- Animals: bovine, sheep
- Animal Production: animal protection and health, grazing management
- Natural Resources/Environment: wildlife
- Sustainable Communities: quality of life
Wildlife-livestock conflicts such as depredation by predators challenge the livelihoods of livestock producers (hereafter, ranchers). Protecting livestock from predators is a complex endeavor, and successful predator conflict mitigation practices require both an analysis of the efficacy of various practices and collaborative information sharing across invested stakeholders. Ranchers typically use an integrated management approach - deploying mitigation practices to reduce depredation risks and lethal techniques when mitigation practices fail and lethal control is authorized. Mitigation practices include human presence (e.g., range riders), deterrents (e.g., fladry), livestock management, and habitat manipulation, but there is limited scientific information on which practices are most effective and under what scenarios they succeed or fail. Ranchers also lack adequate resources to apply mitigation practices or share knowledge gained by experience. Through a diverse partnership of ranchers, scientists, conservation groups, and agencies with decades of experience with landowner collaborative strategies and predator conflict mitigation practices, we will research the effectiveness of range riding across western landscapes with grizzly bears and wolves, host opportunities for ranchers to exchange information about mitigation practices, and disseminate information from our research and exchanges via scientific papers, extension articles, and traditional and novel education and outreach programming.
We focus on range riding because this practice is of high utility to ranchers, yet riding strategies vary widely. How and what works best is unclear, inhibiting adoption by more ranchers. Our research will describe and quantify the types and efficacy of range riding strategies, while rancher-to-rancher exchanges will provide opportunities for foundational knowledge from years of rancher experience to be distributed more broadly. Published products will add scientific credibility to the findings and reinforce learning from exchanges through multiple and highly accessible outlets. By offering diverse outreach venues, we will facilitate new and improved use of predator conflict mitigation practices and add new users; we anticipate ranchers already using these practices to fine-tune their application for increased efficacy, while others will incorporate these practices into their management for the first time. Results of our study will create adaptive and integrative predator conflict mitigation practices disseminated to 600+ ranchers across 7+ states.
We will use an iterative process to ensure successful implementation to improve sustainable agricultural practices. Information will be continuously communicated among team members about the research, outreach, and rancher-to-rancher exchanges, which will result in incremental changes in coproduction processes and in how the practices are implemented by ranchers. This project will create transformative change in agricultural sustainability by supporting a community of practice to research range riding across diverse social and ecological contexts in different grazing scenarios. Importantly, this framework will then be applied to other mitigation practices and develop mechanisms for sustainable funding of such practices through NRCS administered Farm Bill programs. By continuously coordinating with NRCS personnel and ranchers about how our research can be applied to decision-making surrounding funding for ranchers, this proposed work has the potential to establish best practices for predator conflict mitigation that significantly improve sustainable agricultural production through incentivizing the adoption of proactive strategies.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Improve ranch profitability through range riding, a predator conflict mitigation practice that is highly adaptable across diverse ranching operations.
- Coproduce research to evaluate the cost and effectiveness of different range riding strategies across at least seven western states.
- Incorporate data collected by researchers, ranchers, and local landowner groups to accomplish a robust evaluation of conflict reduction strategies.
- Expand and integrate effective range riding strategies with adaptive conflict mitigation programs through rancher-to-rancher knowledge exchanges to support an enhanced quality of life for ranchers, livestock, and wildlife.
- Elevate conservation planning and natural resources management within predator-occupied regions through co-interpretation and dissemination of project results on range riding and other conflict mitigation practices.
- Synthesize research using metrics relevant to livestock production to indicate the value of range riding and other conflict mitigation practices to ranchers.
- Provide data to NRCS to inform the development of new or modified conservation practices to incentivize broad adoption of conflict mitigation techniques.
- Disseminate and amplify the collective experience and knowledge gained through this project by providing highly relevant content through a combination of traditional outreach programming (workshops, seminars) and novel outreach products, including audio, print, and digital platforms.