Cattle producers in Lewis and Clark County will be able to tax themselves to help pay for predator control.
Authorization for the tax came from the Lewis and Clark County Commission, which was presented with a petition on Tuesday asking the tax be enacted.
The tax, $1 per head on each of the 22,874 cattle in the county that are age nine months and older, will help pay the expenses incurred by the Wildlife Services Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – the federal agency responsible for much of the government predator control.
The petition came from owners representing 54 percent of the cattle in the county. It was presented to the county in November after it began to be circulated for support beginning in March.
David and Margaret Brown, who ranch in the Helena Valley and have summer range for their cattle along the Rocky Mountain Front, are among those who supported the petition.
David Brown said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he signed it when it was being circulated for signatures several months ago.
“Our problem is in summer range primarily,” he said.
“My cattle run in mountain range that is heavily occupied by four predators that causes us a lot of trouble,” Brown continued.
Wolves, black bears, grizzly bears and mountain lions all harass and prey on his cattle when on summer range, he said.
During a typical year, he said, he will lose one or two adult cows and a calf. The value of those losses is about $1,000 a head.
“The reason I supported, my tax of a dollar a head is a miniscule amount compared to those losses,” he explained.
His cattle also suffer weight loss because they are chased by predators and this is one of the more costly nonlethal problems ranchers face.
Kraig Glazier, who is the district supervisor for USDA Wildlife Services in Helena, is the sole person responsible for predator control in Lewis and Clark County. Some of those who handle predator complaints are individually responsible for several counties.
The problem the Browns encounter with cattle being chased by predators and losing weight as a result isn’t the only problem facing ranchers, he said. Harassment of cattle can also cause reduced pregnancy rates and add to the costs to feed cattle, Glazier said.
This trio of problems represents a greater cost to ranchers than do actual losses, he noted.
Having an additional $22,874 through the $1 per head tax, he said, will help respond to ranchers’ complaints.
All of the money that’s generated in the county by the tax is spent in the county, he added.
Coyotes are the primary predator of cattle in Montana as they seek out those that are calving as well as calves, Glazier said.
Last year, reports of predation that were confirmed through investigation locally amounted to $98,000 of damage to ranchers, he said, adding that this is just the value of reported damage.
Wildlife Services either kills or captures the predators that are preying on livestock, Glazier said, explaining “it depends on the animal and depends on the situation.”
Fifty three out of Montana’s 56 counties have taxes to aid in predator control and with the addition of Lewis and Clark County, 24 of those 53 counties will have taxes in place to aid in protecting cattle, Glazier said. Two other counties are in the process of enacting a tax for this purpose too.
Of those 53 counties, 47 also have taxes to aid in protecting sheep.