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Ranchers, others ask supervisors for help in wildlife control

January 31, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

To help stop $1 million losses to county sheep ranchers, aquaculture and farmers from coyotes, birds and rabbits, the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday directed county staff to find funding sources to pay for a full-time wildlife depredation specialist.

Several people from the livestock and farming community asked the board to help with the efforts.

Holtville-area sheep rancher Michel Ihidoy said the problem of coyotes killing lambs is getting worse every year, particularly since steel traps were outlawed. He said he's lost about 440 lambs to coyotes in the last year, and the Imperial Irrigation District has had to shut down canals to remove dead lambs from them

"Coyotes today are too lazy to chase rabbits," he said.

George Ray, owner/operator of Fish Producers, a catfish farm near Niland, said hundreds of birds are drawn to the farm. He said birds such as cormorants, herons and pelicans eat the fish and spread diseases while other birds eat the fish food.

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He said fending off the birds requires continuous attention.

Cattleman Ray Broadbent said he remembers a time when coyotes were rare in the Imperial Valley.

"We've had to bring in a trapper of our own." he said, adding about 100 coyotes are snared a year. "When you see coyotes pop up in the middle of the day, you know you have a tremendous problem."

County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber, whose family also farms, said coyotes are traveling in packs and are brazen enough to attack full-grown cattle.

"This is an issue the county will have to come to grips with," he said.

Supervisors Chairman Tony Tirado suggested the county work with state and federal wildlife officials and that the sheep, fish and farming communities also cooperate.

Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Stephen Birdsall said because coyotes are predators they can be shot.

"The problem with shooting them is it's a temporary fix," he said, adding there is about $1 million in yearly damage done by the animals in Imperial County.

Sheep pasturing is done in the Valley from September to April.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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