Wyoming’s budget session generates new opportunities for the working wild

Albert Sommers rides with his herd in Sublette County, Wyoming.

Wyoming’s 2020 Legislative Budget Session ended on March 12. Two pieces of legislation that passed this session provide new opportunities for livestock producers impacted by issues related to wildlife.

Depredation compensation inside the predator zone

Senate File 1 (SF0001), the biennium budget bill, appropriated $145,000 to the Wyoming Department of Agriculture for gray wolf control and depredation compensation, in Wyoming’s wolf predator zone. 

Currently, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department compensates livestock producers when livestock are killed by wolves in the Trophy Game Management Area, but they do not compensate in the gray wolf predator zone. The legislature recognized that there are areas in Wyoming’s gray wolf predator zone where wolf management is very difficult, and that compensation might relieve some of the burden on livestock producers. For more information about chronic wolf depredation in the predator zone, read this article in the Cowboy State Daily by Cat Urbigkit.

Brucellosis quarantine cost recovery

Brucellosis in now endemic in the elk herds in the Greater Yellowstone Area, and interaction with livestock has resulted in herds of cattle in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho becoming infected over the last several years. This last year, the federal government quit supporting the most commonly used test for determining if livestock have been exposed to Brucellosis. 

Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana had to rely on new testing regimes to surveil for the disease. These new tests resulted in unusually high numbers of non-negatives, which resulted in several herds in Wyoming having movement restrictions placed upon them. Quarantines can cost producers a substantial amount of money, regardless of whether the herds are found to actually harbor the disease. Costs can include animals slaughtered for testing, lost sales, extra feed, and livestock transportation expenses.

The Wyoming legislature recognized that the State’s wildlife carry this disease, and passed HB0099 – Animal reimbursement program-amendments. This bill will provide some reimbursement to livestock producers for expenses incurred from state quarantines that are a result of a brucellosis investigation. Producers could be reimbursed up to $25,000 for costs associated with Brucellosis quarantines.

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