(Conrad) – They work on a limited 300-thousand dollar annual budget but so far, the Chair of the State Livestock Loss Board says they are accomplishing their goal of reimbursing ranchers for losses they suffer from predators including Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Mountain Lions and Black bears.

With that said, Doreen Gillespie of Ethridge says there have been more losses this year than ever.  “I think we’ve had more losses just this last year than ever before and we run on a limited amount of money and so if we continue to do this we’re going to run out of money to be able to pay for the losses, but I think the bear population has exploded.”

The Livestock Loss Board met in Conrad today (Thurs-yest.) and while they were there to approve proposals that would make it simpler for ranchers who have losses to apply to the board, they also were armed with factual numbers about the depradations year to date.

Joe Kipp, a board member from Glacier County and the Blackfeet Reservation says for the families who run relatively small operations on the reservation, losing 2-3 head is a big deal.  One of the exceptions to paying for the depredations is if the cause of death can’t be confirmed, they are classified as “probables,” and the rancher doesn’t get paid.   Kipp said some producers tell him they get lots of probables and no confirmation so they get nothing.

George Edwards, the Executive Director of the Livestock Loss Board says in Glacier County alone there have been 27 cattle killed by grizzlies this year and one horse, but typically Oct. and Nov. are the worst months.  “In speaking with wildlife services, they say we have a huge number of claims about to come in.”

To date, statewide, there have been 175 cattle depradations from grizzlies, 102 from wolves, 49 by mountain lions and 26 from black bears.  Keep in mind that some of those numbers are probable or possible kills.

The public can see daily numbers at the board’s website www.llb.mt.gov    We heard numerous other grizzly bear stories from the ranchers in attendance and we’ll have reports on those in the near future.

More From KSEN AM 1150