by The Associated PressTuesday, June 1st 2021AA
Montana FWP officials euthanized a pair of grizzly bears after they several depredations on llamas, sheep, goat and chickens over time near Whitefish. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
KALISPELL, Mont. — Montana wildlife officials said Tuesday that state bear management specialists killed a pair of grizzly bears near Whitefish that had been involved in numerous livestock attacks.
An adult female grizzly bear was captured on Monday and its yearling captured on Tuesday in the Haskill Basin area.
The animals were euthanized because of a history of killing livestock including sheep, llamas, chickens and a goat.
Last week, authorities killed an adult male grizzly bear in the Dupuyer area after it was suspected of attacking calves across numerous ranches.
The following was sent out by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear management specialists euthanized a pair of grizzly bears after numerous depredations on llamas, sheep, goat, and chickens over time near Whitefish.
FWP specialists captured an adult female grizzly bear on May 31 and its yearling on June 1 in the Haskill Basin area. The decision was made to kill both bears due to their history of livestock depredations and in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The bears most recently entered an enclosure holding numerous animals on private property and killed a llama. The bear pushed through a gate to enter the pen where the llama was located along with other animals, including six wallaroos. FWP staff responded to assist the landowner and continue efforts to capture the bears.
The adult female bear was previously captured and fitted with a GPS radio collar, but the collar was malfunctioning and came off in the summer of 2019. Data collected from the radio collar identified the bear at several sites where sheep, llamas, and chickens were killed around Whitefish. Attempts to recapture the adult female were unsuccessful during 2020.
Earlier this spring, FWP received reports of sheep killed off East Edgewood Drive. Staff with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services set a trap in the area and attempted to capture the bear but was unsuccessful. Cameras set up at the site identified the adult female and yearling. Several days later, the bears killed goats on private property in Haskill Basin. Additional traps and cameras were set but efforts to capture the bears was unsuccessful until most recently. Reports of chickens killed on private property in the area persisted at the same time.
Traditional meat processor JBS, with which the plant-based food company competes, has fallen victim to a cyberattack.
Evan Niu, CFA(TMFNewCow)Jun 2, 2021 at 1:39PMAuthor Biohttps://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.06c6ee58c3810956b7509218508c7b56.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=TMFNewCow&show_count=true&show_screen_name=true&size=l&time=1622665833680
Shares of Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) were up by 7.9% as of 1:21 p.m. EST Wednesday after traditional meat processing company JBS (OTC:JBSAY) had its operations disrupted by a ransomware attack. Based on Brazil, JBS is the largest meat processor in the world.
The cyberattack, which JBS disclosed earlier this week, impacted the company’s servers and IT infrastructure in North America and Australia. The company immediately suspended the use of all affected systems and has been working diligently to restore them. In an update provided on Tuesday, JBS said that its operations in Mexico and the U.K. were not affected. Nine of JBS’s plants in the U.S. were shut down on Tuesday, but the company said that it expected the “vast majority” of its food plants to be fully operational Wednesday.
IMAGE SOURCE: BEYOND MEAT.
The hackers are believed to be based in Russia, according to JBS and the U.S. government. This ransomware attack comes just a month after a similar incursion temporarily crippled Colonial Pipeline, which significantly disrupted the supply of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel to the East Coast. The attacks highlight vulnerabilities in the underlying infrastructure that many U.S. businesses rely on.
Pipeline stocks jumped last month on Colonial Pipeline’s woes, and some rival food producers’ stocks are similarly rising in light of JBS’s troubles. While a protracted disruption of the company’s operations could lead to higher meat prices, potentially making plant-based alternatives more attractive, any meat shortages caused by the attack are expected to be short term in nature.
Since the shutdowns of JBS’s meat processing plants should only last a day or two, it’s unlikely that the attack will translate into a meaningful boost for Beyond Meat’s business.
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Meat shortage in the US a concern following cyberattack
The shutdowns impacted all nine beef plants, located in Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wisconsin, Utah, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to officials from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents more than 25,000 JBS employees. JBS’s US-based pork plants are still operational.
