Data from the Wood River Wolf Project is published in the Journal of Mammalogy

We are excited to announce that a paper documenting the first seven years of the Wood River Wolf Project was just published in the Journal of Mammalogy! It appears in a special edition of the Journal on the Lethal Control of Predators.  See the article below.

Adaptive use of nonlethal strategies for minimizing wolf–sheep conflict in Idaho 

Suzanne A. Stone; Stewart W. BreckJesse TimberlakePeter M. HaswellFernando NajeraBrian S. BeanDaniel J. Thornhill

J Mammal (2017) 98 (1): 33-44. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyw188

Published: 02 February 2017

Abstract

Worldwide, native predators are killed to protect livestock, an action that can undermine wildlife conservation efforts and create conflicts among stakeholders. An ongoing example is occurring in the western United States, where wolves (Canis lupus) were eradicated by the 1930s but are again present in parts of their historic range. While livestock losses to wolves represent a small fraction of overall livestock mortality, the response to these depredations has resulted in widespread conflicts including significant efforts at lethal wolf control to reduce impacts on livestock producers, especially those with large-scale grazing operations on public lands. A variety of nonlethal methods have proven effective in reducing livestock losses to wolves in small-scale operations but in large-scale, open-range grazing operations, nonlethal management strategies are often presumed ineffective or infeasible. To demonstrate that nonlethal techniques can be effective at large scales, we report a 7-year case study where we strategically applied nonlethal predator deterrents and animal husbandry techniques on an adaptive basis (i.e., based on terrain, proximity to den or rendezvous sites, avoiding overexposure to techniques such as certain lights or sound devices that could result in wolves losing their fear of that device, etc.) to protect sheep (Ovis aries) and wolves on public grazing lands in Idaho. We collected data on sheep depredation mortalities in the protected demonstration study area and compared these data to an adjacent wolf-occupied area where sheep were grazed without the added nonlethal protection measures. Over the 7-year period, sheep depredation losses to wolves were 3.5 times higher in the Nonprotected Area (NPA) than in the Protected Area (PA). Furthermore, no wolves were lethally controlled within the PA and sheep depredation losses to wolves were just 0.02% of the total number of sheep present, the lowest loss rate among sheep-grazing areas in wolf range statewide, whereas wolves were lethally controlled in the NPA. Our demonstration project provides evidence that proactive use of a variety of nonlethal techniques applied conditionally can help reduce depredation on large open-range operations.

Canis lupuscoexistencehuman–wildlife conflictlivestock damage preventionpredator

For the full article, follow this link: https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/doi/10.1093/jmammal/gyw188/2977254/Adaptive-use-of-nonlethal-strategies-for

Idaho Mountain Express: Lava Lake Institute takes lead on wolf project

Idaho Mountain Express: Lava Lake Institute takes lead on wolf project

Since 2008, the Wood River Wolf Project has used nonlethal predator deterrents to maintain a much lower rate of depredation on sheep in the Big Wood River drainage than occurs elsewhere, as well as to keep wolves alive.

The project had been led since its inception by the nonprofit group Defenders of Wildlife, and particularly by the group’s Northern Rockies representative, Suzanne Stone. But Shawn Cantrell, Northwest program director with the organization, said Defenders decided that after seven years of leadership, it was time to pass that role to a local entity. 

The Spokesman Review: Wolf Project shows promise for sheep herds, wolf packs

The Spokesman Review: Wolf Project shows promise for sheep herds, wolf packs

NEAR SUN VALLEY, Idaho – Patrick Graham cupped his hands around his mouth and howled into a moonless night. A wolf answered from a distant ridge. Soon, the Pioneer Pack was howling in chorus.

Three miles away, Adrian Alvarado Baldeon, a Peruvian herder, unrolled his sleeping bag on a sagebrush-covered hillside in the Sawtooth National Forest. Fifteen hundred sheep clustered below him, bells tinkling in the darkness.

New York Times Green Blog: Guarding the Sheep to Save the Wolves

New York Times Green Blog: Guarding the Sheep to Save the Wolves

Bivouacking with sheep high in the mountains around Sun Valley, Idaho, field technicians with the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife are gaining deeper insights into strategies they can use to keep wolves at bay without shooting them. While their effort is four years old, it has gained renewed relevance as residents prepare to vote on a proposed amendment to Idaho’s constitution that will enshrine hunting and trapping as the prime wolf management tool in the state.

The group’s nonlethal experiment, known as the Wood River Wolf Project, is a collaboration with Blaine County officials in central Idaho, the United States Forest Service, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and some local partners who support alternative ways of protecting wolves in historic sheep-grazing country. The project covers 1,200 square miles, or around half of Blaine County, up from 120 at the program’s inception in 2008.