From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 42 - January 12, 2006
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Upper Green losses tallied

by Cat Urbigkit

Members of the Upper Green River Cattle Association brought a lot of dry cows home from the Bridger-Teton National Forest last fall.

UGRCA President Albert Sommers said that the association had a total of 187 missing calves in the fall, from all causes.

There were numerous confirmed losses due to grizzly bears, including one cow, 24 calves and six yearlings.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department provides compensation for 3.5 calves for every confirmed calf kill, provided there are others missing, meaning that a stockman can't be compensated for more calves than he has missing. Also, there is no formula used on yearlings or adult cattle, so the payment is 1:1.

Sommers explained that there were 2,696 calves turned out on grazing allotments in the Upper Green in 2005, and only 2,509 returned, for a loss of 6.9 percent. Prior to bear and wolf depredations of recent years, more typical losses were about 2 percent. The numbers were worse in 2004; the calf loss was 7.5 percent, with 238 missing calves. The losses may have been less in 2005 since there were fewer calves on the allotments. After 2004's losses, one producer only put yearlings on the allotments this year, while another didn't use the allotments at all and yet others reduced their numbers on the forest.

In 2004, confirmed grizzly kills totaled eight calves and one yearling, while confirmed wolf kills totaled one cow, 18 calves and five yearlings. So while 2005's confirmed kills mostly involved grizzlies, it was the opposite last year when wolves were the major stock killers.

In addition, there were six calves and three yearlings confirmed as wolf kills in the Upper Green in 2005, Sommers said.

Wildlife damage experts widely agree that for every calf confirmed to have been killed by large predators, there are others that were killed but not found for confirmation. In acknowledgment of this, WG&F uses a compensation factor to estimate predation loss based on the number of confirmed kills to grizzly bears. That factor has ranged from 1.35 to 3.5, but UGRCA information indicates that a more appropriate compensation factor would be 3.8, meaning that an 3.8 calves were killed by grizzlies for every calf confirmed as a grizzly kill.

According to information compiled by the UGRCA, the total calf loss due to grizzly predation from 1995-2004 was estimated to be a minimum of 520 calves, with a financial impact of $260,000. By contrast, compensation was provided for only 235 calves, for a total of $117,500. That means that members of the UGRCA were reimbursed for less than half of the calves estimated to have been lost to grizzly predation.

During the same period, total calf loss from wolf predation was estimated at 177 calves, with a minimum financial impact of $88,500. Yet only 28 confirmed wolf-killed calves, with a value of $14,000 were eligible for compensation from Defenders of Wildlife. That means that five years of wolf depredation cost members of the UGRCA at least $74,500 in uncompensated calf losses from wolves. UGRCA data indicate that for every calf confirmed as a wolf kill, in reality 6.8 calves were killed by wolves. Defenders does not use a compensation factor and there are confirmed wolf-killed calves from the Upper Green for which Defenders has declined to provide compensation to producers.

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