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Range riders in place in Middle Park

by Rachel Gabel  from The Fencepost 


Rancher Conway Farrell and his children. Photo by Shannon Lukens Farrell



The Department of Agriculture and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have partnered with the Middle Park Stockgrowers Association to get on-the-ground assistance to an area impacted by recent wolf depredation. 

“CPW and CDA have worked with the community in Grand County to understand what kind of support they need and will find useful,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg. “This funding will help Grand County producers during calving season, an especially vulnerable time for beef producers. Meanwhile, funding was just approved in the state budget for CDA’s new program to help ranchers in areas with wolves and other predators implement non-lethal conflict reduction methods that are successful in other states. We will do this hand-in-glove with our partners at CPW.”

Through constructive discussions with the community and an agreement with the stakeholders, CDA is dedicating up to $20,000 to the Middle Park Stockgrowers Association to use toward non-lethal deterrents that include nighttime patrols and herd protection, such as hiring range riders. All resources will be purchased and contracted through the Middle Park Stockgrowers.

“Middle Park ranchers have long dealt with predators, but this is a new situation for our community. We’re thankful for the partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Colorado Parks and Wildlife which will let us bring in additional help to protect our animals,” said Tim Ritschard, president of the Middle Park Stockgrowers Association. 

Ritschard said the MPSA selected the local, insured range rider and said there are still additional riders needed.


COLLATERAL DAMAGE

The action comes days after rancher Conway Farrell lost a confirmed fifth yearling to wolf kills.

“The damage that these things are doing, they have all these animals so stirred up and so distressed, that we’re having other problems and other issues,” Farrell told Steamboat Radio. “So the other day when that happened, I spent three hours up here with the DOW, the one day, and had a calf die on the river because I wasn’t down there providing our cattle with the proper animal husbandry. And then, two days later I took the 2 o’clock to daylight shift with the DOW. The Parks and Wildlife. I took that shift. And by me being up there, I wasn’t providing proper animal husbandry for our cattle on the river and I had a prolapsed cow that died.”


Farrell said the costs are beyond just “the dead ones.” A $7,500 herd bull was crippled last week as well, though he can’t prove that it was a result of wolves in the herd. He called the financial damages sickening. None of the ranchers who have lost cattle to wolves in April have submitted claims to CPW.

Farrell is quick to compliment his local CPW staff.

“The game wardens are out here,” he said. “They’re working their butts off trying to do everything they can to do their job. We went to the higher-ups. We tried telling the guys the problems that we’re seeing on the everyday level right here. With the game wardens going their job, they’re not focusing on their actual wildlife management now. The game wardens aren’t out there counting their sage grouses, catching the shed hunters that are out trespassing, running these elk and deer around right now. They’re not doing their day-to-day jobs, the local game wardens. They didn’t sign up for this to come skin beef cattle and look around and try to find wolf tracks in cattle, and then watch cattle at night. What’s happened is that they took the local game wardens away from their normal duty to have to go start doing this and patrolling cattle. And it ain’t right. Other wildlife is suffering.”

In addition to this short-term measure, both CPW and CDA are expanding their permanent Wolf Conflict Mitigation programs to support producers implementing non-lethal predator control measures. Funding for these programs was included in the 2024 Long Bill, recently passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. 

“Collaboration is key when addressing the complexities of wildlife management,” said CPW Director Jeff Davis. “By partnering with the Middle Park Stockgrowers Association, CPW and CDA are providing immediate support while also investing in long-term solutions through education and funding for non-lethal deterrents. Together, we’re working to protect both our ranching community and Colorado’s wildlife.”

Through a memorandum of understanding, CDA is working closely with CPW to anticipate and prepare for predator and livestock incidents. This includes help and education around non-lethal deterrence methods, such as range riders or the use of fladry

Additionally, livestock producers who are affected by depredations and submit a claim may be eligible for the fair market value of livestock lost to wolf depredation. A dedicated Wolf Depredation Compensation cash fund has $175,000, provided from the state’s General Fund, in its balance and will receive $350,000 additional General Funds per fiscal year to keep a healthy balance in the fund on an ongoing basis. 

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