Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To Keep Predators Away, Montana Ranchers Compost Dead Cattle

Livestock death is part of ranching. At some point, ranchers have to deal with dead animals, from things like difficult births, disease, and weather extremes. And in southwest Montana, those dead animals can also attract unwelcome visitors — wolves and black bears looking for an easy meal. When big predators like that figure out that they can scavenge on ranches, they learn to hang around, and potentially become bold enough to go after live animals. In the Big Hole Valley, which is surrounded by wild country between Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, ranchers and conservationists are working together to try to solve that problem. I meet rancher Jim Hagenbarth near the town of Wisdom. His family has been ranching in Montana since the Homestead Act. He says until recently, predators weren’t a problem. Ranchers could simply let carcasses decompose on the landscape or in “dead pits” on their land. "We used to use a very tough poison called 1080, and there were no predators. And that was taken away from us and probably should have," says Hagenbarth. One reason the poison was taken away was because, in the mid-1990s, wolves were reintroduced to wild lands on either side of the Big Hole, and protected by the Endangered Species Act. "Since then, the number of all predators has increased to the point where they have a lot of impact on wildlife and our way of life," he says...more

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