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This page was last updated on January 06, 2009 .

Golden Cows
by: Larry Walker, 4/27/01

I just read an article in the Billings Gazette about a rancher's claim for damages caused by a grizzly bear that killed some of his livestock last summer.

The first thing to note is that these events occurred "... on grazing allotments the Bridger-Teton National Forest." In other words, on OUR public lands where OUR wildlife (particularly "listed" wildlife such as the grizzly) should take precedence over private commercial exploitation subsidized with OUR taxes.

Now, on to the "golden" cows. The article reported that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department compensated the rancher $15,654 for four calves that it could confirm were killed by the grizzly, and that the department pays "...for two-thirds above any confirmed losses because we recognize these animals at times are difficult to find."

The rancher has appealed this compensation and wants to be compensated $50,490 for 17 calves and 4 cows.

Let's do a little math. "Feeder" calves generally go to market at 400 to 600 pounds, so let's assume an average of 500 pounds. "Bred" cows in the area generally weigh 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, so let's assume an average of 1,100 pounds.

4 calves would total 2,000 pounds, or 6,000 pounds for 12 calves using the Department's allowance.

The rancher's claim of 17 calves and 4 cows would total 8,500 pounds for calves plus 4,400 pounds for cows, or 12,900 pounds.

Scenarios for
Animals Killed


Price per Pound

Market Value

at $15,654

at $50,490

4 calves





12 calves





17 calves & 4 cows





*For comparison (Billings Livestock Commission, 4/26/01), feeder calf prices currently range from about $1.10/lb for 400 pound calves to about $0.80/lb for 600 pound calves (assume an average of $0.95/lb and a 500 pound calf). Bred cows weigh 1,000 to 1,200 pounds and sell for $580 to $695 each (assume an average of $0.58/lb for an 1,100 pound cow selling for $640).

Even under a worst case assumption that the rancher lost 17 calves and 4 cows and will receive only the $15,654 offered by the Department, the compensation is still about 30% above market value. The Department's offer appears to be more than fair. The rancher, on the other hand, appears to think that his cattle are made of gold under any scenario.

'Nuff said?

Addendum - February 23, 2003: There they go again! See Casper Star Tribune for 2/23/03.