The shuttered plants produce nearly one-quarter of U.S. beef supplies. In total, JBS employs more than 66,000 workers across 84 US-based locations.
The attack raised concerns of a potential meat shortage in the U.S. and several other countries impacted by the situation. It wasn’t immediately clear how the shutdown would affect meat prices.
JBS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bloomberg was first to report on the shutdowns.
IHS Markit vice chairman Daniel Yergin weighs in on the impact of the colonial pipeline shutdown and his outlook for renewable energy.
JBS USA said it discovered on Sunday that an “organized cybersecurity attack” had impacted some of its computer systems in North America and Australia. The company noted it would “take time” to resolve the cybersecurity breach and warned it “may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”
UFCW called on the company to pay workers impacted by the plant shutdowns.
“As the union for JBS meatpacking workers across the country, UFCW is pleased JBS is working around the clock to resolve this, and UFCW is urging JBS to ensure that all of its meatpacking workers receive their contractually guaranteed pay as these plant shutdowns continue,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement.
JBS has yet to publicly disclose that it was targeted by a ransomware attack. The White House said it was aware of the situation and indicated a criminal group likely based in Russia was believed to be responsible.
“JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia. The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals,” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing.
22 hours ago
Attack comes just weeks after Colonial Pipeline hack
A criminal organization likely based in Russia is believed to be behind a ransomware attack on JBS, one of the largest meat producers in the world, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.
The news came just weeks after a ransomware attack shut down the Colonial Pipeline, which provides fuel to much of the eastern United States. The attack caused gas shortages in some places on the East Coast and the company eventually paid the ransom to restart the flow of gas.
“Meat producer JBS notified us on Sunday that they are the victims of a ransomware attack. The White House has offered assistance to JBS and our team and the Department of Agriculture have spoken to their leadership several times,” Jean-Pierre said.
“JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia. The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals,” she added.
The logo of global meatpacker JBS is seen in the city of Jundiai, Brazil June 1, 2017. A ransomware attack on the company is reportedly affecting its operations in Australia and the United States. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo)
Jean-Pierre said the FBI is investigating the ransomware attack along with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). She also said the Department of Agriculture is in touch with other meat processors and that the administration is “assessing” whether the attack may cause supply shortages.
“Combating ransomware is a priority for the administration. President Biden has already launched a rapid strategic review to address the increased threat of ransomware,” Jean-Pierre added.
JBS publicly said it was the victim of “an organized cybersecurity attack” in a Monday press release. It said the attack affected “some of the servers supporting its North American and Australian IT systems.”
Thousands of the workers for the company in Australia haven’t been able to go to work and the country’s agricultural minister said he expects only “limited capacity” to return in “the next couple of days.”
Bloomberg Law reported the company has seen widespread shutdowns in the United States too.
JBS did not immediately return a request for comment asking how widespread the ransomware attack’s effects on its U.S. operations are and whether it would pay the ransom.
The USDA did not immediately answer questions about how widespread the attack’s effects on JBS’ operations in the U.S. are and whether it is pushing JBS not to pay the ransom – as the government advises companies hit by such attacks to avoid incentivizing more hacking.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Anew study from a group of agricultural researchers found that nearly 18,000 deaths occur annually in the United States due to air pollution coming from farms.
The study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, noted that gases associated with manure and animal feed are producing particles that are able to drift hundreds of miles away from their source. Most of the deaths attributable to farm pollution, however, come from animal-based agriculture, accounting for 80 percent of the deaths the study uncovered.
Chronic exposure to increased levels of fine particulate matter (sometimes shortened to PM2.5) that is released from farms “increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke,” an analysis of the study noted.
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Notably, deaths associated with farm pollution are more localized than deaths that occur with greenhouse gas pollution. Communities upwind from farms discharging the pollutants are at greatest risk, said Jason Hill, University of Minnesota professor and a lead author of the study. In other words, the health effects from agriculture-based air pollution tend to be more localized, dependent upon local weather patterns and other factors.
While that reduces the risk from these pollutants at the national and global levels (areas most affected by this type of pollution are in eastern North Carolina, California’s Central Valley and the Upper Midwest), the annual number of deaths caused by farm pollution now exceed deaths caused by pollution from coal power plants in the U.S.
