jim McDonald,

    I said the wolves in the pack “need to be shot” for a number of reasons.

    1. “Shot” because this is what is and will be done, if it hasn’t already. People shouldn’t use euphemisms like “euthaniaze” or “control.”

    2. “Need” because this is a major sheep kill. It’s not the 2 or 3 dead sheep that is typical.

    3. Because these were apparently special sheep, the owner probably took a significant economic loss, although what did he expect if they were on some remote mountain land where all kinds of things could happen to them? I’d like to see a map where they were to see if they were in a settled area or a remote one.

    Despite the hype, wolves rarely engage in surplus killing — kill more than they will eat. That’s because prey like elk, moose, bison are dangerous. Almost every wolf has numerous injuries from hunting prey.

    Sheep, on the other hand, are easy to kill, essentially helpless creatures. I do think wolves surplus kill sheep, and this was an example.

    Recently a friend’s Pomeranian dog encountered some sheep in the backcountry. The 5 pound dog set them running. Now that is helpless!

    When I was a child and we took my Cocker spaniel to the mountains for the first time, he saw a band of sheep, jumped out of the truck and immediately chased them out of our sight.

    While this Dillon area sheep slaughter was a big one for wolves, the same thing has happened with coyotes and bears many times.

    I think Suzanne Stone has a good chance of being right. After the wolf hunt, lone wolves will engage in more of this because sheep are so easy the wolves won’t need to have a pack to get prey.

  12. catbestland Avatar


    That is exactly why I believe the planned wolf hunt is innapropriate. I fear it will only increase the incidents of livestock predation which will result in more “control” actions, legal or illegal against wolves. A THOROUGH investigation needs to be conducted in this case to see if these wolves were from an intact pack or fragmented one.

  13. JimT Avatar

    I don’t think the wolves need to be killed for being themselves..predators taking advantage of a rich prey situation caused by poor animal husbandry practices. I can’t emphasize the latter strongly enough. If the ranchers cannot take the necessary measures to protect their livestock for whatever reasons, perhaps they should be left to suffer the consequences of those decisions, market-based, or if due to sheer laziness or neglect. I have grown weary of the assumption livestock folks make that they are somehow entitled to their lifestyle regardless of the market or their own practices because of some Western cowboy myth. Accountability as a value, however, seems to be vanishing in general from the cultural mores. Sad.

    I am frankly surprised Ralph calls for the killing of this pack.

  14. Ryan Avatar

    “I guess I don’t agree, but I’m an extremist. For me, the lands are a commons; any claims to private land ownership are anathema. The wolves did us a favor by making it that much more difficult for these people to own private lands.”

    Jim Mac,

    Who should have the right to own private land and who shouldn’t?

  15. chris Avatar

    If there is to be any tolerance for wolves amongst the general public and any credibility for wolf managers then these wolves need to be killed. To leave these wolves out there would increase the demonization of wolves and erase any essence of mutual respect with those affected.

    Dealing with wolves requires some tough choices and the overall goal of recovery and tolerance should always be pursued. The lives of these particular wolves do not outweigh the reputation of all wolves and the need for fairness and honesty in wolf conservation. Don’t use wolves as a tool to further an anti-livestock/rancher agenda, you have plenty of grounds to do that without them.

  16. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    There is no right of ownership; the right simply does not exist. Ownership exists but not a right to it. If you’ve got time, please read a very long series of essays I wrote on just this point as it relates to Yellowstone.

    See John Locke, Yellowstone, and the Dogma of the Right to Private Property, which I wrote in 2007. It is super long, but I think it is worth the read because I try to be careful and explain the issue and the arguments for the more mainstream side.

    Property rights are a modern invention, and they’ve done us nothing but harm. In their current form, they were theorized precisely to deal with the colonization situation in America.

  17. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Chris and others,

    I think we are as guilty of mythologizing wolves perhaps as the livestock industry is of building up the livestock myth. If wolves go against the myth we’ve set up for them, then it seems that some of you are suggesting that we need to rid ourselves of those deviant wolves. Yes, these wolves acted outside the norm; is that what we want to do with freaks in order to protect our hallowed version of wolves of being animals who generally don’t go after entire herds of sheep? So, these wolves did. And, it messes up our narrative; shame on us for having that narrative. We have no business supporting the killing of these wolves; how dare any of them act against our pure view of them?

    Are we wildlife advocates, or are we advocates for our ideal vision of what wildlife are and supposed to be?


  18. Brian Ertz Avatar

    120 sheep !? dang ! sounds like a good start …

    I think we should breed these wolves, not kill them. Good stock for a biological control that could help with reducing the impact to bighorn, riparian conditions, coyotes, water quality, big game habitat and other natural values lost given the introduction of these non-native range maggots.

  19. JimT Avatar


    While it may be somewhat appealing in a realpolitik way to kill these wolves doing what comes naturally to placate the critics of wolves, it merely perpetuates the status quo of the lifestock folks–putting their animals out there, no protection, and then the wolves take the hit for their negligence. Do you really think that the demonization of wolves by these folks will cease or lessen because we kill this pack? It is merely perpetuating bad behaviors if these wolves are killed. Time for all of us to end the kowtow trend to the ranching community who refuse to take steps to protect their animals.

    It is way past time these ranchers bear the consequences of their own actions, or inactions. I am tired of the whining and complaining and the lies, and all while holding their hands out for federal subsidies and for folks like DOW to pay for their damages. I agree with Brian; they are ecological treasures to be preserved…~S~

  20. catbestland Avatar

    “First, it is not economically feasible to pay cowboys for most ranchers…”

    If ranchers can’t afford to protect their business interest, perhaps they shouldn’t be in that business. If I were a diamond dealer and could not afford protection for my inventory, it would be stupid for me to be in that business.

  21. smalltownID Avatar

    Jim Mac… I can’t speak for everyone else but I am a wildlife advocate that is REALISTIC. As Ralph must be when you consider his comment. It is asinine to think you can reintroduce a species at the top of the food chain and that controlling them through lethal actions under certain circumstances is somehow only championed by the cattle industry.
    It is championed by ppl with common sense in a circumstance such as this. You and anybody else must be living in never-never land to think under no circumstances can we kill a wolf.

    Cat, you can protect your investment without paying someone around the clock to watch them. Re-establishing the cowboy of the west is not the solution. That was the point.

  22. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Common sense and realism are wonderful terms that have been abused beyond their original meanings to support just about anything that passes for pragmatism (in other words, reform within the status quo).

    History doesn’t remember the pragmatists; they remember those who took action for real solutions. We look down on Henry Clay (“the great compromiser”); we remember with fondness the abolitionists (who seemed to get nothing done until they ultimately won).

    It’s not common sense that we are practicing here; it’s common insanity. And, it’s not realism; it’s social delusion.

    The wolves will be killed; that doesn’t mean we have to support it or work for it. Then and only then I think will we make actual steps toward common sense and realistic solutions because then we’ll have a coherent grounds for resistance.

    As I said, there are plenty of pragmatists … what would they do if people with better sense than them didn’t give them room to operate and pat themselves on the back for their idea of effectiveness?

  23. JimT Avatar


    It is precisely these kinds of situations that call for a principled stand, not another give in to the same old ways that led to the extirpation of the wolves in the first place. The law profession has a term…slippery slope. And you are on it with this kind of thinking about wolves, ranching, and the ESA. At some point, you take a stand. Straddling a fence pragmatically..where do you draw the line? 40 sheep? 23 cows? Unfortunately, I think JimMac is correct. The pack will be killed. The rancher will get paid off. And the status quo continues..to the detriment of the wolves and predator restoration in general.

    So, a question for the pragmatist side of the debate. When does pragmatism slip into appeasement?

  24. smalltownID Avatar

    I haven’t read your article yet but I imagine we are diametrically opposed in the way we view america since you don’t think there is a right to property and view it as insanity to try to protect someone’s property. I can appreciate the fact our inalienable rights are not as black and white as they used to be, I’ll save that for discussion after I read your essay.

    You can intellectualize it all you want and try to get passed the common sense, but the REALITY is you have someone who owns property which represents EVERYONE else out there who owns private property especially those who are adjacent to or in the rocky mountains. Common sense tells me that you will have to kill wolves under some circumstances even if a landowner does EVERYTHING right.
    Even if the land weren’t privately owned and the wolves were causing problems you still have to solve the problem.

    So, if it is not a common sense solution to the problem… Please, propose a solution that makes sense CONSIDERING that we occupy almost every remote piece of land in this country. I believe in standing for principles as long as they aren’t built on sand.

    BTW, Shooting wolves after they decimated a herd of sheep did not lead to their extirpation. Once again, be realistic.

  25. Smitty Avatar

    “So, a question for the pragmatist side of the debate. When does pragmatism slip into appeasement?”

    This is just the way that folks like the SaveElk fellow feels. (Only it would not have been as succinctly) In order to make this work there will HAVE to be some compromise somewhere in between the two kill all the wolves and save all the wolves crowds.

  26. Brian Ertz Avatar

    JimT asks :

    When does pragmatism slip into appeasement?

    IMO – it already has.

    These appeasements only make sense when an extreme reductionist context is allowed to predominate the conversation.

    Take for example the fact that these guys are collecting big dollar in direct subsidies, indirect subsidies (27 cents/month per adult sheep, lambs are free – which = $1.35/month for upwards of 15 sheep) to graze on federal public land – and that their losses are largely hedged by the American taxpayer anyway :

    LIP [USDA’s “Livestock Indemnity Program”] provides disaster assistance for producers with livestock losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather such as hurricanes, floods, blizzards, disease, wildfires, extreme heat and extreme cold.

    […]Producers can receive up to $100,000 through disaster assistance programs.

    The American taxpayer is literally insuring these guys against any accountability to the natural world, paying them welfare for those sheep produced, and exterminating the natural world to keep it up.

    These guys aren’t producing sheep, it isn’t about an honest livelihood of producing value off the land – they’re in the business of cultivating and maintaining federal welfare. No other livelihood is so dependent on the tax-payer’s dime while enjoying such a lack of awareness about it. These wolves’ impact to these sheep has already been paid for by the American tax-payer over and over again.

    These facts ought inform advocates’ thought-process regarding what is or what is not appropriate subsidized wildlife extermination.

    Other considerations, like domestic sheep’s presence on a landscape precluding the viability of bighorn sheep, or the impact to water quality, or big game habitat – ought similarly inform wildlife advocates’ thought-process regarding what is or what is not appropriate subsidized wildlife extermination in response to a depredation such as this.

    If we were to honestly incorporate the reality of these grotesque subsidies – the fact that we’re already paying over and over again, the impact to a host of other natural values, then the more appropriate question to be asking is whether or not these sheep ought be on the landscape (public or private) in the first place – or at least whether the American tax-payer ought be so heavily subsidizing this activity (whether on public or private ground) which contributes zero public value and a whole bunch of loss to the public interest. That ought be the question.

    Instead, the depredation is always framed in the particular – wolves kill a bunch of sheep – “bad wolves” – working with ranchers to ensure co-existence is ‘good’ – BS – only if you ignore the aformentioned loss of value to the public interest and the loss to other wildlife for other reasons as well.

    give these wolves a wildlife award.

  27. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Do you have info on how much we pay in woolgrower subsidies for wool and meat. Is it per lb. or per animal, how does it work?

  28. catbestland Avatar


    I agree with everything you are saying, but the fact of the matter is that these ranchers currently hold all the strings to this puppet because they hold all the political power-at the moment. So if we don’t find a way to compromise in some way now we could loose the battle before it gets started. I’m afraid we may lose the entire wolf project if we kick too much dirt into their Consumtive faces. Would it not be wise to compromise on some issues now until more of the population is educated to the gross injustices and violations of their civil rights and the contaminations to their future that is happening here? At that time WE (all of those thus informed) will have the political power as well as the moral right to dispatch the situation and secure a better the future for all on the planet.

  29. Brian Ertz Avatar


    it depends on the subsidy.

    the wool subsidy is distributed using an arcane formula. It changes frequently, but as an example in 1990 the wool subsidy rate was 127.5 percent. This means that a rancher who fetches $2 on the open-market for a pound of wool would collect $2.55 from the government in subsidy (total: $ 4.55), but a rancher in another region, who fetched only $1 a pound, would receive $1.28 in subsidy (total: $ 2.28). the receipts of the market sale are turned in to the USDA to collect the subsidy.

    the direct subsidy is frequently more than the market value of wool – which is why it is not at all unfair to suggest that they are more cultivating welfare than any market-product that is in demand. the demand alone would often suggest that the value of their enterprise is less than half of what they receive in the end. Of course, this is even without the indirect subsidies associated with government sponsored wildlife extermination (including, but not limited to, predator control), federal land use costs, weed abatement, road-maintenance, etc. etc. etc.

    of course, this is just one subsidy collected – there are others as well.

  30. JimT Avatar

    No, shooting the wolves after a sheep killing didn’t lead directly to the extirpation per se, but it was part of the pattern and the larger problem of sheer hatred for the wolf by the livestock folks.

    Moreover, those folks who thought this was wrong didn’t speak up to the degree necessary to prevent this travesty the first time. My point is you can compromise your way bit by bit by being “pragmatic” or “realistic” about the power of the livestock industry, and that will very likely lead to vastly reduced numbers of wolves and wolf habitat. Do you really think that they will ever say “enough” if we sacrifice wolves in a situation like this where the sheep were essentially left out as bait? Their agenda is to push the wolves into Yellowstone, just like the bison, and shoot any that leave, basically. They would love to turn Yellowstone into a defacto zoo for any animal that didn’t moo or baa…..

    Brian, the FACTS are damning. Thank you for providing them. I will be using some of them in a letter to Mark Udall and Bennett about this issue.

  31. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Did anyone read the post I made yesterday how sheep are now are in a permanent condition of subsidy for weather losses?

    Sheep growers get a permanent disaster fund.

  32. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    We need more facts about this sheep kill, but from what I have read, I still hold to my view that the wolves need to be shot. Once they find out how easy it is to kill sheep, I think history shows they take it up as a pass time in way they would never do with cattle or wildlife.

    Suzanne Stone was wrong when she said nothing like this has happened before. It happened in the backcountry northeast of Cascade, Idaho. I has happened in Wyoming a number of times.

    Brian, don’t think I’m getting soft on the range maggots! 😉

  33. Brian Ertz Avatar

    compromise is a wonderful concept and one that I whole-heartedly support.

    But from what point do we begin our compromise ? and at what point does our compromise turn not just appeasement, but enablememt.

    Understanding what I think I know – and utilizing reason – sheep production on public lands is entirely unnecessary – same on private, though i’ve got less to say on private land. But the response is public – public dollars hiring public employees to exterminate public wildlife.

    Now, perhaps I am right – or at least substantially so : sheep degrade big game & other wildlife habitat, kill bighorns & predators, pollute our drinking water, the market has expelled them long ago, and we waste too much public resource keeping these damned animals – that seem to want little more than to die at the slightest agitation themselves – alive so a few priveleged men can collect more welfare & enjoy the political supremacy originally secured by their forefathers via conquest of land, wildlife, & indigenous peoples.

    Suppose these things are true, and that – as you say – educating people of these facts, this history, and it’s consequence is of critical importance to bringing people who don’t know into knowledge & thus providing people with the opportunity to believe something different and opt in to support of wildlife management premised on fact & reason.

    How does the “compromise” made now, in full prostration & appeasement to their disproportionate power, bring about that education that you support ?

    It doesn’t. It can’t. Part of the condition of “compromise”, as is framed & controlled now by those with power is that those people standing with the facts, reason, & knowledge of landscape are to be excluded as “radical” or “extremist”. Otter will not “compromise” with us now on bighorn sheep – even as we were the only group left at the table & whose legitimacy has been vindicated by a federal judge on several occasions. Nor would the Owyhee Cattlemen “compromise” with those knowledgeable of the land (& likwise vindicated as a matter of law) on the Owyhee Initiative. There are so many others that good, honest people from all over the west might tell.

    This is because the compromise that they are interested in has very little to do with the facts on the ground & everything to do with those holding power being enabled to continue to hold power. Compromise ought be conditioned on rational boundaries, science, economics, public interest, on some semblence of truth. But with Livestock, catbestland, uttering the truth, science, or due regard for the public interest threatens one’s seat at the table. And so we see compromise that seems to always cut one way. Defenders cuts their checks to Livestock & watches the government sponsored extermination of the very pack that they paid to “build tolerance” for with their compensation program. ICL greenwashes a mining company that poisons the water along the Salmon River. Both celebrated in the establishment press for their willingness to compromise.

    The slaughter of this pack is no compromise – the rancher will be compensated, collect his subsidy, and have any part of the natural world extirminated at the public’s expense to keep doing what he’s been doing – but what do wildlife advocates get ? any assurance that he’ll clean up his operation and pay more attention to his flock ? No. Why would he ? His costs are covered & the ‘offending’ pack has been exterminated – perhaps he’ll make out better than if he had kept his property responsibly.

    Catbestland, we agree on the need for people to be educated & to become aware of what’s going on, the subsidies – wildlife lost – habitat denuded – etc. But does “compromise” really help that happen ?

    In my experience – NO. This will inferentially teach people that the wolves are wrong, that they are a nuisance to an honest economic activity – and our being OK with the response vindicates this perception.

    Pointing out the absurdity of the subsidy, the extermination, the degredation to other natural values & the crime to the public interest that this economic activity represents may be “radical” or “extremist” in the context of this stacked deck – but it’s wrong that the deck is stacked like this. It’s wrong that those sheep were not taken care of – it’s wrong that we would be derailed from acknowledging that as the principle problem – instead blaming the wild for being wild, as if the wild could be controlled. It’s wrong. Compromise that grants the absurdity of the current spin will not advance the truth. Let’s compromise within the context of reason – if they’ll let us. And if not, let’s be proud enough of what we believe to hold to it – and in the process, show people that what we believe is legitimate.

  34. Brian Ertz Avatar

    I wouldn’t dare think such a thing ~ 😉 nor does your belief bother me. 120 sheep is a lot of sheep – and the taste they’ve acquired could come in handy – say, drop the wolves into potential bighorn habitat a month or so before transplant/introduction of bighorn to an area – I’d bet it’d drastically improve success for the bighorn …:)

    But the wolves are dying all over, lord knows for less ~ if wolves are to be punished for livestock depredation, this seems like a candidate pack – unfortunately.

  35. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    This is one of the wealthiest extended ranching families in Southwest Montana. They also run cattle. Do you have a similar link to the one you posted earlier for that covers cattle

  36. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    Interesting how the list of top 20 sheep producers receiving subsidies in ID from Brian’s link are so many of our faves: Falkner (see recent Phantom pack brouhaha), F. Shirts, Jr (Payette bighorn/domestic sheep conflict), Soulen Livestock (ditto), and on and on.

    And make no mistake, these fellows (and they are ALL fellows except poor Margaret Soulen who now runs the Soulen operation with her brother Harry, old man Phil is pretty much out to pasture) have direct access to Butch and his ID good old boys in power.

  37. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    So I am not just engaging in hyperbole when I call them “landed nobility”. . . . small in number, tight and long-standing political connections, wealth in the form of very traditional sources, unusual privileges and subsidies.

