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New rancher said to put numerous small calves in the middle of major Wyoming grizzly and wolf country

Bangs says due to this, strict lethal control won't be used on Gros Ventre Pack

July 1, 2002, update Aug. 9 Aug 17, and Dec. 29


Riverton rancher Dan Ingalls probably lost more cattle to grizzly bears than any other in the United States.

In one recent year, he claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars of losses on his Bacon Creek and Fish Creek allotments between Jackson Hole and the upper Green River in northwest Wyoming. Every year Wyoming Game and Fish trimmed his claims, but over time about a hundred thousand dollars were paid.

I talked with Ingalls. He told me he lost 150 head to grizzlies in 1999, 24 in 2000, but just 2 in 2001. Ingalls said much of his trouble was that in 1999 Wyoming Game and Fish baited grizzlies secretly with dead elk right next to his cattle in violation of the Interagency grizzly guidelines.

This winter Ingalls sold his two allotments to Stanko's Fish Creek Cattle. Ingalls was reported in the Casper Star Tribune "his constant legal battles with the state Game and Fish Department over damage claims for cattle lost to grizzly bears was taking too much time away from raising his family's Angus cattle."

Located in the Gros Ventre Mountains, there is no doubt that grizzlies have moved into the area in a major way over the last decade. Moreover, it is home range of the Gros Ventre pack, a pack this is hard to follow or know if they kill livestock because USFWS has been unable to successfully collar a member of the pack. Ingalls said, however, that Wyoming Game and Fish has a strong incentive to blame wolves for livestock that are really killed by grizzlies so they won't have to pay a claim.

Stanko's cattle are now out on the allotment. There is a perception that Stanko has put cattle that are inexperienced feedlot cattle in this wild country and that many of the calves are too small and underweight.

In June 21 "Gray wolf progress report," Ed Bangs wrote:

"A new permittee just turned out his cattle on a Forest Service allotment in the Gros Ventre Valley near Jackson, WY. The previous permittee had a number of grizzly bear depredations and some wolf-caused losses. Ongoing predator-caused losses, predator removal, and compensation on the allotment have been a very contentious issue for the past several years.
The new permittee reportedly brought in about 1400 cattle that had never been on open range from feedlots in the mid-west. Of the 500 calves turned out nearly 300 are only a few weeks old and many weighed less than 100 pounds. Heavy losses are expected from a wide variety of causes, including predation.
Our potential response to confirmed wolf-caused depredations may require additional research and extra precautions by the permittee.
On the 20th, a calf was reportedly killed by wolves. Jimenez and WS investigated and it was a natural mortality.
The Forest Service and producer were notified that because of the extreme vulnerability of these types of livestock and the decision to place them in this type of situation- agency control after confirmed depredations would, at least initially, only consist of attempting to place a radio on the pack and see how many wolves are involved and if they are denning and issuing the producer a 45-day permit to shoot a wolf seen in the act of biting, grasping, or killing livestock on the federal allotment."

I asked Bangs about this statement because its accuracy was challenged by Ingalls. Bangs said that several people he considered "very reliable" had told him this.

In the June 26 issue of the Jackson Hole News. Whitney Royster did a story on the situation. The News reported that Stanko called Bang's decision not to automatically remove wolves that killed his cattle a "cop out." "If you're a rancher, you're a cow-calf rancher. It's their job to keep carnivorous animals away from livestock, whether it's 2 weeks old or 2 years old. Now they're trying to cop out because they don't like the way they ranch."

Stanko has 1800 head on the allotment, more than Ingalls ran in each of the last three years.

No wolf depredations have been reported so far. The Gros Ventre Pack does seem to be in their normal range, which is the general area where the cattle are.

Update Aug. 9. Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator Ed Bangs recently issued an apology for his characterization of Stanko's cattle. It follows"

BANGS ISSUES A CORRECTION AND AN APOLOGY- In late May and early June weekly wolf reports and in an early June newspaper article about cattle grazing in the Gros Ventre drainage near Jackson, WY, Wolf Recovery Coordinator Bangs expressed his concern over the source, experience, and ages of cattle being turned out on a Forest Service grazing allotment in the Gros Ventre drainage and his perceived high potential for wolf depredations.

The livestock producer contacted Bangs to set the record straight. Several of Bangs’ concerns were misplaced and were not based on accurate information. (SEE the attached letter back to the livestock owner).

All the adult cattle had been on open range before and were bought at auctions in the Western U.S., not from feedlots in the mid-West. The producer said his calves may not be as old or heavy as some grazed on Forest Service allotments, but they are clearly within acceptable livestock industry standards. The producer also added that he is using nearly twice as many riders as usual to keep close track of his cattle- which is commendable.

While still expressing some concern Bangs thanked to the producer for clarifying the situation. Bangs offered a sincere apology for not checking facts more closely and his misunderstanding of this particular situation. Hopefully, Bangs’ concern (that has been greatly reduced through accurate information) will be for not and by this Fall, the number of dead and missing livestock will be negligible.

The Service gladly accepted the livestock producer’s offer, and shares his desire, to work cooperatively to resolve their respective concerns. To date their have been no confirmed wolf depredations in the Gros Ventre, which indicates Bangs may have been needlessly concerned and he is apparently a better historian than prophet. It appears that the livestock producer is on top of this situation. Hopefully that good news will continue.
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Update August 9.
On Aug. 5, wolves killed 2 cow calves and a yearling in the area. On August 8 an adult cow was killed (wolves have killed very few adult cows to date). Efforts to trap and radio collar the wolves were unsuccessful. However, former Tower pack member no. 162 (from Yellowstone) was located several days later near where the depredations had taken place. Folks working for Stanko had reported seeing 2 wolves, one with a radio collar. The Gros Ventre Pack, if it still exists, has no radio collars. The rancher received a 45-day permit to shoot up to two wolves in the act of attacking his livestock on the allotment. He was given the radio frequency to no. 162.

Update Aug. 17. Rudy Stanko has been given a permit to shoot up to 2 wolves around his livestock. The recent story "Fish & Wildlife OKs wolf killing" by Deanna Darr in the Jackson Hole Guide gives the details.

Update Dec. 29. As the season ended, Stanko claimed to have lost many cattle to grizzly bears and wolves. However, his men had failed to shoot a wolf although the USFWS (above) had given them a permit to shoot two wolves. In October he proposed to the Fremont County (WY) Commission that he be granted permission to eradicate wolves on his federal grazing allotment. Of course, the Commission has no such authority, but Stanko filed a brief to the commissioners arguing the Endangered Species Act was unconstitutional. The county commissioners, who have been strongly anti-wolf and anti-grizzly bear, voted 3-2 to take his proposal under advisement.

Meanwhile one of Stanko's stray cows showed up inside of Yellowstone Park, 60 miles north of his grazing allotment.

About the same time Stanko's past connections to white supremacist groups, especially the Church of the Creator, was revealed in the Riverton (WY) Ranger newspaper. Next the Church of the Creator moved its headquarters to Riverton, Wyoming, causing a big media stir.

Since then, little more has been in the papers about Stanko and the wolves. However, news interest in Stanko and the Church and the Creator continues.

11-04-2002. Wyo. radical taking his ‘rights’ to the extreme. By Todd Wilkinson, regional columnist. Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Wilkinson suggests Stanko is trying to gain supporters by playing on the local bear and wolf issue.

12-24-2002. Riverton resists racist church. Billings Gazette.

12-26-2002. Church of the Creator born in Florida. One 'supreme leader' [Stanko] had ties to Denver meatpacking case. By Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News.


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