Friday, August 26, 2016

Working With The Wood River Wolf Project

I spent most of August around the West learning about wolves, wolf recovery, and livestock.
A big highlight was volunteering for the Wood River Wolf Project, which is based in the middle of wolf and sheep country in Idaho. The project, with Lava Lake Lamb, works collaboratively with livestock producers in the community to prevent depredations (killing of livestock) by wolves and other predators. They work with ranchers to implement proactive, nonlethal deterrents including livestock guardian dogs, foxlights, starter pistols, and fladry. They have found that the comprehensive and correct use of these tools has led to a direct decrease in attacks on livestock by wolves - as well as other predators like bears, cougars, and coyotes.
Not only do these methods help ranchers, they also help wolves. When ranchers and their livestock can successfully share the landscape with wolves, it means that less wolves are killed through "lethal control actions" in response to wolf depredations on livestock. Proactively preventing depredations often works much better than reacting after attacks happen.
While volunteering with the Wood River Wolf Project, I helped to conduct howl surveys. Howl surveys involve playing a recorded wolf howl in the backcountry and listening for responses. Responses can determine where and how many wolves might be in a particular area. This helps herders and range riders know where it's safe to move sheep bands and when particular proactive tools should be used.
The Wood River Wolf Project and the livestock producers who put time and energy into living with wolves are a model for wolf/livestock coexistence across the country and world. It was a privilege to work with them and Lava Lake Lamb and to learn more about ranching in wolf country!
Help support other ranchers taking on predator coexistence here:
Specific breeds of Livestock Guardian Dogs help to discourage wolves from approaching livestock during certain times of the year.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Springtime for Wolves and Livestock

Springtime means a new generation of wolf pups, but it also means a new generation of sheep and cattle for the summer grazing season. This can lead to conflict between wolves and livestock, as wolf families work to feed their growing pups and young livestock are especially vulnerable. This time of year, it's especially important to use proactive tools like range riders, foxlights, fladry, and others to protect livestock from wolves. About 80% of wolves in a population don't cause problems for ranchers. But it's important to be proactive and make sure those wolves don't start associating livestock with food as they hunt wild prey for their pups.

Photo of Spruce at Wolf Haven International.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Idaho's Wolves

 Idaho's finance committee just approved using another $400,000 in taxpayer money to kill wolves.
This is the third year they've allocated this much money, but they haven't used most of the money in past years.

In the winter of 2013/2014 the state hired a professional to snare two wolf packs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in order to artificially boost elk populations. Wilderness, as defined by the National Park Service, is supposed to be "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man...which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions." 

 Politicians have written the "Wolf Control Board" funding so that the money can ONLY be used for "lethal control" of wolves. None of the money can be used to help ranchers implement nonlethal, proactive deterrents to protect their livestock from wolves, or to compensate ranchers for any losses due to wolves.

If Idaho really wants to help ranchers deal with wolves, they could put that money towards training wildlife conflict specialists, providing ranchers with tools to successfully live alongside wolves and wildlife, or compensating livestock producers for livestock attacked by wolves.