Fencing, Bright Lights and Loud Noises Keep Wolves at Bay

314 livestock were lost to wolves last year. Between 5000 and 10,000 head lost to other predators-

This feature ran on a number of radio stations.

Non lethal management of wolves, which keeps both wolves and livestock alive is feasible.

However, most livestock operators are not like Mike Stevens (see in story) because the U.S. government will kill the wolves for free for you and it looks like Idaho is about to get a million dollar slush fund to compensate operators for animals that were or might have been killed by wolves — a pretty strong incentive to conduct livestock business as usual.

. . . and In Wyoming, if a wolf kills your lamb or cow calf, steer, etc. you get compensated seven times its value! That is one royal payoff.



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  1. Jay Avatar

    To be more concise, it would be appropriate to say that a minimum of 314 was lost to wolves, because that number is based on kills found and investigated. The true number will never be known, but no doubt many kills go undetected.

  2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Mike Stevens and Lava Lake Livestock should be commended for the job they are doing in trying to co-exist with wolves on their public land range allotments. I believe that a previous owner was involved in re-establishing beaver in the streams on that ranch. We need more ranchers like these.

  3. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    . . . and In Wyoming, if a wolf kills your lamb or cow calf, steer, etc. you get compensated seven times its value! That is one royal payoff.

    That sounds like fraud in the making. If we can get more programs like this going then maybe people can change their minds about having wolves and other predators around. Mike Stevens is a good example that other ranchers should follow. Larry, where did you see that article about the rancher re-establishing beaver populations?

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    In the insurance industry, being so well insured that there is no incentive to be careful is called “moral hazard.”

  5. Bob Wharff Avatar
    Bob Wharff


    Your statement is incorrect.

    Ranchers can get reimbursed for losses only. In other words, if you can only show that you lost one lamb/calf you only can get compensation for one animal. However, if you can show that 12 are lost and it is confirmed that at least one animal was killed by a wolf you may be reimbursed for up to 7 animals.

  6. Alan Avatar

    And now there’s a bill in the Senate to have the feds pick up the reimbursement tab. As long as these “incentives to allow wolves to kill your stock” are being paid, there is no reason for ranchers to find nonlethal solutions.
    Had a rancher near here last fall round up the herd and had about a dozen missing. Was screaming bloody blue murder about wolves, when about two weeks later they wandered down out of the hills. Just because one animal was killed by a wolf doesn’t mean that all twelve were, or even seven. Statistically it is far more likely that something else happened to them.
    If we are going to spend tax money, I would far more like to see it spent on helping ranchers with fences, lights etc. than spend it killing my wildlife.

  7. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Bob, I actually pasted that quote directly from the article. Thank-you for the clarification though.

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    If we are going to spend tax money, I would far more like to see it spent on helping ranchers with fences, lights etc. than spend it killing my wildlife.

    Amen to that Alan.

  9. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I have never been in favor of the rancher feeding off the teat of the public land, but one thing I seem to always see…if the rancher is paying his taxes he is part of the public as well and it is his/her wildlife as well, when it comes down to it, the public wildlife belongs to all of us that pay our taxes, no matter which side of the issue your on, that includes the conservationist as well as the rancher…

  10. Alan Avatar

    Right. So it’s just as much mine as it is the rancher’s. When it is killed it is being taken away from all of us to benefit one. That is why hunting fees are charged; to compensate the public at large for the loss of an animal owned by all of us. When thousands of predators (and other wildlife) are killed every year by Wildlife Services, how exactly is the public compensated?

  11. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I didn’t say I agree, or disagree, I said, they, if they are paying their taxes have as much stake as the rest of us.

    Why is it when something that could be seen as “The other side” when I am clearly not on the “Other side” is always chastised?

    Hunting fee’s are suppose to be for future management of game animals, there is no provision I have ever seen that it is for compensation…it is to develop habitat and manage wildlife..

