The difference grazing cattle makes at the end of the season

Comparison of two sites, Nov. 4, 2009, in the Mink Creek drainage south of Pocatello, Idaho-

Mink Creek is a popular recreation area on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, just south of Pocatello, Idaho. The first 3-4 miles have no livestock grazing. As the drainage gains slowly in elevation, it is grazed from about June 1 to Oct. 15 by cattle every year.

I was up there this afternoon and I took two photos (actually more than two). They certainly show the difference. The first photo is lower down in the Mink Creek drainage with no grazing for well over a decade. The second is further up, in a wetter, actually a riparian meadow next to the South Fork of Mink Creek. The second photo should have the most grass were there no grazing.

Mink Creek drainage ungrazed. Nov. 4, 2009. The green on the right is a trail. Copyright Ralph Maughan
This riparian meadow is directly adjacent to Mink Creek (runs in the willows). It is also higher elevation than the first photograph. Taken Nov. 4, 2009. Copyright Ralph Maughan


  1. Jay Avatar

    But Ralph, those cows are helping to reduce the fire hazard by eating down the cheatgrass that they spread in the first place (don’t overlook the sarcasm)…

  2. gline Avatar

    So is this grazing in an allotment of a designated recreational area? sorry, i’m just learning more about allotments and such in Idaho.

  3. gline Avatar

    And does anyone know if it is the same story in this area (Ralph’s photos above) that many cattle carcasses dot the landscape serving as temptation for wolves to eat cattle, as in Demarcated landscapes article “There are no problem wolves, only problem allotments”? why shoot wolves when they are being tempted??? its like bait

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think this is a problem allotment, but there are no wolves. It’s SE Idaho.

    This is the same allotment where I got the photo of that black Angus all covered with houndstongue burrs.

  5. gline Avatar

    oh yes I remember that photo. HOw big is this allotment do you know? acreage wise?

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    It’s the Pocatello grazing allotment. I’m not sure how many acres it is. I’d guess maybe 30,000. About 1200 cows or cow/calf pairs are authorized. The season is June 1 to Oct. 10.

    Six permittees share the allotment, ranging from 555 cows or cow/calf pairs for the largest user down to 9 for the smallest permittee.

    At $1.35 an AUM, you can easily figure total grazing fees collected on this use that dominates the Bannock mountain range south of Pocatello. 4.3 months x 1200 cows x $1.35 = $6966. Isn’t that amazing?

  7. Ken Cole Avatar

    I’m not sure but there appears to be effects from historic grazing in the top photo. Much of that grass looks like smooth brome, a non-native, which increases due to grazing.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    You are right. That’s what it is. It goes to show how long it takes for the effects of grazing to disappear.

    There are two places on the ranger district near Pocatello — on the Pocatello portion of the Westside Ranger District of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest — that are even better for showing non-grazing. They are the West Fork of Mink Creek and Gibson Jack Creek. Parts of them have not been seriously grazed from maybe 80 years (city watershed closure). Nevertheless, there is growing irritation because every summer the cows are increasingly breaking in, or being slyly let into the West Fork. When we complain we learn that the person representing the permittee “got confused and closed the gate the wrong way,” somehow they cows got past the cattle guard, or some similar excuse.

  9. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Is that first photo near the old Frasier’s chicken farm??

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff E

    I took it at the mouth of the side drainage just east of Cherry Springs.

  11. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff E,

    I think you have mentioned this draw before. A friend saw cougar chasing a deer in it.

  12. smalltownID Avatar

    I still think recreation poses a greater threat to the wildlife surrounding pocatello. Including mountain bikers.

  13. Nick Nerbonne Avatar

    How so, smalltown? I’d be interested in learning about these threats, as I do a lot of fly fishing and mountain biking.

  14. @Portneuf Avatar

    Wow. All that damage done for less than 7k is truly amazing. Thanks for filling me in on that, Ralph. I hope the boutique cattlemen appreciate the bargain they’re getting. I’m a resident of Pocatello and I’m an avid explorer and I know these areas very well. As a boy I played in the waters of Trail Creek and then one day the creek went dry and the lush riparian paradise died and dried up in front of my eyes. I informed my fellow cub scouts and we hiked up the creek bed to discover that a cattleman had capped the spring to feed a water trough. Trail Creek and Outlaw Springs had been destroyed for the sake of just two dozen cows.

    Also you should know that there is a kipuka in the Wapi lava flow that is so isolated that it has never been grazed and maybe not even burned by lightning fires. The oldest juniper trees in the state live there. You should see it, you’d love it.

  15. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Smalltown, recreations does pose a threat (you can see it in areas of the Red Desert here in Wyoming), but I think grazing is probably worse. Unless the area is heavily used for recreation, a few mountain bikes, horses, or even ATVs here and there will not have the effect that hundreds of cattle or sheep grazing on a piece of land for several months would have.

  16. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I wonder if the Forest Service would take our money and remove the cows if we offered to pay, let’s say $9000?

  17. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Hey, I am up for buying out some leases, who is with me?

  18. Devin Avatar

    Ralph, I was up in the Mink Creek area today and was very pleased to see that the Forest Service had gone and ripped up many of the illegal OHV trails. I couldn’t have been happier seeing that. It looked like someone dragged a large rototiller over them.

    Is the rototiller way a new thing? I remember when the govt came into Island Park and tank trapped a lot of the trails but I’ve never seen this method.

  19. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    “Jeff E,

    I think you have mentioned this draw before. A friend saw cougar chasing a deer in it.”

    I just revisited this post.

    It was my favorite place to hunt deer before it was closed to open hunt. Now all of Scout Mountain is draw/youth hunt only. Pity. there are tons of deer in there.
    I saw a cougar cross the road there at dusk about 4 years ago.
    there are also several moose up the upper reaches of that draw; at least seasonally, and elk winter in those ceders yearly.


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

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Ralph Maughan