The Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation will soon distribute up to $50,000 in federal funds to reimburse livestock producers for money spent on nonlethal predator deterrents.
Office Administrator Dustin Miller said application criteria will be announced in a few weeks.
“We’re still fine-tuning the details of the program,” he said.
The money came from legislation passed by Congress in 2009 creating the Wolf Livestock Loss Demonstration Project. The bill provided states and Indian tribes with $1 million annually for five years, divided equally between compensation funds and money to help ranchers undertake prevention activities. The federal funds pay for up to half the cost of the activities.
Last year, the state of Idaho distributed $72,000 in federal funds to ranchers as compensation for losses. However, it held until this year $50,000 specified for deterrence projects, Miller said.
For the past seven years, the Wood River Wolf Project has worked with local ranchers to protect 27,000 sheep annually over a 1,000-square-mile area using guard dogs, noisemakers and visual deterrents to keep wolves away from flocks.
Producers involved in the project include Lava Lake Land & Livestock and Flat Top Ranch, both based in southern Blaine County, as well as Faulkner Livestock, which is based in Lincoln County. All graze on public land in the Wood River Valley.
The project also has representatives from the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, Blaine County and the nonprofit Sawtooth Society.
During a meeting of project members Monday at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters north of Ketchum, project Field Manager Fernando Najera said there have been no instances of wolf depredation on sheep in the Wood River Valley so far this year. He said there have been two instances of depredation by bears—in the Lake Creek and Baker Creek areas—and one by a domestic dog, in the Fox Creek drainage.
Najera said five to 10 sheep have been lost to other causes, possibly from eating poisonous plants. He said he has been putting sheep carcasses in plastic bags to reduce their attraction to wolves.
Project Coordinator Suzanne Stone said only 30 sheep have been killed by wolves in the project area over the past six and a half years.
“That makes our loss to wolf predation among the lowest in the state,” she said.
Stone said the project’s loss rate of less than 0.03 percent is far below the typical rate in wolf country of 3 to 5 percent.
She said no wolves have been killed in the project area as the result of depredation on sheep. Wolves have been killed by government hunters due to livestock losses on the Flat Top Ranch property near Carey and in the Sawtooth Valley.
During the meeting, project members agreed to pursue expanding their effort to include cattle herds in the Stanley Basin, west of the town of Stanley. However, Flat Top Ranch owner John Peavey expressed doubts that cow-calf pairs could be protected.