MISSOULA, Mont. -

Ravalli County ranchers told the state?s Livestock Loss Board Friday that they still need help coping with large predators, namely wolves.

The comments came at a special listening session the board held to get the ranchers input on how the state program that compensates them for livestock depredation is working.

The board is budgeted $200,000 a year for loss compensation, but none of it is reportedly used for prevention.

Ravalli County has the highest wolf concentration in the state, and Darby resident Scott Boulanger said he believes the key to preventing wolf predation on livestock is to keep their numbers low.

"It goes back to the minimum number of wolves we need to keep the State of Montana off of the delisting process to stay delisted,? said Boulanger. ?That's the main message that the livestock board can carry forward."

Wolf advocate Marc Cooke also presented comments to the board. He argues that it is possible for a larger wolf population to co-exist with ranchers, and cites a program in Canada where he said ranchers adopted non-harmful techniques for dealing with wolves that resulted in a five year streak with no depredation.

"653 wolves is the (state) minimum. (Ranchers) are getting angry with this number,? said Cooke. ?That's crazy. We had 80,000 wolves here at the beginning of the 1900's. The land can sustain more. We just need to understand the wolf?s behavior, adapt to it, and work with it."