Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sheep and predators can coexist

On recent mornings, I've watched "The Killer Bee" airplane flying over the Flat Top Ranch, searching for wolves.

On Thursday, May 24, the gunner shot a small gray sub-adult (yearling) near the Campbell Reservoir. The Killer Bee belongs to "Wildlife Services," a misnamed agency of USDA.

Aerial gunning of wolves doesn't need to be happening. There are ways for predators and livestock to coexist. Ranchers must be willing to change. Sheep need a human presence. Guard dogs help, but must be backed up by a person. Sheep cannot be left on their own and be safe. The kill order for wolves on the Flat Top Ranch was given by Idaho Fish and Game. I understand that the agency has little choice, given Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's stance on wolves. The answer lies with the rancher being willing to learn to live with predators.

Recently, I've observed some 50 sheep left on their own in a pasture just east of the Little Wood Reservoir. There was a depredation of seven ewes there blamed on wolves earlier in May. The carcasses were left strewn about in the sage around the lambing pasture, as if ringing a dinner bell to every four-legged predator and those with wings. I observed ewes having their lambs with no human around, but in the company of scores of ravens, vultures and sometimes a coyote, bald eagle or golden eagle.

Sheep are helpless and need kind, compassionate care to help them live their short lives. When I raised sheep, the ewes about to lamb were moved to a small pasture, checked often, and then put into a lambing pen at time of birth. Mother and baby lamb were watched closely and given life-saving assistance when needed.

What's going on in the Little Wood with open-range lambing and unattended sheep is hurting ewes, lambs, wolves and coyotes. It doesn't have to be this way.

Lynne Stone


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