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: http://www.predatorfriendly.org/
Specific breeds of Livestock Guardian Dogs help to discourage wolves from approaching livestock during certain times of the year.


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