Trapper position gets county funding

The Linn County Board of Commissioners has agreed to provide nearly $50,000 toward the cost of funding a trapper for predator control in Linn County for the next year.

On June 17, the board approved the expenditure with the caveat that the county will want to cut its funding to $20,000 next year and other funding sources will need to be tapped, Commissioner Will Tucker said.

A task force was created after a June meeting of the Linn County Livestock Association to figure out how to fund the position, funded at some $38,900 by the county last year and proposed to be cut by $18,900 this year.

Federal funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture continued this year, but the state Department of Agriculture is cutting its predator eradication budget by 75 percent, and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife cut the same item by 33 percent for a total of $8,200 in reductions for the Linn County trapper.

The Livestock Association offered $5,000 to help fill the funding gap this year, Tucker said, but the board wants to use that as seed money to seek other avenues of funding.

The county’s initial contribution for the county trapper was $5,000 but as funding for the position started becoming tighter over the years, that has increased to $49,000 this year.

The county kept putting more and more cash into the program, he said, and then it needed to make cuts.

Tucker commended his fellow commissioners, Roger Nyquist and John Lindsey for bringing it back up for consideration and funding the program, giving it one more year to find new funding sources.

Nyquist suggested using the Livestock Association’s contribution this year as seed money to find long-term funding, Tucker said.

“The federal program has been great,” Tucker said. “The frustration is how to pay for it.”

Farmers say that coyotes have become a serious problem, rising to an all-time high over the past five years.

“It used to be you’d never see a coyote, not in the daytime,” said Roger Ruckert, a Tangent-area farmer who runs sheep on his fields where he’s not growing a crop of grass or wheat. “I had to move over 1,200 lambs near the city limits of Tangent because they were getting nailed so bad.”

Farmers say guard animals such as dogs, llamas and donkeys can protect sheep, but the problems occur around the perimeter of the fields where the guard animals are not always present.

Tucker, who lives north of Lebanon in the Lacomb area, has lost two calves this year to cougars and said he quit raising sheep because of coyote problems.

He said he has lost as many as 30 lambs in a single year.

According to the most recent figures he has available, since July 1, 2008 the trapper has eradicated 99 coyotes and seven cougars in Linn County, said Dave Williams, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Inspection Wildlife Services Program.

He said that $27,000 worth of livestock losses to predators have been reported in Linn County since last July 1 “but that’s just a fraction.” He said that a lot of losses are never reported and it’s hard to determine how much loss is prevented by having a trapper remove a predator.

“Someone calls us up and they’re losing a few lambs every night. We go in there and selectively work on the coyote or cougar that’s causing that damage,” he said. “It’s hard to estimate what further damage might occur.”