Progress report for WPDP21-029
In November, Colorado voters approved the reintroduction of wolves into the state. Restoring wolves advances wolf conservation, but without sustainable agricultural management practices, wolves can threaten the viability of livestock producers and their communities. Prior statewide surveys confirm that Coloradoans generally support wolf restoration, but ranchers are uneasy about their own sustainability (see Niemiec et al.,2020 in supplemental files). We propose to train personnel from CSU Extension, public agencies, and NGO’s about profitable sustainable ranching when living with predators.
Government-sponsored predator control eliminated wolves from Colorado by the 1940’s, and wolves have been largely absent since. While Colorado producers are experienced with predators such as mountain lions and bears, they have little experience with contemporary and proven sustainable ranching methods for wolves. A team of researchers and educators at Colorado State University have worked to fill that information void. Through our newly formed Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence (CHCC), we partnered with CSU Extension and Center for Collaborative Conservation to assemble and distribute science-based information (e.g., information sheets, Q&A, workshops, webinars) leading up to the vote to reintroduce wolves. Through the Center's efforts were covered in 672 news stories, reaching over 321 million readers.
Through our efforts to educate voters, we built a strong literature database and network of expert researchers, educators and practitioners on living with wolves. This proposal would fund a coordinated effort to utilize our substantial capacity to further develop educational tools and programs to be distributed through our established networks and partnerships with seasoned educators in Extension, government agencies and NGO’s that are on the frontline helping livestock producers. Our Extension Education Team will work with agents and the Western Landowners Alliance to identify information needs, and our research/education team will develop programs and materials that would be distributed in meetings, trainings, and our website.
- Consolidate, organize and coordinate wolf educational efforts by the Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence (CHCC), Western Landowners Alliance (WLA), Extension Wolf Education Committee, government and NGO educators and producers to develop meaningful research and educational capacity to develop sustainable ranching methods with predators.
- Provide Colorado Extension agents and other educators (e.g. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, USDA Wildlife Services, USDA NRCS, Western Landowners Alliance) with steady, continued, contemporary, and relevant training and informational resources (publications, presentations, facts, databases, etc.) to help ensure Colorado’s livestock producers can live sustainably with wolves.
Colorado ranchers have experience with predators like mountain lions and coyotes, but information about sustainable ranching methods to address wolves is limited. Their “go to” for information, CSU Extension, needs help to address their needs. Our team will provide educational programming aimed at Extension and other educators that are embedded in communities where ranchers will have to face the growing presence of wolves. Our CSU team is already heavily involved with wolf research and educational outreach. This grant would organize a special effort for rancher education, led by Dr. Hoag (PI), in collaboration with the Director of the CHCC (Crooks), CSU Extension (Young), and the Center for Collaborative Conservation (Sanderson). A variety of partners will help develop and disseminate the educational materials. The Western Landowners Alliance (Dr. Few) has an established and extensive network to work regularly with landowners to mitigate conflict with predators across 11 western states. USDA Wildlife Services (Dr. Breck) is the lead federal agency responsible for managing conflict with wolves in the U.S. Further expertise will be brought by experienced Colorado livestock Extension agents (Mucklow) and in-state and out-of-state producers (Krebs; Blackfoot Challenge). Finally, our team of researchers at the CHCC have extensive experience and connections with wolf experts around the world.
Principles and Operation:
- Financial stability is an important determinant of ranch sustainability.
- Wolves could threaten financial stability for impacted ranchers.
- Through science-based information and training using proven methods, ranchers can be sustainable, while maintaining a viable wolf population.
- The project will rely on collaboration between the CHCC and the Extension wolf education team
- Research capacity. The CHCC includes infrastructure, faculty and student volunteers.
- Education network. The Extension wolf education committee.
- Ranchers needs. Reports and consultation from the Western Landowners Alliance, which regularly discuss predators with ranchers in 11 western states across 14 million acres. Their Working Wild Challenge supports landowners and stewards to reduce conflicts between livestock and large carnivores. Their Conflict Reduction Consortium provide recommendations on management, policy and research needs.
- Companion funding. We have received a small grant to establish the CHCC and are in final consideration for $200,000 to fund operational expenses for the CHCC for two years. We will continue to seek more.
- Extension agents. The time, energy and experience and educational efforts of Extension agents
- Rancher Counsel. Mr. Krebs manages sheep among predators in Oregon.
