Interviewer How many sheep have you lost to wolves and describe what happened.
Fred Roberts In particular this year the number of sheep I've lost to wolves is approximately 180 head of ewes combination with lambs that had been confirmed.
Interviewer Fred how many sheep have you lost to wolves and please describe what happened.
Fred Roberts Well this summer our predator issued with wolves was approximately confirmed 180 head. We think we had more. Of course the 180 head we knew was to wolves. We have other predator losses of course, coyotes, bears, natural loss, but we did have that amount confirmed. And because of the problems of confirmation we know there were more, but they weren't confirmed.
Interviewer Where did this happen and how far is it from Yellowstone?
Fred Roberts Where we run in the summertime is in Gray's River, which is 25 miles south of Alpine, Wyoming, which is the confluence of the Snake River, Gray's River and Salt River. From Jackson probably 30 miles as the crow flies. From Yellowstone 60 miles as the crow flies.
Interviewer Are wolves expanding their range?
Fred Roberts Wolves are definitely expanding their range. Three or four years ago we really didn't see any wolves in our area, in the summer or the lambing ground here. And in the last two years there's been more sightings. And in particular this year the numbers have exploded.
Interviewer What was done to help you?
Fred Roberts When we have a kill I contact the Game and Fish and they will come verify it, and the Game and Fish was exceptionally responsive this summer. They had a very busy season with all of the bear problems in Jackson. But they come, and try and come the same day I call them, but because of the remoteness where we are, I had rent a satellite phone this summer to contact them. They will come verify it, and it's treated as a bear kill. It's paid as a trophy game animal kill, and they will pay me, if it's confirmed, market price at the end of the season.
Interviewer How does predation affect your livestock business?
Fred Roberts The predation issue for my business, which is sheep and cattle, is a huge issue. Normally our losses may be 50 lambs and a few ewes in the summer. This summer we were running 150 to 180 head per band. In dollars this year if you take that amount times the value of the lamb currently, which is about $100, you can do the math. And it's not only, I might add, the dollar amount. It's how the animals behave and how they feed. With the big predator issue going on they don't get out and feed like they normally do, and they don't gain weight like they normally would, and they just don't act the same.
Interviewer Were you compensated for your loss and how?
Fred Roberts I'll be compensated monetarily. I've submitted a game to the Game and Fish, and market reports, and we'll agree upon a figure, and they will pay me for the confirmed losses. The issue… One of the issues is the confirmation of these. They will come and verify losses, but in the interim when they can get there, we hang carcasses in trees and bears climb the trees and eat the carcasses and our own guard dogs eat part of the carcasses. So the confirmation because of those issues and because of trying to contact the Game and Fish in a timely manner, that is a real issue as part of the whole payment process.
Interviewer In your opinion how should wolves be managed?
Fred Roberts That's a good question. The wolves are here. They're here by law and we're going to have to deal with them. I think time is going to tell how the Wyoming plan works. We think it's a good plan in Wyoming. We have a good idea it's going to be appealed and we'll see where it goes from there. Hunting them as predators, everyone in the state--livestock operators, hunters--the majority of people think it's a good idea. The issue is are we going to be able to control them this way. Know one knows until after this year in particular, because this is the first year we've had a hunting season.
Interviewer Can ranchers and wolves co-exist?
Fred Roberts They're going to have to. It's a fact of life. What we're going to have to do is figure out a way to control the numbers. As we just mentioned we're going to see if the hunting season works, if Wildlife Services is going to be able to help us in the summertime. We will, but how it's going to be done I think is a time-sensitive issue right now and there's a lot of things going on that will help us in the future.
Interviewer Can ranchers and wolves co-exist?
Fred Roberts Wolves and ranchers are going to have to co-exist. It's the law. Wolves are here and they're going to stay here, at least in my lifetime, and we're going to have to figure out a way to do that. I think the Wyoming plan is a good plan. How it's going to play out, know one knows. We just started our first hunting season. In our area where we run our sheep in the summer, as there has been in other places, there was concern there would be a mass kill off when hunting started. Up until yesterday I know of two wolves that have been killed in that area. So I think time will tell how the hunting season helps us, how Wildlife Services is able to help us. With the process just beginning, time is going to be the issue right now.
Interviewer Are there too many wolves?
Fred Roberts The number of wolves that we are trying to deal with, I think, is a real unknown factor. There are a lot more wolves than people realize, than the Game and Fish knows there is, that Fish and Wildlife Service knows there is. For instance, this summer between two different sheep outfits, mine and a neighbors, in Grays River, they knew of one collared wolf that was there and they thought there might be a couple. In the end there ended up being about 20 wolves in that area. So the question, are there too many? It's a relative question but that depends on what they're trying to exist on and how they interact with livestock I guess.
Interviewer What would you like to see about the future of wolves?
Fred Roberts The future of wolves I think will be dependent upon how they're able to co-exist with livestock operators, with hunters, with the Game and Fish population. I think again, time is going to tell.
Interviewer What is the difficulty of hunting wolves? Is hunting alone going to be able to control the numbers?
Fred Roberts The question about hunting of wolves and is it going to be effective or not, I think everyone was geared up in our area, meaning the Grays River area, to hunt wolves, and particular the sportsman. The sportsman have as much or even more concern than we do. When we left Grays River we saw one morning nine wolves going across an open slope, and there's an outfitters camp right below that. But when the season opened there were no wolves taken. So we've been at it now 19 days, 18, 19 days, and there has been two wolves killed. Hunting I don't think is going to be the only answer as far as livestock depredation. I think we're going to have to have some aerial help and some help from Wildlife Services, in particular with how this summer has played out, because the amount that showed up, and if it shows up double that next year then we've got double the problems, and this was a huge year--the biggest year for predator loss that I've had since I've been taking care of this outfit.
Interviewer When did you first notice wolf depredation in this area and how many wolves are there now?
Fred Roberts Wolf depredation in this area started several years ago, not any of the extent it is now. And in the last year or so if you look right out the window here just several miles, there was a pack this spring that was confirmed as a pack and depredated on a neighbor's band that was lambing. Wildlife Services came in and helped with that issue. In the Gray's River area where we go for the summer it's really magnified in the last two or three years and really this year it just exploded. The question of how many wolves are in the area, I don't think anyone knows. In the Gray's River area this summer we started out, we thought we had a couple. It turned out to be a pack that migrated in from Idaho. When that was being dealt with we're pretty certain another pack showed up we think came from the Big Piney area. So there were 20 we know of in that area this summer. Here there were probably, as I recall, five or six this spring. There's been sightings of probably another five to ten between here and Gray's River. So if you add that all up you're 50 wolves in this area.