How California Ranchers Can Avoid Conflicts with the State's First Wolf Pack

Meet the Shasta Pack - California's first documented wolf pack in 90 years.
Credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

It's an historic day for California and wolf recovery in the lower-48 states. Today, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that trail cameras deployed by the Department had captured images of a family of five gray wolf pups and two adult wolves in Siskiyou County - the first documented wolf pack in California in almost a century. In the announcement, Department Director, Charlton H. Bonham, said, "This news is exciting for California. . . . We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time."

Of course, one concern that always arises with wolves is their potential impact on livestock. But NRDC has been working hard to equip ranchers in the West with the resources they need to prevent conflicts from happening in the first place. And through our efforts we've learned, and demonstrated, that there are many practical, effective tools that livestock producers can use to keep their animals safe, even in the presence of large carnivores. For example:

  • Fladry--essentially cord draped with nylon strips that flap in the breeze--can deter wolves for several weeks, particularly if it is electrified. Fladry is ideal for protecting calving pastures during the time when young calves are most susceptible to predation. Earlier this spring, one Montana rancher we work with reported watching wolves pace outside the fladry surrounding one of his pastures for weeks without crossing it.
  • Range riders--folks on horseback who regularly monitor herds of cattle--and shepherds deter large carnivores through human presence and by working with herds and flocks to keep cattle and sheep bunched together and mothers close to their young. One ranching association in Montana recently explained that, in their community, "range riders are becoming a proven alternative to lethal control of predators."
  • Carcass removal can also help avoid conflicts. By removing dead or injured cows and sheep that might attract carnivores, producers can prevent coyotes, wolves, bears and other carnivores from coming into close proximity with their livestock, thereby reducing the risk of depredation. This is a strategy employed by multiple programs and communities throughout the West.

These and many other techniques are available to producers in California. NRDC is happy to help ranchers, agencies, and others in any way that we can to help with their implementation. We were pleased to see California's Wildlife Services district supervisors attend a recent nonlethal predator management workshop in Polson, Montana, and would appreciate any opportunity to assist with organizing similar workshops in California.

We're excited for California, thrilled for the Shasta Pack, and confident that, with a little effort, Californians and wolves are ready to share the landscape once again.

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