Predator management program cost effective

Feb 6, 2009
by WLJ
Predator management program cost effective

Wyoming’s predator management program relating to livestock is cost effective, according to an analysis by the University of Wyoming’s (UW) College of Agriculture.

There is a $1.60 to $2.30 benefit to livestock producers in Wyoming for each dollar spent controlling coyotes and other predators that prey on sheep and cattle, said David “Tex” Taylor, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and a community development specialist with the UW Cooperative Extension Service.

The result is annual net benefits of $3.5 to $7.9 million to Wyoming’s agricultural producers, he said. The team examined the death loss from predation on the profitability of a typical Wyoming cattle ranch, Taylor said. Using a 4 percent calf loss as the average, ranch profitability declines by 20 percent if the loss increases to 6 percent. With an 8 percent loss rate, profits decline by 40 percent, while a 10 percent loss rate results in a 65 percent decline in profitability.

“The numbers at the upper end were surprising,” said Taylor, who explained that as predator losses mount, profitability declines sharply because fixed costs for the ranches remain constant.

The Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board awarded the department $33,000 to conduct the first phase of a two-year project.

Conducting the analyses are Taylor, Associate Professor Roger Coupal, Assistant Professor Ben Rashford, and Associate Research Scientist Tom Foulke of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

They are working closely with state Predator Management Coordinator Kent Drake with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s Division of Technical Services.

“It is good to see that, historically, predator control has been effective for Wyoming livestock producers,” Drake said. “We look forward to seeing the second-year study results regarding predator control relationships with wildlife and community economics.”

In phase one, the UW team examined trends in sheep and cattle losses to predators from 1965 to 2006 using the Wyoming Agricultural Statistics. Taylor said the losses fluctuated widely, from a low of 5 percent for lambs in 1968 to a high of approximately 16 percent for lambs in 1993 and 1994. Losses have since declined.

Though the team wasn’t able to determine possible reasons for annual increases or decreases in livestock losses due to predators, Taylor said, it may indicate increased efforts to manage predators in Wyoming are effective. His team’s report states coyotes remain the primary predator for sheep and lambs in the state, accounting for 65 percent to 80 percent of the total loss. — WLJ