Advances made in wolf deterrents

Local rancher claims state-sponsored killing isn’t needed

Source Idaho Mountain Express

    If ranchers around the West don’t make more use of nonlethal deterrents to predation on livestock, they risk losing access to the public lands they need, a conservation-minded sheep rancher said during a presentation on the subject last week in Ketchum.
    At The Community Library on Thursday, Brian Bean, co-owner of Lava Lake Lamb, described the tools and techniques provided to ranchers by the Wood River Wolf Project, which seeks to save the lives of both livestock and wolves. The project was begun nine years ago by the group Defenders of Wildlife, but was handed over last year to the nonprofit Lava Lake Institute for Science and Conservation, of which Bean is a co-founder.

In 2014, the Idaho Legislature created a $400,000 fund to pay for lethal control of wolves preying on livestock, which is carried out upon request by Wildlife Services, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That fund was reauthorized in 2015 and 2016. In addition, using money provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state compensates ranchers for at least half the value of livestock lost to wolf depredation.

    Bean said the ease by which ranchers can obtain free lethal control actions reduces their motivation to try nonlethal deterrents first.
    “The system is set up to make it so easy to kill predators,” he said.
    However, he said that system may be contrary to ranchers’ long-term interests as the public becomes less tolerant of predator control.
    “There’s a much greater risk of public lands disenfranchisement than they believe,” he said.
    To motivate ranchers to use those deterrents, the Wood River Wolf Project makes free “band kits” available to the five sheep operators who graze their animals on Sawtooth National Forest allotments, along with free instruction.
    “We make it as easy as possible for the ranchers, so they don’t have any reason to say, ‘No, I don’t want to use these nonlethal tools,’” said project Coordinator Avery Shawler in an interview.
    The 10 band kits available contain numerous items to scare wolves, including about a dozen flashing Foxlights, air horns, a starter pistol with 200 rounds of blank ammunition and small cylindrical boom boxes. The Wolf Project also provides “turbo fladry”—red flags strung along a solar-powered electrified wire to surround the outside of a band of sheep at night, as well as sleeping bags, pads and tents for herders to sleep with the band when it’s at too high an elevation to pull their camp trailer up.
    Bean said the mostly Peruvian herders enjoy being with the sheep and don’t want to see them killed.
    He said use of nonlethal deterrents has contributed to a reduction in wolf depredation on Lava Lake Lamb herds from several per year to one event every two or three years, as well as to fewer sheep being attacked each time.
    “For us, we feel that it won’t be necessary to use lethal control, and for anyone who takes time to learn nonlethal [deterrents],” he said.
    In about 2012, the Wood River Wolf Project was the first entity in the United States to use the Foxlights, a product invented by Australian sheep rancher Ian Whalen. The lights, set up among a band of sheep or other domestic animals, flash at random intervals to mimic humans walking around with spotlights that they are pointing in various directions while guarding their animals.
    Whalen attended the presentation Thursday, which was intended primarily for him to demonstrate his product.
He said that in Australia, the main predator of sheep is red foxes, a non-native animal brought to the continent by the British to provide sport for hound hunting.
“Since then, they have decimated many of our small [native] creatures,” he said.
Whalen said ranchers have traditionally used 1080 poison and night shooting to kill foxes. Still, he said, they often found dead lambs in the morning.
    “Quite clearly, it wasn’t working,” he said.
    Whalen said that while he was lying in bed one night feeling too lazy to go outside and scare off foxes, it occurred to him that maybe he could set up lights that just made it look like he was out there. His first idea was to use the red flashing lights set up to warn drivers at road construction sites. He tried that, and it helped, he said. The he went to an electrical engineer and asked him to design a light that flashed randomly and switched from white to blue to red. He wanted the lights to come on automatically when the sun dims and shut off at dawn. Thus was born the Foxlight.
    Whalen said that due to his invention, he hasn’t killed a fox since 2006.
    The Foxlights come in two versions—a solar-powered light for $129 and a battery-powered one for $89 for use in forested areas with little sunshine.
    Whalen said he’s sold about 30,000 Foxlights in Australia—as few as one light to people who just want to guard one chicken coop to as many as 60 to a rice farmer having problems with large flocks of ducks eating his crop.
    Whalen said experimental use in the United States indicates that the lights are effective against coyotes and mountain lions, but they haven’t been tried with bears. He said the Foxlights don’t work against coyotes or other predators living in urban areas that are accustomed to seeing lots of lights.
    Bean said the Foxlights are one of the top two or three tools that the Wood River Wolf Project uses, though he emphasized that effective deterrence requires the use of numerous approaches.
    “One of the things you have to accept with these intelligent canid predators is that they will become habituated,” he said.
    Whalen said the lights have been used in Nepal to deter predation by snow leopards, and, for a while, in Pakistan.
    “The Pakistani Army confiscated them all on the theory that they might be some kind of landing system for drones,” he said.
    Recently, he has donated lights to wildlife-conservation projects in Africa. He said the lights have proven effective at deterring lions and leopards, though not jackals.
    In Mozambique, he said, the lights are being used as part of a project by conservationists to keep elephants and hippos out of the local villagers’ vegetable gardens and predators out of livestock corrals. In Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls, the lights play a similar role to help maintain the wildlife that draws tourists.
    “That makes me proud,” he said, “that my little baby is doing something for the wider world. Overall, I don’t know how far my lights are going to go.” Source

