CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming will spend more than $4 million to kill coyotes, wolves, ravens, skunks and other “nuisance animals” in 2023-’24 — more than any previous fiscal year.
Federal trapper Steve Moyles helped make the case for one portion of the expenditures May 18 in a presentation to the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board.
The common raven, he told board members, is a “nasty bird” that causes horrific injuries to young, defenseless cattle on calving grounds.
“They peck navals, they peck eyes, they actually peck holes in joints of calves,” said Moyles, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program. “They’re just a nasty bird, and I’m pleased that we’re able to work on them — and I hope that continues.”
Moyles made his remarks in support of the Wyoming ADMB funding the Lincoln County Predator Board to the tune of $235,000. He also explained his method of killing the opportunistic Corvus corax.
“I took 241 ravens with DRC-1339 [an avian poison], which is broadcasted with dog food,” Moyles said. “Very effective. I’m very impressed with how it works on ravens. It flat knocks raven numbers down.”
Later, Jon Child, speaking for the Lincoln County Predator Board, expressed appreciation for Moyles’ raven-killing efforts.
“Ravens are a major problem. Big time,” Child said. “They’re vicious. You come onto a lamb and it’s got its damn tongue gone. It’s still alive … but how the hell is he going to suck his mother?”
Child, as part of the same pitch to the ADMB, described his county board’s aerial culling operations, which were the subject of a federal law enforcement investigation into alleged violations of the Airborne Hunting Act. From Jan. 12 to April 6 of this year, he said, predator board-funded operations gunned down 401 coyotes and six wolves — five of them up the Grey’s River.
“The ones that was in the Grey’s River is the ones that’s been flip-flopping back from Lincoln County to Sublette County,” Child said. “We had lady luck with us and caught them in there.”
Equipped with $4.18 million in mostly taxpayer-sourced general-fund money for the year, the Wyoming ADMB voted to fund Lincoln County’s Predator Board and 18 other county predator boards about an hour later. Lincoln County’s allocation came in at $233,500, a 26% bump over its 2022-’23 funding level, $185,500.
The ADMB had more money to work with this year than any year since the Wyoming Legislature created the statewide panel nearly a quarter century ago, according to Wyoming Department of Agriculture employee Jerry Johnson, who administers the board. In a typical year, ADMB funding runs around $3.5 million. In the leanest years about $2.5 million went toward predator control. One reason for the record funding, he said, is inflation — like any other inflation-influenced service, the cost of killing predators has gone up.
“It’s pricier to fly planes,” Johnson told WyoFile. “Most of these counties, they’re trappers have not had raises — some of them for 10 years.”
Materials, vehicles, gas and aviation fuel all got pricier, he said.
The Legislature, equipped with a surplus the last couple sessions, set aside $5.88 million for predator management for the two years between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2024 when it completed the budget last year.
Livestock producers also contribute to the ADMB’s war chest, supplementing the legislatively approved general-fund support. Any producer raising stock in an ADMB-funded county district pays a $1 per-head predator fee when they sell. Annually, Johnson said, the fees bring in about $1 million to the statewide board which then distributes the funds to the county districts.
Platte, Laramie and Sublette county boards don’t partake, Johnson said, and aren’t eligible for ADMB funds. Teton County, meanwhile, doesn’t have a predator board. But government-funded predator control is routine business in the vast majority of Wyoming and much of the rural western United States.
The ADMB summarizes its spending in an annual report to the governor. As a general rule, Johnson said, almost all of the funding goes to “on-the-ground” operations — in other words, killing predators.
Many county boards spend the majority of their effort and funds on trying to minimize the coyote population.
In Washakie County, for example, the predator management board funded 180 hours of aerial gunning, according to its 2021-’22 annual report. Coyotes were the most-killed species in the district, with 426 animals plus four dens of pups targeted — far surpassing the 78 raccoons, 25 striped skunks, seven red foxes, four beavers, two great blue herons and one raven that county-funded federal trappers offed. Wildlife Services’ specialists verified in-district livestock damages totalled $1,406 over the same time period.
Washakie County’s Predator Management District also received a big bump to its previous funding level at the ADMB’s two-day May meeting. In 2022-’23, the local board operated with some $169,000 in state funds — a total that jumped 47% to $248,500 for the 2023-’24 fiscal year.
The $4.18 million ADMB allocated to county boards isn’t the last of funding that the statewide board will distribute in 2023. It will also grant an additional $200,000 — these funds routed from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department — on a project-by-project basis at the board’s June 16 meeting, Johnson said.
Such Game and Fish-originated funds typically go to research and special predator-killing efforts aimed at protecting species like mule deer, pronghorn and sage grouse, he said.
In the wake of this year’s especially deadly winter for pronghorn and mule deer, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is separately planning to provide yet more funding for coyote killing. Following the hard winter of 2016-’17, the agency spent $100,000 on aerial gunning over deer fawning grounds. That effort claimed 177 coyotes.