From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 34 - November 21, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

AG throws out compensation formula

by Cat Urbigkit

The Wyoming Attorney General's Office issued an opinion to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WG&F) stating that the agency "does not have statutory authority ... to determine and pay damages for missing livestock by use of a factor or formula that assumes some missing livestock were killed by a trophy game animal."

State statute requires the WG&F to reimburse property owners for damages caused by big or trophy game animals. Grizzly bears, although federally protected, are classified as trophy game animals in Wyoming.

WG&F compensates livestock producers for livestock killed by grizzly bears, and uses the 1.67 factor in an effort to equitably compensate producers for missing calves or sheep believed to be lost due to bear depredations. Agency officials have long acknowledged that for every calf or lamb confirmed as grizzly kills, an unknown number of similar kills are never discovered.

The compensation factor has been a controversial issue since it was first used about 10 years ago. With normal death losses about 2 percent for a range cattle producer grazing cattle on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, permittees argue that the 1.67 factor doesn't go far enough to compensate producers experiencing losses to grizzlies when the number of cattle leaving the forest aren't near as many as they number that went on.

Former WG&F Commissioner Les Henderson, an accountant, said his assessment concluded "the 1.67 factor results in underestimating total bear-related mortalities by 50 percent. To bring the non-bear mortalities to the 2.5 percent that existed before there were bears, a compensation factor of 3.33 percent is required."

The WG&F commission is expected to discuss the issue at its meeting Dec. 5 and 6 in Lander. While the agenda for the meeting has not been set, Cleveland said he anticipates the compensation issue will be heard on the second day of the meeting.

Until then, WG&F assistant chief Terry Cleveland said the department was given direction by WG&F Commission President to "only pay for actual losses."

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