Protecting Sheep in Wolf Territory

10 October 2014 | Defenders of Wildlife News Release

KETCHUM, Idaho On Sunday, thousands of sheep will trail through the City of Ketchum.  They’re the feature attraction of the annual Trailing of the Sheep festival and are on the way to their winter grazing location. These sheep are different than most in one regard: they are part of a program that uses nonlethal methods to protect livestock from wolf predation. This program has just completed its seventh successful year demonstrating that prevention using nonlethal coexistence tools — guard dogs, strobe lights, air horns and other methods– costs less and keeps livestock from harm more reliably than reactively killing wolves that prey on livestock.

Nearly thirty thousand sheep, one of the highest concentrations of domestic sheep on public lands in the western USA, are grazed annually under the protection of local sheepherders supported by the Wood River Wolf Project, the nation’s largest wolf and sheep coexistence project. Pioneered by Defenders of Wildlife, Blaine County, Lava Lake Land & Livestock, and the U.S. Forest Service, the Wood River Wolf Project is a partnership of local wildlife advocates, ranching operations and county, state and federal agencies working together to use proactive, nonlethal deterrents to minimize livestock and wolf conflicts. The project has proven that wolves and livestock can successfully share the same landscape with minimal conflict and without the need for lethal government intervention. Out of nearly 30,000 animals, only two sheep were recorded as wolf depredations this year. Over the seven years that the Wood River Wolf Project has been in existence, less than 30 sheep have been lost to wolves despite being located in an area with one of the highest concentrations of wolves and livestock sharing the same landscape in the Western United States.

Earlier this year, the City of Ketchum in Blaine County unanimously passed an unprecedented resolution requesting the State use nonlethal tools instead of lethal methods to help manage wolf and livestock conflicts in Blaine County. The resolution cites the Wood River Wolf Project as a successful demonstration that predators and livestock can coexist, and urges the rest of the State to employ the project’s successful coexistence strategies.

Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife senior northwest field representative and Idaho resident issued the following statement:

“Wolves are part of our landscape now. To protect livestock in wolf country, we’ve proven that the best way to do it is by using nonlethal deterrent methods. Preventing conflicts from occurring is far cheaper and more effective than reacting to them with expensive predator control methods after livestock have been killed.”

Credentialed media may contact Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen and Brian Bean, owner of Lava Lake Land & Livestock, for more information about the Wood River Wolf Project.

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.


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