Thursday, December 18, 2008
Livestock as four legged picnic baskets
Thursday, December 18, 2008 2:05 AM MST
A recent AP article by Matt Brown reported 245 wolves were killed in the Northern Rockies this past year and it implies that wolves are the "blame" for livestock depredation. Yet much of the blame for livestock depredation is self created due to poor animal husbandry.
In our national parks it's illegal to leave out picnic baskets because it will lead to human-bear conflicts. To save bears, humans are fined if they fail to put away food.
But when it comes to ranchers, we have the exact opposite approach. Instead of fining them for leaving four legged picnic baskets scattered all over the landscape -- including most of our public lands -- we hold the wolves accountable any losses that are largely due to the livestock industry's poor management.
By killing wolves we are subsidizing ranchers. We permit ranchers to externalize one of the costs of doing business--namely implementing livestock management regimes that minimizes predator opportunities.
These include the use of herders, guard animals, prompt removal of dead animals, use of night time lambing and calving sheds, and other pro-active measures that are proven to reduce predator losses.
Additionally, we should, at minimum, never kill wolves preying on livestock grazing public lands. If ranchers choose to use public lands, they must accept the risks of predator losses.
The only way this conflict is going to be resolved is when society starts to demand that ranchers internalize one of the costs of doing business -- that is adopting mandatory preventive measures to reduce conflicts.
Mandatory preventative measures will not eliminate all conflicts, but it will go a long ways towards reducing the number of wolves and livestock killed annually.
GEORGE WUERTHNER, Richmond, Vt.