Livestock and Predators Can Coexist

NRDC has long collaborated with regional partners, including ranchers, to promote nonlethal methods as an effective alternative to the needless cycles of conflict and killing.

This is a transcript of the video.

Malou Anderson-Ramirez, rancher, Tom Miner Basin, Montana: Last year I was putting the chickens in at about 11 p.m. It was very quiet. I came outside and within about two minutes heard a two-year-old heifer getting killed by a grizzly bear. That was definitely something I'll remember forever.

In this region, the predators of the biggest concern would be grizzly bears and wolves, because we end up having quite a percentage of losses.

John Steuber, state director, Montana Wildlife Services: The ranching community, for the most part, they want people to understand that they are losing livestock, that predators can be an issue. And they're trying to come up with solutions to help them protect their livestock.

Zack Strong, staff attorney, Nature Program, NRDC: When carnivores attack, it can have a significant impact both emotionally and financially on ranchers. Carnivores can be killed as a result. So we want to do everything we can to prevent those conflicts from happening in the first place and keep both livestock and wildlife alive.

Most of the measures that have been used historically have been lethal measures. Things like traps and poisons, shooting species like coyotes and foxes from planes and helicopters, and we see those as problematic, that can result in prolonged suffering of animals; they can impact species that they weren't meant to, like eagles or family pets.

Anderson-Ramirez: For the most part, the conventional rancher believes in no predators. I'm really grateful to be in a family who has always been ecologically minded when it comes to ranching. We've always looked at the landscape as something that should be shared, and so really we've never shot at grizzly bears and wolves and coyotes.

Jenny Sherry, wildlife advocate, Nature Program, NRDC: The reality is that sometimes with the lethal strategies, it's more like a Band-Aid. You can remove an animal, but it's not leading to long-term reduction in conflicts, and I think we're seeing with the nonlethal strategies that we're putting into place here in Montana, they are having longer-term benefits in terms of protecting people's livestock.

Strong: Some of the common ones include fladry, a specialized type of electric fencing draped with nylon flags that deter especially wolves. A second measure is permanent electric fencing, which we often put around smaller enclosures like bee yards to protect from black bears. Another type of nonlethal measure are range riders and shepherds.

Anderson-Ramirez: We've tried a lot of different tactics for living with predators and raising livestock. Range riding is very successful—the human presence on the landscape is really important. And fladry is definitely our most successful. This is our fifth season, 100 percent success rate—that's huge for cabin grounds and predator-dense areas. We've had no losses in cabin grounds in Tom Miner Basin with fladry.

Wildlife Services is a really important part in this whole dynamic. They help us stay in tune with those new practices for living with predators.

Steuber: Wildlife Services is an agency within the United States Department of Agriculture. We integrate both lethal and nonlethal methods into our toolbox to resolve those conflicts with predators. With some of our collaborative efforts now and cooperative funding being provided by NRDC and others, we're able to actually implement some of the nonlethal methods such as turbo fladry and electric fencing and put those to use ourselves.

There is no silver bullet, but the more tools you can have in your toolbox, the more we found out that we could be successful at protecting livestock and keeping wildlife out of trouble.

Anderson-Ramirez: The bigger picture is that this is a wildlife corridor that is one of the most unique on the entire globe. This idea of sharing a landscape and being more tolerant creates a feeling of being part of the system, and that again goes back to that ecologically minded rancher and we are starting to see a shift, thankfully.

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