| Look for the silliness surrounding the Great Wolf Debate to continue long after Montana's 2010 general big game hunting season ends at little after sunset this coming Sunday.
We've all seen the flood of emotionally-charged, less-than-accurate letters to the editor from some unsuccessful Montana hunters blaming their empty freezer on wolves. Yep, apparently, in a state with a landbase of 147,000 square miles, approximately 600 wolves will kill 150,000 elk and about a 1,000,000 deer if we don't do something about it. But don't you have to wonder how in the world some of these hunters can't find any of the 150,000 elk or 1,000,000 deer roaming the state, yet these same hunters claim to see wolves and wolf-tracks everywhere? Seriously, does this add up?
Unfortunately, the silliness will continue as we have the upcoming bi-annual state legislative session to look forward to, where one can assume that numerous anti-wolf bills and meaningless resolutions will be put forward by the Republican majority.
Yet, for a political party that likes to champion "personal responsibility," one can bet the Montana Republican Party won't be calling on Montana's ranching community to take some rather simple and straight-forward steps to greatly reduce or eliminate livestock predation on account of wolves.
With this in mind, ecologist and former Montana hunting guide George Wuerthner has an excellent new essay "Do ranchers have a right to predator free landscape?" over at NewWest.
Below are some highlights from that essay (emphasis added):
Killing predators to appease the livestock industry is nothing more than another subsidy to an industry that is already living off the public largess, in part, because most predator losses are completely avoidable with proper animal husbandry techniques.
For instance, prompt removal of dead animals from fields, and burial of the remains can significantly reduce attracting predators. One recent study in Oregon showed a very strong association between wolf packs and bone piles-places where ranchers dump dead cattle.... One study in Minnesota found that rapid removal of dead animals from livestock operations could reduce a second predation event by 55 times!
In Europe where many countries ban the killing of predators like wolves, livestock producers have adopted other measures to reduce predator losses. The use of guard dogs with shepherds is particularly effective, again significantly reducing predation losses. One study found that the combined use of these techniques could reduce predation losses by better than 90%. When you are talking about only several hundred wolf attributed livestock losses a year in each of the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, a 90% reduction would bring these losses down to a negligible figure-and one that would remove nearly all demand for any predator control.
In Minnesota where there are nearly double the number of wolves that are found in the entire northern Rockies states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana combined, farmers there are encouraged to adopt measures that reduce predator opportunity in order to qualify for state livestock compensation. After a depredation, a state official visits the farm, and discusses any measures that could be adopted to reduce future livestock losses. The farmer must sign an agreement to implement any changes in order to qualify for any future compensation payments.