Defenders in Action: Working with Ranchers
Wolves, bears, panthers, and other predators are critically important to maintaining healthy ecosystems. But on those occasions when they do prey on livestock, the decision has usually been to kill them—sometimes even before there’s proof that they were responsible.
By working closely with livestock producers and natural resource managers, Defenders has been encouraging a new approach by funding, deploying, and supporting proven nonlethal methods to minimize attacks on livestock.
Working Proactively In the Northern Rockies and Southwest
As part of our Wolf Coexistence Partnership, Defenders is working with ranchers to implement nonlethal deterrents that safeguard livestock and protect wolves. Electric fencing, guard dogs, range riders, and scare devices have all proven effective in minimizing livestock losses to wolves, thus building greater tolerance within the ranching community. Our landmark demonstration project, the Wood River Wolf Project, has successfully combined many of these tools to decrease the incidence of wolves preying on the more than 10,000 sheep that graze in the Sawtooth Wilderness of central Idaho during the summer.
Defenders also helps ranchers and homeowners purchase electric fencing to deter grizzly bears from preying on sheep, chickens and other livestock.
Compensating Ranchers for Losses
According to a USDA report, wolves and bears accounted for less than one percent of total cattle deaths in the United States in 2010, yet individual ranchers can suffer hardship from their losses. That’s why, for more than 20 years Defenders managed a program to compensate ranchers in the Northern Rockies and Southwest for confirmed and probable livestock losses from wolves.
The goal of this program was to help ranchers transition to living with these predators on the landscape once again. The long-standing, successful wolf compensation program ended in 2011 when a federal program took its place. We continue to manage the Grizzly Compensation Trust program for confirmed and probable losses from grizzly bears, and we’re helping to develop a regional compensation program to help ranchers coexist with Mexican wolves in the Southwest where wolves are still listed as an endangered species.
New Challenges for Florida Panthers
Since 2010, reports of panther attacks on calves have increased as have our concerns that panthers will be killed in response. And with only 100-160 Florida panthers left in the wild, every loss is a big loss.
Defenders has been instrumental in getting three large landowners to work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Florida to study the cause and extent of calf losses, which will provide essential information to help establish compensation and incentive programs that work for both panthers and property owners.