- NGO Counsel. The Blackfoot Challenge has successfully helped ranchers manage in areas with predators in Montana.
The PI of this project will work with all partners to develop a distinct component of the CHCC that works on Rancher Sustainability. We will create an individual section of the CHCC website, develop a unique informational series, and training resources. The PI will work with the CHCC director, and the Chair of the Extension wolf education committee to meet quarterly to coordinate our efforts to match rancher needs with educational programming. The Extension committee will grow to include Dr. Few from the Western Landowners Alliance, Cameron Krebs, our only experienced rancher and Dr. Breck who links us to the agency responsible for wolf management. The research team will meet monthly to develop a steady stream of educational materials and trainings (see products in next section) that informs Colorado livestock producers about various aspects of sustainable ranching with predators.
- Monthly project meetings
- Quarterly meetings to plan, implement and track training
- Ongoing, dedicated website for the distribution of materials in the Predator and People page of the CHCC website
- An all-state online meeting in year 1, and an all-state in person meeting in year 2
- Continuous support of Extension agent training preparation and implementation in their home counties
- - Producer (Educator)
Our approach centers of consolidating and coordinating a network of groups working to provide assistance to producers. We work closely with the Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence, the Colorado Cooperative Extension Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Working Lands Alliance to offer informational meetings, agent training, rancher visits to Montana to meet with fellow producers, and to respond around the state to emerging wolf predation events. One of our principal investigators served on the Stakeholder Advisory Group and another on the Technical Advisory Group, both organized by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in order to enhance both keeping up with rapidly changing policies and to provide a voice to represent producers. We meet monthly with advisors from government and non-government organizations to discuss what is happening and what can be done about it. Finally, we organized pairs of extension agents and local ranchers to act as our ambassadors in their home counties, and as our stakeholder committee for Extension training. The group visited a prominent conversation group in Montana, where they were able to learn from ranchers that have been dealing with wolves for over 20 years. After the conference, the group has deployed their own versions of assistance in many different ways in their home counties.
To date, we have networked with producer speakers (3), the Blackfoot Challenge, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), US Fish and Wildlife, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, Working Lands Alliance, wolf NGO's, Stockgrowers Association, Defenders of Wildlife and Owl Mountain conservation initiative in Jackson County. We also took about 25 livestock producers, extension agents, NRCS, CPW, and WLA to visit the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana.
We lead or participated in 1) A workshop for livestock producers, 2) a get together for wolf advocates, livestock producers/supporters, and educators to see how ranches live and work through first-hand discussions on a local ranch, 3) efforts to assist producers with predation, 4) several local meetings, 5) developing a conflict fund for producers, 6) providing a fladry trailer to producers, and 7) educational materials.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Train agents, and offer resources, to offer educational programming regarding wolf management
Colorado voted to reintroduce livestock at the end of 2023. A pack has naturally migrated to Colorado in 2021. In early 2022, the first two cows and a dog were killed by wolves. Extension agents face increasing requests for education about managing for wolves and about compensation programs. Most have no formal training about wolves. We have developed several different networks of experts and practitioners, and partnered with the state agency responsible for wolf management in Colorado (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) to develop a variety of training tools, including a website with educational materials and useful links to wolf information, ready-to-use presentations, expert speakers, forthcoming opportunities for training, and resources, such as mini grants, to offer training.
We organized in 2021 and offered our first major training in February 2022 in the region where our first highly publicized wolf kills occurred in late December and early January. Since then, we have organized several learning opportunities and coordinated several efforts to aid producers. Outcomes include, financial, technical and advisory assistance for ranchers in the North Park Valley that experienced predation events, the creation of a fund to assist producers beyond state compensation programs, providing a specially constructed trailer that is used to apply fladry, and the outgrowth of individual efforts from our extension-rancher pairs, such as the creation of local conservation groups (modelled after the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana, where we visited with the producers), a rancher-wolf advocate cooperation gathering, and rancher participation in different wolf and rancher advocacy efforts and events around the state.
Educational & Outreach Activities
In 2021 we worked with several networks of professionals to build a library of educational materials, website, and to offer presentations. We offered our first training in 2022. We plan to have a final major training for agents in the fall of 2023, after all wolf management reintroduction plans are finalized. We have coordinated with several groups to provide education, technical assistance, and policy advice for developing the management plan.