Saturday, April 4, 2015

Minnesota state program aims at protecting both #wolves and farmers

  By Josh Schuder
April 3, 2015  
  Grand Rapids, MN ( -- Some Minnesota farmers are complaining that their livestock is prey to a predator they can't legally defend against.

The state is aware of the controversy and is looking to protect both farmers and federally declared endangered wolves. "Everybody gives me heck for not carrying a gun," said John Benes, a livestock farmer who owns a farm outside of Grand Rapids.

"We know the wolves are there," said his nephew Joe Benes, a fellow farmer. "The wolves are here, the wolves are here."

John and Joe Benes say they are worried about their livelihood. They both own cattle farms in areas with high timber wolf populations. Joe has lost a few of his cattle to the carnivores over the years. "Any loss, it hurts the bottom line at the end of the year."

Since the timber wolf was put back on the endangered species list, farmers have had no way to protect their animals from the predators. That's why the State of Minnesota set up a small fund in the form of the Wolf Depredation Compensation Program. "If your farm is continuously being attacked by wolves and you don't have the authority or the opportunity to protect your livestock it can be a lot of money for the individual farmer," said Charlie Poster, a spokesperson with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

On average the Minnesota Department of Agriculture compensates for one hundred attacks a year.
Animal specialists with the Department of Natural Resources say this program is designed to help the wolves as well as the farmers. "It helps maintain tolerance for wolves on the landscape where people are having those conflicts," said Large Carnivore Specialist Dan Stark. "If they're having an issue with a wolf and they know that there's a program in place to try to help address that, it helps address some of those issues."

But the demand drained the $200,000 fund for the first time since it was implemented in 1977. That fund depletion was due in part to the rising price of beef. "While the attacks have actually stayed roughly steady, if we look over a maybe five to ten year period, the value of the animals is what has really driven down the fund," said Poster.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton hopes to remedy this problem by doubling the fund to 4–hundred thousand for the next two years. According to the MDA, Itasca and St. Louis Counties have the highest number of incidents involving wolves and livestock.