  12. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    By the way as a biologist that worked a game dept, I still don’t know where you have come up with hunting fee’s being charged to compensate the non hunter for the take of game animals, could you please point to any game dept rules regulations or mandate that explains this? Anywhere in the US or Canada, I would be interested to read that…

  13. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    That was “for a game dept”

  14. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    You might not like it, but if your a taxpayer in this country, no matter which side of the issue you are on, you have a say and a stake in this, I want nothing more that Ranchers off of public lands, they have done nothing but rape the wildlands of the US, but unfortunately, they still own the same stake as you and I do..

  15. Alan Avatar

    Yes, that’s what I said: I have as much stake as they do.
    What do you think would happen to me if I were to go out into the forest and “rape the wildlands”; destroy a stream side, pollute a stream, mow down a meadow and spread around weed seeds? After all I have an equal stake. If I were to call wildlife services and tell them that deer have been eating the apples off my trees, and that they had eaten everything out of my garden this spring, do you think that they would send out a bunch of goons with high powered rifles to wipe out an entire deer herd? Not quite equal is it?
    Whenever hunting fees are used to obtain, protect and improve habitat, as well as when they are used to hire wardens to protect against poaching etc., that benefits other hunters as well as hikers, photographers, wildlife watchers (even ranchers) etc…….in other words, the public from whom the hunter took his kill. Therefore, it is a type of “compensation” whether that word appears in any “game dept rules regulations or mandate” or not.
    I certainly never claimed you were “the other side”, nor was I chastising. Just having a conversation.

  16. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I really am on the same side as you are, I want ranchers off of public lands, period, I don’t like what they have done to humans as well as wildlife, they killed quite a few humans to get what they got, and I know they were in the wrong, what they do on their private land, I don’t have a lot to say about, what they do on the public lands, I do, as you have much to say about, but unfortunately, they have the same rights when it comes to public lands as you and I do, when it comes to public assets, we can’t say one part of the public has more rights than the other part of the public, even if I hate the policy..I have been fighting public lands ranching for quite a long time now….I just wish we would get some breaks every once in a while!!!

  17. Maska Avatar

    Save bears, I agree that we all should have equal say-so in management of our public lands. The problem is that at present, one industry (public lands livestock grazing) is, to paraphrase Orwell, “more equal than others.”

  18. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I agree 100% they do have a bigger voice right now and I hope through due diligence and smart choices we can change that, of course, some say I am to complacent in the way I work..I just happen to feel if we forget the other side does have a say in what is their public lands as well as ours, then we will never win and I am not willing to accept that..

  19. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Save bears, I think that the fact that the ranchers have a much bigger say in what happens with public lands should be precisely the argument people need to make with their congressional leaders. As Maska said quoting Orwell, things are more equal than others.

  20. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Pro wolf,
    I think it was back in the early 1990s that beaver were put back in eroded streams on the Lava Lake Ranch. I think the ranchers last name was Purdy. I read the story in either the Idaho Mountain Express or the Wood River Journal. They cut fresh aspens and hauled them to the areas where the beaver were turned loose to help with the food situation and to give them additional material for dam building. I have no idea what the status of the beaver on the ranch is today.

  21. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Larry, that is an interesting article on Lava Lake Ranch’s web site. Proof that wolves and sheep can coexist, no losses to wolves since 2005.

  22. Brian Ertz Avatar

    I was just up Fish Creek 2 days ago – there looks to be ample aspen & willow. The beaver are plentiful. The grazing is extremely light on the forest allotment up the drainage. There are still some problems with the watershed, including bighorn sheep – sighted on a few occassions in the Pioneers – that will be precluded from re-establishing so long as the sheep run – but ecologically speaking, Lava Lake is certainly an outlier.

    Issues I have include the fact that they won’t make public their books – which is no surprise, the operation is almost certainly not profitable – which sort of undermines it’s viability as a model don’t you think Larry ? Ask Mike to show you the books. I’d encourage Lava Lake to demonstrate otherwise – until then, it’s a hobby operation heavily reliant on the substantial private holdings hosting far fewer animals than would be necessary to put it’s books in the black. I believe Lava Lakes itself admits that the resources it implements to achieve “co-existence” are largely unavailable to other livestock operations.

  23. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Brian, why do you say that Lava Lake is not profitable? Why also would the resources it implements be unavailable to other operations?

