Stockgrowers Association begins ad campaign over wolf damages

By the Associated Press
The Missoulian


BOZEMAN, MT (AP) - The Montana Stockgrowers Association has launched a radio ad campaign in Bozeman intended to point out the economic damage wolves can cause.

Steve Pilcher, the association's executive vice president, said the ads are not wolf "bashing," but are intended to respond to arguments that the wolves benefit the economy by attracting tourists.

He said the cattlemen group's ads argue that wolves can have a big affect on some ranchers and possibly on wild elk and deer herds.

"The purpose is not to get into the bashing of wolves," Pilcher said. "The wolf is obviously here to stay."

Pilcher said that while ranchers are compensated for livestock losses directly linked to wolves, not all losses are covered.

Wolves cause a lot of "wear and tear on a herd" that isn't compensated, he said.

Pilcher cited one case in which a Dillon-area rancher lost about 70 sheep when something, presumably wolves, caused them to panic.

"They started slamming into each other, they started piling up and they suffocated," Pilcher said.

The ad campaign is costing the association about $4,000, Pilcher said. One of the ads talks about the affects on ranchers, while another focuses on potential affects for hunters.

"It would be foolish for us to ignore the potential impacts to wildlife numbers," Pilcher said.

Some have suggested wolves have caused a decline in the number of elk in the Northern Yellowstone herd.

Norm Bishop, a retired National Park Service biologist who now works in Bozeman with the International Wolf Center, said statistics show wolves account for only a small percentage of the cattle and sheep losses in the greater Yellowstone area every year.

"I don't know how productive it is to get everybody riled up," Bishop said of the stockgrowers' campaign.

Federal officials have said they will formally propose removing the wolf, which was reintroduced in the Yellowstone area in the mid 1990s, from the list of federally protected species as early as next year.

That would let states manage wolves, allowing ranchers more leeway to protect their animals and likely creating a hunting season for wolves.

However, there is a snag. Wyoming officials insist wolves be classified as a predator, meaning they could be shot on sight in most of that state, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it won't delist under those conditions.

Pilcher said that's frustrating for Montana, which has a wolf plan the FWS has praised.

"I just don't see the FWS delisting" with Wyoming's current stance, he said.


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