Guest blog by Logan Miller, Field Manager for the Wood River Wolf Project
The Wood River Wolf Project is a small community organization based in south central Idaho seeking to implement and improve wolf-sheep conflict reduction tools and practices. Situated at the beginning of the central Idaho mountains in Blaine County, the Wood River Valley is emblematic of many of the processes occurring across the western United States. It is a recreation hub, a historic mining area, and a zone with a long history of sheep grazing. Historically, far more sheep were grazed in the area, but now across the 300,000 acre project area about twenty-thousand sheep graze from June through October.
Project area covered by the Wood River Wolf Project in Blaine County, Idaho.
Where it all began
In order to give a full background for the project, it’s important to situate us in a brief history of wolves in Idaho. Prior to 1995, wolves had been eliminated from the state by settlers moving west and by government sponsored bounties. Despite still being extremely contentious, due to years of hard work by advocates across the west, in 1995 wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and the Frank Church Wilderness of No Return in central Idaho. In the early 2000s, wolves re-entered the Wood River Valley, and shortly after sheep producers in the area began experiencing sheep loss due to wolves. While Idaho remained a staunchly anti-wolf state, people in Blaine County looked to find ways to make sure wolves could stay in the area the area. In order to make sure these newly returned wolves wouldn’t be killed for predating on livestock, the Wood River Wolf Project was founded.
Big views in Blaine County.
Non-lethal deterrents to promote coexistence and avoid conflict
By providing and creating tools for sheep producers and herders while improving our understanding of wolf packs in the area, the project seeks to keep wolves away from sheep and reduce any conflict that may result in sheep death or wolves killed. Because wolves are generally quite frightened of humans, all of the tools we use mimic human presence. These tools come in a package we call a “bandkit” that includes night activated strobing lights, noisemakers like starter pistols firing blank rounds, and flashing protective collars for their livestock guardian dogs. Over the years, these methods have proven very effective, keeping sheep losses to an average of four sheep lost to wolves per year.
Two sheep herders, Milton and Nils, display the “bandkit” provided to them.
Flat Top Sheep herder, Abodon Yaure, showing proper placement of a night-activated strobing light.
Field Advisor Kurt Holtzen creating the new flashing protective collars.
Protective collar for livestock guardian dogs.