Compensation paid to livestock producers for animals they lost to grizzly bears fell in Montana this year but increased in Wyoming, new figures show. Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group that pays ranchers for livestock losses to grizzlies and wolves in Montana, paid about $9,190 this year, down from about than $19,000 in 2005. “We hope to see an even more dramatic drop next year,” said Minette Johnson, the group’s representative in the Northern Rockies. In Wyoming, a record amount was paid in claims for grizzly bear losses by a similar program run by the state. Some of the decline in losses in Montana is attributed to more available food this summer and fall for bears in the northwestern part of the state. Adequate food supplies prevented the bears from wandering into low-lying areas where they are more likely to go after livestock and get into other trouble. Additionally, a 74,000-acre sheep grazing allotment on U.S. Forest Service land that had been plagued with conflicts between predators and livestock was retired earlier this year. Johnson also said her group has been promoting use of bearresistant containers, fencing and other techniques to keep bears and livestock separated. In all, she said the group paid 11 ranchers, all in western Montana, for deaths of 11 cows, one goat and 11 chickens that were attributed to grizzlies. With an estimated 600 grizzlies living in and around Yellowstone National Park, they often spill out of the designated recovery area and onto ranches and other areas where livestock are. “Nearly all the livestock conflicts in the ecosystem are in Wyoming,” said Chuck Schwartz, head of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. The state of Wyoming paid more than $110,000 during the 2006 fiscal year to ranchers who lost livestock to grizzlies, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Losses included 131 calves and 23 sheep. The majority of claims paid were in the Upper Green River Basin outside Jackson and Pinedale, the state said. In that area, payments jumped from just more than $19,000 in fiscal year 2005 to more than $75,000 in 2006. The Defenders group doesn’t compensate ranchers for grizzly kills in Wyoming because of the state-run program. A proposal is expected early next year that would take Yellowstone grizzlies off the endangered species list. Defenders hasn’t decided what it will do with its compensation program after that happens, Johnson said.