Return of the Wolves:The Next Chapter

Cary Dobson

Carey Dobson transcript
Wolves 2/KUED

Carey Dobson
My name is Carey Dobson. It's Timberline Ranch, Sheep Springs Ranch, and Dobson and Dobson, there's three ranches together.

Interviewer
What kind of issues have you had with Mexican Wolves?

Carey Dobson
We've had quite a few depredations with wolves with sheep and our cattle and our horses. Also coming up to our trailers while we're camping. There's quite a few issues that we have.

Interviewer
Tell me the story about the horses coming into your barn here.

Carey Dobson
Ya, back in 2000 and 2001, somewhere right in there, we had a brand new colt that had been born two days ago, and it's back leg was chewed on, and we didn't know what it was, what caused it, so we went to the Forest Service, got the wolf number to call to find out if there were any wolves in our area down here, because right then the reintroduction was up by Greens Peak, which is about 35, 40 miles from here where we're at down here in Vernon. And, you know, I thought it was wolves by the way it looked, but I couldn't tell since I've never seen a wolf depredation or anything like that. I had no clue, so that's why I called the wolf office and we got our answer that there were no wolves in this area. So we went back. I had two guard dogs that were Great Pyrenees's--those are what we use for sheep to keep coyotes and other predators away since we'd never had wolves before, but not we do--I had my guys put them down since I thought they did it since there are no wolves here in this area, and when I got back home to the ranch I found out that there had been a wolf killed on my ranch here, on our private out here. And that's when a lot of issues started with me with the wolf program with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the way things were being handled with all of the management and not talking to the ranchers and letting us know where wolves are, what's going on with them, and not knowing where they're at was the main problem for us.

Interviewer
What has been the reaction of ranchers to the reintroduction efforts?

Carey Dobson
It's still ongoing. It's still a battle. It's frustrating to a lot of people. For me, I've done a lot of work with it, a whole lot of stuff. I've been back to D.C., met with U.S. Fish and Wildlife there, met with all the Arizona Game and Fish people here, the Defenders of Wildlife, and the wolf people with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, John Oakleaf and everybody. We've got a good dialogue, but for other ranchers that don't trust them and don't really want to, it's tough for them. Like I said, I have a lot of stuff that we've worked out and done a lot of good work with, but it's tough having wolves on a ranch right now.

Interviewer
Do Mexican Wolves belong in the Southwest?

Carey Dobson
I would like to say in zoos, yes. It's kind of tough to turn them out here. It's not the 17th, 18th century, or you know in the 19th. We're in the 21st century. We have houses everywhere, people everywhere. It's a big campground out here on our national forests, a lot of hunters, a lot of people want to come up and recreation. There's cities all over up here. And it's tough for a wolf to try to survive up here. It's just; it's not meant to be anymore. It's, you know, those days are gone. The government eradicated them for a reason, and to try to turn those poor things out here now, it's not fair to the wolf.

Interviewer
What happens when wolves kill livestock? What's the process?

Carey Dobson
For us I call our Animal Damage Control, which it's not called that anymore. It's Wildlife Services.

Interviewer
(take 2) What happens when wolves kill livestock? What's the process?

Carey Dobson
We have Wildlife Services come out. They come and inspect the animal that has been killed. They check teeth marks, what the range is, if it's wide enough for a wolf, or if it's coyotes or a mountain lion or bear, to confirm whether it's a wolf kill or not.

Interviewer
Are you reimbursed for loss, and how much?

Carey Dobson
Yes. They do different compensations I believe. I know for a total compensation they'll pay for a calf, I think it's $600 to $800. A cow is $1200. And then a bull is $2500. And horses I guess you just submit your bills or whatever you have for them, for your horses also. I don't know what the true compensation is for the horse.

Interviewer
Have government agencies been receptive to addressing your concerns?

Carey Dobson
Yes. At the state level it has been very good, but when you get up to your U.S. Fish and Wildlife, your government part, it's still tough.

Interviewer
(take 2) Have government agencies been receptive to addressing your concerns?

Carey Dobson
They've been receptive, but really dealing our issues that we have, no. It has been a tough go with me with the government agencies, U.S. Fish and Wildlife. They promise a lot of things, a lot of things don't happen then. And for me and I think for most ranchers it's tough to work with our government agencies because there's just no trust with them.

Interviewer
Can wolves and ranchers coexist?

Carey Dobson
Truthfully, not really. We are right now. We're making it work, but it's due to the fact that we had them thrown on us. Like I said, it's working. I'm here doing it, but we only have 52 or 60 wolves here. We're not looking at the numbers that they're trying to project. And to throw on us to up to 1,000 wolves, what we have now is hard to manage, 52 to 60. They barely have enough money to pay for all of the depredations with that, and to jump up to 500 to 1,000 or whatever they're thinking… In this day and age it won't happen. There's just no way. It would be really out of control.

