LETTER: Numbers Out of Fantasyland

By Beacon Staff

A recent article in the Beacon had some wolf depredation figures straight out of fantasyland (Dec. 22 Beacon: “Questions as Livestock Losses Skyrocket”). John Steuber, the federal director of Wildlife Services for Montana, claims that between 2006 and 2010 calf losses to wolves went from 51 to 454, while sheep losses rose from 22 to 728. Yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the official record keepers, show that between 2006 and 2009 (there are no 2010 figures) cattle losses actually rose from 32 to 97, and sheep from four to 202.

How could Wildlife Services be so far off base? It’s simple if you don’t mind cooking the books to pad your budget. As the article notes, official state and federal counts only tally confirmed and probable kills – pretty reasonable – while Wildlife Services inflates the number with kills rated only as “possible,” as well as all other depredations, even with no evidence of wolf involvement.

In addition, Wildlife Services gets paid (with your tax dollars) to kill native American wildlife at the request of the livestock industry, and the bigger the problem they can claim, and the bigger the body count of carnivores, the higher their budget. It should come as no surprise that this study was requested by the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, which, along with similar livestock groups across the West, helps generate a significant chunk of the Wildlife Services budget.

So Wildlife Services, little more that hired hit men for the livestock industry, pad their figures and their budget at the same time; please their masters in the ranching community; and suck up to western anti-carnivore congressional leaders who they hope will vote them even more of your tax dollars next year. Can you say “conflict of interest” – how about “Collusion?”

Brian Peck
Columbia Falls

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