Beyond loss of life: The cost of being preyed upon

Coyote feeding on a winter killed bison near the Madison River in Yellowstone.

Predators exact a toll on livestock even when they do not kill. Wyomingproducers may have their livestock preyed upon by grizzly and black bears, wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, bobcats or predatory birds. Livestock losses from predators, and associated compensation programs, are based on federal mortality surveys. However, these surveys don’t document the many nonlethal losses faced by ranchers, which may include lower birth rates, lower weight gains and changes in grazing.

Extension specialists worked with commodity groups to learn more about the estimated economic impacts of nonlethal predators. Results from nearly 300 surveys filled out across the state indicated that losses from predation far exceed even the cost caused by livestock mortalities.

Livestock behavioral changes noticed when predators were present include 88% observing increased herd nervousness, 67% seeing changes in grazing patterns and one-third reporting less time grazing. These changes can cause reduced weight gain and reproductive losses, both of which create financial losses. These indirect costs potentially keep producers from making a profit. Results from the survey may also lead to more effective predator mitigation techniques, which could reduce financial loss on Wyoming ranches.