Interviewer
(take 2) Can wolves and ranchers coexist?

Carey Dobson
At this day and age I really don't think they can. It's the struggles that we have to put up with all the other issues and then to throw a wolf on top of us like we've had done to us. With the management stuff we have now we have no guidelines to go by with that. They have their standard and guidelines that we try to use and go with, but they change them. Those are just guidelines they state. So we don't know where to go with this, and I don't know if they can. The numbers that we have now, they can barely keep up with the depredations to pay us back for the animals that have been killed, and to see what the numbers that they want to get up to, there's just no way it's going to work.

Interviewer
What methods do you use to coexist with wolves and is it successful?

Carey Dobson
Well right now what we've done with our sheep outfit that we had, like I said we've had it for four generations up here. We've changed a lot of our management skills. I went to a training center for wolves that Game and Fish provided for me to go, Arizona Game and Fish provided me to go to, a wolf program to learn new methods, which has worked well for us, and Defenders of Wildlife has helped with me with that with some of the compensation on that where we keep men with the sheep 24 hours to 7, 24/7, which we always did before, but now we bed them at night in fladry, which is an electric fence with red flags that hang down from it and we bed them in there at night, don't let them out until early in the morning, and in all our private area up there we put this fladry around, and we've gone from 14 to 15 confirmed depredations to zero using these new methods. With our cattle it's a lot different with cattle because we don't always have herders with them. We don't herd the cattle, so what we do with those, we also use electric fence, chop up our pastures where we can on our forest permits, make them smaller. We keep our, we move our camp trailer up there and stay in the middle of them, ranger riders. We also have the radio telepathy, or whatever it is, to find out where the wolves are. We get calls every week to where we know exactly where they are and if we have to be looking for certain signs if the wolves are around.

Interviewer
What do you say to people who want wolves in the Southwest?

Carey Dobson
Well I wish we could go back in time. I wish we could go back to the different centuries, but right now it's not fair to the wolf to just be thrown out here like they've done and not have any management for them, not have any plans. It's just all, well what's going to happen, who knows? And that's what we've been living with for about 13 years--trying to figure out where we're going, how things are going to work, what kind of programs we need to have set up for ranchers for help, and we're getting there, but like I said that's only with 52 to 60 wolves. We're not talking about all these numbers that they want to see. I just don't think the funding's there. We look at the way our government's in trouble now with money and where is this funding going to come from? It's not coming from any other groups. It's a tough go right now for the wolves out here, and the ranchers.

Interviewer
What would you like to see happen?

Carey Dobson
Truthfully I wish they would do something with the wolves. You know if they would have had a better program for them and we knew what was going to happen maybe something would work, but I just don't think that the wolves, you know they're going to survive with the numbers that they have, but to keep putting more out, I just don't see it's going to do any good for the wolves or the ranchers or anybody--the wildlife on top of it. I just don't see how it's going to improve or anything. I wish the wolves, you know, weren't here, but they're here, and I'm working with them. Like I said, I have nothing against wolves, nothing at all. It's the way they were thrown out on us, and there was no programs. Nobody was informed. They were just turned out on us, and the ranchers were like, oh well, you know. Here again we have a government agency kicking stuff out on us, and we were dealing with a lot of environmental issues anyway, and then to have a wolf thrown on top of us again too? That really put a hamper on us as ranchers to try to figure out now what? You know, are they just trying to get rid of us? Or is everybody just trying to coexist like they're saying? But it wasn't… it just didn't seem that way to us as ranchers, that they were just really thrown on us to put another hamper on us.

Interviewer
Can you legally shoot a wolf?

Carey Dobson
No. Well on your private land, yes you can take one if you feel life-threatened or if they're killing your livestock on your private, and I've never done it. We've had a lot of depredations, confirmed depredations on our private. Me as a rancher, I would never do that because I'd be the first one prosecuted, and I don't want to take that chance. It's not worth it. I don't want to lose this ranch. Like I said, it has been in our family for four generations. I have fifth and sixth generation on the ground and I'd like to give it to them.

Interviewer
What do you see for the future of wolves and ranchers?

Carey Dobson
Still learning; that's all I know. As a rancher I adapt just as the wolf does. I don't want to see any more of them. Definitely, I don't want to see more wolves out ever because they just won't be any good, for me or for the wolf. It will not work. And like I said, it is not the older centuries now where, we're in different times, totally different times. Everybody likes the recreation up here. I like to ranch. People are moving in, buying up a lot of the private lands that are around here, making new little cities, towns, recreation areas, so I just don't see it's going to be any good for the wolves to be out here.

