Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wood River Wolf Project - Idaho Workshop

       This past week I attended the Wood River Wolf Project's workshop in Idaho. The Wood River Wolf Project is an operation that has helped ranchers in the Sun Valley area of Idaho for almost 7 years. They work to help local ranchers protect their livestock from wolves.
      How does this help wolves? When wolves kill livestock like cows or sheep, the rancher can call Wildlife Services, a division of the Department of Agriculture who is charged with "resolving wildlife conflicts," to have the wolves killed. But the Wood River Wolf Project helps ranchers to prevent their livestock from being killed in the first place. The Wood River Wolf Project has worked with about 100,000 sheep over the last 7 years with less than 30 sheep lost to wolves over the entire period. Not a single wolf has been killed for depredation (preying on livestock) in the area. 

          The WWWP uses creative tools like range riders, flagging fences, guard dogs, and night lights. At the workshop, we learned a lot about how to deploy these tools in the field so they work properly. We visited one of several ranches (Lava Lake Lamb) that has had great success keeping wolves and livestock apart. We met some sheep and guard dogs. The dogs serve to provide an extra presence with the sheep and to alert people when wolves are near.

       We also heard from a cattle rancher just outside of Yellowstone National Park . The main message we got from these ranchers was that is was more effective for them to prevent livestock loss in the first place than to wait until livestock has already been lost to wolves. Teaching the resident wolf packs to avoid livestock is better than killing wolves after-the-fact. In other words, proactive prevention works better for ranchers than reactive killing. 

        Non-lethal, predator-friendly ranching is better for ranchers and better for wildlife.

       The Wood River Wolf Project is saving wolves by increasing tolerance and protecting livestock. They have proven that wolves and livestock can coexist on the same landscape, and the project is a model for coexisting with wolves - and other predators - across the country and world. 

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