  38. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I am trying to figure this out: Wolves attacked this man’s sheep three or four weeks ago. He leaves them unguarded and unwatched for days at a time since that attack?. They get attacked again? Really?
    I wonder if he decided he could get more from DOW or some farm agency than he could on the open market.
    A lot of farmers and woolgrowers are so addicted to subsidies and government handouts, that a lot of them farm the programs rather than farming for the market. If you start having taxpayers pay for livestock losses in natural disasters, the livestock deaths from a single thunderstorm might astound you.

  39. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I am all for livestock growers taking a more proactive approaches to ensure their livestock is protected on their private lands, I am not in favor of public lands grazing and have worked to get rid of it, but I have to wonder, do you all feel the same, when a natural event such as a tornado, flood or hurricane happens and the government helps those victims?

    As far as the subsidies, I think these programs should be cut way down, but come on, the government helps all kinds of people that are the victims of natural events…

  40. catbestland Avatar


    Excellent points, all of them. Otter, Owyhee and the others don’t compromise because they don’t have to. Without the same political clout, what alternative to compromise do we have if we don’t want to lose what ground we have gained? With the new administration in place I hope we can find an ear that will help advance our position, if we can get the exposure we need. By drawing a line in the sand over these wolves, do we not run the risk of losing it all before we can make our case to the uninformed masses? It seems like we are “outgunned” at the moment so to speak. I’m hoping that is going to change. I can’t help but believe that when people become aware of how their futures are being trashed and what it is costing them, there will be outrage. I believe we have a chance of getting that message out with the new administration. We may have to circumvent Ken Salazar but at least we now have a chance.

    I’m not arguing with you, I can see you are right. I really do want to know what else can be done. Standing firm in your convictions is admirable but do we have a further plan? Opposing the “removal” of these wolves might tip the ballance of public oppinion in the stockmen’s favor. Then again it might serve as an opportunity to educate and gain support for our side.

  41. jerryB Avatar

    It will be interesting to learn the make-up of this pack. Were they pups of the year learning to hunt? Were they pups trying to survive because their parents had been “eliminated” and all they could do to survive was kill sheep? Or, just a renegade pack gone wrong????(if you consider what they did as being “wrong”.)
    Then again we may not get the real story from MFWP.

  42. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    as I am sure you know the livestock industry receives”help” year after year after year……… and does not seem to have much to do with “need” so much as how to manipulate the system.
    For example Idaho’s Siddoway is crying hear:
    However why does he not add that his livestock operation is the single biggest recipient of welfare in Idaho over the last 10+ years to the tune of 850,000.00 +.
    Crop Summary for Siddoway Sheep Co Inc

    Crop Payments
    Wool Subsidies $430,059
    Sheep Meat Subsidies $381,803
    Livestock Subsidies $40,000
    Wheat Subsidies $10,046
    Barley Subsidies $4,001
    Oat Subsidies $43

  43. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Jeff E.

    As stated in my question, I am all for getting rid of public grazing as well as the subsidies, I clearly stated that…now I look at this as a different situation, 120 sheep is a pretty big hit, especially since it was on private grazing land, hence I look at this situation a bit differently than the public welfare rancher…

    I would be real interested in seeing how much government assistance this particular rancher has taken in the past?

  44. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    By the way Jeff,

    in this particular situation, we are not talking about Idaho, this is a particularly unusual incident and not a common one at all…but the telling key would, how much has this ranch been “helped” in the past..and if they have been, should that qualify for the payments they might receive now, because they have already received help?

  45. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    The rabish extended family is one of the wealthiest famlies in South west Montana. The side that lost these sheep has just under 250,000 in “help” over the last 10 years. The other side has 843,000.00 over the last 10+ years. They have been in the livestock industry fo over a 100 years.
    generational welfare. Don’t ya love it

  46. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Thanks Jeff,

    I don’t often make inquires into who has received what payments over the years, and I have never researched this family.

  47. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I was born in Dillon. Still have some family around there and over the years have heard quite a bit about the players in the area, but that is a different topic.
    It is however somewhat interesting that Dillon is the same place that a state representative lives who was calling for the state to reduce the elk numbers in the area because of conflicts with area ranchers.

  48. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Ken Cole wrote
    August 28, 2009 at 10:03 PM

    “Here is where I think the incident happened.


    No the Rock Creek drainage and Blacktail Mountains are further south. Ralph Maughan

  49. Linda Hunter Avatar

    After carefully reading the article a couple of times I saw no where in the report that told how they knew it was wolves that killed the sheep. Did they just assume it? They described sheep injuries but any domestic dog will do the same thing when it finds sheep. Again I wish they would find and explain evidence of who done it, it would make is so much easier to believe than just some rancher’s word on it.

  50. Brian Ertz Avatar

    insist that your voice as a member of the public is as important as anyone else’s. work to get livestock off public land.

    Save Bears,
    the dead sheep were found on the Rebish/Konen Livestock Ranch, Dillon Montana.

    the Rebish & Konen livestock operation received $235,922 in federal subsidies from 1995-2006.

    Interestingly, another “Rebish” ranch – the Rebish & Helle operation, received $844,912 from 1995-2006 making it the largest recipient of wool & other subsidies in the state.

    These guys aren’t hurtin’. Konen is quoted in the article :

    “I had tears in my eyes, not only for myself but for what my stock had to go through,”

    I’ve got tears in my eyes for the children in this country who can’t afford healthcare while it appears this guy is gobbling at the public teet for 6 figures.

  51. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    the Billings paper is saying 82 confirmed killed by wolves and 40 classified as probable kills


  52. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Jeff answered my question, as I had not researched this family as I stated in my answer to Jeff..

    I was looking for information, not a social commentary of health care in the states..

    Health care in America has nothing to do with possible wolf kills in Montana..

  53. Brian Ertz Avatar


    LOL … too funny.

  54. CAT Avatar

    You can check the family names out in water rights too. Lots of wells as far as I could tell.

    “She said officials asked whether the Konens had taken steps to protect livestock from wolves, including electric fencing, dogs, herders or fladry lines, but they declined.”

    Can’t tell from this quote in the latest article if that was declined the steps or declined to answer. Whichever, having 26 sheep killed in the same pasture a month earlier would in most cases cause you to visit your sheep more often.

    My grandfather trailered his horse daily to check on cows up in the pastures and that’s before there was the possibility of wolves in the area.

  55. Roy Gothie Avatar
    Roy Gothie

    I suspect the wolves will be killed, the ranchers will be paid, and little will change despite the apparent stupidity of leaving an flock of expensive sheep totally unprotected.

    And as interested as I would be in knowing more about the alphas or lack-there-of, I’m far more fascinated by the set of underlying assumptions regarding the “right” to raise sheep and exactly how the wolves are supposed to respect those special human raised meat-snacks.

    A right comes from the ability of a person or group to engage the state apparatus on their behalf. This may entail the use of force to exclude other uses from their property (shoot/poison/trap/fence) The wolves currently have little in the way of rights because the state chooses not to act on their interests and the wolves have a hard time cornering legislators before key votes (although I’d pay money to see that). Thus others must act for the wolves.

    I believe societal attitudes will change but this will require generations of wolves, sufficient education of the children in schools (a key responsibility of wildlife scientists for research alone is not enough), and a willingness to continually question the overall economic value of subsidizing poor business models.

  56. JimT Avatar

    In the East, where there are plenty of sheep on private lands, guard llamas are working very well to keep the only canine predator..coyotes/coydogs..at bay. They are big, vigilant, and have a nasty disposition. There is nothing quite like a llama projectile spitball to deter your presence…VBG. They are also used here in Boulder Colorado with great success, fending off lions and coyotes.

    I guess I think of this situation with livestock folks constantly being enabled in their deficient husbandry practices, or being insulated by government subsidies and yes, even the DOW fund, as having some parallels with raising teenagers. If your 16 old continues to drive your car carelessly, and you are enduring insurance hits for accidents, do you keep enabling his or her behaviors by handing over the keys, or do you seek to change the behavior by letting them feel the full cost of accounting for their mistakes?

    Ralph, you know I have high respect for you, but on this one, in the larger context of the current political situation, and the increasing boldness and radicalization of the other side, I have to say that supporting a wolf pack kill when the facts show insufficient protection of the “beloved sheep” were not taken by a family who, from the facts reported here, have the financial resources to do so, will do more harm than good. As I said before, if they are made whole financially (as someone pointed out, they may be making more from the fund than selling them on the free market these days), then they are returned to the status quo. And maybe this family would be “incentivized”, as the Wall Street lingo goes, to provide protection if they weren’t rescued.

    Brian, maybe Wildlife Guardians would be up for a surreptitious “capture and relocation? of this pack…;*)

  57. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    Whether the attack occurred on public or private land seems of limited relevance–the key to me seems the negligence/recklessness of the producer. If I park a red Ferrari in my driveway with a key in the ignition, and leave it unguarded, should I be surprised if a local teenager takes it for a joyride?

    Or, to follow SB’s point about how we feel about “natural disasters,” if I build my trophy house on the oceanfront shore of the Outer Banks in NC, should I really be compensated by taxpayers when the next category 3 hurricane wipes it out?

    The Northern Rockies are full of predators, such as wolves, mountain lions, bears, coyotes, feral dogs. Domestic sheep are dumb as posts and helpless as a baby. Especially with a prior attack, this producer willfully took risks in leaving his stock completely unguarded, whether by humans, dogs, llamas, or pens.

    I recall that MN’s wolf plan had a component that looked at whether a livestock producer followed Best Management Practices in determining if depredation should be compensated. Obviously that would be a commonsense approach to any compensation in MT or ID, but not likely to happen in our redneck states.