Interviewer
Is this area in the Southwest where reintroduction is happening different from that in the Northern Rockies, like Yellowstone?

Carey Dobson
Well Yellowstone, again too, they have little communities around also, but it's not the vast grounds that they have up there. These are… we're not even close to being as prestige as those are back there. This place up here is beautiful, but there's a lot of little towns. Like I said, everybody comes from the valley down in Phoenix up here to recreate, and with a lot of wolves out here I don't see that happening. It's just not going to work.

Interviewer
What kinds of animals have you lost to depredation?

Carey Dobson
I've lost a colt, a two-day old colt to wolves. I've lost sheep, baby calves, steers, heifers, cows, not a bull yet, but that's what I've lost so far.

Interviewer
Anything else you'd like to say?

Carey Dobson
Like I said, it's really not anything bad about the wolf, because a wolf is a wolf; he is the number one predator. He's out there to do his job and he does it very well, very well. I know we got a lot of these wolves that were just turned out from being enclosed in captivity, and the ones that we got reintroduced to us were all in captivity, so they really weren't wild yet. Now we're getting wild wolves. They're starting to see them wild. It's 13 years into this program, and they're really going to start populating here pretty quick. Everybody thinks, oh well, you know, you're only at 60, but these wolves when they get wild they're going to procreate and they're really going to take off, and we need to be ready for it. And hopefully the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and other, the Arizona Game and Fish, they're looking at this and they're going to be ready for it and they're going to take off, and what are we going to do?

Interviewer
You mentioned you were disappointed with the environmental movement. Can you talk about that a little bit in terms of how they've stepped up on this issue?

Carey Dobson
Sure. You know with the environmental groups, everybody is out there to push for something. Again, I'm on the cattle side and sheep side, so I'm on that industry side. You know we do a lot of stuff for these animals, a lot. And when you see all of these environmental groups come out and say, well we're for this and we're for that and we support it in every way, well where are they? When there's work to be done and things that these animals need, nobody's out there helping or doing any of this stuff. You know, where's their money? They get a lot of money out of the government, out of our taxpayer’s money to sue the Forest Service, or sue the Game and Fish, or sue everybody, but do they really put any of the money back to the animals, to the endangered species? Where is it? I don't see it. The only groups I see out there doing any good work is the Arizona Game and Fish, or Forest Service, and also us as ranchers out there doing all of this work that needs to be done to maintain and keep us on this land which is for the wildlife and for us.

Interviewer
Do you think it's possible that wolf reintroduction can shut down your operation as a rancher?

Carey Dobson
Easily, easily. It can get out of control. If we don't have our depredation money come in and the help from Defenders of Wildlife, easily put you out. Like I said, we're only at 60-some wolves now, and you know we still get two to three confirmed kills a year on our cattle operation, and that's only with… I have one pack on me, which is called the Paradise Pack, which I like to make a lot of fun about, because they threw the Paradise Pack on top of our sheep outfit, so I guess that is a good word for them, the Paradise Pack, because they're in paradise in the sheep outfit. They can roam free on those. So that's the scary part. What if I had three packs on me? Four packs? The kills would be outrageous on our animals.

Interviewer
(take2) Is it possible that wolf reintroduction could shut down your operation as a rancher?

Carey Dobson
Yes, wolf reintroduction definitely could put us out of operation. Our sheep operation we've already got out of. We moved to the cattle. A lot of it wasn't due just to the wolf, you know, alfalfa prices being as high as they are. There's a lot of things that made us change, but dear to our heart I know my dad just got rid of the sheep because he just didn't want to deal with all of the issues with the wolf reintroduction and everything else that has been thrown on top of us. And like I said, it's four generations up here we ran sheep. Since 1900s we've been up there, and to be out of it right now, it was tough. I mean that was a tradition that carried on in our family for over 100 years, and now we've moved to cows, which I like to do also, but the sheep were dear to our family, and it was tough to see my dad get rid of.

Interviewer
Are the ranchers in the area concerned that wolves could damage or destroy their ranching?

Carey Dobson
Oh definitely we have them; everybody has issues with the wolves up here. There's confirmed kills on every ranch up here. It's a tough deal. I mean when it first started out when they turned them out on the Blue, they were like; oh they're not going to come over here. Definitely came quicker than we thought. Always thinking that, oh it's not going to come to my place. Think about it, because it's coming.

Interviewer
Did wolves actually enter your barn and predate on a horse?

Carey Dobson
Yes. They came down in here into our private. We have a nice big horse barn, probably a 3,000 square foot horse barn. They came in and killed a colt.