The biggest culprit behind the deaths from farm pollution, in the study’s estimation, is ammonia, a chemical that’s released by manure and fertilizer, and which often combines with other pollutants found on farms, including nitrogen and sulfur. Hill, speaking with The Washington Post about the study, pointed out that animal waste is often stored in “lagoons” on farms, where huge amounts of ammonia are generated by the breakdown of animal feces. Ammonia is also created when farmers apply too much fertilizer on crops.
According to the study, livestock waste and fertilizer overuse likely accounted for about 12,400 deaths per year. While particulate matter emanating from “dust from tillage, livestock dust, field burning, and fuel combustion in agricultural equipment use” accounted for around 4,800 more deaths annually.
Agriculture industry leaders were quick to push back against the study’s findings. “U.S. pork producers have a strong track record of environmental stewardship,” claimed Jim Monroe, a spokesperson for the National Pork Producers Council.
A spokesperson for Smithfield Foods, which runs industrial hog operations in North Carolina, agreed with Monroe’s contentions, citing a study from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, which said it didn’t find air quality problems in the areas where they had farms. But that study has some noteworthy flaws, including the fact that monitors used to detect ammonia levels were set up far away from the farms themselves.
Ammonia is a reactive chemical, and is difficult to detect unless a significant amount is released at one time.
In spite of this pushback, the study on agricultural air pollution noted there are potential solutions to the problem that could reduce yearly deaths in the U.S.
“Air quality–related health benefits … can be achieved through the actions of food producers and consumers,” the study’s authors said. Reducing particulate-related emissions, promoting dietary shifts in animals, reducing food loss and waste, and other methods are cited in the study as helpful to reducing the number of deaths from agricultural air pollution.
“The greatest benefits are from changes in livestock waste management and fertilizer application practices,” the study said. “Producer-side interventions in the 10 percent of counties with the highest mitigation potential alone could prevent 3,600 deaths per year.”
Methods based out of regenerative agriculture — described as “a system of farming principles and practices that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm” by the Climate Reality Project — could also be beneficial for scaling back farm-based air pollution, particularly in California, where such efforts could potentially reduce the impact of wildfires in the state. Such methods (including encouraging animals to graze natural plants, shrubs, or grass on the land, rather than animal feed, and engaging in no-till farming strategies to increase moisture levels in the soil) have been cited by farmer Alexis Koefoed as helping her family’s farm survive a wildfire last year.
“I think what the fire reinforced for me is that regenerative agriculture, managing the soil, using animals as grazers to build healthy soil is absolutely the direction to go in,” Koefoed said.
Beyond saving family farms, reducing the impact of wildfires could result in better health outcomes for nearby areas, particularly since smoke from those fires has been found to be 10 times more harmful than from other sources, including car exhaust.
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The animals were rejected by several countries over fears they had bovine bluetongue virus which, although it does not affect humans, causes lameness and haemorrhaging among cattle.
A confidential report by Spanish government veterinarians has said that more than 850 cows that spent months aboard a ship wandering across the Mediterranean are not fit for transport anymore and should be killed.
The cows were kept in what an animal rights activist called “hellish” conditions on a vessel named Karim Allah, which docked in the southeastern Spanish port of Cartagena on Thursday after struggling to find a buyer for the cattle during the past two months.
The beasts were rejected by several countries over fears they had bovine bluetongue virus. The insect-borne virus causes lameness and haemorrhaging among cattle. Bluetongue does not affect humans.
READ MORE: Why is Sri Lanka planning to ban cattle slaughter?https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=trtworld&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1364981403587403779&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.trtworld.com%2Flife%2Fspanish-report-calls-for-destroying-more-than-850-cattle-stuck-at-sea-44571&siteScreenName=trtworld&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px
A never ending journey
The veterinarians’ report concluded that the animals had suffered from the lengthy journey. Some of them were unwell and not fit for transport outside of the European Union, nor should they be allowed in the EU. Euthanasia would be the best solution for their health and welfare, it said.
The report did not say if the cattle had bluetongue disease.
