Letters From the West

Rancher who lambs on range instead of shed loses 31 sheep to wolves

Biologist Linda Thurston of Defenders of Wildlife untangling a string of fladry, a non-lethal system for protecting livestock from wolves, on a ranch in the Paradise Valley, Mont. (Associated Press)

Biologist Linda Thurston of Defenders of Wildlife untangling a string of fladry, a non-lethal system for protecting livestock from wolves, on a ranch in the Paradise Valley, Mont. in the 2004 photo. (Associated Press)

Wolf depredations at former Democratic State Sen. John Peavey’s Flat Top Ranch is making news again in the Wood River Valley.

The Mountain Express reported the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and USDA Wildlife Services confirmed that 18 lambs and 13 ewes were killed by wolves on public land in the Carey area. It the same area that Peavey lost sheep a year ago and the debate is turning hit again.

Other ranchers in the area have had success reducing wolf depredations using non-lethal methods of wolf control including guard dogs and brightly colored flags known as fladry, project partners have been able to keep livestock losses down. But Peavey doesn’t lamb his sheep in lambing sheds earlier in the season like most Idaho sheep men do.

Instead he uses range lambing, where the ewes give birth later on the open range. He has dogs and herders but no fladry.

Wolf advocates say range lambing in wolf country invites depredation. Peavy defends it, saying its cheaper than paying the high price of hay, though I haven’t been able to get him on the phone.

So Wildlife Services has flown over the area twice looking for wolves to kill without success. So far this year depredations statewide are down said Todd Grimm, Wildlife Services Idaho State Director. But lately in has picked up with depredations in Leadore and the Pahsimeroi Valley.

Overall wolf depredations are down Grimm said, because of hunting.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West