Should ranchers be reimbursed for losses to mountain lions?

Executive Director for Montana’s Livestock Loss Board George Edwards poses in his office with a wolf skull in front of a wolf fur. (Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service.)

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Montana lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow producers to be reimbursed for livestock killed by mountain lions.

The Livestock Loss Board currently reimburses producers if they lose stock to grizzly bears and wolves. House Bill 286 would add mountain lions to that list of predators.

George Edwards, executive director for the board, says in the past the agency has had a $200,000 budget to pay out for those losses. He says that number will have to increase to make room for losses by mountain lions.

“Approximately, there’s a minimum of $61,000 in mountain lion losses. There’s no wiggle room to cover that loss,” Edwards said.

That number includes calves, horses, goats, adult sheep and lambs reported as losses to mountain lions in 2016.

Edwards said passage of the bill depends on Senate Bill 73, which would extend funding for the board from 2017 to 2023.

Ken McDonald, the wildlife division administrator for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said another part of the bill would also allow the board to sell grizzly bear, wolf and mountain lion carcasses and put the proceeds into the reimbursement fund. But, McDonald said that could be problematic for grizzly bear carcasses because of the bear’s protections under the Endangered Species Act.

“Being available through state law, when they’re federally listed under the Endangered Species Act, that wouldn’t be allowed through the federal law; so there’s a conflict between the state and federal law,” McDonald said.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.