Arizona Strip officials have decided to authorize the killing of livestock predators following an analysis of past losses.
Control measures would be implemented on a corrective rather than preventative basis, meaning predators would be killed only in the case of a recent verified loss of livestock."Predator control on public lands is a controversial issue and should be based on a demonstrated need and directed toward specific verified problems and offending animals," Arizona Strip District Manager Roger Taylor said.
A specific loss was not quantified, but officials said action would be taken on a "well-justified basis," such as the loss of two or three calves. Methods of control likely would include trapping and shooting since the plan prohibits the use of M-44 cyanide capsules.
The 3-million-acre Arizona Strip, which is grazed mostly by sheep, covers the northwest corner of Arizona from the Grand Canyon to the Utah border, and from Nevada east to Marble Canyon.
About 135 ranchers have 23,000 head of cattle on the Arizona Strip. During the last 10 years, ranchers reported 734 livestock losses, at an estimated value of $229,820.
BLM officials will encourage the use of non-lethal strategies to protect livestock along the strip and stress that some loss is inherent to doing business on public lands.
"The public feels that there has to be a strong demonstrated need," said Ray Mapston, associate district manager for the Arizona Strip Bureau of Land Management. "We need to strive for more of these win-win situations. Control will be directed toward offending animals."
Nancy Zierenberg of Wildlife Damage Review, which commented on the plan, said emergency-only control in the area is nothing new.
"That's what they've been doing," she said. "We would like to see management that enforces common-sense management and good husbandry practices.
"It's a waste of taxpayer dollars," she said. "Ranchers have the right to do their own control. Why aren't they doing it?"
The plan mostly will apply to the strip's 4,481 coyotes, which have been the object of control in the past. The environmental assessment did not provide an estimate of the number of cougars on the strip.
But Mapston said only two cougars, which are classified in Arizona as big game animals, have been killed on the strip in the past 10 years. Both animals were killed by Fish and Game officials because they were killing transplanted desert bighorn sheep.
Predator control operations usually are conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Animal Damage Control, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.