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Wyoming Future Grim Without Social Distancing, Medical Society Head Says

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming can avoid a grim outcome from the coronavirus epidemic if its residents pay attention to recommendations to stay away from each other, the president of the Wyoming Medical Society said Monday.

Dr. David Wheeler, a Casper neurologist, used his appearance at a news conference held by Gov. Mark Gordon to urge state residents to heed the statewide orders put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We’ve seen over and over again the horrific effects of waiting too long to enact such policies,” he said. “If we do not act now, it is certain that we will use up all the available resources for health care in just a matter of weeks.”

If the health care system is overwhelmed, people suffering from regular health problems such as heart problems or strokes will not be able to get basic care, Wheeler said.

“This is a grim outcome, but we can avoid this if we start working together today,” he said. “If we flatten the curve now, our hospitals will have more time to prepare. If we flatten the curve now, fewer people will be sick at any given time. If we work hard during this time to surge hospital capacity and at the same time slow the spread of the disease, many more of us will make it through to the other end of this.”

Wheeler said the Medical Society is also urging doctors to use “telehealth” technology to advise patients rather than in-person clinic visits and to not perform any elective procedures.

As of Monday afternoon, 94 cases of coronavirus had been diagnosed in 15 counties around the state. 

Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, said during the news conference that since the disease reached Wyoming, 16 people have been hospitalized with symptoms, however, she noted that all 16 are not hospitalized now.

Harrist added the state is estimating that 24 patients have fully recovered from the disease.

The state has issued three orders designed to encourage “social distancing” among the state’s residents. One closed schools and businesses likely to draw more than 10 people, another closed businesses providing personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo parlors, and a third banned gatherings of 10 or more people.

All three orders are in place until April 17. President Donald Trump is recommending that social distancing guidelines be observed until the end of April and Gordon said he and Harrist are studying Wyoming’s situation daily to determine whether the state’s orders should be extended.

Wheeler said in other places around the world, it appears that three to six weeks of social distancing is required before infection numbers peak and then begin to drop.

“Then there’s an additional multiple week tail-off,” he said. “We’re really looking at continuing social distancing fairly aggressively for the next six weeks or so and then gradually beginning to relax in the next couple of months after that.”

Gordon also announced that the state has been working to get equipment into the hands of county officials and the Wind River Indian Reservation tribes, along with the coronavirus test materials that have been in short supply.

Gordon also repeated his earlier pleas to Wyoming residents to stay at home if at all possible to slow the spread of the illness.

“Regardless of where you are, regardless of the circumstance, you need to stay at home, you need to respect social distancing, you need to practice exceptional hygiene,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you all go to the Walmart or some other store at the same time.”

Businesses should take steps to make sure they limit the number of customers coming through their doors to make sure not too many people gather at once, Gordon said.

“This is incredibly important,” he said. “If we can continue to work to flatten the curve, evidence has shown that we can defeat this virus before it becomes a challenge for the state.

Wyoming Coronavirus Cases Increase to 82

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The detection of nine new cases of coronavirus in seven counties pushed Wyoming’s coronavirus case count to 82 on Saturday.

The Wyoming Health Department reported the cases included the first cases in Converse and Sublette counties. Three new cases were reported in Fremont County, while one new case was reported in each of Converse, Johnson, Laramie, Sheridan, Sublette and Teton counties.

As of Saturday morning, the number of cases around the state stood at 20 in Fremont County, 19 in Laramie County, 13 in Teton County, eight in Natrona, and six in Sheridan. Johnson County had five cases and three cases were reported in Carbon County. Albany, Campbell, Converse, Goshen, Park, Sublette, Sweetwater and Washakie counties each reported one case.

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Gordon Vetoes Million-Acre Land Purchase Bill

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would have laid out the process for evaluating the state’s possible purchase of 1 million acres of land in southern Wyoming was vetoed Friday by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon vetoed Senate File 138, one of several measures proposed during the Legislature’s recent budget session to allow the possible purchase of the land from Occidental Petroleum.

