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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #358184

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

Location: Watershed Management Research

Title: Predicting spatial risk of wolf-cattle encounters on rugged and extensive grazing lands

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

Submitted to: Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/5/2018
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Our understanding of the spatial risk of wolf-cattle encounters on mountainous grazing lands is quite poor and this knowledge gap severely hampers our abilities to manage wolf-livestock interaction and mitigate conflict. During 2009-2011, a research study was conducted at 4 study areas (USFS cattle grazing allotments) in western Idaho to evaluate and predict risk of wolf-cattle encounters. About 94% of observed wolf-cattle encounters occurred within either the high or highest predicted encounter-risk classes. Having this predictive understanding of where wolf-cattle encounters are most likely to occur will allow livestock producers and wildlife managers to more effectively apply resources, husbandry practices, and mitigation techniques to reduce conflict.

Technical Abstract: Cattle grazing lands in the mountainous western U.S. are rugged, complex and extensive. Terrain, vegetation, and other landscape features vary greatly across space. Risk of wolf-cattle encounters and potential for depredation loss certainly differ spatially as consequence of this variability. Yet, our understanding of this spatial risk is quite poor and this knowledge gap severely hampers our abilities to manage wolf-livestock interaction and mitigate conflict. During 2009-2011, a research study was conducted at 4 study areas (USFS cattle grazing allotments) in western Idaho to evaluate and predict risk of wolf-cattle encounters. Each year, a random sample of 10 lactating beef cows from each study area were instrumented with GPS collars logging positions at 5-min intervals throughout the summer grazing season. Cattle resource selection was modeled using these GPS data and negative-binomial regression. An existing model, developed by Ausband et al. (2010), was used to classify habitats within the study areas in terms of probability of use by wolves as rendezvous sites. Efficacy of this model was confirmed using scat, telemetry, and rendezvous site data. Spatial overlaps in the predicted selectivity of wolves and cattle were assessed and study area landscapes were then classified into 5 encounter-risk classes (very low to very high). Concurrent wolf and cattle GPS tracking data were used to document wolf-cattle encounters and thus evaluate the accuracy of this classification. About 94% of observed wolf-cattle encounters occurred within either the high or highest encounter-risk classes. Areas classified to the highest risk class were located on smooth, relatively flat slopes in concave terrain (e.g., stream terrace meadows) but not all were associated with surface water. Having this predictive understanding of where wolf-cattle encounters are most likely to occur will allow livestock producers and wildlife managers to more effectively apply resources, husbandry practices, and mitigation techniques to reduce conflict.