The Cash Cows of Catron County

When a rancher claims to have lost livestock due to Mexican wolf predation, there are several ways that they can seek compensation. One of those ways is a program run by the U.S.D.A Farm Services Agency (FSA) known as the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), which provides compensation for livestock lost due to attack by animals reintroduced to the wild by the Federal Government. To get this compensation: “Owners or contract growers who suffer livestock losses due to an eligible cause of loss must submit a notice of loss and an application for payment to the local FSA office that serves the physical location county where the livestock losses occurred. All of the owner’s or contract grower’s interest in inventory of eligible livestock in that county for the calendar year must be accounted for and summarized when determining eligibility.” In short, the ranchers’ say so is all they really need for proof.

In 2020, the FSA paid out $588,940.19 under the LIP for livestock lost in 2019 in Catron County, New Mexico because of Mexican wolves. This money went to just eleven livestock owners, for 1130 head. Yes, 1,130 head of “beef.” I confirmed twice that there were only wolf payments in 2019 and no weather-related claims.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service there were just 87 wolves in New Mexico in 2019. If all the wolves in New Mexico in 2019 were responsible for the loss or injury of 1130 head of livestock on these 11 ranches in Catron County, it would mean that each wolf was responsible for the death or injury of nearly 13 head of cattle in 2019, and that cattle were being killed or injured at the rate of three a day on just these ranches. 

Now this whole equation is clouded by the fact that FSA won’t provide specific numbers or classes of livestock claimed in the supposed killings, but the average per head rate is $521.18, which suggests there are a lot of young calves in the mix. (See 2019 fee payment rate:

So, let’s game that out: The second highest paid recipient of LIP funds in Catron County in 2019 was Canyon del Buey (yes, that Canyon del Buey) and it raked in $89,395 for lost livestock. Using the average rate of payment per head ($521.18) – which is just a best guess of how to calculate this – Canyon del Buey claimed to have lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 170 head in 2019. (Mind you, this permit was revoked in August 2019, and so the claim reflects ~170 head in just 8 months.) The Canyon del Buey allotment’s Forest Service annual operating instructions only authorized a max of 286 cow/calf pairs that year. Like I said, that 170 is just an estimate and my best guess based on the information available. Maybe Canyon del Buey lost a bunch of $1,191 bulls instead – but it would have had to lose 75 bulls in 8 months to qualify for nearly $90K in 2019. 

That’s a lot of bull. 



  1. cynthia Avatar

    I agree something is missing and it is cashing in on some
    thing that isn’t true

  2. Linda Avatar

    Audits need to be fine. They won’t be fine of course. Sounds like “corporate welfare” to me.

  3. Linda Avatar

    I meant: audits need to be done. They won’t be done of course.

  4. G. O. P. Avatar
    G. O. P.

    This western style of ranching corruption must stop. As a wildlife advocate I’m calling o the fed give to protect wildlife now.

  5. WM Avatar

    @Linda “corporate welfare.”

    LIP program USDA from their website:

    The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill) authorized the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) to provide benefits to eligible livestock owners or contract growers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by eligible loss conditions, including eligible adverse weather, eligible disease and attacks by animals reintroduced into the wild by the federal government or protected by federal law, including wolves and avian predators. In addition, LIP provides assistance to eligible livestock owners that must sell livestock at a reduced price because of an injury from an eligible loss condition.

    Notwithstanding the potential for inflated claims for the numbers of animals lost or the value of each, this is not much different from the federal subsidies given for farmers who loose crops like corn, wheat or rice to natural causes. The LIP program for predators was authorized in 2014, I think. Seems to me a valid cost of wolf reintroduction/repopulation wherever they are. MN wolves killed thousands of turkeys back in the 1990’s, if I recall correctly from statistics once available on the International Wolf Center website.

  6. Maggie Frazier Avatar
    Maggie Frazier

    The numbers lost & value of those numbers make me think these “livestock operators” are really lousy business enterprises! My question would be are these businesses?? making even minimal attempts to protect their livestock? If not, perhaps – just perhaps, they need to get out of the livestock business! Allowing these “operators” to continue to LEASE allotments AND use those allotments as collateral seems to make any banking enterprise that allows that to be making very poor investments. At least!! My other thought is that the USDA sure does need some re-adjustment to its oversight on these “businesses. Because, WE, the taxpayers are the ones shelling out the cash, right? The USDA is also the entity in charge of Wildlife Services, another segment of this agency that seems to operate wherever & however they feel they want to.

  7. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    It sounds like a racket. I always wonder how they can be absolutely sure that a cow or calf was killed by wolves, or did the carnivore come along later? Some examples really are not that clear.

    In Wisconsin, someone actually used a cow or calf as bait for the slaughterfest – so I am sure ranchers and farmers do it to back up their exaggerated (we’ll be kind here and not say totally made up) claims of depredation.

    And I guess Idaho won’t be needing wildlife services anymore since they are going the superdecimation route? Killing 9/10ths and leaving 1/10th.

    I really do hope something is done about all of this.

  8. LCS Avatar

    The actions of “that Canyon del Buey” are abhorrent, but that doesn’t mean that all ranchers in Catron County who file for livestock depredation compensation are suspect. It is also not unusual for one rancher to be hit especially hard, because once wolves learn how easy it is to kill cattle, naturally they’re going to keep on killing them. That’s natural behavior (think how hard it is to stop dogs from killing chickens once they’ve started, for instance).

    The Mexican wolf program needs to be reevaluated dispassionately and objectively. The original program was set up as a scientific experiment in adaptive management. The major problem with the program is not so much ranchers as the failure of the program to actually adapt the management to conditions in the real world.

    Wolves are in Catron County to stay — there’s no arguing that. Some wolves are always going to go after livestock — that’s just reality, too. There are other predators in the county that take down cows and yet those predators rarely kill cattle exclusively. Why do some wolves do that? Isn’t that what the goal of adaptive management is all about — figuring out what the problems are and then adjusting the program to see if the problems can be resolved?

    All I ever see is people saying “no wolves” or “no ranchers”. That is not adaptive management.

  9. Beeline Avatar

    2800 coyotes, 4000 prairie dogs and 23 foxes are listed as being killed by wildlife services in New Mexico in 2019.

    Considering that smaller mammals such as prairie dogs and rabbits( currently suffering from multiple diseases) make up some of the prey base it makes no sense to kill them because less natural food opportunities will be available for predators. So the predators turn to other food sources like cows. And, killing lots of coyotes takes the competitive cap off the wolf population so that they can reproduce faster. So it is ecology out of balance but that is what the government/ranching complex has been supporting for quite some time.

    Since the Wildearth Guardians won their lawsuit against Wildlife Services (USDA) in April 2021, the State of New Mexico has written a law called the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act which, if it goes into effect in April 2022, would limit/or and stop the use of snares, poisons and traps for taking predators. Potentially good news considering what has been going on. States such as Montana probably saw this as a looming threat so they sought to legalize total predator control as fast as possible. Montana also exports furs by the way.

    Lastly I was interested in determining if the Mexican wolves in Arizona were taking cattle at the same rate as what was indicated in New Mexico but I could find much data. Only that the wolf populations in both states are supposed to be increasing.

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Nothing about it makes sense, you are right.

      I also read an article recently where the headline was “Wolf population surges in Washington”. Surges? Misleading and seems to try to sound an unnecessary alarm bell. Especially when you read about 45,000 people signing up to kill 12 bison. Now that’s a surge!

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