BY JOSH MROZINSKI
“Since there is no money in the account, there is no reimbursement for him,” Chris Ryder, state Department of Agriculture spokesman, said. “He would not be able to apply for an incident that happened last year.”
The lambs owned by Jenks Road resident Clarence ‘Weed’ Russell weighed on average 100 pounds and were valued at around $1.30 a pound.
In 2006, $20,000 was available in a “Dog Law Restricted Account” to reimburse people who lost livestock to coyotes.
Ryder said the compensation has been set by state law at $20,000 annually since 1982.
“It’s written into law. It’s not based on our budget in anyway,” he said.
Russell’s lambs were first attacked in late October and then November.
During both incidents, the coyotes attacked lambs that were stored in his barn.
Following the second attacks, Russell attempted to contact the state Department of Agriculture Dog Law Enforcement Bureau regional office in Tunkhannock several times.
He said he was told that the office didn’t have staff available to go to his home. Frustrated, Russell brought the lamb carcass to the office.
“I brought it up and threw it on the floor and I said you didn’t have the time to come to me so I came to you. I was pretty mad,” Russell said.
He did clean-up the carcass.
Feeling that he can do little to prevent future attacks, Russell now prays.
He also thinks that some of the blame for the attacks rests on the state’s shoulders.
“My contention is that the coyotes belong to the state and the state should control them,” he said.
Russell also looked for help from a pilot program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services that is funded by $40,000 from the state Department of Agriculture.
For the past two years, the program has provided around 40 people in 10 counties in the southwestern part of the state with livestock protection services at a $250 annual fee.
Harris Glass, director of the USDA wildlife services in the state, said that the current funding level allows the agency to subsidize the cost of services for only people who live in the 10 counties.
The USDA is asking for $600,000 from Congress to make the program statewide, Glass said.
Russell said he was told that the program wasn’t offered in Wyoming County, but that a professional trapper could be provided for $1,400.
“What I’ve done is talk to some of the other sheep producers to contact all the representatives,” he said.
Brenda Zablotsky, spokesman for Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, said that it’s unfortunate Russell’s lambs were killed.
She said the fund is established by the state Department of Agriculture and funded with kennel and license fees, and not likely to be enlarged without changing that fee structure.
Locally, Russell has other help.
In past winters, hunters have circled Russell’s property and killed 35-40 coyotes, Russell said.
Perhaps he also will get some help from a coyote hunt coming up in Wyoming County.
The Pennsylvania Trappers Association is sponsoring a Northeast Regional Coyote Hunt, Feb. 2-4, with weigh-ins at the Triton Hose Company on Tioga Street in Tunkhannock.