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A solar-powered Foxlight is intended to fool predators into thinking that humans are up and about at night around a band of sheep.


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Featured image: Wood River Wolf Project 

Deer & vehicle collisions can be solved by bringing back the cougar to its historical range

Too Many Deer on the Road? Let Cougars Return, Study Says  in a New York Times article by JAMES GORMAN JULY 18, 2016 

What large mammal regularly kills humans in the Eastern United States?
And what other large mammal might significantly reduce those deaths?
The answer to the first question is the white-tailed deer. Deer do not set out to murder people, as far as anyone knows, but they do jump out in front of vehicles so often that they cause more than a million collisions a year, resulting in more than 200 deaths.
The answer to the second question, according to a new scientific study, is the cougar.
Laura R. Prugh, a wildlife scientist at the University of Washington; Sophie L. Gilbert, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Idaho; and several colleagues argue in the journal Conservation Letters that if eastern cougars returned to their historic range, they could prevent 155 human deaths and 21,400 human injuries, and save $2.3 billion, over the course of 30 years.
And although cougars do kill humans sometimes, the scientists estimated that the total number of lives lost would be fewer than 30, far fewer than the number of lives saved.
The scientists studied 19 states, including Maine, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin. Four other states — Delaware, Illinois, Maryland and Rhode Island — were part of the eastern cougar’s historic range, which was wiped out by the early 1900s. However, those states do not have enough open forestland to support viable cougar populations, the scientists said.
I have a personal interest in this new report. In 2004, I wrote an entirely selfish and completely undocumented essay lamenting the damage that deer were doing to my garden and suggesting, only partly tongue-in-cheek, that the lawn and garden community would be willing to sacrifice a few pets and joggers if mountain lions could be brought to the suburbs to get rid of the Bambi plague.
I noted that deer were also responsible for human deaths, although that was not my true motivation.

I’m sure I wasn’t the first to have this idea. What deer do to cultivated suburban yards can make otherwise peaceful people quite bloody minded.
But I didn’t do the numbers.
Dr. Prugh and her colleagues have done the numbers in an attempt to find some real answers.

The return of cougars on their own is entirely possible, they say. The animals have come back to parts of the Midwest over the past few decades and are starting to appear in the East. One animal was documented in Connecticut. That kind of natural repopulation would be likely to face less resistance than a human-engineered reintroduction, which she was not advocating, Dr. Prugh said.

