As I have grown more active in advocating for wolves and coyotes, I've seen that most of the conflicts with these essential predators involve cattle and sheep. I've wondered what we consumers can do to reduce this conflict. Here are three possibilities.
Fist, we can stop eating meat from cattle and sheep. This is the route that my wife Mary and I have chosen. We hope that with less livestock produced, there will be less livestock to attract hungry predators, and less wolf country overrun by livestock.
If abstaining from eating cattle and sheep is too extreme, there is another way to help wolves, coyotes, and other predators. You can investigate the meats you purchase. If you shop at a co-op, the store may buy local and know how their meat suppliers deal with predators. If you shop at a chain store, an employee in the meat section may know less about vendors. But asking them if predators were harmed in their meats' production can make them aware of this issue. You can also ask the same question to your server when you go out to eat.
Or you can let someone else do the asking by purchasing products that sport the Predator Friendly® label, a certification that must be earned. Every producer undergoes a yearly audit to show compliance with strict standards on wildlife conservation and predator coexistence. The producer must maintain and enhance wildlife habitat, employ a mix of nonlethal methods, and quickly change management practices when smart predators decide to take a new approach.
Predator Friendly ranchers use some of these nonlethal methods:
- Using guard animals such as llamas, donkeys, and dogs
- Scheduling pasture use when predation pressure is low
- Grazing cattle with smaller livestock to protect sheep, goats, and calves
- Timing calving and lambing to avoid predation risk
- Lambing in sheds, secure fenced lots, or protected pastures
- Making frequent and unpredictable patrols in pastures
- Protecting vulnerable animals by fencing out predators
- Learning the ecology and habits of area wildlife
Here's how being predator friendly works for Becky Weed and Dave Tyler in Belgrade, Montana. On the website of their Thirteen Mile Ranch, they state,
"Our principal protection against native predators are our guard dogs and llamas and our own vigilance; because we have chosen not to use lethal control methods against coyotes, bears, wolves, mountain lions, our ranch is certified as 'predator friendly.'"
My introduction to the Predatory Friendly brand came during the first winter that Mary and I lived and volunteered at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in Yellowstone's wolf country. We each bought from the Yellowstone Association store a wool hat made by a local Predator Friendly business. We so loved the hat's warmth and comfort at twenty below zero, that we bought more for our friends. I loved telling them, "No predators were harmed in the making of this hat."
We can put our money where our beliefs are, and I welcome your ideas on other ways we consumers can help save wolves, coyotes, and other predators.
You can find Predator Friendly ranchers and products here.
Rick Lamplugh is a wolf advocate and author of the Amazon Bestseller "In the Temple of Wolves: A Winter's Immersion in Wild Yellowstone." Available as eBook or paperback. Or as a signed copy from the author.