Good News From Idaho: Proof That Farmers and Wolves Can Coexist

sheepherder

A herder and guard dogs protect a flock of sheep in Big Wood River Valley, where coexistence measures are proving effective.

Wildlife and agriculture don’t always mix, but with a little extra effort conflict can be prevented. Progressive farmers and ranchers are coming up with ways to encourage wildlife-friendly agriculture—strategies for safeguarding livestock without resorting to lethal control.

In the scenic Pioneer Mountain region of central Idaho sits a grass-fed lamb operation known as Lava Lake Lamb. The owners, Kathleen and Brian Bean, devote themselves to ranching sustainably, while also improving and restoring the native habitat surrounding their property. Their animals roam freely over one million acres of rangeland, but also under the watchful eye of trained shepherds. After all, there are predators such as wolves out there, and the Bean’s need to protect their livestock. But for these ranchers, wolves are a natural part of the landscape and the Beans seek to coexist peacefully with them.

With help from the Defenders Wolf Coexistence Partnership program, Lava Lake Lamb has employed several practical measures to minimize sheep-wolf conflicts. Many wolves bear radio collars from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, so Lava’s herders carry telemetry devices to detect approaching wolves and move the lambs when necessary. Herders also carry shotguns loaded with rubber bullets to scare off, rather than harm wolves. At night, herders set up temporary electrified fencing tied with red cloth strips (known as turbofladry) to protect the herd in wolf areas. And, they increased their number of guard dogs.

example of fladry

A federal wildlife agent demonstrates how to set up fladry to protect a flock of sheep from wolves.

These simple non-lethal deterrents have proven extremely effective for reducing livestock losses to wolves for Lava Lake. In 2008 they partnered with Defenders to form the groundbreaking Big Wood River Valley Wolf Project, bringing other sheep producers on board with these measures in collaboration with land managers. In 2010, despite more than 10,000 sheep grazing in the project area, only one sheep was killed by wolves and no wolves were killed by agency managers.

It is our hope that this project continues and that other ranchers will see the effectiveness of these measures and choose to implement them as well. Wildlife and agriculture need not be mutually exclusive, and with ranchers such as Lava Lake leading the way, it can be done in ways that both can benefit.

Learn more about Defenders work on reducing conflict between ranchers and wolves and other conservation solutions.

3 Responses to “Good News From Idaho: Proof That Farmers and Wolves Can Coexist”

  1. Carol Campbell

    I cried. I have been promoting just this kind of ranching for years. Thank you Kathleen and Brian.

    Reply
  2. Ivette

    Every time I read about responsible farmers willing to work to learn alternatives to killing inconvenient wildlife, it gives me hope. It also motivates me to want to do something for them! Is there a way to show our appreciation to the farmers, be it by volunteering at their ranches, or sponsoring ‘adventure vacations’ or anything else? Are there any organizations rallying up people like me to volunteer for ranchers or show support other than financially? I know sanctuaries charter buses and rally supporters to help out several times a year, can we do something similar in Idaho and states friendly to wildlife? It seems Montana has become a place i would not want to visit, but Idaho might. Any one that knows a way, please share. Can we email these ranchers our thanks?

    Reply

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