As the population of the Mexican wolf continues to increase in Arizona, the number of depredation incidents increases and the financial and emotional cost to Arizona ranchers and cattle growers continues to climb.
During 2019 and early 2020 the number of confirmed depredation incidents increased sharply, prompting the Board of Eastern Arizona Counties Organization to increase its collaboration with the Arizona Game and Fish Department by donating $35,000 to the department for the specific purpose of funding and implementing in-the-field depredation prevention measures such as the Range Riders Program.
In April, AZGFD released its report for the 2020 Range Riders program co-funded by the $35,000 donation from the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization and a $18,000 donation from the Arizona Livestock Loss Board (ALLB). Remarkably, as an outcome of the 2020 Range Riders program, depredation dropped by 39%.
While it can be argued that other factors may have contributed to the 39% drop, it must be noted that there were no other tangible identifiable factors that may have caused the depredation reduction, as the Mexican wolf program was managed identically in 2019 and 2020.
To further emphasize the value and efficiency of the Range Riders program as a management action, it must be noted that depredation dropped 39% for the period year to year, while the Mexican wolf minimum counted population itself increased 14% from 163 at the 2019 end-of-year count, to 186 at the 2020 end-of-year count.
As a follow up to their 2020 donation, at the May, 2021 ECO meeting, the Board of Directors unanimously approved the donation of $25,000 to fund the 2021 Mexican Wolf Range Rider program.
Apache County District 3 Supervisor Nelson Davis said, “This is a good example of Eastern Arizona Counties Organization’s vision toward the planning and implementation of specific environmental programs that have a direct measurable impact in rural Eastern Arizona. As a ECO board member and supervisor of Apache County, I am pleased to see our Board of Supervisors work together with the five other member counties in eastern Arizona to assist our ranchers and cattle growers with the impacts of the Mexican wolf experimental population program.”
“The Eastern Arizona Counties Organization has really stepped up in the effort to help reduce Mexican wolf depredations as for the second year, the board has announced a grant to the Arizona Game and Fish Department to support the range rider program,” said Jim DeVos, the recently retired assistant director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, now representing the Department as Mexican wolf coordinator. “Those who manage wolves on the ground have found that range riding is one of the more effective tools to reduce depredations and the funding from ECO has been invaluable to the department in supporting additional range riders. Based on the results from the 2020 grant, there was about a 40% reduction in depredations over the comparable time from the prior year.”
The partnership between AZGFD and ECO is an excellent example of working together to benefit permittees on our working landscapes.”