The bill would have called for the State Land and Investment Board, made up of the state’s top five elected officials, to study the possible sale and report back to the Legislature, which would decide how and whether to finance the purchase.

Gordon, in his veto letter, said the final version of the bill imposed too many requirements for reports by the executive branch to the Legislature.

“The end result is a vehicle so heavily laden with legislative baggage that the ability to conduct thorough and appropriate due diligence takes a back seat to mandated reports and recommendations,” he wrote.

As written, the bill also raises concerns about the appropriate roles of the legislative and executive branch in such investments, Gordon said.

“In particular as ultimately passed, the act contemplates giving final decision making authority over an executive branch function to the legislative branch,” he wrote. “While there is a role for both branches of government in a transaction such as this, we must be ever mindful that each role must be exercised in the proper manner and at the proper time in the process.”

Gordon said the executive branch will continue its efforts to evaluate the purchase and will report any progress to the Legislature. He also committed to honoring all the requirements for public comment and public involvement in the purchase that were outlined in the bill.

Gordon thanked the legislators who worked with him to draft the legislation in its original form.

“Members of the Legislature and my office worked tirelessly crafting a process to provide the ability to conduct due diligence on the land and assets being offered for sale to the State of Wyoming,” he wrote. “I appreciate everyone’s efforts.”

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Don Day’s Wyoming Weather Forecast for Wednesday, February 12

in News/Uncategorized
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Welcome to Wednesday, February, You’re watching the Day weather podcast.

Let’s take a look at the snowfall forecast. Notice we continue to see — not a lot — but a little of snow coming thru the Rockies and the High Plains. 

There’s a system coming in today and early Thursday that will spread a little bit of light snow. 

You can see while it’s not heavy we are talking about a dusting — one to two inches of snow on the plains east of the Divide. You can see a little bit more snow falling on the mountain ranges as you would expect.

Cold air will continue to funnel in out of Canada. So it’s going to be pretty chill. A little bit of snow, lot a lot of snow but enough to be a nuisance.

It’s still going to make the roads icy across the region. This is especially true across the higher mountain passes of Colorado, I-80, I-25, I-90 across northeastern Wyoming. 

We have slick roads just about everywhere due to recent snow events and the fact that it continues to be cold and it will stay cold.

Temps for another day or two will be pretty chilly. They will warm up a little as we get into Friday and Saturday.

Beyond Saturday, we are going to keep our eye on a developing storm system that could come in Sunday into President’s Day Monday.

This is the basic upper level jet stream by Monday morning. Notice there is a trough coming in right here coming into southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah.

this chart we’re showing you is from the European model. It is a bit stronger than the American models but it is something we need to watch.

We’ve seen systems like this right around the President’s Day weekend that sometimes show up and comes thru before heading out to the East. So if you have a three day weekend coming up, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the weather. There could be a little more snow in the forecast.

Taking a look 10 days from now. Notice the jet stream flow kinda of straightens out. Low out here on the west coast that meanders around. More in the way of Pacific air coming in.

We talked about this yesterday. After the 20th or so it doesn’t look as cold. But it does look like a busy weather pattern especially as we get to the end of February and the beginning of March.

There’s a lot of winter weather on the table. Nothing too bad for the next few days. But do be ready for cold and just enough snow to be a nuisance.

For folks who follow the Day weather podcast, one thing we talk about is the sun, cosmic rays, solar activity

We are at a solar minimum right now — the strongest solar minimum in over 100 years. One thing that we keep track of is the amount of cosmic rays hitting the Earth.

Right here is where we are right now with cosmic rays. The space age record goes back to 2009 in the last solar minimum. We are really close to breaking this record.

Cosmic rays have been tracked since 1964. So this solar minimum which broke records in 2019 could break the record for the most amount of cosmic rays hitting the Earth here in early 2020.

Why is this important?  Solar activity has show to make connection with long term climate and weather trends.

Low solar activity has an impact that can make more clouds on the earth and can make it a little bit cooler.

Something we will continue to watch for you as the solar minimum is currently bottoming out right now over the next two or three months. It is interesting to watch.

