Progress report for WPDP21-009
The Western United States has experienced an expansion of range and population of Gray Wolves (Canis lupus), from nearly extinct to exceeding conservation goals for recovery. This native large carnivore can often be at odds with livestock production enterprises, as both are reliant on the vast open landscapes of the West. With gray wolves having legal protection for nearly two decades with expanding populations, ranchers in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have implemented a variety of non-lethal tools to reduce wolf depredation of domestic livestock. In 2020, California saw a significant rise in confirmed wolf kills, with a thriving breeding pack and reports of dispersing individual wolves across the northeastern portion of the state. Unlike many other western states, California does not have large wild ungulates, creating a potentially higher conflict for livestock producers. The ranching community and resource agency staff are looking for solutions to reduce future conflicts. The integration of non-lethal livestock protection tools on working ranches holds the potential to minimize ongoing human-predator conflicts in California.
This project seeks to build internal capacity from first-hand knowledge, experience and connections between University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisors and California ranchers, with ranchers in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana through tours and hands-on experiences. The multi-faced training and extension of information will lead to the integration of sustainable production practices and promote economic viability of California ranchers coexisting with a growing wolf population. The grant collaborators have hosted community meetings on wolves over the past three years, with growing interest from concerned ranching clientele. This grant will provide the training to trainers and industry leaders necessary to assist ranchers in adapting to changing environment, support rural communities and promote good stewardship of natural resources.
The primary objective of this grant is to expand the technical capacity in California to reduce human-predator conflict. Through this grant, 5 UCCE advisors and 5 ranchers will gain knowledge on successful implementation of non-lethal predator tools by visiting ranches in states with apex predators (e.g. Montana). This train the trainer weeklong tour of ranches will allow local ranching community leaders and UCCE advisors to gain an in-depth, and nuanced understanding of protection tools from small-group discussions with those who have a vast amount of experience. Prior to the tour, participants will conduct a baseline assessment and develop a series of questions. To understand the knowledge gained from the tour, a post assessment will be completed by participants to document capacity building skills gained and further training needs. Each member of the team may gain a slightly different perspective and the real-time follow-up conversations during the tour will be critical to enhancing our collective understanding and in turn will improve our own program delivery. This collective group learning is important, because each UCCE advisors has slightly different issues and cooperator contexts. During the tours high resolution images and video will also be captured for training resources.
The secondary objective is expanding local capacity to reduce human-predator conflict. The UCCE advisors who participated in the tour, will host 4 roundtable discussions to extend knowledge to others involved in reducing human-predator conflicts, e.g. USDA Wildlife Services and local county agricultural departments. During roundtable discussions, lessons from the tour will be shared and resource provided to guide non-lethal predator tool utilization. To document success of the roundtable discussions, participants will complete a baseline assessment and post assessment. Near the end of the grant, all trainers (e.g. advisors, ranchers, agency staff) will be surveyed to document impact of ranchers implementing non-lethal tools.
The projected outcomes of this grant are to expand the understanding and capacity on the use, site specific variables and effectiveness of tools to reduce human-predator conflict. This grant will expand knowledge on an emerging issue that is creating both economic hardship for ranchers operating with apex predators and contributing an additional stressor to metal health. The professional development outcomes will be accomplished through three primary systems:
- The education of rancher-leaders and UCCE advisors through first-hand discussions and tours with ranchers actively implementing tools to reduce human-predator conflict.
- The second stage will be sharing the information gleaned from the tour during roundtable discussions with partners who are working at the interface of sustainable livestock production (e.g. NRCS, Wildlife Services, conservation professionals, ranchers).
- Support a student intern to expand literature review, develop print materials, coordinate roundtable discussions, update website and create other extensional materials.
Tour: Travel for 10 collaborators and ranchers, along with a speaker honorarium for ranches toured.
Student Intern: Develop print and video extension materials, also coordinate logistics.
Printing: Fact sheets, newsletters and posters for roundtable discussions and future extension meetings. Resources will be online.
Roundtable Discussions: Room rental and speaker honorarium for ranches, and supplies. Light refreshments for attendees to allow the day-long meeting without disruption.
Physical materials: High resolution digital camera. It is imperative to capture images of management practices from a distance; thus a cell phone is not appropriate. Video practices and conversations during tour with an aging rancher population who have the most experience reducing human-predator conflict.
Contributions: Extension advisors and ranchers will contribute time and additional technology required. Non-ranchers at roundtable discussions will provide time and costs to participate. Trainers trained in the program will deliver information to ranchers for implementation via site visits, phone calls, future extension events and online.
October 2021 – March 2022 - Project team meetings/develop, plan, coordinate tour and outline roundtable discussions.
April-August 2022 – Baseline assessment, tour and post tour assessment. Develop extension materials to assist trainers and educate ranchers.
