Will Defenders of Wildlife, the nonprofit group that compensates ranchers for livestock killed by wolves, also pay for pets that become prey? Several private citizens and government employees have raised that question since a hunting dog was killed by a pack of wolves near Fishtail, Mont., last December.


The answer is no, says Hank Fischer, who administers the Defenders' Fund in Missoula, Mont. "Traditionally, our answer has been that the loss of a pet is an emotional loss, not a financial one." But the group might pay for dogs that herd or guard livestock since they are considered financial assets, he adds.


Since the group started its compensation fund in 1987, it has paid out $20,000 to 25 ranchers for more than 40 cattle and roughly a dozen sheep. Wolves reintroduced over the past two years into Yellowstone National Park and Idaho have so far cost Defenders $200 after two sheep were slaughtered north of the park, says Fischer.


"People who live near wild places need to be cautious of their pets," he adds. "I don't think we can alleviate their pain by paying them for the loss of their pet."


* Elizabeth Manning