By Andi Elliott
Tonight we had dinner with Senator and Mrs. Jeff Siddoway to discuss the senator’s remarks regarding wolf control which has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. I myself was appalled at the news report depicting the use of “live bait” which is why I contacted the Senator. I attempted to be civil but am sure that my anger came through in my email. So tonight, I found myself talking with a man who is a 4th generation sheep rancher and who has watched his sheep and his guard dogs slaughtered by wolves year after year. Just last week, 30 of his ewes were killed. Imagine the feeling of helplessness and frustration. Yes, the government reimburses ranchers for livestock lost to these predators but of course, the rancher comes out on the short end. Imagine having 40 of your 200 rams in a pen wantonly killed and then having to find replacement animals and the expense incurred in doing so.
The family has experienced ever extending government oversight of ranching to the point that they could be watching the wolves attack their sheep and not be able to defend them because of regulations. In one instance related to me tonight, the senator called three government agencies trying to get permission to shoot wolves that were at that very moment menacing his sheep. By the time approval was given, the pack had left.
They’ve lost a total of 18 guard dogs…Great Pyrenees. The herding dogs (Border Collies/Heelers) are too afraid to even attempt to stay with the flocks. The wolves will kill the young guard dogs by simply crushing their faces. The adult Pyrenees weighing easily 80-120# are no match for the wolves. Mercifully, I haven’t personally seen dozens of sheep ripped to pieces and the dogs mutilated as they tried to protect their sheep. It would break my heart to see so much suffering.
After the introduction of the wolves in the Rocky Mountains, there was no problem for a few years until the wolves began multiplying and forming packs. The regulatory agencies know each pack and their offspring. Colored collars designate the different groups. The wolves are well monitored and I’m amazed how much is known about the individual wolves. My research indicates that contrary to public opinion, these wolves are not indigenous to Idaho but are the results of programs initiated by folks who know little of the reality of the situation. Millions of dollars are dedicated for this purpose.
I have spent some time on the net looking at effective methods of controlling wolves…trying to put myself in the place of a sheep rancher…and I have concluded that none of the “humane methods” were adequate for protecting the livestock and the dogs. And when the wolves attack at night, the sheepherders can hear the wolves and listen to the dogs barking and fighting and the sounds of terrified sheep…but in the dark, they are helpless in protecting their animals. They are not permitted to use adequate lighting or rifles equipped with night vision scopes. The odds are slanted against the ranchers and their sheep and the dogs.
During the dinner, I asked about his “live bait” comment. His response, I could tell, was from the heart. Yes, better wording could have been used; further explanation of his plan would have helped those of us focused only on the “live bait” comment to understand what ranchers are facing. There was no intent on sacrificing “the bait”. The animals would be used to hopefully lure the wolves within range to be shot or trapped…which still gives me a queasy feeling but I am at a loss to suggest a better solution. After hearing firsthand from the Siddoways of their experiences in simply trying to keep their animals safe and the limitations within which they have to work, I must offer an apology to them. They are trying to abide by guidelines established by an over-reaching federal government and have been placed at a terrible disadvantage. I wish that all could have heard what I heard tonight. Hopefully, my comments here will add some perspective to what ranchers are facing. I hate to see the suffering but I have nothing better to offer.
Tea Party Patriots Idaho State Co-Coordinator
President of For the Love of Pets Foundation
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