Montana rancher and environmentalist John Baden writes about the changes caused by the October 2020 removal of wolves from the Endangered Species list. Now, ranchers are allowed to kill wolf predators. But should they?
“Beautiful and valuable registered cows from Bozeman’s Hyline Angus Ranch are grazing our ranch. These cows are on winter range and usually out of sight. Weighing over half a ton, 1,250 pounds on average, a 30-pound coyote poses no risk. However a large white wolf is on the prowl. This presents a First World problem.
“America is sufficiently prosperous to care about saving wolves in the wild. Predators in Third World countries are killed; it’s a matter of survival for people living on the margin of subsistence. Animal protein is precious, something to protect. People living in survival mode kill predators to save the community’s cows, goats and sheep. . . .
“There’s also a group of three coyotes hanging around. . . .
“Coyotes won’t harm the cows but over the years they’ve been responsible for significant sheep and lamb losses. Hence, I keep a CZ bolt action .223 rifle with a Leupold AR scope by the door to our deck. I sighted it in for 150 yards. (Bears also occasionally kill sheep in the fall as they fatten up for hibernation but that’s months past and a different issue.)
“Coyotes are smart—and timid in the wild. I’ve used this rifle to scare off coyotes. When seeing one, I pick up the rifle, step onto the deck, steady the rifle, and shoot a well over the coyote. It immediately turns and runs into thick brush and trees. My goal is to scare coyotes away, not kill them. Were they actually killing little lambs, it’d be a different story. We have obligations to be good shepherds.
“The white wolf presents a hard problem: What would I do if it ventured into a near pasture and threatened a calf. It’d be well within range, a rifle is handy, and I’m sighted in. Surely hope I don’t find out. This is a First World, prosperous country problem. The situation would be far different here a century ago. Cultures and economies evolve in complex and interesting ways.”