BOISE –At the Valley/Adams County Farm Bureau resolutions meeting this past week, Rancher Phil Davis said wolves killed 6 head of cattle in a week.
“Through the years it has gotten worse, now it's getting worse, faster. The problem has always been a one, now its bigger and we’ve lost so much livestock and I don’t think we can get a handle on controlling wolves,” said Davis.
Davis went the County Farm Bureau policy meeting to get some meaningful changes in wolf control and the first step changes in the Idaho Farm Bureau policy book.
“We’ve had two dead cows in two days, as of today its three dead cows, and seven in the last five days. I have three resolutions that I want to do,” Davis told his county leaders.
For two decades Davis has dealt with wolf kills at his Valley County Ranch. He’s worked with the Idaho Fish and Game and US Wildlife service to curb wolf impacts with mixed results, now he’s taking new ideas to the County resolutions meeting.
One resolution centered around changing the designation of the wolf from a game animal to a special predator. Davis and the group will figure out how to work the other resolutions and move the policy ideas to the District, State and ultimately the Farm Bureau policy book.
“We had lively resolutions out of Valley, but we’ve had kills in Adams County too, we want to get our resolutions through district this fall and onto State. This was a successful grassroots meeting and we hope to get something done,” said Valley/Adams Farm Bureau President Dean Dryden.
With 61 confirmed wolf kills documented in Idaho, US Fish and Wildlife Service says wolves have had a busy summer killing seven sheep in three separate attacks in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area between July 9 and July 13th, according to wildlife managers.
Since 1995, when wolves were reintroduced to Idaho, federal authorities investigated a record 113 different sheep and cattle ranches this year to perform necropsies on wolf-livestock kills, and 217 ranches to investigate wolf kills overall. The kills and investigations are both records
“This is a busy summer,” said Todd Grimm, Idaho State Director of federal APHIS Wildlife Services. “There’s greater awareness of cattle and sheep producers…and wolves are coming into more conflict with livestock.”
Idaho Farm Bureau members want to address the growing conflict with wolves. IFBF President Bryan Searle says the organization gives members a chance to be heard.
“Here we have an opportunity to hear from farmers and ranchers. People on the ground that live with these kills, they’re concerned about their livestock and are reaching, telling us about the damage from the wolves. These resolution meetings are an opportunity to be heard, to get their concerns out and put them in policy,” said IFBF President Bryan Searle.
With more than 80 to 100 packs of wolves in Idaho, the predators occupy most of the state north of Interstate 84. Wolf populations are expected to grow, according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Wolves have expanded from Idaho into Washington and Oregon and they’re spreading into California as well. DNA evidence also indicates that wolves freely travel back into Idaho from Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon.
“It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse,” said Dryden. “We have an issue that will go in front of the Farm Bureau Western Presidents Council, President Searle will take it to that meeting for input and help.”
“When you’re sitting behind a desk, its hard to know whats going on. We need a policy, maybe an Executive Order from the President, we have ranchers that have lost cattle in just the past few days, we need to listen to them,” said President Searle.
When wolf populations soared to more than 1,000 animals by 2009, wolf packs killed more than 700 cattle and 550 sheep in Idaho, impacting a total of 412 different ranchers statewide.
Lemhi, Custer, Valley, Idaho, and Elmore counties still have “chronic livestock depredation” issues, according to state and federal officials. Last year, the number of confirmed wolf depredations in Valley County more than doubled from 17 to 38. Davis has had at least one mother cow killed by wolves in which there were no outward signs of trauma on the exterior of the animal – until a necropsy was performed by Wildlife Services – and then wolf bite marks and hemorrhages proved that it was a wolf kill.
Davis has documented more than 60 wolf kills on his ranch since the mid-1990s.“That’s the real sickening part about this, they say they’re not surplus killers, they don’t kill for sport, what do you call this?” Davis said. “Of our six kills in 2017, three of them were full-grown cows. So they’re getting more bold, more adept at it, and they’re killing cows, not just calves now.”
Mark Henslee, of Salmon Falls Land and Livestock, says they have six guard dogs protecting a band of sheep that suffered wolf attacks in July. The normal standard is two guard dogs per band of sheep to ward off coyotes, black bears, and mountain lions. The Henslees had noise-makers and strobe lights set up at night around the sheep in hopes of preventing wolf kills.
But wolves still killed two ewes and a lamb on July 9th, then came back and killed another two ewes and a lamb on July 10th, and another lamb on July 13. After Wildlife Services killed three wolves, the wolf kills on Henslee's place stopped.
“We haven’t had any problems in several years. But with as many wolves as we have in Idaho, you’re going to get hit somewhere, sometime,” said Henslee.
County Farm Bureau Resolutions meetings are underway across the State. District meetings are scheduled this fall, The IFBF House of Delegates is scheduled for December.
If ranchers suspect that wolves have killed their livestock, they should call federal APHIS Wildlife Services to report the incident, 208-378-5631, and request a local trapper to investigate. Or, call your local IDFG office.