Methods for Coexistence

Before utilizing methods for coping with wolves, it is best to understand the cause of the conflict and correct the root of the problem if such a thing is possible. And in the case of wolves attacking livestock, there is a domino affect that actually originates with human hunters.

Wolves are highly social animals and they depend on each other, for a single wolf cannot take down its main food source of elk and deer on its own, the entire family group is needed. With this understanding established there can be a greater understanding of the affects of wolf hunting. When a member of the family dies the entire group is then weakened as they have one less member to help with catching their prey. However that’s what happens at best, at worst and what usually ends up happening is that the group will disperse. This usually ends up happening when an alpha is killed and there is no one to take their place, particularly with small families. This can result in those individuals, especially the inexperienced ones to go after easy prey like livestock.


A family unit is working together to take down a bison that is staving them off by standing its ground.

All animals, including us, typically go for the easy meal. In the case of wild animals this is to conserve energy and to decrease the risk of injury. So in turn the wolves will often go for livestock because they do not have the same strong responses to predators as elk or deer do. So this can result in their deaths. Actually even domestic dogs that try and fight a wolf approaching the territory have been killed in the fight. Unfortunately what is worse is that these wolves can also possibly become habituated to humans as a result of going after the easy prey source. This means that they lose some of their natural fear of us. This can result in more livestock deaths as the wolves have learned where to get an easy meal.

While this is very tragic for all involved, there are ways in which conflicts can be avoided between wolves and livestock as well as hunters and wolves.

For ranchers there are a whole host of ways in which to try and prevent attracting predators to your herds. There is a guide created by the Defenders for Wildlife organization, a non-profit whose goal is to protect wildlife and maintain peace between wildlife and humans. This guide called Livestock and Wolves has many ways in which a rancher can prevent predators from harming their livestock. One thing that this guide stresses is understanding wolves and other predators so that proper precautions can be taken. For example wolves are very intelligent and can learn, likewise if noise or lights are used to scare them away they will eventually habituate to them and they will be ineffective. So periodically changing methods and devices is a key point.

Another key point involves their sense of smell. A wolf can smell prey over 2 miles away, so reducing that which could attract them is vital. So removing any animal that has died or removing sicking and dying animals reduces the chance of a wolf coming due to the smell. However they must also be destroyed by either burning or burying them. One way to do this is to dig a carcass pit away from the main base of operations on the ranch. This is a hole dug into the ground with fencing around it. The dead livestock are dumped into this pit where they are then either burned or buried in order to prevent attractants to wolves and other predators.


Example of a fence type that can help keep predators at bay.

Speaking of fencing, that is another method for preventing wolf caused livestock deaths. There are two options when considering fences as a means of protection, permanent and portable fences. Permanent fences are ideal for small operations, however they must be created in such a way that animals cannot jump/dig under it and that there are no gaps. For such a fence it would be wise to contact a wolf manager or a biologist so that the fence can be designed for maximum security against wolves. However such a fence would not work when the herd is free-roaming in which case a portable fence would be an ideal option.


There are also many other options such as having a rider with the herd at dawn and dusk to check for signs of wolves and scare any off should they become bold. This constant human presence itself is the best way to keep wolves away because it works with their natural fear of humans. A wolf does not fear attacking cattle, but it does fear a human rider with them. Other methods involve, where applicable, switching grazing pastures often. There is also the idea of having more aggressive breeds of cattle that will defend themselves more aggressively which can deter a wolf from attacking.

Now while there is a whole host of methods for ranchers to deal with wolves, there is really none for hunters. The main complaint from hunters is that the elk and deer are no longer accessible. One solution in order to alleviate that frustration is to have biologists reveal and create guides that show areas where elk now commonly frequent. This can give hunters a greater chance at finding and hunting elk. Because killing wolves does nothing but cause more problems, like possibly forcing wolves to go after livestock. Wolves and other apex predators do not really need to be hunted. There are checks and balances in nature that keep their populations under control. For example if their population increases too much they can die off from the increase in spread of a disease or from lack of resources. There is a quick facts sheet created by the Western Wolves organization that gives more facts and statistics on elk hunting for humans with the wolves presence. This short .pdf is called Elk Hunting in Wolf Country: The Facts and it was created with the help of Western Wolves and the U.S. Fish and Game departments of Idaho and Montana.


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