Northern Rockies Gray Wolf

Defenders in Action: Helping Ranchers Coexist with Wolves

Defenders has pioneered practical solutions to help livestock and wolves coexist. We’re working with ranchers across the Northern Rockies to develop nonlethal deterrents, better animal husbandry practices, and other innovative tools that minimize conflict and build social acceptance for wolves.

Over the years, we’ve helped numerous ranchers purchase electric fencing and guard dogs, hire range riders, and deploy scare devices to keep wolves away. These proactive methods help protect livestock—and wolves.

The Problem

While wolves typically hunt for wild animals such as deer and elk, they will occasionally prey on livestock when a good opportunity arises. If a wolf becomes habituated to preying on livestock, it can be very hard to break the habit, and the wolf is often killed as a result.

How We’re Helping

In 2008, Defenders began a landmark demonstration project in the Wood River Valley of central Idaho to protect more than 10,000 sheep that move through the Sawtooth Wilderness during the summer months. Our team of field technicians follows the bands of sheep and keeps watch over them at night to deter wolf attacks. They work with sheep herders to use guard dogs, portable fencing, starter pistols, flashlights, and air horns to keep wolves away. In the first four summers combined, fewer than 20 sheep have been lost to wolves and only a fraction of those while our team was present.

We are currently working with ranchers in eastern Oregon to deploy similar strategies. In 2010, we helped Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hire a range rider to patrol public and private ranch lands where cattle graze year-round.

Where We Are Today

Now that the majority of wolves are no longer federally protected, it is even more important to demonstrate practical ways for wolves and livestock to coexist. We are continuing to work across the region to implement new projects and raise the profile of innovative nonlethal management tools. In 2011, we helped Oregon pass comprehensive legislation to initiate a state-run livestock compensation and wolf coexistence program. We hope to encourage similar efforts wherever there are potential conflicts between livestock and wolves or other wildlife.

Learn more about how Defenders is helping wildlife and people coexist in our Living with Wildlife section.

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