Less money for predator management in Wyoming concerns livetock producers
May 1, 2018
Without the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board, predators would overrun the state.
Nineteen county boards under the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board across Wyoming are currently working to submit grant applications that will fund integrated predator management within the state.
The driving force behind the ADMB is to mitigate damage caused to livestock, wildlife and crops by predatory animals for the protection of human health and safety. The ADMB was created in 1999 by the Wyoming Legislature and is administered by a 15-member board whose mission is to coordinate and implement an integrated animal damage management program, based on the best available science, for the benefit of humans and natural resources throughout the state.
To participate, counties can assess a predator fee on livestock that are already being tallied during a brand inspection or change of ownership. Counties set the level of predator fee and the funds collected are then sent to the Wyoming Livestock Board, which is then redistributed to the predator management boards based upon where those cattle were designated. County predator boards are typically made up of cattle ranchers and sheep producers. Each county's volunteer-based predator management board is eligible for state funding as well, on the condition that they also have three sportsmen, hunters or outfitters on the board to create wildlife interest. After the legislature sets the budget, the ADMB looks at grant applications and distributes the funds accordingly to each of the 19 counties.
"In 2006, the board received some major funding," said Kent Drake, predator management coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and coordinator for the ADMB. "We were up a little over $3 million dollars a year that was distributed to the 19 predator districts that applied to the funding, but now with budget cuts we're up to a little over $2 million a year."
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In the past, the board has employed roughly 50 wildlife specialists or independent trappers that were contracted through the county predator boards but due to budget cuts, those positions have been reduced to around 15 positions statewide, meaning there are fewer people to do predator management than before.
"That has a huge impact on ag producers because when we had full funding, or the higher-level funding, most of our programs were proactive, managing predators and getting ahead of problems before calving or lambing," Drake said. "Now, with fewer folks out there in the field, it's become more where they're reacting to emergencies and doing what they can with fewer people."
There are seven animals who are considered to be predators by the state: coyotes, wolves, (although they are still considered trophy game in parts of the state and predators in others) red fox, skunks, raccoons, feral cats and Jack rabbits.
Drake said that wolves have been spotted as far east as Rawlins and Casper, where before they were mainly on the western side of the state. In response to the wolves' migration, the legislature has provided extra money in this year's budget which will be available after July 1, to put toward wolf management and to help ranchers if they do experience injury or death loss in the predator zone.
"Before, when they were listed as an endangered species, the compensation was very limited and we couldn't do anything about control of them because they were protected," Drake said. "Now that wolves are in the predator area, they can take action."
But, if the ADMB's state funding continues to be cut, Bob Harlan, a domestic sheep representative on the ADMB board of directors from Kaycee, said that he and his fellow sheep producers could be left by the wayside with no way to stay on top of predator control for their livestock.
"It's important to keep those county predator boards going," he said. "The reality is, if it wasn't for that money from the ADMB, most of Wyoming's county predator boards would have gone broke and then I probably wouldn't be in the sheep business. It's that serious."
Harlan also said that it's not just the livestock producers who benefit from the ADMB's funding, but deer and antelope populations as well, adding that one trapper found 26 antelope legs in one coyote den.
Besides providing funding for predator management, the ADMB also approves special projects for predator control research according to Bob Phillips, ADMB sportsmen's representative from Sheridan. Each year a certain amount of money is allocated for predator control related research projects. The ADMB then chooses which proposals will get funded.
"The main idea for predator management is to reduce the livestock losses, mainly sheep and cattle," Phillips said. "There has been a little bit of work on smaller predators, game management and game bird production, but most of the money that is allocated is to reduce predation on sheep and cattle."
In May, the ADMB will meet, along with representatives from each county's predator board, to discuss the grant applications and distribute state funding, a process that takes time and thought.
"No decisions are based going back to an individual rancher or livestock producer," Phillips said. "It's just based on the county's proposals. For instance, the largest sheep producing county is Converse County, but it may not be that they, because of their husbandry practices or needs, will get more money than Sweetwater County or Unita County. It just depends on where the best use of the money will be." ❖