Statement on use of range riding in 2017 Wolf Lethal Removal Protocol

Statement on use of range riding in 2017 Wolf Lethal Removal Protocol

Conservation Northwest / Feb 01, 2017 / Wolves

We recommend that high-quality human presence be required on open range grazing as a condition for counting wolf depredations towards lethal removal.

Conservation Northwest supports the use of range riders to conduct herd supervision and to haze wolves from near livestock as an effective means of reducing the chances of wolves depredating on livestock. We think that deployment of skilled range riding techniques from the beginning of the grazing season on open range is critical for achieving optimum conflict avoidance results, as compared to starting the use of range riding after depredations have been discovered.

In 2016, we participated in the development of Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) recommendations for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s protocol for lethal removal of gray wolves to stop wolf depredations on livestock. Together with other stakeholders, we co-developed a good product that allowed for expansion of the use of preventative measures across Washington’s wolf country. However, we, along with other WAG members, agreed to re-visit the protocol after a grazing season to see what improvements might be needed. 

During today’s WAG meeting, we recommended that as part of the protocol’s 2017 revisions the use of appropriate and high-quality human presence (range riding for cattle on open range, use of herders and guard dogs for sheep operations, and range riding where appropriate) be required on all open range grazing situations as a condition for counting wolf depredations towards a lethal removal threshold.

We understand this can add significant expense for livestock producers, so we have also committed to pursuing funding in the state legislature, and continuing to contribute private funding through our Range Rider Pilot Project and other efforts, to ensure that producers have access to the resources needed to fulfill this aspect of a revised wolf lethal removal protocol.

Given the intense public interest in how wolves are conserved and managed on public lands, and the amount of anxiety and stress that everyone involved in the Profanity Peak Pack situation experienced in 2016, we think this is an appropriate request. Further, we believe that broad deployment of high-quality range riding can reduce losses for producers, reduce costs to taxpayers, and benefit local communities while supporting the long-term recovery of wolves in Washington.