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 2 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 3 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.
Project objectives from proposal:
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.