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Grazing Land Sought

LIVINGSTON (AP) - A national environmental group wants to lease pasture in Paradise Valley to give ranchers who have lost livestock to wolves an alternative grazing area.

The pasture land, to be paid for with a private donation from a Defenders of Wildlife member, is intended to provide grazing for 70 to 100 cow/calf pairs in areas of the valley where wolves have not been blamed for losses.

The goal would be to have the land available for grazing as early as next spring, said Hank Fischer, a program director for Defenders of Wildlife.

Since December 1999, the group has paid more than $5,200 to Park County producers to compensate them for lost livestock and to replace guard dogs killed by wolves. The group also has paid for guards on horseback to watch over livestock in areas where wolves are active.

Over the past two years, Fischer said livestock losses to wolves have been concentrated in specific drainages and to certain times of year - often when livestock is moved to a summer pasture near an active wolf den.  The pasture would allow ranchers to move their livestock away from the pack before they suffer any losses, he said.

Ed Bangs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf recovery coordinator, said packs usually den in April, dramatically shrinking the group's range as it begins to hunt for its litter of new pups. Livestock losses often peak during the late summer when game animals are healthy and the pups weigh about 40 pounds but are not yet hunting.

At that point, a litter of five pups consumes about 20 pounds of meat daily, Bangs said.

Anyone interested in leasing grazing lands should contact Hank Fischer of Defenders of Wildlife or the editor at YWT.



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