Top predators like wolves, bears, lions and tigers have declined dramatically around the world over the past century

Conservationists widen toolkit for predator management

Source: Berkeley News 
By Brett Israel,  12/13/16

Top predators like wolves, bears, lions and tigers have declined dramatically around the world over the past century. One major driver of these declines is retaliatory killing by people following predator attacks on domestic livestock. This lethal approach to predator management is increasingly controversial not only because of ethical concerns, but also the role predators can play in healthy ecosystems. A new UC Berkeley study shows that many non-lethal methods of predator control can be highly effective in protecting livestock from predators and in turn, saving predators from people.
A tiger drags a cow at Jennie Miller’s study site in India

The Berkeley study examined 66 published, peer-reviewed research papers that measured how four categories of lethal and non-lethal mitigation techniques — preventive livestock husbandry, predator deterrents, predator removal, and indirect management of land or wild prey — influenced attacks on livestock. The most consistently effective tools (showing 70 percent or greater effectiveness in at least two studies) were guard dogs, electric fencing, electrified fladry (electric fence with hanging colored flags), light and sound devices, shock collar, and removal of predators, which includes both killing and translocation to other places.
“Livestock owners spend immense resources on stopping carnivore attacks but may never know whether the costs were truly worthwhile,” said Jennie Miller, a researcher at Panthera who will become a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley in the Department of Environmental, Science, Policy and Management in January. “If livestock owners can’t choose the most efficient tool for handling their problem predator and protecting their livelihood, how can we possibly expect them to peaceably coexist with large carnivores in their backyards?”
The study was published December 13 in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.
Large carnivores are critical to protect because, as top predators, they can stabilize entire ecosystems. Despite their importance, 77 percent of the 31 largest terrestrial carnivores are declining in population, with 61 percent listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. The global decline in large carnivores is due to many factors, including human-carnivore conflict that often stems from the need to stop carnivores from attacking livestock. At the same time, chronic conflict with large carnivores can threaten agricultural systems, which must be viable to support rural livelihoods and economies.
Currently there is little consensus on which management techniques are most useful and under what circumstances, or on the associated tradeoffs between duration and effectiveness level. That’s partly because so few studies have quantitatively measured the effects of some promising methods. For example, human guards and killing predators — both of which involve high financial and time costs and implications for human and animal well-being — have been quantitatively tested by just one study each.
A night enclosure for livestock at Miller’s study site in India 

A night enclosure for livestock at Miller’s study site in India. (Photo by Jennie Miller)
The new study found that preventive husbandry and deterrents were most effective in reducing livestock losses. These methods, however, showed wide variability due to a suite of external factors, such as how well equipment was installed and maintained. Husbandry methods ranged between 42 percent and 100 percent effective, while deterrents ranged anywhere from highly effective to wholly ineffective.
The wide variability could also be due to an apparent tradeoff between the effectiveness of protective methods and the length of time a given tool remains effective. Deterrents, therefore, are likely most effective when implemented during brief times of high carnivore risk, such as the calving or lambing season, when short-term protection of livestock would save the most animals from attacks.
“This paper shows that if we step back and take a broader look, we can derive some working principles to help guide more effective control of livestock depredation and minimize the need for lethal control of these iconic animals,” said co-author Oswald Schmitz, Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Lethal predator control has received particularly little study and monitoring, the study’s authors pointed out.
“In spite of lethal control being very widely used, it really hasn’t been studied well enough to make scientific comparisons with other, non-lethal methods, which is surprising,” said Arthur Middleton,an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management and a study co-author.
As a result, the authors suggest the lethal management method should receive closer monitoring and more rigorous testing.
The study also identified many negative biases in studies of techniques to reduce livestock losses, including the lack of replication across carnivore species and geographic regions, a heavy focus on the Canidae family (wolves and coyotes) and on the United States, Europe and Africa, and a publication bias towards studies that reported positive results. To prevent these biases in future studies, the authors are recommending a review group and additional funding to support rigorous testing of methods, especially the usefulness of human guards and lethal control, since these techniques involve large financial and time costs and have detrimental impacts on human health and carnivore populations.
“Chronic conflict between large carnivores and livestock not only limits the long-term viability of many carnivore populations – it also carries economic and emotional costs for the livestock producers and others involved in these conflicts,” Middleton said. “All these are important to alleviate, no matter how long it takes.” Source

Bear Trust International is a good source for learning about coexisting with bears

Bear Trust International envisions a world where bears prosper in their natural habitat while co-existing with sustainable economies. 

