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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Northwest Watershed Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357454

Research Project: Assessment, Conservation and Management of Rangelands in Transition

Location: Northwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Predicting spatial risk of wolf-cattle encounters and depredation

Author
item Clark, Pat
item CHIGBROW, JOE - Us Forest Service (FS)
item JOHNSON, DOUGLAS - Oregon State University
item WILLIAMS, JOHN - Oregon State University
item LARSON, LARRY - Oregon State University
item ROLAND, TYANNE - University Of Idaho
item NIELSON, RYAN - Eagle Environmental, Incorporated
item LOUHAICHI, MOUNIR - Oregon State University

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/28/2019
Publication Date: 1/1/2020
Citation: Clark, P., Chigbrow, J., Johnson, D., Williams, J., Larson, L., Roland, T., Louhaichi, M. 2020. Predicting spatial risk of wolf-cattle encounters and depredation. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 73(1):30-52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2019.08.012.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rama.2019.08.012

Interpretive Summary: We have a very poor understanding of the spatially varying risk of wolf-cattle encounters and wolf-caused depredation within the diverse, rugged, and remote cattle grazing lands of the western U.S. During 2009-2011, a research study was conducted at 4 study areas (USFS cattle grazing allotments) in western Idaho to develop and evaluate models and mapping tools for predicting spatial risk of wolf-cattle encounters and depredation within extensive and complex landscapes. Risk maps derived from cattle and wolf resource-selection function (RSF) models were found to provide highly successful predictions (Spearman rs = 0.99) of where GPS-detected wolf-cattle encounters actually occurred and, 84% and 75% of observed encounters and confirmed wolf depredations, respectively, occurred in the two highest risk classes of a 5-class mapping system. Spatial risk maps and improved understanding of wolf-cattle interaction will greatly aid livestock producers, natural resource managers, and policy makers in more effectively applying husbandry practices, targeting and allocating mitigation resources, and developing wolf-cattle conflict mitigation plans and policies applicable throughout the mountainous western U.S. and other regions of the world where wolves and cattle come into conflict.

Technical Abstract: Spatial variability in terrain, vegetation, and other features affect cattle and wildlife distribution on mountainous grazing lands of the western U.S. Yet, we have only a very poor understanding of how this spatial variability influences risk of wolf-cattle encounters and associated depredation. This knowledge gap severely limits our capacity to prevent or mitigate wolf-cattle conflict. Research addressing this problem was conducted 2009-2011 at four study areas in western Idaho to evaluate models and mapping tools for predicting spatial risk of wolf-cattle encounters. Lactating beef cows grazing these study areas was instrumented with GPS collars and tracked at 5-min intervals throughout the summer grazing season. Resource selection function (RSF) models, based on negative binomial regression, were developed from these GPS data and used to map the relative probability of cattle use in each study area. A wolf RSF model originally developed by Ausband et al. (2010) was applied to map study area habitats for relative suitability as wolf rendezvous sites. Spatial relationships between cattle and wolf selectivity patterns were used to classify and map wolf-cattle encounter risk to 5 classes (very high to very low) across each study area during the wolf rendezvous period (15 June-15 August). Validation analyses using GPS-based, wolf-cattle encounter observations (n=200) revealed 84% of observed encounters occurred in areas of high or very high encounter risk (class 4 or 5). About 75% of confirmed wolf depredations recorded among three of four study areas were located in areas of high or very high risk. This new predictive understanding of wolf-cattle encounter risk will greatly aid livestock producers, resource managers, and policy makers in more effectively applying husbandry practices, allocating mitigation resources, and developing conflict mitigation plans and policies applicable throughout the mountainous western U.S. and potentially other regions of the world where wolves and cattle come into conflict.