Defenders announces success in non-lethal wolf management


Collaborative Conflict Management Unites an Alliance of Ranchers,
Wildlife Conservationists and Natural Resource Managers

Boise, ID — Local ranches partnering with Defenders of Wildlife and wildlife agencies to expand their use of non-lethal wolf control measures experienced no wolf-related livestock losses this grazing season. Lava Lake Land and Livestock, which grazes sheep on the Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis National Forests, made use of a new type of electrified fladry called “turbofladry” to create highly portable night corrals, while The Lazy EL Ranch in the Absaroka-Beartooth foothills in southern Montana began a successful range rider program to protect grazing cattle herds. Both ranches experienced zero known livestock predations to wolves and credit this success to a collaborative and non-lethal conflict management approach.

Mike Stevens, who runs Lava Lake Land and Livestock, heralded the summer’s proactive control efforts, including the turbofladry project, as a highly successful example of creative, non-lethal conflict management. “Practical, inexpensive and non-lethal methods help reduce losses and conflicts while promoting better cooperation between ranchers, state and federal land managers and wildlife conservationists.”

Defenders of Wildlife’s program, The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund, helps local ranchers and wildlife managers fund non-lethal methods to protect livestock through both traditional means, like range riders and livestock guarding dogs, and new technology including electric barriers and alarms triggered by radio telemetry. Defenders contributed more than $40,000 this season to support non-lethal projects with expert assistance from state and federal wildlife managers who also helped identify and implement proactive methods for these collaborative projects. Defenders also administers The Bailey Wildlife Wolf Compensation Trust which compensates ranchers for verified losses to wolves.

“Ranchers who are committed to being good stewards of the land and its wildlife are the most important partners we have in wolf conservation,” said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies Representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “While no methods are 100 percent effective 100 percent of the time, reducing conflicts through non-lethal methods allows both wolves and livestock to better co-exist in many areas. We are proud to work with our partner ranchers and look forward to working with others as the program expands.”

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Sheep depredation losses on large public land grazing operations are the main cause of wolf deaths in the northern Rockies — and one of the hardest conflicts to prevent.

This summer, Defenders partnered on an experimental non-lethal project with Lava Lake Land and Livestock, whose sheep grazing operations range over large federal allotments in central Idaho’s Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis National Forests. With more than 6,000 sheep, Lava Lake runs one of the largest sheep outfits in the region on over 800,000 acres of private and public land, and has received recent U.S. Forest Service awards for their environmental stewardship practices. Last summer wolves killed 25 sheep on one of their grazing allotments. This summer, with the help of USDA Wildlife Services in Idaho and Defenders, Lava Lake utilized the newly designed turbofladry (solar powered electric flagging barrier) and created highly portable night corrals to protect a sheep band. Lava Lake used turbofladry in conjunction with guard dogs, night watches by herders and use of shotguns and cracker shells to deter wolves from approaching the sheep band.

While these bands consisted of over 1,200 sheep and were in close proximity to wolves during late summer, they did not experience a single wolf depredation despite being within a quarter mile of the location where wolves had killed sheep and a guard dog in 2005.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists confirmed the presence of wolves within one to two miles of the sheep band. Stevens also notes that regular communication amongst Wildlife Services, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Lava Lake was a crucial element in reducing livestock losses.

Defenders co-sponsored several range rider projects on ranches including The Lazy EL, a 12,000 acre ranch located in the foothills of the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness, 35 miles northwest of Yellowstone National Park.

In 2003, wolves began establishing pack territories north of Yellowstone near Red Lodge and some began killing livestock. As a result of the conflicts, two entire packs of wolves were killed. The ranch family at the Lazy EL, which has owned their ranch for more than 100 years, is actively using non-lethal methods to promote co-existence with wolves. Their range riders are caring for cow and calf pairs from August to late October. The ranch’s grasslands are excellent habitat for elk, deer and moose and consequently, wolves are attracted to the area.

“Ranchers are not the enemies of wildlife supporters,” said Jael Kampfe, ranch manager of The Lazy EL. “We are simply seeking to protect our family’s traditions and western heritage. By working with Defenders, we are building more common ground to collaboratively resolve conflicts. We share a love for this land and its wild beauty. We just need better ways to co-exist.”

Defenders seeks to work with ranchers to expand the use of these and other non-lethal control methods. Since its inception, The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund has contributed more than $275,000 to local ranchers and communities to help them use non-lethal measures to protect livestock from wolves before conflicts happen. The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Wolf Compensation Trust has paid more than $715,000 to local ranchers to compensate them for verified livestock losses.



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  1. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    Ralph, did you happen to catch the debates last night. In his closing last night he said he opposes wolves and would like to treat them as predators. I was planning on voting for him but that may have changed my mind, Idaho doesn’t need a Dave Freudenthal.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    No, but I heard about it. He’s probably reacting to Otter’s anti-wolf commercials, but I think there’s a hidden pro-wolf none of them risk going after. We’ll never know unless someone tries.

    I’d email the Brady Campaign.

  3. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Idaho may not need Dave Freudenthal but it most assuredly does not need Butch Otter. I did not see the debate, but I please keep in mind that Butch Otter is a card carrying member of the Idaho Anti Wolf Coalition (one of their older web sites lists him by name). While Brady *may* not be the best of friends to wolf advocates, he is a reasonable person and I believe he would work on pragmatic solutions. That much simply cannot be said about his opponent, Mr Otter, in my opinion.

  4. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    Not to worry Matt, I would never even consider voting for Otter.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I don’t endorse candidates on this web site. There are clear distinctions between Otter and Brady on outdoor issues (such as the selling or retaining of public lands).

    Otter’s proposal to sell off 15% of the public lands to pay for Hurricane Katrina (hurricane relief not being a big issue in Idaho) reflects his true position on public lands (based on his negative record over a long time). Otter has recanted it, figuring that people haven’t followed his record.

    On the other hand, one reason why Idaho Democrats may have gone into such a steep decline after Cecil Andrus retired was the party’s efforts to chase after the small number of votes of loggers and miners who had long stopped being Democrats anyway. Democrats (and Republicans too) ignored the changing face of Idaho. Other than the surely mixed blessing of agri-business, which is huge, Idaho’s extractive industries of the past are not what Idahoans do for a living.

    A lot of Democrats I knew said if they wanted to vote for a Republican they’d do that instead of a Republican lite. They stopped giving money, staffing phone banks, etc., and many of them never restarted, even now.

    I haven’t participated in any party politics for 20 years, although I have always supported conservation interest groups.

    For me the choice is clear this year, but in the long run I think a Western Democrat revival will stall out unless they recognize how the West has changed.

  6. Owen Jamison Avatar
    Owen Jamison

    The story paints a pretty picture; I guess I’ll give a few more bucks to Defenders, but I’d say the sooner ranchers are gone, the better. Most don’t give a pile of cow shit about the land, they just take. It’s all about dollars. Sure they like the “lifestyle”, (flies, flies, flies); they do what they want and to hell with the real owners of the landscape they despoil. The approach described is only a waiting game to diminish the numbers of wolves lost to retribution until the mood of the electorate and thus Congress is ready to let go of the Mythology of the Marlboro Man.

  7. Laird Bean Avatar
    Laird Bean

    Wow! you do not know much about ranching and the ranching industry, do you? Spend some time on a ranch and you would find out that most are decent stewards of the land and although not perfect, they are becoming better stewards over time.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan