Angry ranchers are blasting the federal wolf recovery program, saying it does not protect ranchers’ interests.
Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s wolf recovery project leader, was jeered during the gathering of the Western Montana Stockgrowers Association. But he took comments and questions for two hours this week.
The comments were harsh. Ranchers said the agency does not have a count of wolves in western Montana or of livestock killed by them. They claimed federal officials show little concern for their problems.
On the timbered rangeland of western Montana, some cattle simply disappear and are never found.
If the remains are found, the ranchers said, there often is not enough evidence to satisfy the Defenders of Wildlife program to reimburse ranchers for wolf kills.
Bangs sympathized, but said the government does not run the compensation program.
“I have no doubt that there is a certain percentage of livestock that is killed by wolves, and we’ll never know about it,” he admitted.
Many ranchers said the government should attempt to radio-collar all wolves and start informing landowners when they have wolves on their property.
Bangs said the agency is trying to collar at least one wolf in every pack. And he said flights over collared wolves have been stepped up. But Bangs said there is no way the program can afford an attempt to collar every wolf, nor can it monitor every wolf and keep ranchers informed of their movements.