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Guest Opinions

Predator Management Integral in Wyoming

Predator Management and Wyoming government have had a relationship in Wyoming since 1875.  Before Wyoming was even a state, the territory county commissioners were given authorization to pay bounties out of the general fund for many predator species that today are still recognized as predators or have been designated as trophy game animals.  

In 1890, Wyoming became a state, and the State Constitution provides for the protection of livestock. The cornerstone of our Wyoming predator management program was created in 1943 when county predator management districts were formed. 

Today, we have 22 active county predator management districts that are conducted and administrated by local cattle and sheep producers and, in many cases, by additional sportsmen, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts. Most everyone has considered the additional wildlife interests as a real “asset” for better relations with local stakeholders and the additional benefits that predator control can provide to our Wyoming wildlife.

The bounty programs of yesterday can still be found in some counties, but many have since been replaced with more strategic programs that deal directly with specific depredating predators rather than the bounty “shotgun” approach. Today, many programs deal with targeting pre-lambing and pre-calving pastures and summer range before the livestock arrive. This concept is now being carried over for the benefit of wildlife, where local predator districts have partnered with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to conduct pre-fawning predator work for the benefit of mule deer and pronghorn antelope.

In addition local specialists, whether they are independent-contract trappers for the local district or contracted USDA APHIS Wildlife Service specialists, are capable of targeting problem predators on individual ranches in a timely manner.

Today’s programs are all possible by a host of cooperating partners. First, cattle and sheep producers pay a predator fee into local county programs that are collected by Wyoming Livestock Board brand inspectors. Second, thanks to state legislators and the governor, general funds are used to supplement predator fees and have greatly enhanced 19 county predator management districts that have obligated themselves to meet the qualifications for state funding. Third, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services provides services to many county programs through contracted wildlife specialists, disease monitoring, raven and bird control, aerial hunting and specific help for management of large carnivore predators for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The fourth partner is the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board, also known as the ADMB. The ADMB was formed by the legislature in 1999 and is comprised of 15 members representing a host of private and public interests. This board is lead by the co-chairs Jason Fearneyhough, Wyoming Department of Agriculture director, and Scott Talbott, Wyoming Game and Fish Department director.

The ADMB was established for the purposes of mitigating damage caused to livestock, wildlife and crops by predatory animals, predacious birds and depredating animals or for the protection of human health and safety. 

More to the point, the ADMB distributes state funding to the qualifying predator boards through an application, interview and reporting process. They also distribute funding to different entities that are doing predator research or performing special projects that deal with predator management in Wyoming.  

The ADMB strives to work with various individuals and government agencies to eliminate hurdles to successful livestock and wildlife enhancement.

Most recently, the ADMB has developed rules for the distribution of funds for grey wolf management in the predatory area of the state. Through this process compensation for loss is not available, but agreements have been made with USDA APHIS Wildlife Services and local predator districts to help pay for wolf management.

I wish I had room here to acknowledge the many people that have helped develop this program over the years.  It is a tribute to them that this program is now the envy of many U.S. states that deal with predator issues on a daily basis.