  24. Brian Ertz Avatar

    i say it because to the best of my knowledge it’s true — and to the degree that it’s not true, i would wonder whether they are externalizing the accounting of the costs on the excellent monitoring that they do (necessary to do the good job) away from business expenditures …

    lava lakes does a great job and they are to be commended for it — that said, the operation’s unwillingness to publish its books renders it not replicable and – quite frankly, less than compelling, so it less than honest to suggest it as a model – because any suggestion of a sound wildlife/co-existence model needs to likewise demonstrate a sound business model – it needs to pencil out, otherwise we’re just engaged in a well-intentioned philanthropic Enron booking-keeping situation. again, they’re not demonstrating it either-way so no one that makes a business of running livestock on public lands is going to be very convinced. Lava Lake Livestock is to a large degree a philanthropic livestock operation – it’s an important distinction – and good for them.

    on the wolf project here in the valley :

    1. i am grateful for the project here in the Wood River Valley as i value the Phantom Hill Wolf Pack in its own right.

    2. my being grateful does not prevent the Phantoms from skipping over the pass into their territory where public lands ranchers are not implementing “pro-active” measures. there’s a huge back-door that everyone pretends doesn’t exist – presumably because everyone has laid their chips with the success of the project. it only takes one instance to kill a pack. that’s the gap with wolves & the “co-existence” effort as voluntarily deployed – and it’s important that we understand that shortcoming (even holding that it’s good that the project is happening). a public land rancher may prevent an animal lost to wolves by implementing such measures on their own – but unless every public land rancher in the wolves’ territory similarly implements them – there’s a problem. it only takes one instance of predation to kill a pack, and these guys are getting compensated for their loss (no real economic incentive to do it on their own).

    3. IMO – the whole model of “sleeping with sheep” maintains the public perception that the onus ought be on the wolves to keep from depredation livestock. that’s an unfortunate and superficial perception. you’ve got a big light on wolf advocates protecting sheep from wolves … that may make us feel good, but it seems to me that to the layman it suggests – jeez – sheep must really need to be protected from wolves if they’ve got X number of bodies out there … the whole thing becomes a question of whether the Phantoms kill a sheep – “failure” is a phantom killing a sheep – rather than the reality, which in my mind is that even with the project there were bands of sheep run so very close to the Phantoms’ rendezvous, which is wrong and should have been prevented in the first place – it should be prevented for all dens and rendezvous sites.

    4. perhaps someone on the forum is aware of how much money was put into this project this year and last ? please – speak up – let us hear the cost of implementing these measures and contrast that cost against the value at market of the livestock protected. it’s successful here because non-profits paid for it — its cost has been externalized, and perhaps you and I might agree that it’s worth it for the wolves, I dare say we’ll never be able to afford it elsewhere, and it shouldn’t be covered by the government either – as a free-market principle it ought be incorporated into the cost of operation anyway – otherwise, it’s just another subsidy to protect a single species at the expense of bighorns & so many other species – and so the suggestion of it as a model is actually undermined.

    5. i hope that its perceived success does not pacify the enormous good will in the WRV toward other wolf packs in other places – pacify recognition of the actual problem.

    again – public land ranchers all over the west are not looking at whether co-existence is possible ~ they’re looking at whether its practical (if they’re interested at all) – with compensation programs drying up and economic incentive and the example of tens of thousands spent for a few bands of sheep in the Wood River Valley – it seems to me that it doesn’t pencil out for any other ranchers looking in on the project — the high cost actually undermines the perceived viability & ought demonstrate to us that if what we want is wolves, bighorns, wildlife – then public land ranching’s “co-existence” with wildlife values on public lands is not economically viable.

    of course, if we could get all public land ranchers within wolves’ range to implement these measures as terms & conditions of their permit to use public land – for them to take responsibility for their economic activity on public lands themselves — then i’m all for “pro-active” measures for all wildlife. that won’t happen voluntarily.

    sorry to be a wet blanket — again, i value the phantoms and thus value the project here — but i don’t think avoiding critical evaluation of the viability of a thing is the best way to hone positive thought/development toward recovery of wildlife. it didn’t work with private compensation.

