In the latest tug-of-war between area ranchers and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, it appears the only winners are going to be the lawyers representing the two parties.

Two weeks ago, the G&F commission significantly reduced two claims submitted by area ranchers for livestock losses due to predation by wolves and grizzlies.

The two ranchers, one from Crandall and one from Thermopolis, had submitted claims for livestock losses totaling $442,980 and had those claims reduced to $83,365.

The real loss to the ranchers was undoubtedly somewhere in between what they claimed and what they were granted.

We can certainly appreciate both sides of the disagreement.

The ranchers clearly want to be able to operate a business without having to deal with losses from predators they aren’t legally allowed to control and then to be compensated for those losses.

The G&F has a responsibility to protect the gray wolf and grizzly bear populations while reimbursing ranchers for losses.

It’s the huge disparity in what the ranchers claim in losses and what the G&F awards in reimbursements that is the problem.

And that’s where the lawyers come in.

Ranchers should be reimbursed for actual damages, multipliers for calf losses and other costs directly associated with their claims, not just the per head cost of losing livestock. But exactly how much are those actual damages worth and what can legitimately be claimed?

Jalie Meinecke, the attorney for the Crandall rancher, has already promised legal action.

She said at the hearing she plans to use financial statements regarding the claim “when we get to district court.”

It’s unfortunate these livestock-loss claims cannot be settled without lawsuits.

The whole situation is troubling, but unfortunately we don’t see an easy resolution to the problem.


(1) comment

Dewey Vanderhoff

So... setting aside the gargantuous gadfly that is Frank Robbins who was and is a wealthy hobby rancher from northern Alabama before he bought up Owl Creek down by Thermopolis , let's talk about the Peterson cattle empire up in Crandall and their cattle management expertise on the public's graze .

Back in 2017 travellers crossing the Beartooths on the most scenic highway in America were treated to a ghastly sight... many bloated Black Angus cattle decomposing in the sun on the side of the road , breeding flies and stinking to the high heavens. Pickups and loaders were bringing more dead cows to the heap. The cattle had gotten into a patch of Larkspur. There weren't any cowboys saddled up riding herd to tell the dumb animals to not eat the pretty purple flowers. Tourists motoring by got a snootful of that romantic Real Western visage. The Park County Sheriff rode by on his motorcycle and estimated over 35 cattle were belly up , total number of dead cows unknown.

Cause of death was more negligence by owner than toxicology. Owner neglected to implement cowboys to watch over their valuable mammals. That happens a lot. Some grazing leasors put their cows on the mountain in June for their 120 days of allotted time ; check 'em a couple times over the summer, and round 'em up in the fall. Those that survived being neglected.

The Peterson cattle have a long tradition of being unsupervised and wandering all over Table Mountain and the south flanks of the Beartooths going backd ecades , off their allotments. Hard to do real range conservation and public forest management when the private party isn't upholding their half of the agreement.

Grizzly bears et al depredating unsupervised cattle grazing on public lands are doing nothing wrong whatsoever. Since you brought them into the discussion , it's worth saying Lawyers are also predators and/or scavengers , just ordering their sustenance from a different menu.

The author of this Op-Ed has no clue how public lands grazing really works on the hoof , on the ground. Oh by the way ... nobody raises beef with the expectation that every calf born will make it to the sale ring and the supermarket. On its best of days public lands cattle production in Wyoming is subject to a gawdawful business model . In recent years up to 45,000 cows or calves were lost to all causes annually in Wyoming. Just for guffaws it's worth noting that lightning strikes and blizzards kill 50-100 times as many Wyoming cattle as grizzly bears. Try to get the State to pay you for THAT...

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