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Range riding in Washington

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Range riding is a powerful tool protecting livestock and wolves. Conservation Northwest and WA Department of Fish and Wildlife and a local rancher in 2012 established a pilot range rider project in northeastern Washington.

Dawson Ranch, courtesy Inland NW Land Trust
Dawson Ranch, courtesy Inland NW Land Trust
From the fall 2012 edition of the Conservation Northwest quarterly
by Jay Kehne, Outreach associate, Omak

When cattle ranchers John and Jeff Dawson turned their cattle out in the summer of 2011 to graze on their Colville National Forest allotment, they knew that the recently discovered Smackout Pack of wolves might cause them some problems. It was the Dawsons who actually first discovered the pack and reported it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with good intentions of doing what was right for both their cattle and the wolves.

But these wolves turned out to be very wary, and the agency’s efforts to trap and collar them was at first unsuccessful. Having a collar on even one member of a wolf pack gives biologists and ranchers hope that by knowing where the wolves are in relation to cattle, “incidents” can be kept to a minimum. With the Smackout Pack avoiding all trapping locations, the Dawsons just had to hope that this pack would not start to consider calves as prey....

When wolves and cattle overlap

Wolves typically hunt by testing, or pushing, a herd of animals to run, and then singling out the weakest, youngest, or oldest animals to kill. As one Alberta rancher put it, “if a calf or yearling runs when pressed by a wolf pack... they die.”  Yet recent efforts by groups of ranchers in places like Alberta, Montana, and Idaho show a solution. Having a human, especially one on horseback, in and around a rancher’s cattle for the entire grazing season can lower wolf/cattle incidents. It helps calm cattle and disrupts wolves hunting patterns. This practice is called “range riding” and after the first grazing season’s losses the Dawsons were willing to give it a try....

Read more, pages 6-7

More on non-lethal methods at work

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