Tester, Barrasso introduce plan to compensate wolf kills

Senators' legislation would start fund to reimburse livestock losses

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jon Tester, D-Mont., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., today teamed up to introduce legislation that would compensate livestock owners whose animals are killed by wolves.

The bipartisan plan is a response to the federal government's March 28 decision to remove gray wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho from the Endangered Species List—a decision that handed wolf management to the states.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the gray wolf population in Montana and Wyoming has recovered since their introduction to Yellowstone National Park in 1992.

Tester's and Barrasso's legislation, called the Gray Wolf Livestock Loss Mitigation Act, would authorize federal money for state trust funds to reimburse livestock owners whose animals are killed by wolves.

In Montana, the federal money would boost a newly formed livestock loss fund, which will repay Montana ranchers the full market value of killed animals.  The program, created as part of Montana's wolf management plan, began accepting claims just yesterday.

The Gray Wolf Livestock Loss Mitigation Act would also allow federal grants for states to help lower the risk of wolf kills by improving fencing and grazing practices, using guard dogs, and other means.

"It's time for the federal government to step up and compensate for any losses caused by wolves in Montana," Tester said.  "Ranchers already deal with a lot of challenges like weather, disease and changing markets.  They can't afford to worry about additional challenges like hungry wolves."

"The federal government put these wolves in Wyoming and Montana," Barrasso said. "This bill will make them take financial responsibility for the damage they cause."

Approximately 1,500 gray wolves now roam across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports wolves killed 75 head of cattle in 2007, up from 32 in 2006.  Confirmed sheep losses rose from four in 2006 to 27 in 2007.

In Wyoming, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimates that wolves killed 100 adult cattle and 600 calves in 2007. Sheep losses reached 100 ewes and 400 lambs last year.