But would their reappearance really help?
She and her colleagues took a methodical approach to putting together available numbers on how deer populations grow, how many car accidents involve deer and how accidents increase with a growing deer population. They gathered information on how many deer a cougar might kill — about 259 over an average life span of about six years — and how much open, forested land was necessary for cougars to sustain a wild population — about 850 square miles.
Then the scientists tested a variety of mathematical models and came up with their projections. One of the questions they needed to consider was whether the cougars would be killing just deer that would die anyway from starvation or illness.
The scientists took what Dr. Prugh said was a conservative approach that about 75 percent of the deer the cougars killed would have died anyway. They also considered that as adult deer decrease in number, more fawns survive. So killing deer doesn’t immediately shrink the population.
Adrian Treves, the head of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who was not involved with the study, said he was impressed with the analysis and thought it might underestimate the benefits of cougars. He said in an email that there would probably be an even greater reduction in deer-vehicle collisions, “if governments and private citizens allow cougars to recover to historic levels.”

Figuring out the downsides of having cougars back was more difficult. The numbers of cougars would be considerable in some states once the deer and cougar populations stabilized — about 1,000 each in New York and Wisconsin, 350 or so in Missouri and only eight to 15 in New Jersey. They estimated lost livestock values in the areas studied at $2.35 million a year. But they were not able to get good estimates of pet loss, because it is hard to pin down which pets that disappear were killed by cougars. They may have been killed by coyotes, or cars, or may have been taken in by someone else.
Also, they could not account for the obvious emotional response to predators. Even if the estimate is correct that five times as many people would be saved by cougars as would be killed, death by deer and cougar are different.
“The idea of being killed in a car crash with a deer just doesn’t scare people the way the idea of a cougar leaping on your back in the woods does,” Dr. Prugh said.
But she says she hopes that if cougars do return to the Eastern states, an understanding that they could bring tangible benefits will make people “a little more accepting, even if they are still scared.”

Source
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Featured image by Kentucky Fish & Game Department 


Editorial: NM’s fighting the wrong battles for your wildlife

By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

The New Mexico Game Commission and the Department of Game and Fish are spending your tax dollars defending the expansion of the cruel and barbaric practice of trapping when they should be revisiting an overbroad regulation that mandates killing wildlife whether it is warranted or not.

Animal Protection of New Mexico and the Humane Society of the United States are suing the commission and the department in state and federal courts over the expansion of cougar trapping on private and state trust lands. Meanwhile, New Mexico marathon runner Karen Williams, who was mauled by a black bear during a race in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, wants state regulation 7.4.2.9c changed to weigh the circumstances surrounding an animal attack rather than automatically putting the animal down.
Regarding trapping, until last year trapping on private land required a special permit from the department and was not allowed elsewhere. But in August the seven-member commission took the department’s advice and authorized recreational trapping and snaring of cougars on private land and, at the request of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, on 9 million acres of state trust land. The department says it “will vigorously defend the rule, which is part of a world-class effort to manage New Mexico’s wildlife.”


Really? World class? Using leg-hold traps, invented in the 1800s and banned in more than 80 countries because they are archaic, cruel and indiscriminate as to what they maim and kill?

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Featured image: cougar cub photograph by National Park Servive 



In Wisconsin Two Wheatland women said they heard and then saw a cougar Tuesday morning. 

Source And it’s getting closer and closer, and it’s red, and it’s copper, and it’s got the big, fat square face and the long, the long tail,” Crystal Hart said.  Watch the following video:

Neighbors Crystal Hart and Tara Propeck said there’s no doubt in their minds they saw a cougar shortly before 11 a.m. at the edge of the tree line.
“It came out to pretty much its shoulders, so we could see its full face and its shoulders,” Propeck said.
“And you’re thinking big cat?” WISN 12 News reporter Terry Sater asked.
“Huge cat. Oh, yeah. You’re thinking you’re at the Milwaukee County Zoo looking at a cat. You know what a large yellow lab looks like? Bigger than that,” Hart said.
Ten of Hart’s chickens disappeared from her backyard over the past week. She found feathers near the woods and a large paw print. Source

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Foxlights a non lethal predator deterrent is needed to deter the big cat. Will work on getting Foxlights to these two ladies. ~Rachel 

Featured image Wild cougar, Banff National Park by John E Marriott


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