Thanks for watching the Day Weather podcast, we will talk to you on Thursday.

Lander, Riverton Basketball Teams Recognize Murdered and Missing Girls

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

The standing room only crowd at the Lander Fieldhouse Tuesday, Jan. 28, saw some powerful symbolism of the effort to deal with murdered and missing Indian girls in Indian Country.

The basketball rivalry between the two teams is legendary but on this night, players united in wearing the same red tee shirts and posed together for a photo, prior to the big game.

Lynnette Grey Bull, a leader of a movement called MMIW (Murdered and Missing Indian Women) spoke. A song was presented by Mirks and Cedar Manzanares, which was solemn and soulful.

Just the previous week, a 23-year reservation woman Jade Wagon was found dead in a field. She had been missing since Jan. 2. The investigation is ongoing. Her older sister died earlier in Riverton last year.

Grey Bull declared “No one should disappear without a trace. No one should be murdered. No family should have to go through this.”

It was an emotional moment for a huge crowd of Fremont County basketball fans. It should be noted that many of the stars of the two basketball squads were members of the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes.

The game? Lander jumped out to a 19-2 lead only to see Riverton come back and tie it 43-43 in the fourth quarter before Lander eked out the victory.

Posted by Lynnette Grey Bull on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ignorant Food Zealots Reject Agriculture

in Cat Urbigkit/Column/Uncategorized
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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

Hollywood’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony made the news for its climate-change awareness with much ado about its meat-free dinner.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which organizes the event, made the decision to serve an entirely plant-based meal out of concern for climate change.

That was apparently the extent of the climate change concern, since thousands of flowers that decorated the ballroom were flown in by jet from Ecuador and Italy.

I haven’t seen an estimate of how many Italian flowers were used this year, but 10,000 blooms came from Ecuador, and last year, 20,000 tulips were flown in from Holland.

It seems odd that such extravagance is necessary when all the luxuries needed to stun attendees could be harvested right there in California.

Organic meats are raised in natural grazing systems throughout the state, and California also happens to be the largest cut-flower producing state in the nation. If HFPA wanted to have a positive impact on the environment and the climate, it could simply reduce its impact by buying local.

The awards came during the strange month of Veganuary, in which people are encouraged to go vegan for the month – omitting all animal products from their diets, as if animals are the worst things for the planet.

The Guardian columnist George Monbiot certainly thinks so. His view is that food farming and fishing “are the most environmentally damaging of all industries.”

He’s predicted the end of food farming (not just animal farming) within a few decades, claiming that the world’s population should soon be fed on food created in labs from bacteria, and all we would need to grow is some fruit and vegetables. He claims commercial fishing is a worse threat to the world’s oceans than plastics. And he gets paid to write this stuff.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions include agriculture’s 9% share. Of agriculture’s 9%, only one-third is due methane emissions from livestock.

Take a look at EPA’s emission’s pie-chart and then try to explain why animal agriculture is receiving so much negative attention as the cause of the climate crisis by the jet-setters.

Even on a global scale, agriculture (all agriculture, not just animal ag) is responsible for only 13 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, so the assault on ag seems all far of proportion to its impact.

Yet the notion that animal agriculture has a huge negative impact on climate has taken hold: Note the hypocrisy of an actor (Joaquin Phoenix) flying to the nation’s capital for one of Jane Fonda’s Friday climate change protests so he could urge people to not eat meat. He actually flew across the country to deliver the anti-meat message.

The New York Times recently published a column on Effortless Environmentalism, suggesting consumers should eat less meat and fewer dairy products, and that we can also pay for our sins by buying carbon offsets for air travel.

Curious about how one could pay money to offset air travel emissions, I found that the money goes to projects such as this one “by protecting land from conversion to agricultural, a rich ecological habitat is maintained.”

But the land is already agricultural: a working cattle ranch in Colorado. The money to “offset” emissions simply goes to fund a conservation easement so the land can continue to be operated as it has in the past.

Another project on the same site was also for a conservation easement – paying the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania to not allow commercial timber harvest within its confines.

