National Geographic : 2010 Mar
• Coyote 25.3% • 31,600 Other predators 6.5% • 8,100 (fox, eagle, bobcat, other or unknown) Wolf 1% • 1,300 sheep Dog 1.1% • 1,400 Cougar 1.4% • 1,700 Bear 1.8% • 2,200 Weather 22.6% • 28,300 Disease 11% • 13,700 Lambing complications 9% • 11,200 Old age 5.8% • 7,200 Other 7% • 8,700 Unknown 7.7% • 9,600 125,000 Total reported sheep loss Percentages exceed 100 because of rounding. Predator Non-predator fast as we are. Besides that, we have good pop- ulations of natural prey here. I've seen wolves walk right through cattle herds to stalk deer." Ranchers used to leave stock that died of dis- ease, birthing problems, and accidents lying on the range or collected in heaps called bone piles. But "as predators began to recover, the carcasses kept luring them into trouble," explains Seth Wilson, a conservation biologist who coordi- nates the range rider program. "Now we collect carcasses right away and compost them at a dis- tant site. It's one of the simplest and most e ec- tive ways to reduce con icts with both bears and wolves. It just requires changing old habits." e question is no longer how to get rid of wolves but how to coexist with them. Family rancher David Mannix says, "We have to realize that the general U.S. population wants wolves. at population is also our customers for beef. It's not a good idea to tell your customers they don't know what they're doing. So instead of taking a hard line and ghting to get everything back to where it was 50 years ago, we're trying things like the range rider." "But if ranchers can't make a living," stockman and veterinarian Ron Skinner says, "the alter- native these days is usually subdivision for real estate, and there goes an awful lot of the open space and prime wildlife habitat in the West." in Yellowstone first came calling, the area's elk and moose stood their ground as though they were still dealing with coyotes. Bad plan. Today Yellowstone holds half the elk it did 15 years ago. Yet by most mea- sures the population had swelled too high, and their range was deteriorating. Shortly a er kill- ing the last Yellowstone wolves in 1926, park o cials were culling elk by the thousands. e elk kept rebounding and overgrazing key habi- tats, creating a perpetually unnatural situation for a park intended to preserve nature. With a near-unlimited meat supply, Yellow- stone's new wolves rapidly multiplied. But the count abruptly fell in 2005. It increased again, reaching 171 in 2007, then sank to 124 by the end of 2008, a 27 percent drop this time. Doug COUNTING SHEEP LOSS Wolf predation reported by ranchers in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho (2008 statistics below) accounts for a fraction of sheep deaths but is one more blow. Of the cases wildlife agents were called to investigate, 355 were confirmed as wolf kills, eligible for compensation. NG ART. SOURCE: USDA NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS SERVICE.