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Western Innovator: Helping Ranchers Deal with Wolves

posted Sep 18, 2018, 11:17 PM by chloe owens

7/7/2018, by Matthew Weaver, Capital Press

Western Innovator: Helping ranchers deal with wolves

When he worked for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, trying to keep the peace between ranchers and the wolves that attacked their livestock would keep Jay Shepherd up at night…Shepherd worked for the department as a wildlife biologist for nearly 10 years. Now, he runs the nonprofit Northeast Washington Wolf-Cattle Collaborative for ranchers, which is in its first season. He is also wolf program lead for the environmental group Conservation Northwest, managing its range rider program. The collaborative provides ranchers with an experienced human presence — on horses, ATVs, in vehicles or on foot — on the region’s national forest grazing allotments. Shepherd said he’s trying to get away from the term “range riders,” but nobody likes his suggested alternative: Herd monitors…The collaborative serves ranchers in relatively high-risk wolf areas. Ranchers must accept some management tactics used by similar Montana organizations, including constantly moving and monitoring their herds. One theory says the cattle are much calmer when they know the rest of the herd is around, Shepherd said. That increases the potential that the animals won’t be spooked if they see a wolf. “It’s that fleeing, that running, that stimulates the attack,” Shepherd said…The state offers help, but Shepherd wants to know why ranchers have to “absorb the burden of wolf recovery.” That reduces the chances of acceptance or tolerance for wolves, creating a backlash against the animals that others want to protect, he said. Ranchers need to take ownership of the wolf issue to the extent they can, Shepherd said. They can’t legally kill a wolf where it is protected, but they can take steps to improve herd monitoring. If they can’t, then learning that is an important step, too…Shepherd, whose grandfather and father were ranchers, said he tries to approach livestock conflicts in a straightforward, practical manner. The collaborative works to help ranchers with wolves, within the law and outside lethal removal, he said. “To let them feel like they’re part of the process,” he said.