Bear Trust Mission 
Bear Trust International works to conserve all 8 species of the world’s bears, other wildlife, and habitat. We believe that wild bears in their natural habitat are key indicators of ecosystem health. Their ability to sustain themselves is, therefore, critical to wildlife. Bear Trust strives to reinforce ecosystem viability through habitat conservation and education projects that build on timely research. www.beartrust.org

Bear Trust Values

Bear Trust has a common sense and effective conservation philosophy, based on four basic values:
Conservation should be based on sound science and make economic sense; the result of conservation action should help ensure long term sustainability of bear populations and economies

Conservation should include both public and private lands

Nations, communities, and people have a shared responsibility to conserve bear populations and their habitats for present and future generations

Hunting is a part of the world’s natural heritage and should be used as one of many tools for effective wildlife management www.beartrust.org

Project Initiatives


Bear Trust focuses on 4 primary project initiatives: 1) Conservation Education 2) Bear Research & Management 3) Habitat Conservation 4) Conservation Policy

Contact Info
PO Box 4006 

Missoula, MT 59806

Phone: (406) 523-7779

info@beartrust.org

For more information on Bear Trust International go to: www.beartrust.org


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Featured image by Bill Lea Photography

North Woods Living, Tips for ‘Coexisting with Your Wild Neighbors’

Living in the north woods near wild animals can be a wonderful experience. There is nothing that can match sighting a

Life in the Northwoods photography by Michael Crowley

Life in the Northwoods photography by Michael Crowley

bobcat with kits, a doe with a new fawn, snowy owls, bear, swans, and porcupines.  If you have chosen to live in a north woods rural area, here are a few tips for living along side wildlife or better yet, methods for coexisting with your wild neighbors. After all, these wild creatures you have chosen to live among were here first. Living along side wildlife requires respecting their habitat and teaching them how to respect yours as well.

In the news this week in rural norther Wisconsin.

Bill Lea photograph

Bill Lea photograph

Bears have been coming to close, Grantsburg Village Board and Wisconsin DNR took the first steps toward formulating a plan.  It is unfortunate that this plan calls for lethal methods as a way to solve the problem between wildlife and humans. Has there been any measures taken to prevent these bears from coming into the village limits?

There are non lethal methods that north wood’s residents can use to deter wild animals..

  • Keeping your pets safe.

First of all, do not leave pets or their food outside. Leaving pets and their food outside will attract wild animals.  Keep your pets leashed or in a fenced area while out-of-doors, Do not leave pets unattended out-of-doors for long periods of time.

  • Don’t feed wildlife.
Industrious wild bear (photographer unknown0

Industrious wild bear (photographer unknown)

Wildlife can fend for themselves and know where to find their own food. Do you need to feed wild birds? Why do you feed wild birds? Bird feeders are for humans more than wild birds. Humans feed wild birds for the pleasure of viewing them. But these viewing backyard bird feeders attract more than wild birds.  Wild bears enjoy an easy meal off of a backyard bird feeder. Deer, raccoon, and squirrel will also find the backyard bird feeder tempting. Feeding wild birds can result in wild animals becoming habituated to humans. When wild animals become habituated to humans it can have disastrous effects. Imagine stepping outside to feed the birds and you encounter a sow with cubs. Everyone knows how this encounter could turn out.

Other concerns for  do not feed the birds including it may delay migration or changing birds habits.

  • Wild animals are attracted to garbage and gardens.

it is recommended to keep your garbage out of sight and smell of wild animals.. keep your garbage cans in a locked bear proof shed. If you have a garden just fence it in or even use an electrical fence. Even garden compost will attract wild animals.

  • What to do when you encounter wild animals in your backyard.

Assuming you have done all of the above methods to keep wild animals away from your home and family.  The next step is to teach wild animals, bear, coyote, bobcat, cougar, and wolves to fear you, Wild animals have a natural fear of humans. If you live where these wild animals do, then teach them to fear you. This is the best way to keep them out of your backyard.

Photograph of a wild coyote by Ron Niebrugge

Photograph of a wild coyote by Ron Niebrugge

Always keep a safe distance between you and any wild animal that has wondered onto your property. Use a loud device as a deterrent, such as a blow-horn, or fire crackers to scare these unwanted intruders away. Never throw these devices at or on the animal. The idea is to deter not to harm them.

Another wild animal deterrent called hazing which will teach them to fear you. Again, it is recommended to keep a safe distance away from any wild animal you encounter.  Hazing method involves making yourself larger than the wild animal by waving your arms and shouting at the wild animal saying, “go away coyote!”

Other methods of hazing you can use are pepper sprays and a blow-horn is a very good deterrent to keep on hand. You may need to use these deterrents several times to make the unwanted wild animal get the message. Wild animals have a natural fear of humans and you may need to remind them of this natural fear.

There may be times when a wild animal could be dangerous. If the wild animals appears skinny and unhealthy or stumbles this could be a sign of Rabies. In this case stay away from the wild animal. Call local law enforcement. While you wait for them to arrive keep tabs on the whereabouts of the infected animals from a safe distance.

In summary, wild animals have a natural fear of humans. Living along side of wildlife requires keeping space between their habitat and yours.   In other words, educate yourself on how to safely live with your wild neighbors.

Feature photograph is by Michael Crowley of Life in the Northwoods