Tag Archives: native predator

Opinion: Why the Wolf?

Canis lupus italicus, cuccioli che guardano – Photo by Antonio Iannibelli

This is the question I hear most often from those who know me and are amazed that all of a sudden I am dealing with wolves. In fact, I teach English and my life has been oriented towards other goals after having searched in vain for a way to study and graduate in a subject, Ethology, which in Turin in 1980 still resonated like a whimsy of the” flower children”. But certain things “go around immense and then come back”, so many years have passed, and after Milla died – a crossbreed very similar to a wolf and my guiding spirit for 10 years – from 2013 I started doing anthropological and naturalistic research, to understand better the behavior of these magical creatures who, in the meantime, have come back to the Alps and now populate the woods of my house, in Val di Susa.

Alps, Valle di Susa, Italy – Photo by Brunella Pernigotti

Since then, the more I get into the study of wolves, the more I realize that the atavistic bond that binds us is made up of much deeper and inherent elements in both our natures, which are so similar and parallel. Wolves are our alter ego, they are the mirror in which men see themselves and find their roots, for better or for worse. Our society tends to disconnect us from nature and its laws, deluding ourselves that we can control everything on earth, under the sea, in the sky. Human history has only ever taken and consumed the Earth, the wolf now represents an obvious obstacle and is here to tell us: Enough!

The distorted image we have of these creatures is due to many factors, ancient and modern. We have forgotten it, but there are populations still strongly linked to the Earth, who respect and consider its creatures as our teachers. The wolf has taught us not only the techniques of hunting, but also the strategies of encirclement, charge and attack, which men have used in their military actions for centuries. Now the question that prompts me to investigate is: why do we maintain such a difficult and contradictory relationship with this species? Maybe because wolves are predators, considered rather dangerous, but not enough to revere them and elevate them to the rank of the most noble (always according to a human evaluation) felines such as the lion or the tiger?… We tear our clothes off if a hunter kills a lion in distant Africa, but we let the most important remaining predators, those at the top of the perfect natural trophic mechanism of our regions, be hunted, tortured, or poisoned in our home. Why? Do we think that wolves are bad dogs? Why do we have the right to judge them instead of simply accepting them? Would we perhaps like to erase with them that wild part that we know is in ourselves? …

These are open questions. But, I repeat, I am sure of one thing: that we are disconnected, detached from our own roots, so we no longer realize that the world we have created is falling into a chasm full of plastic and pollutants, where the natural habitats no longer exist, not only for the rest of creatures, but also for us. Recreating environments, where free and uncontaminated nature reigns, is a gift that we should give to us and to the future generations. Each creature has its own role in the ecosystem, whether we want it or not. Unfortunately, we have already lost thousands of species that have become extinct through our fault, because we do not want to change our attitude and we believe that we are right, yet we do not realize that we become poorer, (and sicker), every time we cut down a plant, or a forest disappears, or we kill a living creature for no reason. As Jane Goodall says: let’s try to consider wolves, and other animals, as sentient beings, who are capable of feeling joy, pain, fear, love. And I think: like us, they are affectionate and, within their pack, they take care of each other; they too are competitive and territorial, so they defend their borders and can attack and kill if other alien wolves threaten their lands; finally, they have to feed their offspring so, to get food, they use the weapons they are equipped with: fangs, physical strength, but also intelligence and flexibility. The differences with humans do not seem so many to me.

Undoubtedly the presence of the wolf is uncomfortable and in Europe, where the natural territory has now been almost completely modified and domesticated, this problem is particularly felt, but the solution cannot be to erase them from the face of the Earth. Simple common sense should suggest that by doing so, we would create a dangerous void in the ecosystem that could be immediately filled by another species or which could lead to a significant loss of balance in the “natural system”. So we must commit ourselves to change attitudes, trying to dialogue with all the parties involved, putting aside prejudices and entrenched positions. Thinking of being on the side of reason and expecting “others” to change their opinion will lead nowhere. It takes willpower, humility and open-mindedness to meet, look each other into the eyes and talk, bearing in mind that each person counts and can make a difference: who has the courage to change, will change the world. Only an empathic, intelligent and wise approach will help us to find together a solution that leads to the peaceful coexistence of all creatures.

Finally, I love to remember that every wolf is an individual, with its own story, even if often there is no one to tell it. Theirs are stories of heroes without medals, of difficulties and risks, of kilometers traveled, of courage, of death and of hope. Stories of love, of atavistic wisdom, of hiding places, of air and howled stars, magical stories we can read in the depths of their eyes. Let’s make sure that the green flame, the same that Aldo Leopold saw in that gaze, does not go out.

Facebook Live Talk Show “Stories of People & Wolves” Next Guest is Suzanne Asha Stone

Co founder, Suzanne Asha Stone, of the Wood River Wolf Project in Idaho will talk with hosts Brunella and Rachel Wednesday May 27, 2020 at 10:30 AM Central Time on Wolves of Douglas County News Facebook Page.