    And I agree with Brian that this is a holistic issue–tax dollars wasted on ag subsidies to an industry that peaked in WWI are tax dollars that can’t go to health care, restoration of ecosystems, or other crucial issues we face in the 21st century.

  58. Salle Avatar

    This incident illustrates, precisely, one of the major problems with welfare ranching and the denial of facts indicating a dying industry. It’s a lot like the snowmobile issues in Yellowstone… only a few corporate entities actually make any money from it and the rest are starved out. The fact that the “day of the snowmobile” is over is not acknowleged ~ it’s all the fault of “enviromentalists” and the gov’mint running our lives, thanks to denial buffs ~ in reality only those who have access to governing bodies are the ones heard and responded to and nobody else in the business who is adversely affected is willing to show how they are being damaged by the “few” who chump them out of their fair share of business opportunity.

    The small-time ranchers are gone and only those who are large are making anything in profits and that’s because their access brings them subsidies that come from taxes taken from my pittance of a wage. And of course that’s not enough for them, they have to make sure I have no opportunity to enjoy the wildlife or the healthier environment they help provide.

    Time for a big change.

  59. Layton Avatar


    If I get all the “babble” and hyperbole on this blog right:

    People have no right to “own” land.

    They have no right to raise livestock on that land.

    Wolves can kill what and when they will without fear of retaliation.

    Wolves probably only killed PART of the sheep that were found.

    This is the only time this has ever happened.

    Are you shitting me??

  60. Jim Macdonald Avatar


    Not entirely, but mostly … and hardly a consensus.

    Now, it’s up to you to do more than dismiss it as babble or be content with doing more than what you’ve pejoratively labeled this discussion as being.


  61. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    “doing nothing more” I should have said above.

  62. Layton Avatar

    Jim M..

    I’ve really got to say that, for about the first time since I started visiting this blog, I’m just about speechless!! But not quite. 8)

    First of all I would like to make it perfectly clear – concerning your “pejoratively” comment above – that you are ABSOLUTELY correct when you say that!! I meant it pejoratively and I’ll stand by it.

    I guess everyone has a right to their opinion in this great land of ours — you know, that land where private property rights ARE recognized — even though most other people would think they are nuts!! That’s where I put your opinion — and your essay on the subject. In the “N” for nuts catagory.

    Someone has livestock, which in my opinion they have a perfect right to possess (how do you feel about that?), on their own, private land, which you don’t think they have any rights to — and another critter (actually several of them) comes around and kills that livestock. AND SOME FOLKS HERE TRY TO BLAME THE PERSON THAT OWNS THE LAND!!

    Then another opinion seems to try and blame part of the deaths on something BESIDES the wolves!! Give me a break here.

    Someone else says “this is the first time this has happened” (not on this blog, in the newspaper article), or words to that effect, when I PERSONALLY know of at least two incidents here in Idaho where almost that many animals were killed in a single night.

    (before you even ask Jeff E. — one on Flat Creek, close to Secesh Meadows, three years ago, one behind the Brundage Ski area, four years ago — one was Solen (sp?) and one was Carlson)

    Yep — ALMOST speechless.

  63. Mike Avatar

    Brian – Great information on the $ welfare numbers for the Rebish operations.

  64. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Come on, you can do better than that. Saying someone is “nuts” only begs the question. It’s up to you to show it. Or else, you are simply wasting breath saying anything at all.

    I don’t have a doubt if someone said in the 1830s that women would one day be considered equals and should have full participation in society both economically and politically, someone would simply dismiss them as “nuts.” It’s up to you to show it, or else, keep your babble to yourself.

    It’s a lazy mind who argues that truth is simply a poll of opinions; I thought conservatives believed in such great ideas as truth.

  65. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    you are so much better at having a conversation on this subject matter than you were three years ago it is hard to believe. I would like to think I had a hand in that progress you display.
    Anyway, as far as this incident with the rebish sheep, As far as I am concerned that private property on private property (the sheep on private land) trumps everything else. “”I”” can legally and I will kill a dog running at large that enters my property and attacks me or mine for example.
    I am also not required “protect” my property on my private land, stupid as that would prove to be.
    BUT if I CHOOSE to not take adequate precautions to protect my private property who is to blame and if I have not also insured that property should I be able to cry all the way to the bank with a government welfare check in my hand?(Not to mention the tax write of as an operating loss)

  66. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    do you lock you house when your not there? why?

  67. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    This is the best news article I have read on the issue.


    What bothers me is that the incident was reported on August 16 to MFWP so the deaths occurred earlier. The sheep were “usually” checked on every 3+/- days but the owners had left that duty to others while they were away. Bears had been feeding on some of the carcasses. It makes the news nearly two weeks later. Perhaps by this time it is difficult to check out the actual facts of the case.

  68. JimT Avatar


    Oh, we could only wish for speechlessness…WINK…~S~

    So, I guess in your world of ranching, there is no expectation that these folks bear any responsibility for taking care of their animals according to a best management standards kind of measuring stick. They should be allowed to just let the animals wander, knowing the dangers of predators, not just wolves, and when the damage is done, be held totally blameless, get reimbursed, and are free to do it again with no expectation that they make some changes for the benefit of their own bottom line.

    Hell, I guess if I knew I would be bailed out no matter what I did in my business, I would have no incentive to change either.

    As I said earlier, accountability for one’s actions, lack of action, or negligence is a rapidly disappearing value in this country on all levels, but it has been part of the ranching world for a long time now it seems. And you buy it. Amazing.

  69. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Knowing the facts about this case (more than from the newspaper) could make a difference, and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks posted a detailed description about this incident sometime in the last few days.

    It looks to me like they don’t know what pack of wolves or individuals killed the rams.

    Here it is from FWP:

    On 8/17, MTWS also got a call from a sheep producer that an unknown number of buck sheep had been killed in the Rock Creek area (private land) of the Blacktail south of Dillon. [This producer had lost sheep in late July from a group of three wolves (2 blacks and 1 gray).

    A control action to remove the three wolves was initiated in July in response to the sheep loss. FWP had also discussed the feasibility of increasing protection of the buck sheep through herders, dogs, or fladry. WS removed the gray and wounded one of the blacks on 7/27]. On 8/18, WS flew the sheep pasture looking for the one or two remaining blacks to complete the control work FWP had already requested and found the Centennial Pack within a 1/2 mile of the sheep pasture (3 adult grays and 5 pups). WS was then authorized to remove the uncollared adult from the Centennial pack, which they did that same morning (the 18th). This was the first depredation incident for the Centennial pack in 2009. WS was also still
    authorized to finish up control work for the 1 or 2 remaining black wolves. Also on 8/18, WS began the necropsy work on injured / dead bucks in this same pasture and losses are significant. The exact final tally of injured or dead bucks from this week’s investigation is not available at this time, but it is estimated to be about 120 bucks. The remaining 12-14 bucks were gathered and taken to the home ranch. A couple of those were injured and are not expected to survive. The exact final tally of injured and dead buck sheep will be published in a future wolf weekly.

    The status of the 1-2 black wolves is unknown at this time. During a monitoring flight on 8/20, no black wolves were seen in the area and the Centennial pack was not near any livestock.

    As for me, I don’t think I still know much of anything except that I was probably wrong when I said “these wolves should be shot!” . . . because, which wolves were they?

  70. mikepost Avatar

    Layton, I am with you on this one. These folks have taken Ralph’s rather simple analysis and comment and turned it into a LSD trip to OZ. You could copy the content of this message string and give it to the most liberal conservation minded person in congress and it would make them think twice about the pro-wolf world and perhaps even the sanity of everyone involved.

    I don’t mean to disparage anyone, but you all need to slow down and read this board from the begiining like I just did and you will shake your head too.

  71. Jim Macdonald Avatar


    Perhaps, but that’s simply an ad hominem.

    Personally, I never claimed to be anything but an extremist. I don’t disguise from anyone that I’m an anarchist. But, saying so is not a reductio; the charitable thing is to assume that people are reasonable and to show the flaws in their arguments rather than to restate the obvious – that many of the views expressed here are outside the mainstream. That’s not at issue; what’s at right is at issue.

  72. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Jeff E.

    Nope, I don’t, have not for over 20 years now….

  73. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    You live in a benign neighborhood

  74. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I have to say, in the last few weeks, things are really starting to become bizarre on this blog, in the last week, I have seen people stop arguing about public lands and actually say that these people have no rights on their private lands???!!

  75. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Jeff,E, so that is the reason, and what does that have to do with locking your doors at night?

  76. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Read carefully what I said.
    Also the antonym of benign.
    Which in this instance would be bad or hostile.

  77. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Save Bears,

    Jim Macdonald said he was an anarchist. Pretty honest!

    Who was it that said “Property is theft.” ? That’s not what I believe, but anarchism has an intellectual tradition.

    There is a lot of bizarre political discourse out there right now. I’ve never heard anything like it. It isn’t intellectual. It is pure hatred.

    My view is this blog is pretty tame and responsible in that most people actually make arguments for their views. If they consistently fail to do that, they have to go away.

  78. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Amen! Salle

    Given where you live, you ought to know.

    Salle wrote on August 29, 2009 at 11:29 AM

    This incident illustrates, precisely, one of the major problems with welfare ranching and the denial of facts indicating a dying industry. It’s a lot like the snowmobile issues in Yellowstone…

    . . . . . . . . . .

    The small-time ranchers are gone and only those who are large are making anything in profits and that’s because their access brings them subsidies that come from taxes taken from my pittance of a wage. And of course that’s not enough for them, they have to make sure I have no opportunity to enjoy the wildlife or the healthier environment they help provide.

    Time for a big change.