  25. Brian Ertz Avatar

    by the way, if you pay attention to our twitter updates on the Phantoms – you’ll know that yesterday an ewe was killed near the Phantom pups – wolves are being blamed – and the agency response is yet unknown.

    the ketchum ranger district allowed the sheep to graze on a ridge immediately above the Phantom pups.

  26. SAP Avatar

    Brian – that’s an excellent & insightful summary. Good dose of reality for anyone wanting to implement coexistence measures.

    The only thing I would add is that sometimes innovation requires a lot investment. Think of Lava Lake as a “Mercedes” ranch, while a lot of other operations are Fords or Buicks. Top-end companies like Mercedes often pioneer new technologies (such as airbags, antilock brakes), and charge a premium for them. Eventually, though, other companies figure out ways to deliver those same features a lot cheaper, to the point that they become standard (or even REQUIRED!).

    Thinking as I type . . . it’s useful to me to play with this analogy while going over your points above. Clearly, Mercedes always finds a way to pass the costs of those innovations along to consumers, rather than, say, asking Ralph Nader to hold a bake sale to pay for them. Can Lava Lake command a Mercedes premium for their product? Maybe, maybe not. I know about Predator Friendly certification, and my impression is that those markets are tiny — not big enough to consume the lamb & wool produced by a single large operator like Lava Lake.

    Going further with the analogy — some innovations that seemed like luxuries became standard because the government mandated them. Companies figured out ways to pass the costs of those improvements along to customers, obviously.

    The analogy doesn’t transfer real smoothly to putting fladry around a pasture, but those incongruencies are what make analogies rewarding. In the area of automobile innovations, we have free market forces, venture capital, consumer safety advocates, and government regulations all leading to better, safer, cleaner cars and trucks.

    In wolf-livestock coexistence, we have . . . . hmmm . . . . definitely the advocates, really nothing in the way of mandated use of innovative non-lethal techniques, and not much that I can identify as free market forces. The lack of free market forces is understandable: it’s a little hard to identify what “good” is being delivered, and to whom. Is it wolf conservation? Or is it beef, lamb, & wool?

    The venture capital, I guess, is being supplied by Lava Lake’s owners, as well as the multitudinous contributors to non-profit organizations. In the corporate world, venture capitalists don’t throw their money at vague business models (oh, wait, they did!) that don’t really specify what their product is, how they plan to reach customers, and how they plan to grow.

    Your Point #2 above shows a big hole in the “business model” of those who are peddling wolf-livestock coexistence (the issue of operating on the scale of wolf pack territories rather than a few pastures). I’d say your “wet blanket” should be required reading for anyone funding or implementing coexistence work. On-the-ground coexistence projects are sexy, they get folks outdoors, they have the appeal of the practical. But if the implementers aren’t clear about what they’re doing, what the big picture is, then such projects may just be photo ops, nothing more.

  27. Brian Ertz Avatar

    SAP –
    i hope you’re right – i hope they’re forging the new industry standard. it should be noted, much of the cost is implementation – labor (i guess to keep with your analogy we could talk about the need to get the herders unionized !). these ranchers won’t spend extra to pay more than a slave-wage for 24/7 work ( ~around $750/month – and i don’t buy the “it’s a lot where they’re from” — the work is worth more – basic human decency/dignity given our labor market here). if we can’t get them to pay more than slave-wages for the herders they have now, how are we going to get them to volunteer to hire more herders to implement the non-lethal ? perhaps the government will give grants for the slave-wage laborers ? maybe we could get the disgrace publicized that way. or maybe a non-profit will pick up the cost and we’ll be able to donate to protect/subsidize sheep production on public lands via “buy a bail of hay”, “buy fladry”, “buy a guard-dog” or for a $750 donation you can “buy a Peruvian for a month” so we can get all the other stuff we bought for the public land rancher implemented while the (s)he’s back at the homestead, or in front of the legislature/media grandstanding about wolves.

    otherwise, it’s all about the kumbaya


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Ralph Maughan