HAILEY • Dead animals attract wolves.
That’s what prompted Blaine County commissioners to waive disposal fees for animal carcasses at waste transfer stations in the county. For the next year, ranchers pay nothing to drop a carcass at the Ohio Gulch transfer station north of Hailey or the transfer station at Carey.
Carcasses left on grazing land draw wolves to livestock herds, said county Commissioner Larry Schoen. That’s when the predators get in trouble.
Conflicts between ranchers and gray wolves in Idaho are on the rise.
Since 2008, Schoen has been involved with the Wood River Wolf Project, an effort to deter predators that is supported by the Defenders of Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, Blaine County and local livestock producers. “We have a very strong wildlife conservation community and a strong livestock-producing community here,” said Schoen.
He said the commissioners’ decision to waive the disposal fee will send a message that the county supports ranchers, as well as conservationists.
“It’s not just an issue of keeping wolves alive,” he said. “It’s the best management practice for ranchers, to prevent depredation in the first place.”
Waste disposal fees in the past may have discouraged ranchers from removing dead livestock from grazing land, said Schoen, who is serving his third term as county commissioner and sits on the board of the Southern Idaho Solid Waste District (SISW).
Some livestock producers bury carcasses, but wolves still might be attracted to the smell.
“The idea is to completely remove the carcass from the area — to remove the attractant,” Schoen said.
He brought the concept of free carcass disposal to the other two county commissioners, and a year-long pilot program was approved in July.
The transfer stations in Blaine County are tracking the number of carcasses brought in and the cause of deaths.
“Some cattle deaths that were thought to be caused by wolves turned out later to be from something else,” Schoen said.
Previously, county residents paid $55 per ton to dispose of a dead animal at Ohio Gulch, and a flat rate of $5 per small animal or $15 per large animal at Carey.
Blaine County sees only about $1,000 a year from carcass disposal fees, Schoen said. “We can absorb the loss (of revenue) for a greater public policy purpose.”
The free carcass disposal won’t cost the waste district revenue either, said Stephanie Thompson, the district’s chief financial officer.
Carcasses taken to any transfer station within the seven-county district are hauled to the Milner Butte landfill in Cassia County, east of Murtaugh, and disposed with other waste.
Each county is charged a prorated amount according to the percent of waste it brings to the landfill annually, Thompson said. Twin Falls County brings in 42.9 percent of the trash, so it pays 42.9 percent of the landfill cost.
Each county decides how to charge its constituents to recover the cost, she said.
George Urie, a Twin Falls County commissioner, said
The carcass-predator issue never has come up in Twin Falls County, said Commissioner George Urie. The rendering company Darling International Inc. picks up most animal carcasses in Twin Falls County for a fee.
The waste district accepts carcasses at the Milner Butte landfill between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The charge at the gate is $16 per ton.
Carcasses can be taken to any SISW transfer station with prior notification. Charges vary between transfer stations.
SISW operates transfer stations in Twin Falls, Jerome, Gooding, Minidoka, Blaine, Lincoln and Cassia counties.
For information, including carcass collection fees and times, contact the SISW district office at 208-432-9082.