  79. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    To clarify my earlier points (perhaps too subtle for someone of the rightest persuasion):

    Of course, private property rights are recognized in our system; people can own land and livestock. I have done both throughout my life.

    Of course, people have the rights to protect their private property through reasonable means. Had the rancher been present with his prized rams, and shot the wolves while threatening or attacking his livestock, I would have no problem with it.

    I have a major problem with a rancher not taking reasonable precautions to protect his stock, and then collecting welfare from taxpayers or a non-profit group which is also tax-supported. Sounds like socialism to me, fellow/sister bloggers.

    While I’m following up on a few thoughts, I omitted to say how affected I find ranchers are who profess sadness or attachment to their stock when “prematurely” killed by a predator. Said stock was heading for a violent death at the slaughterhouse at some point; the crocodile tears are too much.

  80. Brian Ertz Avatar

    SB & others,
    It is really absurd to suggest that people have made the claim that this guy shouldn’t have property rights. There is one who might have made that claim – Jim – but he brought the makings of a real conversation, even qualifying his take as ‘out of the mainstream’. You win on that point – now produce something of substance to refute it.

    Other than that no-one has suggested that this corporate ranch ought not have the right to defend its property (or perhaps what ought to be at least partially our property – to the tune of nearly 1/4 million dollars given the public investment in subsidy this corporate ranch has chosen to take) ~ had the man or an employee been there then, by all means, defend the property. He wasn’t, and instead of being there to defend
    the property, he’s having the tax-payer pay public employees to revenge kill what appears to be in an arbitrary fashion. That’s wrong – your conflation of this clear discrepancy in circumstance is wrong – and your unwillingness to thoughtfully consider contributions to this forum which are thoughtfully & rationally delivered – for little more reason than you believe them to be out of the mainstream – is wrong. This forum does not need a self-appointed ‘mainstream’ thought-police – IMO.

    Let the property owner defend him/herself on his/her property. Let the wealthy, absentee rancher who’s in no need of bread, shelter, or healthcare experience the economic consequences of his/her negligence.

  81. catbestland Avatar

    Of course this rancher has the right to protect his property. He chose not to even though he was amply financially able to do so. In fact he chose to risk his unprotected property a second time to the same circumstances that cost him the loss of livestock only a short time ealier. He had to know that this could happen again. It is almost as if the wolves were baited. After learning of these facts, I change my vote to “the wolves should NOT be killed”. They have no idea which wolves did this anyway. If anyone is up for a “catch and release” opperation, I live adjacent to some pretty spectactular wolf habitat in Colorado.

  82. Layton Avatar

    Jim T.,

    “My” world of ranching?? Thanks, but no thanks. I was raised on a ranch, several of them in fact, saw what the life consisted of and have stayed as far away from it as I can get.

    Just a couple of points here — First, you reference “best management practices”. IMNSHO those practices would include, in this case, taking care of a couple of black wolves, or any others in the vicinity. If the threat is coming around, be proactive, right?? This would be the normal motus operandi for bears, cats, or coyotes. But would we hear just a bit squealing from the folks that worship at the Canis alter if the same thing happened to their deity??

    Then, as far as the “accountability” issue. Just whom should be held responsible for the actions of an unwanted predator introduced to an environment that included private property WITHOUT an effective means to deal with it?? Is there no responsibility or accounability there??

  83. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Go a head and continue to believe I am wrong and you are right, and I will continue to believe the opposite about you and I…

  84. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    “Property is theft” – Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1840; of course, what he meant by property isn’t precisely what I mean by it when I use the word.

    “Property is a necessary aspect of any being; however, the pretended right of property is nothing short of vanity.” – Jim Macdonald

    And, that’s where I think there isn’t a lot of difference between the two quotes; everyone owns property infinitely; you cannot be alive without possessing it in all kinds of forms, even that which we commonly call property. However, when we claim the absolute that it not only is ours but should be ours, then we are saying something we simply cannot know to be true. And, I dare anyone to prove it.

    Before the 17th century, people didn’t use the language of rights; it’s an invention of modern philosophy. Given what else has happened in our world over those several hundred years, it might behoove us to question the basis on which these so called great minds have led us down. No doubt, when Descartes was questioning the schoolmen and Peter Abelard hundreds of years before him were questioning the Cathedral Schools, people must have thought each was fanciful. Yet, what an incredible influence these men had on the history that followed. We now live blindly in a Lockean world and barely take the time to recognize it.

    Instead, we stumble along; wolves and rich shepherds all at each other’s throats … and this is what mainstream has given us? I hope we can have higher aspirations than this nightmare that passes for reality … (as he types away on the Internet, in his home, on his keyboard, afraid of being buried by his own hypocrisy … such is this world).

    The truth is I’ll stand with wolves against anyone who uses land and animals this way, and I’ll organize and take action with anyone who will stand up with them (hey Brian … you’re the real deal, dude). How’s that for militancy? (not bad for a pacifist) …

    The livestock industry fears that the whacko environmentalists want to destroy their way of life. Well, most don’t want to do that. I’m not afraid to say I do. And, I think the feeling is mutual … so, there’s no need to pretend and get lost in the rubbish; do we think it would really matter if the owner had played by the rules exactly right? Don’t you think we’d still support the wolves? It’s interesting where some draw the line; I just hope we’re doing so consistently.


  85. Brian Ertz Avatar

    bring a rationale to such statements – the rationale – the reason – the qualification – is more valuable to any conversation than a simply stated conclusion or opinion. It’s where we learn from eachother even though we may disagree. When you have done so in the past, I and no doubt, the many who browse these pages without ever weighing in, have learned much from your contribution – especially when we disagree.

    I’ll always object to your criticism of ideas for simply being out of the mainstream. Awareness, simply knowing what’s going on with these issues, is out of the mainstream.

  86. Jay Avatar

    Unwanted by who, Layton? Don’t presume that the livestock industry speaks for everyone.

  87. Brian Ertz Avatar

    thanks for the kind word. I look forward to raising some hell (& hopefully awareness) with you. People need to know that there are many who aren’t apologetic about the wild being wild.

    We have a phrase for what these wolves did with those boutique sheep : trophic cascade. It’s a good thing – a good itch for a wolf to scratch.

  88. gline Avatar

    The wolves were “restored” to their natural area Layton…..

  89. Layton Avatar


    Obviously unwanted by this land owner.

    Do you really want me to believe that, because some segment of the population wanted these animals back in the picture, everyone else’s right, possessions, etc. are subject to their (the animal’s) actions??


    “Restored”? “Introduced”? Seems like we’ve been here before on this blog – my feeling is that it is still an ongoing issue.

    What was “natural” at one time in our (or the wolves’) history isn’t necessarily what was natural at the time these folks obtained the land. I don’t know WHEN they got it, I’m just hypothisizing that it is quite possible there were NOT wolves at that time. Then wouldn’t the “natural” state be sans wolves??

  90. Jay Avatar

    “Just whom should be held responsible for the actions of an unwanted predator…”

    That’s a pretty general statement Layton. Did I say anything about property rights? I believe I didn’t–I’m speaking only towards the fact that a certain segment of society–mainly livestock producers and hunters–seem to think they have more of a say as to which species are allowed to exist on our lands, and which ones aren’t.

  91. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Layton and all,
    Didn’t anyone read that a number of the carcasses had been scavenged by bears. That is a very good indication that these sheep were not pastured in a safe place, wolves or not. It might also indicate they were rarely checked.

  92. Layton Avatar


    “I’m speaking only towards the fact that a certain segment of society–mainly livestock producers and hunters–seem to think they have more of a say as to which species are allowed to exist on our lands, and which ones aren’t.”

    I guess I haven’t made my point clear enough.

    I am referring to the incident that Ralph pointed out at the beginning of this thread.

    This happened on PRIVATE land.

    My belief is that the owner of private land should have some rights.

    How do you get “OUR lands” from this article?

    Why should you have a say over what happens on that PRIVATE land?

  93. Layton Avatar


    Agreed, it doesn’t seem that “due diligence” applies here.

    BUT — it’s his land, his sheep, etc.

  94. Jay Avatar

    I agree with you Layton–I own land and animals, and I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot a wolf, bear, domestic dog, etc., going after my animals. My comment was more towards your comment about wolves being unwanted, and the “our land” comment pertains to the fact that wolves live on public land. Yes, they do come on to private land, but if weren’t for public lands, there would not be wolves in Idaho. Bottom line is landowners should be able to protect their property, but they also don’t get to eliminate from the landscape things that could potentially threaten their property.

  95. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    He will undoubtly be reimbursed by the state of Montana for the loss of his private property.


    “The Konens have applied to the Montana Livestock Loss Program to get reimbursement for the sheep. The program pays up to $350 for buck sheep and can reimburse more if a rancher can show the animals were of higher value.”

    As Jim T said earlier “I guess if I knew I would be bailed out no matter what I did in my business, I would have no incentive to change either. ‘

  96. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Did you notice the way Wildlife Services treated the Centennial Pack when they were found near the dead sheep?
    They killed the one non-collared adult gray wolf. They left two adults , those with the radio-collars that you love so much, so they can find the pack later to kill them all when the kill order is issued. The five pups will be shot and killed first and then finally the two radio-collared adults will be shot and killed.
    The Wildlife Service’s shooter/killer will aim for the rear end of the collared wolves, so those precious radio-collars are not damaged by the shotgun pellets. (The WS ground crew can put those the crippled wolves out of their misery, when they arrive later to retrieve the wolves and collars.)
    Those undamaged radio-collars will soon be back in use on another pack of wolves, so they can get the same Wildlife Services extermination treatment.

  97. Jay Avatar

    Did you say something larry? I wasn’t listening…

  98. Jay Avatar

    Just curious Layton, if a herd of 50-60 6 point bulls came on to my pasture to eat my grass, would I have the right to gun them down?

