Livestock Losses to Wolves in 2013 Near Record Low
It's unclear if less-restrictive hunting and trapping regulations are the cause, but 2013 is set to have one of the lowest rates of wolf predation in the past seven years.
In 2013, wolves wreaked the most havoc in counties like Beaverhead and Lewis and Clark where losses were over $22,000 and $11,000 respectively. Even relatively non-agriculture based counties like Missoula (where wolves killed six head of cattle) saw losses to wolves over the $6,000 mark.
All of this data is gathered by Montana's Livestock Loss Board.
"Montana's livestock loss board provides compensations for confirmed and probable livestock loss due to wolves, and beginning October 1 of 2013, also includes grizzly bear depredation," explained Executive Secretary for Montana's Livestock Loss Board, George Edwards. "2013 is lower than 2012, but it's almost identical to 2011."
A total of 62 cows, 31 sheep, a goat and two horses were killed by wolves and grizzly bears in 2013 led to the state compensating ranchers with nearly $87,000.
The livestock loss board has been in place since 2007, but Edwards said it is hard to see a consistent trend.
"In 2010, we paid for 175 animals and in 2009, we paid for 370 animals," Edwards said. "There isn't a consistent trend yet because 2012 numbers had went back up, and now they're back down to 2011 levels."
So far, there have only been 92 wolf predation livestock deaths in 2013, which makes it the lowest year on record for the Livestock Loss Board. However, that number has a chance to increase over the next few weeks if late reports are verified. 2011, the lowest year prior, saw 95 wolf kills.
Grizzly bears killed four head of cattle in Park County which actually brings the 2013 total of animals killed by predation above the 2011 levels, but grizzly bear kills weren't counted in 2011.