Other projects simply provided further protection for land that was already under some level of protected status, or to fund monitoring and management of these protected areas, or to expand national park borders in other countries.

Since I have a few United Airlines flights in the coming weeks, I checked into buying carbon offsets for those flights directly from the airline. And learned that my sin-money would then be passed to Conservation International.

I checked out Delta’s program, and found: “Donations support forest conservation and restoration efforts while empowering local communities to transition to sustainable livelihoods.” Delta’s carbon offset funding apparently goes to The Nature Conservancy.

While many of these carbon-offset programs simply fund environmental groups, I suggest that if you really want to pay to offset your air travel emissions, you might want to examine where your money will be spent.

I found great projects coordinated by terrapass, including those that enable farms to make better use of animal waste, and landfill gas capture projects turning garbage into energy.

England’s vegan activist/columnist Monbiot fronted a show called Apocalypse Cow in which he put forth the argument that farming is the ruin of the world, and food farming needs to be replaced by factories producing food from bacteria. Yes, to save the world, food farming must be wiped from the face of the earth.

What these anti-animal-ag activists tend to ignore is that across large swaths of the world, livestock are grazed in areas that are otherwise unsuitable for food production; and all food production has an environmental impact. The planting of monocultures (row crops) for vegetable production is not really known an environmentally friendly method of food production.

They’ve also forgotten the precaution about not putting all your eggs in one basket. Centralizing food production into industrial settings is trending, but we know that disease outbreaks in such facilities can cause catastrophic loss.

Just look at China’s current pig crisis – the world’s largest animal disease outbreak. The same concern applies to food crops: Remember the Irish potato famine? The blight hitting potato crops ending up causing the death of about one million people.

Advocating the mass-production of food in laboratory or industrial settings is pushed by zealots who fail to recognize the tremendous risk to humanity’s food security. When we look at food production on a global scale, we find inequality, with food insecurity, hunger, and poverty. That we would take action to cause further harm is appalling.

Efforts to have giant food-technology businesses monopolize the world food supply should be rejected. Instead, grow local, buy local, eat local. Don’t adopt a system of industrial ag over regenerative farming techniques that sequester carbon and improve soil health.

In all our discussions about global meat production, we rarely mention the significant pillars of the foundation of animal agriculture. One is the religious beliefs that tie people to domestic animals, and the rich cultural heritage of tending to animals throughout human history (in various ethnic groups around the globe and over time).

We neglect the importance of the second part of the word: agriculture. Agriculture is based on culture, which means to cultivate or grow, but also includes “the concepts, habits, skills, art, instruments, institutions, etc. of given people in a given period; civilization.”

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

How Private Weather Companies Work with the National Weather Service

in News/Uncategorized/weather
A mezocyclone lightning storm with dark clouds forming over the plains in Tornado Alley.
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A nighttime, tornadic mezocyclone lightning storm shoots bolt of electricity to the ground and lights up the field and dirt road in Tornado Alley.

By Ike Fredregill

Cowboy State Daily

The federal government provides the nation with free weather data, but most Americans get their day-to-day forecasts from private weather companies.  

“It goes back further than you would think — there’s always been some element of non-governmental weather services,” said Don Day Jr., DayWeather owner and meteorologist. “But, it really didn’t become more commercialized until the ’70s and ’80s.”

Newspapers, radio broadcasts and TV shows wanted specialized weather reports for their regions and graphics to illustrate what the data indicated, Day explained. 

Furthermore, private industries across the nation wanted the data interpreted to fit their needs.

“Quite honestly, the demand out there for specialized weather — the National Weather Service (NWS) wasn’t going to be able to handle everything,” Day said. 

Jonathan Porter, AccuWeather Vice President of Business Services and meteorologist, said private industry stepped up to meet the growing demand.

“This has been a real success story in terms of how companies work with their government,” Porter said. “People talk about public sector-private sector partnerships, and this is a scenario where the partnerships between the government and weather industry cost the American taxpayer nothing at all, because that data is already available, but (the partnership) yields huge benefits.”