  99. Layton Avatar


    If it’s YOUR PRIVATE grass.

    But if you were really a nice guy you could call me first — i’d just want one — the big one! 8)

  100. Layton Avatar


    I’m not sure how well the Montana reimbursment pgm. works, but JFWIW I do know some folks here in Idaho that have lost stock to wolves. They aren’t real happy with the way the DOW program “claims” to work.

  101. Jay Avatar

    Ok Layton, to take it one step further, what about if those elk came on to my pasture, then left…would I have the right to hunt them down to kill them to prevent them from coming back? And, should the federal gov’t assist–or just do it for me–in that endeavor?

  102. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan


    Not in Idaho. The elk are the property of the state even if they are eating your grass. You might be eligible for depredation (of your grass) compensation.

  103. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Unfortunately, these wolves do need to be shot. I am not sure the kinds of precautions this landowner did take or didn’t take, but 120 sheep is a major loss. Since it was on private land it is more forgivable as it is not on a commons.

    Despite the hype, wolves rarely engage in surplus killing — kill more than they will eat. That’s because prey like elk, moose, bison are dangerous. Almost every wolf has numerous injuries from hunting prey.

    That is a hard thing to convince people of. Almost everyone who hunts says that wolves go on major killing sprees.

  104. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Make your example hay instead of grass and then we are talking a cash crop such sheep.
    I don’t think wildlife services will be sending the gun ships after the rouge elk.

  105. catbestland Avatar


    Not in Colorado either. The point is you can’t do anything on your private land that will adversely affect others. You can’t dump poisons or contaminants into streams even if they do run through your property because it will harm others downstream. You shouldn’t be able to kill other’s wildlife even if they are on your property and not the “preferred” species. (so you really don’t have as many private property rights as you think you do, nor should you have)

    Rush Limbaugh made another of his incredibly ignorant statements in the same vein. He said, “why should we care if another nation chooses to trash its own environment. We should have no say in that.” Well of course we should have a say in that because it is the entire planet that will suffer from harmful environmental policy. All of us will suffer eventually if you keep destroying pieces of the natural world. Each piece is important for the health of all on the planet. That includes wolves. We have a right to protect our future and the future of the planet even if a certain segment of the population is to stupid to realize the harm they are causing.

  106. Jay Avatar

    I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but the point I’m trying to make is that, yes, you should be able to protect your property, but there also is a huge double-standard as to how those rules are applied. I’d like to see some consistency in the application of property protection laws/regs. If an elk eats my cash crop, I can’t shoot it; if a wolf eats my horse, or just “worries” it, I can blast away.

  107. bambi Avatar

    As kids my older brother raised rabbits. He took great pride in his effort to protect them from neighbors domestic dogs. But one night one dog managed to forge entrance into the enclosed hutch. We heard the commotion and before we could get to them this one dog had killed nearly thirty of them. Seems that the dog killed for fun not because it was hungry. That was disturbing.

  108. catbestland Avatar


    I don’t know why wolves or dogs do this. Not being a wildlife biologist I can only surmise that in when hunger triggers the predatory instinct and in anticipation of an often deadly confrontation with dangerous wild prey, a wolves adrenaline is really pumping~a natural response. When the prey is as docile as sheep or rabbits that excess energy is going to get used in some manner. This is not the wolves fault, they are wild. Dogs can be trained to take their direction from their owners and not engage in such behavior.

    Can anyone else weigh in on this?

  109. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Jay, it s strange how there is a double standards like that, Except in Texas, elk are considered exotic and can be shot on sight.

  110. Jay Avatar

    weasel in the chicken house phenomena…my take is that it’s the wolves’ job to try to catch and kill, the prey’s job to avoid being caught and killed. Elk or deer know how to do this, sheep don’t. The wolves perform their role with the expectation that what they’re after will attempt to get away, but the prey (sheep) have had their innate escape response bred out of them (imagine trying to herd sheep using collies, and having your sheep run and escape into the hills from the “predatory” dogs…pretty tough to operate a sheep operation when you spend all your time trying to find your sheep). End result is lots of dead sheep. It’s neither animals fault, both are following instict–just a case of two species that aren’t intended to interact.

  111. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I agree Jay.
    My experience is that when this line of reasoning is used the anti’s clam up, or try to change the subject, or become dismissive, or all of the above

  112. bambi Avatar

    Cat, if this is a natural thing for wolves do they do that to deer and elk in a wintering range? I can understand sheep causing excitement.

  113. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Except if most rancher’s in the west were to really let it out, they would just as soon do away with any thing that ate the same things there livestock ate, or any thing that might eat there livestock. All paid for by the taxpayers as a whole of course.

  114. gline Avatar

    Bambi I see your point but: what about mass killings on the part of human beings ie, other humans or animals …. in my opinion that is true evil.

  115. catbestland Avatar


    No, to my knowledge wolves do not do this to deer or any other wild prey. I have never heard of this happening. In fact it usually takes and entire pack to bring down elk, bison or even deer, all of which can defend themselves quite effectively. Wolves generally target the weakest members of the wild herds and still they can get injured or killed. Sheep are all weak and as Jay mentioned have had their devense mechanisms bred out of them. Wolves probably expect all prey to try to defend themselves and are thus prepared to do battle. Sort of the way a football team will “sike up” for the game. Domestic livestock and even dogs and horses have all been developed for man’s use and are for the most part “contraindicated” in the wild and should not be there.

  116. catbestland Avatar

    I meant to say in my 2nd sentence; . . . to bring down “even one” elk, bison and even deer.

  117. Jay Avatar

    Not entirely true catbest–there have been cases of surplus killing of caribou, but the circumstances were such that the caribou were caught in deep snows and their ability to escape greatly hindered–sort of analogous to the sheep (as in, the caribou couldn’t escape compared to the sheep being too predator stupid to escape effectively).

  118. catbestland Avatar

    Thanks Jay, and as I said “To my knowledge…” and the two situations make similar targets for wolves–caribou trapped in deep snow and sheep just being stupid sheep

  119. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Except if most rancher’s in the west were to really let it out, they would just as soon do away with any thing that ate the same things there livestock ate, or any thing that might eat there livestock. All paid for by the taxpayers as a whole of course.

    That is exactly the sentiment that a lot of ranchers have. Kill anything that is on your property, even skunks because they might spray your dogs and dig a hole.

    Jay, I have heard of the same thing with caribou. However, almost every anti-wolf propaganda you can come across will say that they kill just for fun all year round.

  120. Jay Avatar

    That’s because they use the exception to attempt to disprove the rule, and because they lack the knowledge to tell the difference between something dead, and something wolves killed. A dead elk is a wolf kill to them, regardless of cause.

  121. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Of course a dead elk is a wolf kill. Elk don’t die from other causes except in states without wolves. 😉

  122. JimT Avatar

    Layton wrote:

    “Just a couple of points here — First, you reference “best management practices”. IMNSHO those practices would include, in this case, taking care of a couple of black wolves, or any others in the vicinity. If the threat is coming around, be proactive, right?? This would be the normal motus operandi for bears, cats, or coyotes. But would we hear just a bit squealing from the folks that worship at the Canis alter if the same thing happened to their deity??

    Then, as far as the “accountability” issue. Just whom should be held responsible for the actions of an unwanted predator introduced to an environment that included private property WITHOUT an effective means to deal with it?? Is there no responsibility or accounability there??”


    So, your definition of “proactive” or “BMP” would consist mainly of shooting every predator in the vicinity that might have the potential to attack these unguarded, unfenced, unprotected sheep? Hmmm..That is a mighty constrained concept of proactive, in my not so humble opinion. Here, in Boulder County, where we have those other predators like lions and bears and coyotes, there is a more common sense approach of darting and relocating, possibly collaring, and then monitoring to see if they are a problem, or hazing them with bean bag guns. It seems to be a mostly effective approach. The times when it breaks down are when the folks continue to provide food opportunities despite warnings from the state and county wildlife officials–leaving their cats out at night, leaving garbage cans out, bird feeders out, livestock unprotected–just like in the present case under discussion. In my opinion, those folks who take no steps to prevent a predator from going after prey should be fined and held accountable for creating a problem that is preventable.

    There has continued to be an emphasis throughout the re-introduction program on monitoring and “controlling”…killing…those wolves who are a persistent “problem”, so your question about responsibility for wolf predation, especially in the light of the reimbursement fund for kills proven to be wolf caused kills verified by forensics is just another red herring. If there is any lack of accountability historically through this program, it is the ranching community who has been allowed to skate on changing their practices so their livestock were not essentially “bait” for the wolves.

    And for someone who is obviously a private property advocate, isn’t there an inherent responsibility, if you care about access, to protect your property from unwanted intrusion via a well maintained fencing system? Why doesn’t this same concept of proactive protection include effective measures to protect your valuable livestock from predators?

  123. Bonnie Avatar

    If the wolves that killed the sheep had been caught in the act, then I think they should have been killed, but to just start shooting the nearest wolves because they were in the area it totally wrong. Kind of like somebody holding up a liquor store and the cops arresting the first person they find because he was in the neighborhood. I’ve owned and raised a variety of livestock, including sheep. I’ve also had three sheep killed in my pasture by neighborhood dogs. I’m assuming it was dogs because there was no sign of any feeding on the carcasses so I doubt it was coyotes. I had a pretty good idea which dogs; I had seen them crossing my pastures in the past. But, and this is a big but, I did not see them killing the sheep, so therefore, I could not take any action against the dogs or their owners. IMHO, the same rule should apply here. Even if examination of the dead sheep proves beyond a doubt that they were killed by wolves, since we can’t identify which wolves, we shouldn’t shoot any. If the rancher had caught the wolves in the act, then he should be able to kill as many as he could. But to kill members of one pack simply because they are in the neighborhood is wrong.

