Do Ranchers Have a Right to Be Free From Predators?

“No” is the answer from Montana hunting guide George Wuerthner. In his column for New West, he asserts that predator hunting is a subsidy benefiting ranchers only. Instead, ranchers should practice other methods.

From the column:

Killing predators to appease the livestock industry is nothing more than another subsidy to an industry that is already living off the public largess, in part, because most predator losses are completely avoidable with proper animal husbandry techniques.

For instance, prompt removal of dead animals from fields, and burial of the remains can significantly reduce attracting predators. One recent study in Oregon showed a very strong association between wolf packs and bone piles—places where ranchers dump dead cattle. Obviously one-way to avoid attracting wolves to ranches is to bury all dead animals. One study in Minnesota found that rapid removal of dead animals from livestock operations could reduce a second predation event by 55 times.

Wuerthner goes on to say predator hunting actually increases the likelihood of predation incidents.

Ironically one of the best ways to reduce predation losses may be to
stop killing predators. There is a growing body of evidence that
suggests killing wolves; cougars, coyotes, and bears actually increase
social chaos leading to greater predation losses. The reasons include
the fact that hunted predator populations tend to be skewed towards
younger animals that are less skillful hunters, thus more likely to
attack livestock. And in more stable predator populations, older mature
animals, and larger stable packs can maintain territories that can keep
young and unskilled animals away from livestock operations. Thus
predator control often leads to more livestock depredation, and more
calls for predator control.

What do you think? Click here to read the entire column.

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2 thoughts on “Do Ranchers Have a Right to Be Free From Predators?

  1. I see that the author is a former guide. I can only surmise that he has had a change of heart about predator control. That’s his right. I would raise some points. First, what about wildlife? Hunters pay the bill on wildlife conservation. It’s a proven fact that predators will destroy huntable big game populations unless controlled. Hunters can’t hunt, hunters don’t pay. Prey populations go down, predators die. I guess that’s okay as long as the rancher doesn’t pull the trigger. Second, the use of guard dogs is kind of strange. They will either kill the predators or be killed by the predators all things being equal. At the very least the dogs run the risk of injury. I guess that’s all right in the mind of the author as longs as the rotten rancher doesn’t pull the trigger. Third, state pays for loss of animals. I guess it’s all right for taxpayers to pay for loss of animals as long as rotten rancher doesn’t pull the trigger. Enough said. As usual these people’s arguments are long on emotion and short on fact.

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