By working with NWS to boost severe weather warning broadcasts, he said private weather companies could be helping save lives and reduce the economic impacts of significant weather events. 

Free to pay

To monetize free data, Day said private companies turned to traditional media outlets and special interest groups.

“A lot of private forecasting companies that were successful found a really good niche in TV and radio,” he said. “USA Today was a game changer. In the ’90s, they came out with this huge page with a color weather graphic for the whole country. All the sudden, if you were a daily newspaper in a medium-sized market, you had to have a weather page.”

While free, the data was raw and bulky. Weather companies translated the gobbledegook into localized data, added digestible graphics and used their expertise to interpret forecasts.  

“The federal government provides a very robust and rich set of weather data,” Porter said, adding AccuWeather also collects data from governments around the world. “We create value for our customers — over 1.5 billion a day in 200 different languages — by serving consumers the weather data they need for travel plans and their day-to-day lives. We also serve businesses, who use our specific insights about how weather could impact worker safety and business operations.”

In Wyoming, Accuweather provides weather data to railroad companies.

“Parts of Wyoming are certainly very windy,” Porter said. “We provide very specific warnings to railroad operators in terms of letting them know winds will be over 60 mph on this particular part of their track.”

Established under the U.S. Department of War in 1870, the Weather Service, which operates as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was assigned to the Department of Commerce in 1940, said Jared Allen, a NWS warning coordination meteorologist based in Cheyenne.

“We mainly support our core partners in emergency management,” Allen said, explaining the agency’s primary mission is public safety. “But we do work with local broadcasters and enhance that relationship as much as we can, so they understand how to look at our product, ensuring our message and their message are as similar as possible for the public’s ease of interpretability.”

Working together

The relationship between private and public weather services has not always been sunny, Allen said.

“On occasion there can be challenges,” he explained. “One instance involved some private companies putting out their own weather alerts.”

While providing weather alerts to niche interest groups doesn’t interfere with the NWS mission, Allen said private companies broadcasting weather alerts to the general public can cause confusion, which could result in injury or loss of life.

“Depending on how they brand that alert and whether it correlates with a NWS alert,” he said, “that can unfortunately set a precedent of the public needing multiple sources of information before taking preventive action.”

Another conflict arose when President Donald Trump nominated Barry Lee Myers, a former AccuWeather chief executive, to run NOAA in 2017. Experts predicted that Myers being involved with the family-owned and operated AccuWeather would create a conflict of interest. While under Myers’ leadership, the company supported measures to limit the extent to which federal weather services could release information to the public, potentially allowing private companies to generate their own value-added products using the same information.

Myers’ nomination was stalled until 2019, when Myers withdrew because of health concerns. 

“There certainly has been growing pains about how to work together effectively,” Porter said. “But there’s been a realization over time that we can accomplish a lot more by working together.”

Day said his peers have bumped heads with the federal government on occasion, but he maintains a healthy working relationship with the feds.

“I have no problems with the weather service, and nine out of ten times we don’t compete for customers,” he explained. “But my position as a private weather forecaster is very different from others.”

If the government didn’t readily share its weather data, Day said he would be out of a job.

“There is a heavy reliance on government-provided data, no doubt,” he said. “Without the tax-funded, weather forecasting infrastructure, I’d have nothing.”

For AccuWeather, Porter said many of the past conflicts between private and public weather forecasters arose from lack of clarity.

“Especially in the ’80s and ’90s… there was not a clear understanding as to what the different parts of the weather community should be doing,” he said, explaining public and private forecasters were competing to produce the same information to the same demographics. “After we realized the need for establishing swim lanes — what the academic community would focus on, what private industry would focus on and what the government would not be focused on — that concept has been embraced by the American Meteorological Society.”

Despite some turbulence, Porter said the weather community’s current relationship is healthy and strong.

“There’s a tremendous amount of passion in the weather community to make a positive difference,” he said. “Few other fields have had as much success from a predictive capability as meteorology has had in terms of leveraging the science to improve society.”

Shoshoni to host annual all-women’s rabbit hunt on Saturday

in Travel/Uncategorized
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Shhh! Be vewy quiet! They’re hunting wabbit!

A longtime all-women’s hunting competition will enter its 41st year on Saturday as teams take part in the Wyoming Women’s 5-Shot Rabbit Hunt near Shoshoni.

The hunt has been around since the late 1970s and was created in direct response to Lander’s famous One-Shot Antelope Hunt, said Joan Eisemann, who has been involved with the event’s organization for many years.

“The Shoshoni Chamber of Commerce started it back when (Lander) had the One-Shot contest and wouldn’t let women hunt,” she said. “So they started the Shoshoni Chamber Bunny Hunt. It was for women only.”

Over the years, the hunt became known as the Wyoming Women’s 5-Shot Rabbit Hunt and Eisemann said she has been involved in one way or another for more than 30 years.

“I lived here,” she said. “I grew up with it.”

In the antelope hunt, hunters equipped with one bullet each are sent in 3-person teams to see how many antelope the team can bring in.

In the rabbit hunt, each hunter is given five bullets and sent in 2-person teams to collect 10 rabbits. The teams are accompanied by a judge.

The object is to shoot the highest number of rabbits in the least amount of time with the best shot, Eisemann said.

“If you’re fast and you’ve done your homework and found your bunny holes, you can maybe get three to six rabbits in less than a minute,” she said. “We’ve had some teams come in at 17 minutes for 10 rabbits. These girls can shoot.”

So far this year, six teams have signed up to take part, but teams can register at the Shoshoni Fire Hall as late as Friday evening, when those attending a dance and auction prior to the hunt can place their bids on which team they think will have the best score at the end of the weekend. The dance and auction are open to the public.

The actual hunt begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Eisemann said the teams can go anywhere around Shoshoni as long as they stay at least 1 mile away from any communities.

The teams must also return to the Fire Hall by 4 p.m. and the winning teams will be announced during a banquet Saturday evening.

For more information, visit the 5-Shot Rabbit Hunt’s Facebook page.

Cody marks 100 years of the Cody Stampede Rodeo

in Uncategorized
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Cody is celebrating two things during this long holiday weekend — Independence Day and the 100th anniversary of its world-famous Cody Stampede Rodeo.

Launched as a one-day event in 1919 by community leaders as a way to celebrate the opening of Yellowstone National Park’s eastern gate, the rodeo now runs for five nights and is considered one of the top rodeos in the world.

“As far as in the western world and the world of rodeo, Cody, Wyoming, is way up there on the list,” said Dan Miller, a longtime television rodeo announcer. “It has $480,000 (in prize money) and you get one chance at that here. When you put it in the contest of Cheyenne (Frontier Days), you put it in the context of Pendleton (Roundup in Oregon), the other rodeos, Cody holds its own.”

This year’s event, also featuring parades a craft fair and entertainment, began June 27 with a concert, followed by a professional bullriding competition and then four nights of Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association-sanctioned rodeos.

The events at the rodeo have changed significantly from its first years, said Robyn Cutter, with the Park County Archives.

“They had a lot of different races early on,” she said. “The chariot races, the wild cow milking contests, the different races that we don’t have today. But it’s been very exciting to see how it’s grown and changed over the years.”

Golden Problems, Working Solutions

in Uncategorized
Golden eagle talons.
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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

Imagine being a commercial sheep producer in Wyoming and losing 15 percent of your annual lamb crop to a federally protected predator. Then as each year passes, your livestock losses increase as more of those federally protected predators concentrate depredations on your flocks. The losses climb so that fully half of your lamb crop is lost to these predators. 

That’s the reality for Johnson County’s Tommy Moore of Moore Ranch Livestock, which lost half of its lambs to golden eagles last year. The Moore outfit had about 200 lambs born earlier this year, but 27 lambs are left alive at this point, with 80 percent of that death loss due to golden eagles.

It’s not a sustainable situation and everyone knowledgeable about this case understands that.

That’s why Moore has teamed up with the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, and Mike Barker of the International Eagle Austringers Association (a group of eagle falconers) to organize a coordinated effort to get some of the depredating golden eagles off his ranch. That work has drawn in several federal agencies, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, the North American Falconers Association, numerous volunteer falconers and scientists from across the country, and U.S. Senator John Barrasso. 

Barrasso – quietly and successfully – amended the federal eagle protection act last fall to require the director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to “use the most expeditious procedure practicable to process and administer permits” for the take of depredating eagles.[

“That really helped to push this through,” Barker said. 

A golden eagle in flight in western Wyoming.
A golden eagle feeds on a dead pronghorn antelope in Wyoming. (Photo: Cat Urbigkit)

Prior to a mid-1970s study documenting severe eagle depredation on Montana lambing grounds, the public (and some wildlife agencies) were skeptical at rancher claims of eagle depredations.

Bart O’Gara of the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit documented a similar kill scenario to the Moore’s Johnson County ranch on two Dillon, Montana-area ranches in the 1970s. In one six-hour period, O’Gara found 15 fresh eagle kills on one ranch, and that year, federal officials removed 145 golden eagles from the two ranches, which suffered losses totaling 76% of their lamb crop. Over a period covering three springs, nearly 250 golden eagles were removed from the ranches and depredations began to decline.[

With USDA Wildlife Services confirming the eagle depredations on his Wyoming ranch, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued Moore a depredation permit allowing the removal of two eagles. Moore agreed to work with the International Eagle Austringers Association so that the two eagles removed pursuant to his permit would be used for falconry, while other eagles that are captured are to be relocated away from the area.

A total of 27 eagle falconers applied to trap a golden eagle, and two names were drawn, including lucky man Barker and another falconer from New Mexico. Within six days, the trapping team captured a male eagle for the New Mexico falconer, and three days later, caught a female eagle for Barker. Both are immature golden eagles, so they were not part of the breeding population.

Now that two eagles have been removed from the population under the depredation permit, all other eagles captured on the ranch during the 90-day term of the permit will be relocated away from the ranch. Two other eagles have already been relocated, and live trapping efforts continue.

A golden eagle feeds on a dead pronghorn antelope in Wyoming.
A golden eagle in flight in western Wyoming. (Photo: Cat Urbigkit)

Similar efforts to stop eagle depredations on sheep have been successful in South Dakota. Other tactics, such as using scare devices, are generally viewed as ineffective at deterring eagle depredation on range sheep operations.

Eagle depredation on domestic sheep isn’t limited to newborn lambs, as Moore points out. They also attack and kill adult sheep and antelope. Golden eagles also killed a number of Moore’s replacement ewe lambs (weighing about 100 pounds) last fall. For the benefit of those not involved in the domestic sheep business, I’ll add that in my view, replacement ewe lambs are the future of any family sheep outfit.

While the eagle problem on the Moore ranch varies with the weather and with the season, the ranch experienced heavy damage in February (before his depredation permit was issued), and Moore expects problems to increase again this fall, if last year’s pattern is any indication.

The FWS has been hesitant to allow the removal of golden eagles, only allowing up to six goldens to be taken for falconry nationwide, so nearly all the golden eagles used for falconry in the United States were captured in the wilds of Wyoming. But FWS has not allowed any eagles to be taken from the wild since 2011 – until Barrasso pushed through the amendment to the eagle act last fall, and wool growers teamed up with falconers to push for action in Johnson County.

The wool growers/falconry partnership will continue, with numerous volunteer citizen scientists and falconers arriving on lambing grounds in other regions of the state in the coming days to monitor eagle depredations on lambs through the month of June. They will assist USDA Wildlife Services in confirming eagle depredations where problems are reported, which will set the stage for more ranchers to follow Moore’s lead in applying for depredation permits and requesting that falconers be allowed to trap and remove eagles from depredation areas.

The end result is that rather than pushing another domestic sheep producer out of business, the Moore family can continue their ranching heritage, and problem eagles will be removed from the wild, to hunt with their falconry advocates for decades to come.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.[

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