  124. JimT Avatar


    The thing about your logic I can’t get my head around completely is the lack of any mention of any obligation on the part of the livestock owner to take and continue to take measures to protect the stock from predation. Perhaps you did when you had sheep or other livestock. But it is the accepted myth about ranchers that they bear no obligation to protect, nor that they should be held accountable for that inaction that sticks in my craw.

    I love my dogs. But, if I left them out on our deck all night knowing there are lions or coyotes in the area, and I lose one to a predator, even in the act, it is MY fault the dog is dead. The lion or coyote is only reacting to my lack of responsibility. Moreover, I have now further endangered that predator by creating an easy prey situation that may end up in the needless death of a predator acting according to its nature.

    Add in the fact they get rewarded for such inaction by reimbursements…makes it all hard to swallow.

  125. Jay Avatar

    Jim T.–did you happen to see that video of a wolf hop the fence of a home that had a couple dogs in the yard? Fortunately the wolf tucked tail and ran when the dogs (good sized husky-types) scared him off, but what if that wolf had killed one? In that situation, the owners had their dogs fenced and outside during the middle of the day, so would you have blamed them if one of their dogs got hurt?

  126. JimT Avatar

    It isn’t a question of blame. it is a question of taking reasonable precautions, which they appeared to do, and it is unusual for a wolf to be active in the middle of the day, but if they time-stamped the video–exceptions happen.

    I think there is also a larger issue of wanting to live in the wild, or in area where there are lots of prey and predator animals because of the beauty of the surroundings, the peacefulness, etc. If one does CHOOSE to be there, one must be willing to accept the risk that goes along with it. Here in Boulder County, lions and bears and coyotes are very common in the canyons surrounding the town itself. And, as the years have gone by, more and more folks have built up in the canyons, usually well off folks who can afford the land. But, they are first ones to complain about the sightings of mountain lions, or that the bird feeders have been pillaged by bears, and want the state or county folks to come and shoot the predators because they don’t feel safe.

    Wrong, in my opinion. WE are the ones who are increasingly encroaching on habitat, disrupting prey animal patterns and breeding in the process as well. If you aren’t willing to live with the risk of something happening like you mention above, well, my answer to folks around here is to move back into town, and make a choice..views, wild places, or safety in the concrete jungle….~S~.

    So, no blame. I would feel bad they lost one of their dogs, but I wouldn’t be out there advocating for wolf slaughter either. Frankly, if I were in wolf habitat, in addition to a fence, my dogs would be a large dog kennel, complete with screened roof if I wasn’t actively with them in the yard. I would never let my dogs out in a fenced yard alone. Didn’t do it in Vermont where the main danger was from coyotes, and wouldn’t do it here in Boulder. My dogs are MY responsibility to keep safe, and that means anticipating likely and maybe even rare events and taking steps to keep them safe. If I wan’t willing to do that…well, you know my opinion from above.

  127. Ryan Avatar

    Jay and Jim,

    The sheep were in a fence, also if you read the article, it was noted in their that the wolves had also killed their guard dogs in the weeks leading up to the attack. Bears and Coyotes would have been on this scene with in mere hours with the aroma of dead animals filling the air.

  128. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    The wolf hopping the fence movie:
    The dogs could also easily have hopped the fence so it wasn’t a protective barrier. At no time did the wolf’s posture look threatening; tail low or tucked.

  129. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    Regarding DOW reimbursments, a good source for information on how the program works and what, where, when, and $ paid out:

    In short the Wildlife Services examines the site and files a report which the owner can use to apply for compensation by DOW, 100% of value for verified kill, 50% for probable.

    One payment was $2000 for a herding collie dog in Mesa Idaho during August this year. I’ve been looking at movies of border collies herding sheep and cattle. It is facinating to watch the behavior of the “prey” and “predator”.

    Quinn – Border Collie Sheep Herding

    The sheep certainly stay close to their protector

  130. Brian Ertz Avatar

    The thing that gets me is the remarkable double standard about accountability to protect one’s private land. We know that rancher’s & land manager’s understand the concept of personal accountability to protect property, they’re the first one’s to bring it up when I call & ask them to get their livestock off my private land.

    Rancher: ‘It’s your responsibility to fence my livestock off your private land’

    How many folk live in an “open range”/fence out state ?

    Nobody cries for the folk whose private property is destroyed/depreciated by livestock.

    I just got back from a trip to the Chiricuahas in AZ, where once again my fence was clipped & livestock were having their way with my land – rubbing up & destroying my dwelling & setting back the restoration of that place a good decade. I can’t blame the stock, the grass & water are in stark contrast to the adjacent state land – where at least 2 calves were left dead for weaks, judging by the decomposition – the “cowboy” having neglected to open the valve on the public-land well leaving the trough dry & these animals to die in the desert. We activated the well on our way out.

    My folks own land north of New Meadows where they watched a “cowboy” open their gate after driving his stock into the area earlier this year. They closed the gate but the next week, they arrived at their place & the livestock were literally
    ‘fenced in’. The response they got upon calling the rancher to ask for help getting his cattle off their land was that it was their problem – they were responsible to fence the stock out. My elderly parents spent a day of their weekend driving cattle off their land.

    I’ve got many friends who deal with similar problems – which is to say nothing of the people who die or wreck on public roads every year having struck a cow on a highway & being held financially responsible for the dead cow – or their surivor being held so. “open range”

    then there’s the plight of the buffalo, who have the support of many private property owners to graze their private grass but whom (both people & bison) are subjected to the harassment of helicopters and cowboy wanna-be’s at DOL who violate & trespass on their private land to execute a ‘control’ policy on behalf of Livestock’s inalieble ‘right’ to trash our public places & wildlife.

    Just look at the law and administrative policy itself to substantiate these claims – they have literally codified themselves exception from the very attributes of self-reliance, responsibility, & accountability that are supposed to go hand-in-hand with the idea of private property – indeed, that are supposed to characterize the ‘cowboy’ in its most self-aggrandizing mythology.

    People who hang the banner of ‘private property rights’ on behalf of ranchers need to get real. This “custom & culture” has no concept of responsibility or accountability except to point their finger at you, the tax-payer – or the private property owner who dares act without regard to their self-appointed socio-poltical supremacy complex.

    It is a sick irony that people would defend ranchers on the grounds of

  131. Brian Ertz Avatar

    “private property”

  132. catbestland Avatar


    HLN news is covering the story of the wolf hunt and the lawsuit for injunction. They are asking for public comment either by phone or email. The phone # is 877-835-5456. You can make a comment by email at HLN.com.

  133. RE Chizmar Avatar
    RE Chizmar

    Layton, your reply to Jay’s hypothetical? Logic is a bitch isn’t it!

  134. ravenbran Avatar

    This rancher lost 350 rams of a fine-wool breed. This means that he grazes bands of sheep on National Forest and/or BLM land. The thing to concentrate on is getting his sheep off the public’s lands: at that point he will be out of the sheep business.

  135. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Interesting, but where did the number 350 come from?

  136. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I read the various articles to say, this rancher was grazing on private land and not public land….

  137. Chance Avatar

    SmalltownId wrote
    “First, it is not economically feasible to pay cowboys for most ranchers.”

    However, it is poor judgment to check on animals every 3 days without any dogs to watch the flock at the foot of a mountain. Common sense tells you depredation could happen, an open fence, feral dog, etc. could cause some problems even without wolves in the west. I feel bad for the rancher because he got caught being irresponsible in the midst of a perfect storm. This isn’t a good story for any side in my opinion.”

    I agree absolutly that ranchers cant afford ppl to ride around and watch there animals while there on range. but as for this being poor judgement i am guessing you dont know what it is to put cattle out to pasture or onto range ground alot of time this range land is far in the mountains or backcountry and is impossible to check daily for instance we have put cattle on land that is a 3 hour drive and a 2 hour horse ride to find were they feed. Areas like this do increase the chances of something like this happening but unless you have the feed or the land yourself it is impossible to ranch these kinds of animals

  138. SAP Avatar

    Savebears, the sheep that were killed on Konen’s private land were bucks. The bucks were, in my understanding, supposed to breed the ewes that graze part of the year on federal land.

    Note that the same ranch has virtually no conflicts on the federal allotments — herders & guard dogs are probably the reason.

    Someone mentioned border collies herding sheep as evidence that sheep have virtually no instinct regarding predators — that if sheep had survival instincts, they’d flee away over hill and dale and be impossible to round up.

    In my experiences with stockdogs, it’s the CONTROLLED predatory behavior of the dog that keeps the livestock under control and allows them to be herded.

    Border collies & kelpies generally have most of the same predation motor pattern behaviors of wild canids, but have had a lot the “close-the-deal” (biting, ripping, dissecting) behaviors bred out of them.

    Couple that behavior with obedience to a person’s commands, and you can use the dog’s presence to move stock around — the sheep or cattle respond naturally to the predatory behaviors exhibited (particularly, eye stalking) by fleeing (ideally, very slowly); the person-dog duo then drops the pressure so the livestock continue to “flee,” slowly & in the desired direction. They reward the livestock’s desired behavior by dialing down the pressure, which reinforces that behavior.

    Dogs that never back off aren’t much good for controlled, low-stress movement of livestock, because the livestock will eventually flee all-out, or stand and fight. Next time you try to move them with a dog, they get ready for the ultimate showdown.

