Ranchers in Coos County Meet the Market: What Happens When Local Government Decides Not to Subsidize Killing Bears and Mountain Lions

mountain lion control, working dogs (USDA)

There's a fascinating article in Coos Bay Oregon's The World about some ranchers and timber companies reaction to a county budget cut, that may result in "cooperative" funding being eliminated for Wildlife Services.  As a result, Wildlife Services may, in turn, eliminate two of its trapper positions in the County.*

What do these trappers do? From the article it seems like they mostly kill black bears, who sometimes damage commercial timber stands, mountain lions and coyotes, who sometimes prey on sheep or other livestock, and beavers.

The total costs of these trappers is about $153,000 a year.  According to the article, right now Coos County pays about $60,000 a year of those costs, payments which are set to be discontinued.  So some local ranchers decided to try to form a  "'co-operative' where anyone potentially affected by animal damage -- farmers, foresters, cities, and even golf course owners -- will be asked to loosen their purse strings" and make up the missing funds.

But a funny thing happened on the way to this plan.  It turns out that when faced with the prospect of shouldering a significant share of the costs of animal control themselves, a lot of businesses just don't think it's worth the money.

"It doesn't work that great, because some people pay and some people don't. If they don't want to pay, that's their decision," cranberry farmer Bob Donaldson said. "There's one big timber company, off the top of my head, who just doesn't think it's worth their time and money."

Despite this, Wildlife Services continues to insist that their trappers are totally worth the money:  Image removed.

Mike Burrell, district supervisor for Southwestern Oregon [Wildlife Services] and a member of Waterman's committee, said bears are a hugely expensive problem for local timber companies.

"We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars alone in timber [damage] just from bears. If I remember, just in Southwestern Oregon we are talking a million dollars a year in just bear damage."

But, look, here's the thing.  If, when push comes to shove, a private co-op can't raise $60,000 to pay for animal trappers (even when they are still being subsidized by the American taxpayer to the tune of another $93,000) then maybe the benefits of trapping just aren't as great as Wildlife Services makes them out to be.

It's just a matter of economics.

You can take action here.


*Quick Review: Wildlife Services is a federal agency that spends tens of millions of dollars a year killing bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and wolves, across the west; generally the costs of their operations are split between local, state or private "cooperators" on the one hand and federal funds on the other.