Jul 31, 2015

Thermopolis stockgrower contesting payment for stock depredation

After losing sheep to predators in spring 2014, Frank Robins of Thermopolis believes the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is offering him far less than he's due in compensation.

Robbins’ son-in-law and ranch manager, Josh Longwell, filed a claim seeking $46,486 for the death of the sheep, which were killed in the Owl Creek Mountains outside Thermopolis. But the Game and Fish Department recommended $16,553 during the July 9 Game and Fish Commission meeting in Cody.

In this file photo, Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore biologist Zach Turnbull of Pinedale skins a cow killed by a predator. Photo courtesy Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Robbins said he lost 253 sheep to trophy game animals — grizzly and black bears, wolves and mountain lions.

“The Game and Fish is not covering the cost of these animals,” Robbins told the commission. “The problem is, you’re not paying us for what’s going on.”

Game and Fish and Robbins agree on the number of sheep lost to trophy game animals, but they disagree as to whether a multiplier should be applied.

Under Game and Fish rules, if sheep are killed in locations where the terrain or vegetation makes it tough to find them, the payment for each confirmed kill is multiplied by 3.5. 

However, in pasture-like settings where sheep are easily found, payment is only made for each confirmed animal. All of Robbins' kills were found within an enclosed pasture, said Luke Ellsbury, Game and Fish large carnivore biologist from Cody.

“The producer was asking for the multiplier, but the damage did not occur in the areas defined by statute for the multiplier,” said Dan Thompson, Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore section supervisor in Lander.

If the multiplier was applied, Robbins would get exactly what he believes he is due for losses.

“It’s the multiplier we’re not agreeing on,” he said.

“In this case they called it home range because they didn’t want to pay,” Robbins said on July 21. 

“They’re going to get a lawsuit,” rancher Frank Robbins said of the Game and Fish.

The commission voted in favor of the Game and Fish recommendation to pay $16,553.

“I think we have to uphold the department’s recommendation here,” said Commissioner David Rael of Cowley, representing District 5.

District 7’s representative, Richard Klouda of Lander, voted against the department's recommendation.

Robbins said he was planning to take the Game and Fish to court for lost sheep, lost cattle and harassment to him by the department.

“They’re going to get a lawsuit,” Robbins said.

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