We Can Coexist With Wolves Without Firing One Bullet
Frank Priestley, president of the Idaho Farm Bureau, recently wrote an op-ed in the Idaho Press Tribune. He was responding to a report about four steps for coexisting with predators that a panel of experts presented to the Society for Range Management. He supports two of the steps: removing and disposing of animal carcasses, and providing more human presence around herds.
He disagrees with the experts who said that cattle need to learn to stand together and rekindle the type of herd instinct that protects bison from wolves. He claims that this change will make a cowboy's work more dangerous.
But he really takes exception when the panel - including a Montana cattle rancher, a consultant, and a conservationist - says that indiscriminate killing of wolves and coyotes is counterproductive, because wolves or coyotes that prefer different prey will leave cattle alone and keep other predators away.
Not so for Priestly, who writes:
"Our advice remains the same... if you see a wolf - any wolf - among your herd, do not waste time attempting to determine what its intentions may be. Hold the rifle firmly against your shoulder, place the animal in the center of the crosshairs, inhale deeply, then exhale slowly while applying steady pressure on the trigger. Repeat if necessary."
Having blown away recommendations from experts, he proclaims - incorrectly - that Idaho has the largest wolf population in the lower 48. In fact, Minnesota has three times as many wolves, according to a count by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
He omits important information on the actual impact of wolves on Idaho ranchers. According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, only 43 cattle, 100 sheep, three dogs, and one horse were confirmed as killed by wolves in 2014.
He neglects to say that Idaho, as of Jan. 1 had 2,300,000 cattle. While the loss of a single cow for any reason can harm a rancher's bottom line, 43 cattle lost to wolves will not kill Idaho's cattle industry.
He fails to say that ranchers who lose cattle to wolves can be financially compensated since Idaho, like other wolf states, participates in a compensation program.
Priestly leads an important and influential organization. The Idaho Farm Bureau's website states that their membership includes over 70,000 Idaho families. The organization calls itself the "Voice of Idaho Agriculture." Priestley's close-minded, misleading, and erroneous statements taint that voice and the way many Idahoans may view living with wolves.
I would like to help Priestly see that telling ranchers to shoot first and think later is not good advice. I would like to help him accept more ways to coexist with wolves and coyotes. But given the credentials of those he refuted, I hold no hope of doing so. The only step that I can take is to continue to not eat beef until organizations such as the Idaho Farm Bureau take the time and effort to coexist with wolves and coyotes instead of indiscriminately killing them.