Wildlife Services internal memo on state compensation and wolf depredation

This memo shows that Wildlife Service not only sees that its job is to work for ranchers, not the general public, but that they view public oversight to be a major problem.

USDA wolf depredation investigation memo pdf file

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Note that we received this memo as a pdf file marked by someone in various colors, perhaps to make it easier to read.



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  1. Oliver Starr Avatar

    In other words, now that a former high level (and highly regarded employee and wolf expert), Carter Niemeyer, wants them to be held to a reasonable standard for their depredation determinations, instead of stepping up they attempt to smear him?

    Sounds like business as usual for this rogue agency. I hope Knudson’s continued investigation guts them to the bone. They need reform worse than any government agency including congress!

  2. jdubya Avatar

    Sounds like they need to buy Go Pro cameras. They would stand up to the blood and gore of a necropsy.

  3. Phil Maker Avatar
    Phil Maker

    Wolf-caused damage, based on some of the materials I’ve researched, is pretty apparent and would be readily visible in a well-executed photo(s). I suspect the hesitancy to photograph investigations is because in some percentage of those that get confirmed/probable rankings there isn’t any supporting evidence. The excuse about having to buy cameras is weak: WS field agents seem to get new ATVs or camp tents/wagons (that cost thousands)on a regular basis. I’ll bet that every field agent has a cell phone with a camera in it. Doesn’t seem like too much effort to use it to take pictures while being careful not to subject it to the grime. It boils down to whether WS is willing to be scrutinized for the job they do. If the results of WS’ investigations are sound and unquestionable, why not provide the evidence the critics are seeking? History would suggest, and this email lends credence, that their operations are not worth full exposure to the light.

  4. ma'iingan Avatar

    “Wolf-caused damage, based on some of the materials I’ve researched, is pretty apparent and would be readily visible in a well-executed photo(s).”

    If that’s the case, why would agencies in nearly every state with wolves defer to Wildlife Services specialists for depredation investigations?

    I don’t know what materials you researched, but there is no easy button, and state agency biologists have no training nor any interest in investigating depredations.

    Wildlife Services specialists in the WGL states skin every carcass wolf depredation is suspected but the evidence is indeterminate. I don’t know that you can imagine how unpleasant that can be. And they take plenty of photographs, FYI.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      If the evidence is indeterminate do they call it that? This is why the public wants oversight and accountability. Obviously there is a reason why Wildlife Services doesn’t want this accountability and that is because they serve the ranchers first and foremost and they don’t want to piss them off.

      The ranchers are being reimbursed with OUR MONEY. I expect verifiable investigations not this “we are the experts” crap. I don’t trust them.

      1. SAP Avatar

        They should be taking photos. The bit about “shucks, half the guys don’t have printers,” is laughable. Printers? That kind of thing can and should be centralized. The specialists surely know how to work a digital camera and how to save files and attach them to emails. What kind of government agency doesn’t have a plan for complying with information requests from the public? (I don’t think “stonewalling” is a plan.)

        Useful information that could and should be documented with photos would include wolf tracks and scats, subcutaneous hemorrhaging, that kind of thing. Sorry, I can’t imagine how you’d make a “confirmed” determination in the absence of some visual (and photographable) piece of evidence. “Trust us, we’re the experts,” doesn’t cut it.

        1. Jon Way Avatar

          Well said SAP…

  5. Ken Cole Avatar

    By the way, I think this document was first uncovered by Tom Knudsen of the Sacremento Bee. He has been doing a long investigation into the practices of Wildlife Services.


    He is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@tomsplace

    1. Jerry Black Avatar
      Jerry Black

      If you’re reading this, thankyou Mr. “X” for getting this to Knudsen.

  6. CodyCoyote Avatar

    Try getting ANY worthwhile info about Wolf control or ” management” here in Wyoming …

  7. Jeff Martin Avatar
    Jeff Martin

    Kudos to Tom Knudson, please keep up the good work. These WS guys need to be reined in!

  8. Theo Avatar

    The final paragraph of the report states “USFWS, IDFG, the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation (OSC) and WS all consider Carter’s opinion as self-promotion and not based in reality.”

    Based on over thirty years working with the listed entities I believe that few if any of the field level (below the political radar) personnel of USFWS & IDFG would agree with this statement.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      When Niemeyer managed the wolves in Idaho as the federal government’s wolf recovery coordinator for the state a couple things clearly happened.

      1. the number of wolves grew
      2. the number of wolf depredations per capita of livestock declined. They even declined in absolute numbers his last two years.
      3. public rancor over the issue declined a bit and wolf conservationists had some public input that was listened to.

      Does this sound good to you? Probably, but this was bad news to Idaho’s far right wing politicians because they wanted the wolves down to just a hundred and gone entirely perhaps. They certainly didn’t want to see growth of wolf numbers. They did not want the number of livestock killed to decline either, despite public protestations to the contrary, because they wanted each dead lamb or calf to serve as a martyr if possible. They were trying to demonize the wolf. Idaho politicians hated that folks friendly to wolves and to wildlife in general were finally being heard to some degree. Finally, if folks were not yelling at each other over wolves, they might notice as Idaho per capita income fell from 37th place in the nation in the mid-1990s to 49th, kept from the bottom only by Mississippi,

      Niemeyer was the wrong man for the job as they saw it, and too damn honest as well.

      1. Theo Avatar


      2. Kristi Avatar

        Absolutely agree! Carter stuck to his guns and used his integrity and impartiality when investigating alleged depredations. Unlike the Wildlife Services of today and its employees or “technicians”. Cameras should absolutely be used at every single investigation.

  9. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    Is their any relationship to Niemeyer being their to the state going from 37th place to 49th or was it the political parties changed. Clinton was president then and Senior Bush too did that help the state government. Or was it just a point being made ?

  10. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    P.S. Anyway same old story Idaho is one of the big three in a battle to destroy the wolf.

  11. Nancy Avatar

    An interesting read, especially page 20 on. Sheds some light on the 100 plus rams killed by wolves, in southwest Montana a few years ago.


    1. SAP Avatar

      Nancy – interesting paper (except I think “45 miles from the ranch” is a typo). I just pulled up the map for that place on cadastral.mt.gov, and they’re showing all of the land up there around Rock Creek (just west – northwest of Blacktail WMA) being owned by either Matador or Koch (same thing, different mailing address). Did the sheep ranchers sell?

      1. Nancy Avatar

        SAP – pretty sure there’s no way of getting a clear picture of who actually owns the land and who’s at the same time also leasing it out?

        The land/ranch next to me, changed hands last year. Other than a couple hundred acres of creek bottom (hayed and then leased/ grazed the rest of the time by a local rancher) the rest of the ranch is under sagebrush (to insure conservation payment$$ ?) yet at the same time also being leased/grazed by the same local rancher.

        Its complicated….


George Wuerthner is an ecologist and writer who has published 38 books on various topics related to environmental and natural history. He has visited over 400 designated wilderness areas and over 200 national park units.

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George Wuerthner