Evaluating the Effectiveness of Range Riding at Reducing Conflicts Between Livestock and Native Carnivores Across the American West

Project Overview

GW22-230
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2022: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Utah State University
Region: Western
State: Utah
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Julie Young
Utah State University

Commodities

  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat

Practices

  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, grazing management, rangeland/pasture management
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, feasibility study, labor/employment, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: wildlife
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, quality of life, social psychological indicators, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Negative impacts of depredating predators are disproportionately borne by livestock producers (hereafter, ranchers). Predator-livestock conflicts threaten economic interests, human safety, and reduce quality of life. Finding effective solutions requires tools that support operational flexibility and contingency in changing environmental, social, and economic climates. Unfortunately, tools aimed at reducing predator-livestock conflict are often designed by non-ranchers, lacking the local, experiential, and generational knowledge needed to ensure tools are applicable, versatile, and worth investment. Range riding - the use of human presence where livestock are grazed to deter predators - is a tool providing spatial and temporal adaptability as the rider makes decisions in direct response to the behaviors of predators and livestock regarding if, when, and how to manage livestock, deter predators, and monitor the activity of both. Range riding is unique in that it can provide a myriad of operational benefits, both related and unrelated to predator conflict such as carcass detection, rotational grazing, and adaptive management. Yet to date, riding’s effectiveness has not been comprehensively studied. Through partnerships with 600+ livestock producers in the western USA, we will study riding’s effectiveness at reducing direct losses (depredation), indirect losses (reproduction, weaning weights, and illness), and livestock stress to define under which operational, environmental, and economical contexts riding can be most effective. Using interdisciplinary methods and coproduction processes with our ranching, NGO, and agency partners, we will interpret and disseminate our findings through three rancher-led peer-learning workshops, 2-3 scientific publications, a fact sheet, and at least two types of Extension resources.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Goals:

    Improve the profitability and long-term sustainability of ranches operating in areas with large predators through evaluating the effectiveness of range riding, an adaptive and versatile rangelands tool.

    • Evaluate the effectiveness of different intensities and styles of riding at reducing behavioral and chemical indicators of stress in grazing livestock.
    • Through interviews with producers, provide the context and detail necessary to understand decision making around range riding as it relates to operational management and protocols, ecosystem resiliency, and economic sustainability.
    • Coproduce these findings through incorporating data collected by researchers, livestock producers, and landowner groups to create a robust evaluation of range riding.
    • Co-interpret and disseminate our coproduced findings on range riding with ranchers and landowner groups, wildlife management agencies, and policy makers.
    • Ensure our research methods measure metrics relevant to livestock production, and our products communicate coproduced findings in a way that is relevant to livestock production.

    Educational Goals:

    • Through 3 minimum rancher-to-rancher knowledge exchanges, expand and integrate effective range riding strategies that support an enhanced quality of life for ranchers, livestock, and wildlife.
    • Coproduce a range rider fact sheet with producer partners to be shared broadly at rancher workshops and presentations.
    • Provide data on range riding to NRCS that informs the development of conservation practices that incentivize broad adoption of riding by ranchers who need it.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.