“It is not even mentioned, which is very surprising,” said Miquel Masramon, a lawyer representing the ship owner Talia Shipping Line. The ship is registered in Lebanon, according to VesselFinder.
“My impression is that they will definitely go ahead with the slaughter and destruction of the animals and it’ll be difficult for us to prevent it,” he said.
Masramon said he would push for the return of blood samples taken from the animals and impounded by authorities on Thursday to be released and tested “to prove if there is any bluetongue.”
The Agriculture Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It said earlier on Friday that it would make appropriate decisions after analysing information from the inspection.https://www.youtube.com/embed/XVL3bL9AAzU?enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.trtworld.com
‘Unacceptable sanitary conditions’
The vessel originally left Cartagena to deliver the cattle to Turkey. But authorities there blocked the shipment and suspended live animal imports from Spain, fearing bluetongue infection.
That rejection turned the ship into an international pariah. Several countries refused it entry even to replenish animal feed, forcing the cows to go several days with just water.
The cows likely have severe health problems after their “hellish” crossing, said animal rights activist Silvia Barquero, director of the Igualdad Animal NGO.
“What has happened to the waste produced by all these animals for two months? We are sure they are in unacceptable sanitary conditions,” Barquero told.
The Agriculture Ministry’s experts counted 864 animals alive on board. Twenty-two cows died at sea, with two corpses still aboard. The remains of the others that died were chopped up and thrown overboard during the journey, the report said.
Ownership of the cattle is unclear.
The exporter, World Trade, said it is not responsible because it sold the animals, Masramon said. Reuters has been unable to reach World Trade for comment.
A second ship, the ElBeik, also set sail from Spain in December with a cargo of nearly 1,800 cows. It is currently moored off the Turkish Cypriot port of Famagusta.
Experts say old, repurposed techniques and new technologies may be better than bullets at curbing attacks by the predators
By Max G. LevySMITHSONIANMAG.COM
DECEMBER 11, 2020
Nestled amid butterscotch-scented Ponderosa pines in Idaho’s backcountry one sunny, summer day in 1991, Suzanne Stone scooped her hands around her chin and let out an “Ahwooooo.” Stone, now an expert in wolf restoration heading the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, was then an intern at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). After she sent two boisterous wolf howls rippling through nearby meadows, she listened curiously for a reply. Instead, a bullet from a distant rifle whistled just above her and her supervisor’s heads. Steve Fritts, a leading wolf scientist at USFWS, hurried Stone back to their car before reporting what happened. Hunting was legal in the area, but firing at federal employees—even unknowingly—was not. Federal investigators later traced the shot to a hunting outfitter hundreds of yards away.
“I knew then what wolves were facing in the backcountry,” she says. For nearly three decades, wolf populations in Idaho have been on the rise, pitting local communities and powerful interest groups against each other, a situation that plays out in many areas across the country where wolves exist. Hunters contend that wolves have fully recovered and now deplete elk and deer populations while some ranchers argue wolves need to be killed to keep livestock alive. Conservationists, on the other hand, say that the apex predators contribute vitally to a healthy ecosystem and are still functionally extinct in about 85 percent of their historic range.
In October, the Trump administration delisted gray wolves from the endangered species list, a move celebrated by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Safari Club International, a hunter advocacy group, in a joint statement. The conservationist group Defenders of Wildlife, meanwhile, issued a statement of their own calling the delisting “premature and reckless.” They have joined other conservation groups to file a formal intent to sue the USFWS soon after the law takes effect in January.
With gray wolves set to lose their federal protection when delisting takes effect in January, individual states have resorted to patching together their own terms for management, making it easier for people to hunt them in some states. But hunting will likely stunt wolf recovery and destabilize ecosystems already hobbled by their scarcity. Wolves regulate coyote populations, preventing the latter group from hunting pronghorn antelope; wolves pick off weak, rather than healthy, prey, leading to stronger deer and elk herds; and they keep wild herbivores from overgrazing, rippling benefits down to the soil. For these reasons, biologists have been trying to convince ranchers and policymakers that nonlethal methods, both old and new, should be used to reduce livestock conflicts and keep wolf populations stable or growing.