    Sheep are fairly defenseless, given their size, lack of speed, and docility. But it’s inaccurate to say that they won’t “flee” from a dog. I had a pair of otherwise really good border collies take a small flock of sheep on a wild chase one day. After 20 minutes of sprinting and shouting, I finally got the dogs shut down, much to the relief of the sheep. On the same ranch, a Karelian bear dog (they have the complete repertoire of predation behaviors) chased some sheep around until the sheep jumped into a pond. Pretty strong instinct to avoid predation, I’d say. I have also seen sheep attack dogs when they felt they had no “out.”

  139. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    ravenbran said: “This rancher lost 350 rams of a fine-wool breed.” As Ralph asked, from whence the 350 rams? What difference the type of wool?
    “This means that he grazes bands of sheep on National Forest and/or BLM land.” I don’t see a connection between sheep lost and where they graze. Actually, they apparently were on private land.
    “The thing to concentrate on is getting his sheep off the public’s lands: at that point he will be out of the sheep business.” I agree this a worthy goal for western public lands; get rid of cattle and sheep, especially in areas in close proximity to wilderness areas. I was shocked by a map I saw of western NFS and BLM land in grazing allotments. Northern Idaho and western Washington and Oregon appear to be the only areas free of obnoxious alien herbivores.

  140. Chance Avatar


    you must be nuts… without blm land farmers wouldnt be able to farm in this area… We have 4 months of summer to grow hay that lasts the rest of the year. nearly all of the land in the valleye is used for farm land if we were to put the cattle on that land which is away from the blm and nfs the cattle and sheep would starve to death… if you dont see a connection its because you dont understand what your talking about. if you are suggesting that we get rid of these animals. this is how the west was founded and how it has survived.

    As for putting sheep dogs with the sheep what chance do you think these stand against a pack of wolves. Wolves wont stand othe k9’s in there area also, so a yappin dog may actualy atract the animal. studies have show sense the reintroduction of the wolves in yellow stone the coyotes have all but disapeared maybe the conservationists should worry about the coyotes

  141. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    I quite possibly am nuts, but not on this issue.

    “if you are suggesting that we get rid of these animals. this is how the west was founded and how it has survived.”

    Yes, that is what I am suggesting. You have a romantic idea about how the West was founded; however, it is not based on reality.

  142. Ken Cole Avatar


    I see the connection but to support welfare ranching on public lands is not what I want my taxpayer money, land, and wildlife to be used for. I suggest that you read some more of this blog so that you can learn my and other’s point of view on the issue. You are not likely to find much support for welfare ranching on public lands here.

    If you can’t support your livestock on private lands then maybe you should reduce the amount you graze to what you can support. I don’t want them on my public lands and I don’t want to support the custom and culture of death that goes with it.

  143. Brian Ertz Avatar

    I’m nuts too, but Chance, all the reasons you describe/apologize for the rancher not being there to tend his flock (i.e. Livestock too far in backcountry, riders too expensive) are concurrently reasons why stock shouldn’t be out there in the first place. They are reasons why livestock in the wild is a bad idea – and if he it’s not possible to produce livestock in the West on a private plot alone – & without the socialization of cost but the privatization of profit – then it’s not an appropriate economic endeavor. Do it back East, where the vast majority is produced anyway – or elsewhere, where there’s enough water for it.

    We don’t grow mangos in Idaho – would you believe it appropriate or responsible for a mango farmer to demand tax-payers pick up the cost for subsidy of water, big-game & other “pest” eradication, & other infrustructure/effort to flip the natural world on its head so he/she could manipulate an environment in Idaho to grow mangos ? at the expense of public values & assets would otherwise be available to be enjoyed by all Americans – the future ?

  144. catbestland Avatar


    “find the founders, they are either. trappers, miners, farmers, ranchers. farmers and ranchers …”

    Did you leave one group out of your equasion? Like, Native Americans who co-existed with the natural world for thousands of years before the above mentioned “founders.” And yes, it is like cows are “tropical fruit”. They were developed in humid environments like Europe and India. They destroy the delicate arid ecosystems of the western United States. They don’t belong here. Cattle do far better in eastern states where the ecosystems are more suited to them and eastern cattlemen don’t have to depend so heavily on government handouts. The ONLY sollution to the problems we face with our western ecosystems is to get livestock off public lands.

    In addition I, one of the taxpayers who has a vested interest in our public lands and it’s wildlife am tired the unfairness. WE the people deserve to have our wild places and wildlife preserved. The livestock industry has had a free ride for far too long.

  145. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Chance said….

    “It seems you forget that the whole united states use to be wilderness”

    See that is the fundamental flaw in your argument Chance…it was not a “wilderness” there was a thriving community on the whole of America before the whites came..

    And it seems the Native Americans, did a pretty good job with what was their lands..

    I am neither a wolf supporter or a wolf detractor, but we really need to put things in perspective, there was a thriving culture here before any of us came along and the western land rancher has done nothing, but persecute and destroy everything in their path. It is time, the American public takes back what is theirs and receive equatable compensation.. which currently does not happen.

  146. Ken Cole Avatar

    To put it succinctly Chance, public lands ranching is welfare ranching. There is no good economic reason for it and the reasons against it are abundant. Do you believe in free markets?

    From: http://www.westernwatersheds.org/issues/public-lands-ranching?gclid=CJvelbuS05wCFRZeagod7VmPmw

    Public Lands Ranching
    The Ecological Costs of Public Lands Ranching

    Public lands ranching is the most widespread commercial use of public lands in the United States. Ranching is one of the primary causes of native species endangerment in the American West; it is also the most significant cause of non-point source water pollution and desertification.

    Public lands ranching significantly contributes to climate change by emissions of the global warming gases nitrous oxide and methane; it causes loss of soil carbon reserves by causing erosion and by substantially reducing the landscape’s potential to sequester carbon.

    The Fiscal Irresponsibility of Public Lands Ranching

    The cost of public lands ranching to American taxpayers is enormous. The current public land grazing fee of $1.35 per month for one cow and her calf is woefully below market value. Direct government expenditures to administer public land grazing constitute an annual net loss to the taxpayers of at least $123 million and more than $500 million when indirect costs are accounted for. As much as 96% of these public dollars are spent to enhance livestock production in direct conflict with legal mandates to restore the health of public lands.

    For all of this public expense, public lands ranching fails to demonstrate any significant economic contributions to rural economies. Hobby ranchers and corporate-entities hold the lion’s share of grazing permits on hundreds of millions of acres of public lands. Most of the rest of public land ranchers rely on service jobs in small towns as their primary source of income. Rural communities support public land ranchers not the other way around.

    Public Lands Ranching and Politics

    Despite the extensive scientific literature describing the destructive impacts of public lands ranching, public land managers fail to enforce existing environmental laws usually because of political interference.

    Public land managers are routinely subject to political interference. Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service scientists and other staff work in a professional atmosphere of coercion. Land managers have lost their jobs and avoid scientific inquiry for fear that the results of such inquiry will undermine their careers. BLM and Forest Service staff and conservationists continue to be subjected to psychological and physical intimidation in the field.

    Western Watersheds Project works to bring needed change to western public lands that will end this destructive history. The time has come to end public lands ranching.

  147. RE Chizmar Avatar
    RE Chizmar

    Chance – hang in there, debate is good. Nonetheless, you r right, “This isn’t a good story for any side in my opinion.”

  148. rick Avatar

    “Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service scientists and other staff work in a professional atmosphere of coercion.”

    “BLM and Forest Service staff and conservationists continue to be subjected to psychological and physical intimidation in the field.”

    Ken, you are right, I have been on range tours when Jon Marvel put his finger in the face of BLM and Forest Service employees and berated them and called them names on two seperate occasions.

  149. Bonnie Avatar

    Jim T, sorry I haven’t had a chance to get back to you sooner. You’re right, I didn’t make plain the obligation the owner has to take the necessary steps to safeguard his animals. In the example I used, I initially failed to do so. After the sheep were killed, I started penning up the rest of the herd at night. I learned my lesson. Even now, while I no longer have any livestock and live in an area where the biggest predators are coyotes, my cats are not allowed outside, except in a cage that allows them the chance to sit on grass and sniff breezes without being threatened by anything larger than a chipmunk.

    Bottom line is if you are going to have animals, you are responsible for taking care of them, including doing everything you can to keep them safe.

  150. Ken Cole Avatar

    From the latest MT report comes the investigation report of the incident near Dillon where 122 sheep died: http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=40088

    Wolf – Livestock Activities
    WS completed its investigation and reported final results of the sheep incident south of Dillon. On 8/18, WS concluded 82 dead buck sheep as confirmed killed and 40 buck sheep as probable killed by wolves. WS also determined that the losses occurred within a short span of 1-3 days and likely comprise a single incident, as all appeared to have died at about the same time. The sheep owner has been putting lime on the carcasses to discourage scavenging. Nonetheless, bears had been scavenging and thus clear confirmation that 40 were killed by wolves was not possible – thus 40 were concluded as probable. The total of 122 includes injured animals that died during the August incident. Previously in July, WS confirmed 26 buck sheep were killed (includes injured which died as a result of the attack) in the same pasture. FWP authorized lethal control of three wolves that had been in the area and believed responsible for the July incident (1 gray was killed; 1 black was mortally wounded and suspected to have died; 1 black wolf is still alive). One uncollared adult wolf from the Centennial pack was killed on 8/18 upon authorization by FWP because it was found within about 1/2 mile of the sheep band on the morning of 8/18. The pack now consists of 2 collared adults and a litter of pups of the year. Control work is completed for the Centennial pack. However, WS is still authorized to kill one or both black wolves if found in the area where the sheep depredations occurred.

  151. gline Avatar

    Ralph: So sheep owners don’t have to do anything to protect their sheep anymore? at all? so we’ll have a hunt, natural loss and immediate kill of wolves involved in depredations?

  152. gline Avatar

    so what is the latest news on this? Anyone know? is it the truth? What happened?


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.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan