WyoFile reporter Angus M. Thuermer Jr. posted an April 11th article, “Feds ban Idaho cyanide bombs, still want Wyoming use,” that tells of the Urbigkit family’s support of the current USDA Wildlife Services program in Wyoming by stating, “They said in comments that continued killing and use of M-44 cyanide bombs keep their operation running.”
M-44s were never mentioned in our letter of comment and for Thuermer to indicate otherwise is both inaccurate and dishonest, but typical of what we expect from Thuermer’s reporting. We have never used M-44 devices, contrary to Thuermer’s statement that the “use of M-44 cyanide bombs keep their operation running.” In fact, M-44 devices haven’t been used anywhere in Sublette County (where we live) for decades. M-44 use is prohibited in areas where federally protected predators are known to roam – that includes most of Sublette County.
Yet to Thuermer, M-44s keep us in business. If one were to go back through agency files, you would find the first comment letter I ever sent to an agency was in opposition to the use of M-44s on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, decades ago. Our concern at that time was for the protection of remnants of Wyoming’s native wolf population – long before the wolf reintroduction program.
Our family has a long record of advocating the use of livestock guardian dogs to deter predators, and the use of these dogs by necessity precludes the use of poisons and some other lethal methods of predator control. It’s a point I’ve made in every presentation I’ve given about the use of livestock guardian dogs for at least the last decade.
It’s also mentioned in two books I’ve written about guardian dogs. In Shepherds of Coyote Rocks: Public Lands, Private Herds and the Natural World (published Sept. 2012) I wrote: “There are trade-offs to using guardian dogs. It means disallowing the use of snares, traps, or poisons within the dogs’ range, because these methods of predator control could also kill or injure the dogs.”
Similar words are used in my new book, published in January 2017, Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs: “The use of guardian dogs means that the use of traps, snares, and poisons is prohibited in the dog’s territory because of the potential of harm to the dogs.”
The letter that we sent in support of Wildlife Services was in response to an environmental assessment that offered the following alternatives:
1. Continuation of existing program
2. No Wildlife Services program
3. Technical assistance only
4. Nonlethal management only
5. Nonlethal required before lethal control.
We supported a continuation of the existing program in Wyoming, knowing some control methods are used in some areas and situations and not in others. Our letter outlined 13 nonlethal techniques routinely used by our family to protect our livestock, and spoke of our family’s partnership with Wildlife Services that has resulted in more research on guardian dogs, and the importation of various guardian breeds, in attempt to increase the effectiveness of guardian dogs in reducing depredations by wild predators. But these efforts didn’t fit into Thuermer’s evil-rancher narrative.
Thuermer’s reporting demonstrates his intent and bias, including the repeated use of the phrase “cyanide bombs” when referring to M-44 devices, which are spring-activated ejector devices. In contrast, a bomb is a device designed to explode on impact, or when detonated by a time mechanism, remote control, or lit fuse.
Thuermer was also deceptive in reporting on the Sublette County Predator Management District’s letter (I’m a member of that board). Again, M-44s weren’t mentioned in the letter and aren’t used in Sublette County, despite Thuermer’s allegation that “the district rejected an alternative to immediate cyanide use.”
Advocacy for his personal position and prejudice drive Thuermer’s reporting. The first canon of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which WyoFile claims to “closely subscribe,” is to “seek truth and report it.” Truth-telling was not Thuermer’s goal.
Follow these links to read the Wildlife Services EA, and our letter of comment on that document.
I'm excited to be joining the crew of the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials on Sept. 8 & 9 in Meeker, Colorado. I'll do a free presentation about livestock guardian dogs on Friday, Sept. 8, and will host a writing class the next morning. I'll post details later, but mark the dates!
Here's my current schedule for speaking engagements:
June 23, Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust grazing clinic, McFadden, WY.
July 10, Wyoming Geographic Alliance, Laramie, WY.
August 17, Wyoming Pioneer Association, Douglas, WY.
Sept 8-9, Meeker Classic Sheepdog Trials, Meeker, CO.
Oct. 7, Great Goat Gathering, Worland, WY.
Jim and I were involved in "the wolf issue" in Wyoming for decades, and after my book Yellowstone Wolves: A Chronicle of the Animal, the People, and the Politics was published, I donated all of our wolf files to the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. AHC just launched an online "finding aide" that serves as an index to that collection (13 boxes of files). Pretty awesome work!
You can find it here.
I received a most lovely note over the weekend, from a retired sheep industry professional who had finished reading my book, Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs:
"A very special book---Brave and Loyal; great in-depth assessment of guardian dog and predator behaviors. A wonderful read with specifics that could only be offered by one who has lived with the dogs and predators.
Enjoyed reading about your visits to many countries that have for generations relied on guardian dog for protection against predators. ...
"Where would the U. S. sheep range industry be today without guardian dogs – somewhere in the "history books!"
He's right. Guardian dogs keep us in the sheep business.
I also found a wonderful review of the book on Prairie Mary's blog. She took issue with the dust jacket classification as a book on "pets."
"There are great dog stories and most pet owners will love the book, but it should properly be classified as 'pastoral ecogeography.' It is about the synergy among landscapes with indigenous predators, people who raise herds of animals there, and the guard dogs that make it possible."
That's just an excerpt, so take a book at Prairie Mary's full review here.
With our expanding wolf and grizzly bear populations in Wyoming, livestock producers are re-evaluating methods to keep their stock safe from depredation in difficult field circumstances. I've had the pleasure of meeting with a group of cattle producers to discuss how they might approach incorporating livestock guardian dogs into their ranch operations. Those discussions continue.
On a related note, I'm also pleased to join the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust at the 2017 Grazing & Ranch Management Clinic on June 23 at Sims Cattle Company in McFadden. I'll be talking about using guardian dogs with both sheep and cattle.
For more information about the clinic, check out this link:
Grazing & Ranch Management Clinic
This is shaping up to be a busy year. My new adult nonfiction book, Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs was released in January, and I have a second adult nonfiction title set for release this fall. Return of the Grizzly will be published by Skyhorse Publishing with a November release date. Stay tuned for more information.