Join us Wednesday May 27th at 10:30 AM Central Time on Wolves of Douglas County News Facebook Page Click Here

Suzanne has worked for over three decades to restore wolves to the Rockies and Pacific Northwest. Initially, she served as an intern for the Central Idaho Wolf Steering Committee and as a member of the 1995/1996 USA/Canadian Wolf Reintroduction team restoring wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho. From 1999 to 2019, she led development of Defenders of Wildlife’s wolf coexistence measures and models to minimize losses of livestock and gray wolves in the West. She is the co-founder of the Wood River Wolf Project in Idaho and has won numerous awards for her leadership in wildlife conflict resolution and coexistence including being a two time recipient of the Animal Welfare Institute’s Christine Stevens Wildlife Award for innovative research on humane, nonlethal tools and techniques for wildlife conflict management. She is the lead author/researcher of Adaptive use of nonlethal strategies for minimizing wolf–sheep conflict in Idaho published by the Journal of Mammalogy in 2017. Suzanne helped to establish several of the nonlethal/coexistence measures to minimize conflicts between wild predators and livestock today including FoxLights, Turbofladry, range riders, wind dancers, carcass removal, use of multiple livestock guardian dogs, and more. She is working now all over the world to help transform archaic wildlife management from lethal to humane nonlethal methods.

Nonlethal control measures take advantage of wolves’ natural wariness and suspicion of anything new and different in their territory. —www.woodriverwolfproject.org

Wood River Wolf Project – The Wood River Wolf Project is a collaborative of conservation organizations, ranching operations, community members, and county, state and federal agencies working together to use proactive, nonlethal deterrents to minimize livestock and wolf conflicts. Since 2008, the Wood River Wolf Project has been helping Blaine County ranchers in Central Idaho implement nonlethal strategies to successfully reduce livestock losses and protect native wildlife.

Suzanne Asha Stone. Photograph courtesy of Suzanne Asha Stone.
Photo by rogertrentham/iStock / Getty Images
Wood River Wolf Project website http://www.woodriverwolfproject.org Photograph credit Wood River Wolf Project.

History of History of Wood River Wolf Project

We are entering year 13 of our program to demonstrate that ranchers can coexist with wolves and that nonlethal deterrents are effective at protecting both livestock, wolves and other native predators. The Wood River Wolf Project’s Project Area covers approximately 282,600 acres of rugged country in the Sawtooth National Forest.More »

Guard dog puppies are raised with the sheep so they will bond and learn to guard the sheep. Photo: Phoebe Bean http://www.woodriverwolfproject.org

Non Lethal Tools

Foxlights keep predators away by using a computerized varying flash that uses 9 LED bulbs that project 360 degrees and can be seen from 1 kilometer or more away. These lights make it appear that someone is patrolling with a flashlight, which keeps predators away. There are battery-powered and solar-powered Foxlights and we are using both. They were invented by Ian Whalan, an Australian farmer who wanted to keep foxes away from his lambs. Our project coordinator Suzanne Stone brought the first Foxlights from Australia to the USA in 2015. The Wood River Wolf Project was one of the first test sites for Foxlights in North America. Foxlights are now being used all over the world to protect livestock from lions, snow leopards, wolves, foxes, and other predators. http://www.wolfriverwolfproject.org

High-powered spotlights, such as the one pictured on the left, are also an effective tool and can be used in addition to headlamps when the herders are keeping watch over the sheep at night.

Solar Foxlight  Photo: U.S. Forest Service
Solar Foxlight 
Photo: U.S. Forest Service
Brian Bean and Kurt Holtzen showing herders at Kowitz Sheep Company how to use Foxlights at a training session in March 2016. Photo: Avery Shawler
Brian Bean and Kurt Holtzen showing herders at Kowitz Sheep Company how to use Foxlights at a training session in March 2016. http://www.woodriverwolfproject.org Photo: Avery Shawler

Fladry and Turbofladry http://www.woodriverwolfproject.org

Fladry is a string of flags on stakes or rope used to funnel wolves toward hunters in medieval times. Researcher Marco Musiani from the University of Calgary studied the use of fladry in eastern Europe and redesigned it as a nonlethal deterrent to help protect livestock and wolves from conflicts.

Dr. Musiani recognized that fladry takes advantage of wolves’ natural wariness and their suspicion of anything new and different in their territory. For reasons that we still don’t really understand, wolves shy from crossing a properly maintained fladry barrier, often for long enough to keep lambs and calves away from harm. 

Like standard fladry, turbofladry consists of cording with colored flagging spaced evenly along its length. But turbo-fladry is strung on electric fencing material. It combines the effectiveness of non-electric fladry with the shock delivering power of an electric fence, so that if a wolf does overcome its initial fear of normal fladry and attempts to pass, a shock is delivered and reinforces the avoidance instinct. Rick Williamson, our project mentor and former USDA Wildlife Services nonlethal specialist, created turbofladry and his wife Carol built it for distribution worldwide.

Join us Wednesday May 27th at 10:30 AM Central Time on Wolves of Douglas County News Facebook Page Click Here

Brunella and Rachel will talk with guest Suzanne Asha Stone Co founder of the Wood River Wolf Project and you’ll get to ask her questions.