September-December 2022 – Plan and host roundtable discussions to expand train the trainer model. Also, further extend knowledge gained through research and out of state tour at community groups meetings, statewide organization meetings, and UCCE events.
January–March 2023 – Conduct end of project assessment and complete final grant report. Continue to extend knowledge at community groups meetings, statewide organization meetings, professional societies and UCCE events.
The education approach will be accomplished through four primary systems:
- The education of rancher-leaders and UCCE advisors through first-hand discussions and tours with
ranchers actively implementing tools to reduce human-predator conflict.
- The second stage will be sharing the information gleaned from the tour during roundtable discussions
with partners who are working at the interface of sustainable livestock production (e.g. NRCS, Wildlife
Services, conservation professionals, ranchers).
- Development of fact sheets, newsletters and posters that are outcomes of tours and roundtable discussions. Resources will be available online.
- Presentation at extension and industry meetings.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Reduce human wildlife conflicts across a broad cross section of local stakeholders. The second stage will be sharing the information gleaned from the tour during roundtable discussions with partners who are working at the interface of sustainable livestock production (e.g. NRCS, Wildlife Services, conservation professionals, ranchers).
The second phase on the grant will include a series of 4 roundtable discussions in California to extend
knowledge on the implementation of practices on working ranches to reduce domestic livestock depredation by
wolves. This will bring together various other stakeholders at the state level that work on human-predator
conflicts, such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Department of Agriculture, county
agricultural commissioners, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest
Service, elected officials, conservation districts and rancher organizations (e.g. Cattlemen, Woolgrowers and
Farm Bureau). By extending the knowledge gained by UCCE and ranchers when visiting ranches in high
predator landscapes, the transfer of information will expand to provide additional technical resource providers
that ranchers regularly engage with
- Peer to peer conversations have shared real-world scenerios including the successes and challenges, relieving the feeling of being on an island in the stressful situation of predator-livestock interactions
- Land manager experience is an important aspect of developing applied solutions to complex land management challenges. The perspective shared by Rocky Mountain ranchers, in addition to the perspective of California ranchers, can help inform realistic and effective on-the-ground management solutions to predator related challenges.
The education of rancher-leaders and UCCE advisors through first-hand discussions and tours with
ranchers actively implementing tools to reduce human-predator conflict.
This project seeks to build internal capacity from first-hand knowledge, experience and connections between
University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisors and California ranchers, with ranchers in
Wyoming, Idaho and Montana through tours and hands-on experiences. During the tours high resolution images and video will also be captured for training resources. This grant will provide the necessary firsthand
experience, create a network with ranchers in other states and facilitate early adoption by ranchers who
participate in the tours.
Ranchers are a primary source of information for other ranchers, and previous experience coping with complex challenges is a key driver of the adoption of adaptive management practices. Strong, collaborative networks create opportunities for formal and shared learning, and good leadership within these networks is critical.
Given the important role that peer-to-peer learning plays in adapting to natural resource related challenges, ranchers and UCCE advisors from Northeastern CA visited several ranchers in Idaho and Montana to learn more about how they have adapted their operations under increasingly complex, and compounding, challenges over the past two decades. One of these challenges is increasing apex predator pressure.
Extend information beyond core participates to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
The lessons learned from the tour and roundtable discussions will be captured in fact sheets, popular
press articles, and blogs that will be printed for extension activities and available online.
- Expose ranchers to peer perspectives regarding livestock management on extensive rangelands with apex predators.
- Foster peer-to-peer networks to support adaption to natural resource related challenges.
- Increase awareness, understanding and effectiveness of non-lethal predator tools (e.g. guard dogs, range riding, carcass removal)
Educational & Outreach Activities
Three round table discussions and a poster presented at the California Cattlemen's Association reached producers, agricultural service providers, agency representatives and policy makers totaling over 350 individuals. Perspectives were shared from the educational tours, non-lethal predator tools were discussed and policy changes identified. New collaborations with state agencies who oversee composting were fostered to work together towards allowing livestock mortality composting. Updates and knowledge about predators and wolves was shared to inform producers and impact management decisions. Peer to peer conversations have shared real-world scenerios including the successes and challenges, relieving the feeling of being on an island in the stressful situation of predator-livestock interactions.
In our initial timeline stated that we would be completing the roundtable discussion before this last quarter, but outreach has been delayed for a variety of reasons. In the final quarter, we will be hosting another round table, presenting data at the society for range management meeting, and completing on-site tours.
A northern California rancher who traveled to Idaho and Montana on the field tour, commented that they found great worth in talking with peer producers in similar circumstances as they own. The difference in hearing about real-world solutions and challenges versus text book ideologies was very apparent. This rancher was able to talk about this experience with others when they returned home, providing compounding impact on adapting to ranching with predators.
- Northern California Wolf Update (Fact Sheet)