Tuesday, 30 September 2003 17:00

Predators / Nevada Sheep Industry/ Big Game Populations

Written by Mike Laughlin
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In 1867, D.C. Wheeler trailed a band of domestic sheep from Oregon to western Nevada. Since that time, there has been some type of predator control conducted in and around sheep herds in Nevada. In 1927, there were reported to be 1,200,000 sheep and 400,000 beef cattle in the state. Each stockman or groups of stockmen fought their own predator problems. After World War One, the federal government took over the predator program. Under the Biological Survey, professional hunters were hired to pursue coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lion. In 1939, 93,000 coyotes were reported killed throughout the state of Nevada. Counties also paid bounties on coyotes and lions. The longhair fur industry became important and private fur trappers harvested many coyotes and bobcats.

In 1946, the federal government began to use sodium monofluoroacetate, a toxicant-called 1080. This poison was tasteless, odorless, and colorless. It proved to be the single most effective tool ever used to suppress coyote numbers. 1080 was injected into meat baits made of sheep or horsemeat. These baits were placed in coyote runways. Also, about this time, the cyanide getter was used to a real advantage taking large numbers of coyotes. Steel traps and head snares were also used. Deer numbers were very high and deer tags could be purchased over the counter. There were also lots of upland game birds.

In the early l970s, the environmental movement began to build throughout the west. In 1972, President Nixon banned use of all toxicants (poisons) by executive order. Coincidental with this, coyote predation upon newborn range calves became a real problem in many areas of Nevada. Cattlemen, along with sheep men, backed the predator control effort in the state.

The federal government launched into a non-toxic predator program. Large amounts of federal money were spent in an attempt to prove that the use of non-toxic control tools could replace l080, cyanide getters, etc. The use of helicopters to shoot coyotes from the air was initiated in Elko, Nevada. About this same time, use of fixed-wing aircraft, which had been used before this, was also increased. Longhaired fur prices went sky high and fur trappers were out in force after coyotes & bobcats. Deer numbers were up all over the state. The government also employed 3 to 4 mountain lion hunters with dogs, who pursued mountain lions statewide, year around. Most of the mountain lion depredation calls occurred on domestic sheep ranges.

In the late 1970s, the predator control program shifted from Department of Interior to the Department of Agriculture. Federal funding began to dry up. The BLM and U.S Forest Service began to clamp down on predator control activities on lands they administered. The Nevada Department of Fish & Game became concerned about lion numbers and implemented a quota system by hunting units. Domestic sheep numbers began a decline and therefore predator control activities also declined. Consequently, deer population numbers began to go down.

I feel that, through all of this, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, for about $30,000 a year, got virtually a free ride in the predator program administrated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and cooperative livestock ranchers’ funds. The Nevada Department of Wildlife has addressed such factors as over-grazing by livestock, disease, drought, over-winter mortality, fire, longhair fur prices going down, gas prices going up, etc. Never once did I ever hear a statement by a Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist to the effect that predators may have effected big game populations.

It is my prediction that mule deer and desert bighorn sheep numbers may never come back to those of the "good old days" because predators have a free roll in Nevada today. The Nevada Department of Wildlife continues to disregard the role of predation in effecting big game populations.


reprinted from the us oregon observer newspaper

James "Mike" Laughlin
Retired: Supervisory Wildlife Biologist

Bachelor Science Degree - Wildlife Biology - Arizona State University; Tempe; Arizona
31 years working in 9 Western states; Mexico, Provinces of Canada
U.S Department of Agriculture & U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

P.O. Box 598
Eureka, Nevada 89316
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Ed. Note: This is another person with credibility that NDOW is not going to believe.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 07:33
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