Think reintroduced wolves aren’t causing a big problem for ranchers and farmers? Think again.
Siddoway Ranch in southeastern Idaho is reeling after 176 sheep were killed Saturday after being chased by two wolves, according to KTVB in Boise, Idaho.
In what’s being called a “freak incident” by wildlife officials, a flock of 2,400 sheep—most of them lambs—was grazing on public land in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest when they were pursued by two wolves. Most of the sheep had been trampled or asphyxiated, huddling together in a large mass near a rocky ridge line. Fewer than 10 sheep were bitten, and one was partially consumed.
Wildlife officials say it is the largest loss by wolves in state history.
According to Todd Grimm, director of Wildlife Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Boise, attacks like this are uncommon, as wolf packs tend to scatter sheep, not concentrate them.
“I would consider this a freak incident,” Grimm told KTVB. “We have had some pile ups from time to time, and most of those are because of black bears, and even [mountain] lions.”
Whether it’s common or not, it’s bad news for the Siddoway family.
“My husband and I have been fighting this whole issue our entire lives,” Cindy Siddoway, whose family owns the ranch, said. “We’re putting out thousands of animals that are just sitting ducks.”
The Siddoways own over 19,000 sheep, and each animal is valued at $200 a head, according to USDA loss compensation. Total damage for the Siddoways would then amount to about $35,000. Unfortunately for the ranchers, it doesn’t just stop at sheep—the family has also lost a few Great Pyrenees guard dogs and a horse to wolf attacks in the last few months.
Perhaps worst of all is that the Siddoways may not be compensated. KTVB reported no herder has been compensated through Idaho’s compensation program in the last two years. Though the money is available, lately it has been tied up in sequesters.
Along with the mounting financial losses, the Siddoways will be forced to deal with the wolves by themselves.
Of course, this isn’t the first time wolves have caused problems. Last October, we received a series of graphic photos after a wolf pack had killed a hunting dog in Wisconsin. Wolves aren’t the only ones wreaking havoc either, as canine cousins like coyotes and wild dogs have been reported decimating deer populations and livestock. Wolf hunting has also created quite a stir, with opposition going so far as to send death threats to hunters who take wolves.