Wolves were nearly wiped out from the lower 48 by 1960, but numbers rebounded after Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and scientists reintroduced the predators to Yellowstone National Park and Idaho in 1995. Hunting ramped up between 2008 and 2012 when the USFWS delisted gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, in part to protect livestock from attack. But that tactic may have been counterproductive. Research from the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the University of Wisconsin Madison has shown that killing gray wolves actually leads to three times more livestock attacks, a finding supported by behavioral studies elsewhere. “The wolf pack is a family,” says Adrian Treves, who runs the lab. They cooperate to defend territory and raise pups. When one is killed, the destabilizing effect ripples through the pack. Reproductive age goes down, and naive juvenile attacks on livestock go up, according to Colleen St. Clair, a biologist at the University of Alberta.
Ranchers’ fears also run deeper than just slain cows. Even if livestock don’t die, wolves may chase or stress cattle enough that many lose weight, get trampled or injured. “I have major concerns about [wolves],” says Megan Brown, a cattle rancher in northern California who has encountered bears and wolves on her property. “I’ve noticed this happening slightly more now that the wolves are back.” (In 2011, California confirmed its first wild wolf sighting in 87 years.)
One newly proven tactic to discourage wolf-cattle conflicts is to keep an abundant population of the predators’ natural prey. Wolves prefer eating native wild animals, and depleted deer or elk populations nudge them toward abundant sheep and cattle. “Predators are always facing this cost benefit ratio,” St. Clair says. “When they choose to try to prey on livestock, it’s because they are in a situation where that’s their best option.” She suggests that planting deer or elk carcasses in wolf habitats or imposing stricter hunting limits could increase prey populations. Since doing so could also grow predator numbers, both approaches are contentious.
A tried-and-true change some ranchers have made is to keep their herds disease-free and haul dead livestock far from the rest. Wolves are exceptionally sensitive to weakened prey. “It’s like ringing the dinner bell and saying, ‘Come on in there’s a feast here’,” says Stone. Once the scent of a carcass lures them near a herd, healthy livestock become more vulnerable. Moving bone piles and carcasses far from the herd “may be the single best action” to prevent wolf predation on livestock from happening in the first place, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This approach, while effective, adds costs to ranching and requires some to manage land differently than they have for generations.
It’s also not going to be a cure-all; ranchers can’t bury or haul thousand-pound carcasses from some remote pastures in the dead of winter, and healthy herds need protection too. Since wolves have evolved to be shy around unfamiliar things, a common strategy is to scare them away with devices called nonlethal deterrents. A centuries’ old example comes from Polish hunting practices: fladry is a perimeter of tightly spaced colorful flags. The configuration is not a physical barrier, but the narrow spacing between flags still throws wolves off. Hunters previously used fladry to funnel wolves into an ambush area, but scientists now champion the tool to spare them. In one instance, a biologist used fladry around a carcass visited by wolves. A hungry carnivore leapt over a nearby barbed wire fence “like it wasn’t even there,” but didn’t cross the fladry.
Since wolf reintroduction in 1995, scientists have gathered much evidence showing that random blasts of colorful light, noise or motion can also protect livestock enclosures by keeping wolves on edge. Stone recalls one wolf getting blasted with Van Halen. “It was one of our Wildlife Services guys’ favorite albums, and it was very hard rock,” she says. The frightened wolf fled further than any other in her experience. Ranchers also scare away wolves using strobe lights and starter pistols. Stone, who has used countless deterrents in her 30 years of experience, even reported success with inflatable tubemen—those giant grinning effigies that dance unpredictably, often around used car lots. She assembled a pair on an Oregon hobby farm in 2018 where wolves had eaten llamas, and wolves have still not returned, she says.
Nonlethal deterrent devices have limitations, though. Some require electricity and all only protect enclosed areas—two deal-breakers for herds grazing open pastures. Even in ideal scenarios, wolves eventually tease out empty threats. “Animals are incredibly smart,” says St. Clair. “Their lives depend on figuring out which of these dangers are real dangers.” Targeting multiple senses with a rotating library of deterrents staves off their pattern recognition, but habituation remains a major consideration.
