Impact of wolves on livestock
Although some people repeatedly claim that wolves will “put ranchers out of business,” facts do not support such claims. No wolf advocate worth their salt would tell you that wolves don’t occasionally take livestock. However, data from the Northern Rockies shows that in counties hosting both wolves and livestock, 99.95% of those cows and sheep do not perish by wolves. To account for those rare cases where wolves take cows or sheep, Colorado’s law now mandates fair market value payment to ranchers for losses. That is reasonable.
For an independent assessment of the impact of wolves on livestock in western North America, check out this fact sheet from the scientists at Colorado State University: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/people-predators/wolves-and-livestock-8-010/
Many Colorado ranchers already receive proactive reimbursement for potential depredation by wild carnivores. As this map of land ownership in western Colorado shows, Federal agencies manage most of the region. On these public allotments, ranchers graze cows and sheep while accruing proactive compensation for losses to carnivores. How? They pay pennies on the dollar for their grazing leases compared to what they’d spend on private property. This considerable discount acknowledges the possibility of losses to wild carnivores. No question, the occasional depredation can sting livestock operations. Still, Colorado’s ranchers can learn to co-exist with a rekindled wolf population.
In Colorado, we can pioneer new and innovative ways of fostering coexistence with wolves. For example, why couldn’t we pay ranchers who host wolves on their private land, rather than only if they experience a depredation event?
Where do ranchers stand on wolf reintroduction?
Ranchers are a more thoughtful and diverse bunch than their official organizations, or the media, make it appear. In fact, many livestock producers willingly work to coexist with wolves on the landscape. Of course, it’s difficult for them to be totally open about their views with their neighbors, but slowly, more are coming forward. For example, check out this piece by Tony Vagneur from Woody Creek: https://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/vagneur-well-take-some-wolves
Here’s a great, short video featuring Connie and Mark Harvey, ranchers from the Roaring Fork Valley:
For more information on this and related topics, visit the FAQs developed by the scientists at Colorado State University: https://sites.warnercnr.colostate.edu/centerforhumancarnivorecoexistence/projects/wolves-faq/