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 

Letter to the Editor – Brodie Farquhar: Wolves, humans can coexist

Source: Steamboat Today 

Dear Editor,
My compliments to Jim Patterson for his “Crying Wolf” feature Sunday. It was well done and covered the basics of the issue. I appreciate this, because I’ve covered wolf recovery issues for Wyoming news media for much of the past decade.

I want to bring up some additional facts and perspectives, to give Steamboat Today readers a broader understanding of wolf management in the United States.

For example, there are about 4,000 wolves in the Great Lakes area, and the presence of wolves does not produce the sheer panic, fear and hatred that is common in Rocky Mountain communities. My research and interviews with wolf biology/policy experts in the Great Lakes states indicates that, because Great Lakes wolf populations were never eradicated, residents are accustomed to wolves and don’t get freaked out as the population of wolves has grown. There is an over-abundance of deer in those states, and plenty of prey for wolves. Predation on livestock has been minimal.

If wolves ever become established in Northwest Colorado — a matter of when, rather than if — they have some daunting challenges to overcome.

First, there’s the gauntlet to be run between protected ground in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the habitat of Northwest Colorado. Wyoming’s policy and cultural attitude about wolves comes down to protected status in the parks, permitted hunting in a buffer zone near the parks, then a kill zone in the rest of the state.
By kill zone, I mean kill them anywhere, anytime, by any means, by anyone, for any or no reason. That’s the official policy, which has not changed and has been repeatedly struck down in federal courts.
That policy, enunciated by the legislature, the governor and wildlife agency is a direct reflection of the core culture found in the agricultural community — known as the Three S’s:
Shoot wolves (or kill them by any other means).

Shovel them deep, hiding the evidence from the feds and environmentalists.
Shut-up about any wolf killings, aside from winks and nods at the coffee shop or bar.
I suspect the Three S’s have been in operation for some time in northwest Colorado. Informally, regional ag interests have no interest in having wolves set up in local forests or wilderness areas. Poisons, traps and rifles are all used on any young wolves, male or female, looking to find a new home and pack.

It really doesn’t have to be that way. Defenders of Wildlife has worked for decades on non-lethal techniques to discourage wolves from preying on livestock. Where ranchers and wool growers have adopted these non-lethal approaches, there have been encouraging success stories, with fewer deaths among livestock and wolves alike. Wolves do learn, and there are alpha wolves out there who avoid livestock and people, enforcing that avoidance among juveniles.

Techniques include the use of range riders, guardian dogs, electric fencing and estartlement tools such as bright lights, loud sounds and flapping strips of plastic called fladry.

It hasn’t been perfect, but neither has it been all-out war on wolves with excessive damage to wildlife and habitat. Yellowstone National Park has gone from being over-grazed by elk before wolf restoration, to healthier habitat and greater wildlife diversity with the return of wolves. It is called the trophic cascade effect by biologists. Generally, wolves can help create a healthier, more diverse habitat, without wreaking carnage on livestock flocks and herds. Maybe, Patterson could do a Sunday feature on non-lethal techniques.

Again, good job.
Sincerely,
Brodie Farquhar
Hayden

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Featured image by John E Marriott Photography

OFFICIALS PERSIST IN KILLING WOLVES IN IDAHO’S CLEARWATER NATIONAL FOREST

Defenders of Wildlife for immediate release 

Date: February 8, 2016

WASHINGTON – Defenders is demanding an immediate and indefinite stop to Wildlife Services’ killing of wolves and other top predators in national forests in Idaho to inflate game populations.  

In response to confirmation that Idaho officials are working with Wildlife Services on an aerial gunning operation to kill wolves in the Clearwater National Forest, Defenders is submitting a petition to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Secretary Vilsack. Defenders is requesting Vilsack issue a Secretarial Order prohibiting Wildlife Services from controlling native predators to increase game populations and demanding that the Forest Service, responsible for safeguarding America’s national forests, exercise its jurisdiction to prevent wolf killing. 
Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife Northwest Representative, issued the following statement:
“Killing wolves in the Lolo District of the Clearwater National Forest is a decision based almost entirely on Idaho’s extreme anti-wolf politics and not sound science. Aerial gunning of wolves is an expensive waste of precious taxpayer dollars.
“Killing wolves isn’t going to bring back the elk, and it doesn’t address the real issues causing the decline. Scientists point to a significant change in habitat conditions in the Clearwater National Forest – due to invasive species and fire suppression — causing elk populations to drop naturally. Killing wolves is simply a scapegoat for these much bigger issues.” 

Contacts:
Melanie Gade: mgade@defenders.org; 202-772-0288
Suzanne Stone: sstone@defeders.org; 208-861-4655

EMERGENCY – Take Action 

HELP IDAHO WOLVES

Stop the Idaho wolf slaughter

The state government with the highest body count of wolves in the West has unleashed a new round of aerial killing. Once again, the purpose is to artificially inflate elk numbers for sport hunters and boost the sale of elk hunting licenses. And once again, the killing is happening on public land. 
The deeply disturbing actions by the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency working on behalf of the state of Idaho must stop. And the U.S. Forest Service is letting it happen on its land! It’s now up to the federal government to put the brakes on Idaho’s vendetta against wolves.
Since Congress prematurely forced Idaho’s wolves off the endangered species list in 2011, more than 1,900 wolves have been killed in that state. 

Tell Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack to rein in Idaho’s wolf killing! Click here