Recent research suggests that tricking carnivores into thinking livestock is disgusting food, can condition, rather than scare them. The approach includes developing microcapsules with nauseating chemicals that ranchers would plant in carcasses as bait for curious carnivores. Making an animal vomit triggers an association with what they just ate, ironing a crease into a primitive subsection deep in the brain. So if a wolf eats a carcass laced with this flavorless capsule, it would start to steer clear of dead steer. This “conditioned disgust” aversion showed promising results in a 2009 study on captive wolves, but the method hasn’t been tested widely in wild wolves.
Recognizing animal cognition inevitably leads to appreciating individual differences between wolves. “We know that individuals vary in their ingenuity—their determination to get through our defenses, their tendency to repeat and cause multiple problems,” Treves says.
The environmental nonprofit Resolve and AI company CVEDIA recently announced WildEyes, a field camera that reportedly recognizes different individuals. “It’s a perfect example of how technology is catching up with the new paradigm of coexistence-type work,” says Stone. WildEyes can automatically alert ranchers of worrisome individuals in the area, or set off deterrents to scare the wolves away. The new technology has been tested on Tibetan wolves, but has not been used in the United States.
According to Stone, one rancher in Montana is testing a tool that monitors livestock heart rates to detect distress—a sort of Fitbit for ungulates. When the device senses stressed livestock, it alerts the rancher that a predator may be close. And other ranchers are also supercharging classic deterrents. Turbofladry combines fladry with electric fences, and works well for smaller enclosed herds.
While some ranchers try new methods, others have stuck with a couple of old standbys that scientists still encourage. Range riders, people paid to travel alongside free-grazing herds on horseback or ATV, can cover more area than electric fences usually surround. In addition to just supervising cattle, range riders encourage wolf-resistant behaviors: grazing as a dense cluster, keeping newborns with moms and moving injured cattle to safety. And guardian dogs, such as Great Pyrenees, can also travel with livestock beyond fence lines. A 2010 study from Central Michigan University proved their ability to dramatic reduce wolf activity, protecting sheep, goats and cattle. At several cattle farms randomly assigned guardian dogs, wolf visits dropped from about once per month to zero visits in three years. Brown says, however, that ranchers with many acres need many dogs—each costing thousands to feed and maintain.
“Every part of this is about having the right tool and using it the right way,” says Stone, pointing out that some ranches require multiple tactics at once. In 2017, Stone published findings from a seven-year case study comparing sheep killings in a lethally controlled area to one protected by range riders, turbofladry, guardian dogs and other nonlethal deterrents. The nonlethal controls led to 3.5 times fewer dead sheep—just .02 percent of the total population.
Switching from lethal to nonlethal measures widely, however, is tough without more buy-in from government and ranchers. More than half of ranchers surveyed in one study wanted to learn more about nonlethal techniques, but funding to foster that desire is lagging. Some states, such as Oregon, do provide grants to help cover costs for nonlethal controls though. When Colorado welcomes wolves back after passing a reintroduction bill in November, Stone hopes policymakers will learn from that evidence, and encourage the suite of nonlethal solutions for protecting livestock and wolves, rather than the lethal measures which endanger both.
For now, the best approach to deter gray wolves’ from attacking livestock is to combine multiple nonlethal methods, and encourage biologists and ranchers to keep innovating. “People often want a silver bullet: they buy this technique, they install it, it works forever,” says St. Clair. “It’ll never be like that. Animals will always be testing, especially animals as smart as wolves.”
NOVEMBER 27, 2020
The Washington Post Magazine recently ran a misleading story on wild horses, focusing attention on anti-federalist ranchers in Nevada and the big money behind them. By failing to look beyond the superficial personality conflicts, and missing the real and important public lands issues, this article does its readers a disservice.
In the article, the writer characterizes the wild horse issue as an “emotional battle,” and correctly observes, “Many ranchers see the mustangs as an overpopulated invasive species that competes for the public land their livestock grazes.”
However, the reality is that wild horses are only bit players in a very real, West-wide ecological battle in which the livestock industry is the principle antagonist. Domestic cattle and sheep (not horses) are the most significant overpopulated invasive species, competing for the public land that our wildlife – elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep – need to survive.
