Rancher says wolf attack near Victor cost $28,000 in sheep

The August attack is said to be the greatest wolf-caused sheep loss ever recorded in one instance in the U.S.

POST REGISTERSeptember 4, 2013 

Six miles south of the eastern Idaho town of Victor, a pile of 176 sheep carcasses sat rotting away in the sun.

The pile represented a $28,000 loss for the Siddoway Sheep Co. It’s money the company likely will never get back, despite the existence of a federal compensation program — the Wolf Livestock Demonstration Project — for wolf attack depredation.

“As far as compensation, there won’t be any,” says J.C. Siddoway, who manages the ranch. His father, Jeff Siddoway, is company president and an Idaho state senator from Terreton.

The Aug. 17 wolf attack caused the sheep to stumble down a steep hillside into a pileup. It is likely the biggest wolf-caused sheep loss ever recorded in one instance in the country, says Todd Grimm, state director of the federal U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services unit. “I haven’t heard of more (sheep) being killed by wolves anywhere,” he says.

Despite the federal funds to cover such losses, the Siddoways likely won’t receive any money from the feds.

The reason? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ fiscal year 2013 budget allocates no money for the compensation program, even though it was originally slated for five years starting in 2010, says Hilary Cooley, the service’s Pacific Region wolf coordinator. The agency doesn’t know whether funds for the next two fiscal years will be allocated.

The problem started in August 2010, when the Defenders of Wildlife ended its wolf compensation program after 23 years. The program was ended following the passage of the 2009 Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, which authorized funds to initiate state-run compensation programs, according to a Defenders of Wildlife newsletter.

Through this act, the Wolf Livestock Demonstration Project was born. The project is meant to do two things: help livestock producers with nonlethal activities to reduce predation by wolves, and compensate livestock producers for losses caused by wolves.

About $1 million is supposed to be set aside each year for the project. States and Native American tribes can apply for funding to help their livestock producers recover money lost as a result of wolf predation.

But three years later, it lacks the luster — and the money — it once promised.

For fiscal year 2010, Idaho received about $140,000 for its livestock producers, says Dustin Miller, administrator of the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation.

Montana, Wyoming and Washington also received a cut of the roughly $1 million, Cooley says.

Only one year after funding began, however, the project failed — no money was allocated for fiscal year 2011, she says.

Idaho was able to compensate its livestock producers in 2011 because of carry-over money from 2010, Miller says. But when federal fiscal year 2012 rolled around, the office and Idaho livestock producers waited for the money to come. A little more than a month before the end of fiscal year 2013, that money — cut to $850,000 and spread among nine entities — is finally trickling down to producers.

It’s not nearly enough, Miller says. Miller says the office has received claims totaling between $100,000 and $150,000 for verified losses caused by wolves. The state will receive only $80,000 for compensation, according to data provided by the federal government.

The state plans to pro-rate that money so each verified claim receives something, Miller says. That money is for 2012. There is no money for 2013.

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