Arizona rancher Sydney Maddock is among a number of livestock owners who are experimenting with deterrence methods to reduce livestock depredation by wolves. The approaches, which include erecting fences and hiring range riders, have proven effective in parts of the Southwest. Photo by April Reese.
The reintroduction of Mexican wolves is among the most controversial decisions the Fish and Wildlife Service has ever made. But even as wolf advocates and opponents continue to battle in court over wolves' proper place in the wild, some ranchers, with the help of state and federal agency officials, are finding ways to prevent wolf-livestock conflicts.
Wolf deterrence projects -- ranging from colored "fladry" on fences to range riders to strategically placed fencing -- are slowly gaining favor with ranchers living in wolf country. The efforts also reflect a new, more collaborative way of dealing with problem wolves.
For most of the Mexican wolf recovery program’s history, the focus has been on removing wolves that prey on livestock, either by shooting the animals, relocating them or retiring them to holding facilities. But wildlife officials and some ranchers say it is better for both livestock and wolves to try to prevent wolf-livestock conflicts from happening in the first place.
"Nothing is as divisive as this," Chris Bagnoli, Mexican wolf interagency team leader for Arizona, said of the reintroduction program. "But some folks have come to understand that they're here, and there are ways to live with it."