The scope of livestock destruction on western public land dwarfs the impact of wild horses. Wild horses are completely absent on almost 90% of western public lands, and on that small subset where they roam, free-ranging equids pose a measurable impact only in places where aggressive federal roundups aren’t already holding their populations at low levels. In the 1700s, there were an estimated two to seven million wild horses in North America, and native wildlife were abundant. Since the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act of 1971, many herds have been entirely eliminated. Meanwhile, domestic livestock are found almost everywhere on federal public lands and are authorized to graze at densities that create long-term ecological destruction, with minimal oversight and management.
In fact, the livestock industry in the West plays a pivotal role in the two great environmental issues of our time: climate change and the biodiversity crisis. With their wholesale destruction of native grasses, cattle and domestic sheep today are converting native ecosystems to cheatgrass wastelands at a rate that hasn’t been seen since the Dust Bowl. Cheatgrass burns with unnatural frequency, eliminating sagebrush and other deep-rooted plants. An annual weed, it dies each year, surrendering its carbon and bankrupting the soil of its carbon stores. If left undisturbed, high deserts provide carbon sequestration that scientific studies have found to immobilize more carbon even than forests. Thus, the cattle grazing on western public lands are exacerbating the climate crisis. Public lands ranching also decimates native wildlife, degrading wildlife habitats and targeting native species from wolves to prairie dogs to beavers for elimination. The role of wild horses in all this has never been found to be anything other than negligible on either of these fronts.
The article also neglects to mention that Kevin Borba – one of the two livestock industry spokespeople featured in its story – is damaging the public lands where he runs his livestock. His Fish Creek Ranch grazing allotment covers almost 300,000 acres of leased public lands, lands that are failing the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) basic rangeland health standards. According to the BLM, the cause of the land health problem is cattle, not horses. Borba has a history of involvement with anti-public-land insurrections, including the 2014 “Grass March,” where anti-government ranchers drove across the country with horse trailers, ceremonially riding their horses through the towns along the way to protest federal management of livestock grazing on public lands.
Similarly, the article fails to identify the other livestock industry spokesman, David Duquette, as a supporter of the Hammonds, notorious ranchers and convicted arsonists who had set fire to Oregon’s public lands in order to create more grass for their cows. It was the Hammonds’ imprisonment that touched off the armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2015 by Cliven Bundy’s sons and their ragtag gang of domestic terrorists. These spokespeople aren’t outliers, they are just some of the more prominent voices in a movement that seeks to give control of public lands and resources to profit-driven interest groups.
Wild horses can absolutely damage the vegetation, as can any large herbivore, but this is rarely the case. In Wyoming, for example, the BLM is currently in a planning process to zero out three major wild horse Herd Management Areas in the fabled Red Desert, an area currently home to 2,065 wild horses, according to BLM estimates. The agency’s own analysis shows that all of these Herd Management Areas are able to maintain a “thriving natural ecological balance” under current management, without the massive reductions or elimination of wild horses proposed in the proposed plan.
The Washington Post article glosses over a deep and complicated controversy over land management in northeastern Nevada, in which a Bureau of Land Management field manager was targeted for bullying, not just by the livestock industry but by his own State Director, for trying to address chronic violations of domestic livestock leases on federal lands. These types of violations have been repeated over and over again throughout the West, and are symptomatic of systematic (and too often officially authorized) overgrazing of public lands by cattle and sheep that are the real problem here. A more penetrating article on the subject – featuring the same cast of characters – was written several years ago by a more thorough and insightful journalist. It’s too bad that the Washington Post couldn’t offer its readers an article living up to this higher standard of journalism.
By parroting the fake-news hysteria of the livestock industry, the Washington Post has given a nationwide megaphone to half-baked myths about wild horses first voiced by William Perry Pendley, the illegitimate and now-discredited interim director of the Bureau. This narrative distracts public attention from the very real and major ecological problems posed by domestic livestock. In doing so, it helps the livestock industry escape accountability for business practices that have long been abusive and destructive to America’s public lands.