Mexican gray wolf populations and densities are influenced by two main factors: vegetation type and accessibility to large ungulates (hoofed) prey. Since wolves live in areas with livestock and livestock are large ungulates, there is a potential for conflict. Proactive management strategies are used to reduce the conflict between wolves and livestock. In an effort to compensate ranchers for livestock depredations the Mexican Wolf / Livestock Interdiction Fund was established, which is administered by the Mexican Wolf / Livestock Coexistence Council.
Proactive Management Activities
The IFT, non-governmental organizations, the U.S. Forest Service, and livestock producers work together to limit the interaction between wolves and livestock. The group uses a variety of strategies to mitigate conflicts: electric fencing, supplemental livestock feed and hay, range riders, livestock grazing rotation, exclusionary 8-foot fencing, radio telemetry equipment on wolves, and diversionary and supplemental food caches.
Mexican Wolf / Livestock Interdiction Fund and Coexistence Council
In September 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the help of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation established the Mexican Wolf / Livestock Interdiction Fund. The goal of the fund is to generate long-term funding to financially support livestock operators affected by the Mexican gray wolf population in the Southwest.
In April 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought together a diverse group of individuals impacted by or involved with the wolf recovery efforts called the Mexican Wolf / Livestock Coexistence Council. The Coexistence Council consists of 11 members, including 5 ranchers with either small or large operations. The Council also developed an interim program to compensate livestock producers for wolf depredations at market prices using money from short term grants. At this time, there is no permanent funding for the Coexistence Council as part of the annual budget.
The goal of the council is to develop a long-term strategy that focuses on coexistence rather than direct compensation for livestock losses.
Lasting Effects of Wolf / Livestock Conflicts
Livestock that are harassed or attacked by Mexican gray wolves or livestock that witness harassment or attacks by Mexican gray wolves seem to show long term signs of stress. Signs of livestock stress include fewer calves, reduced weight gain, and fear of cattle dogs. These stress indicators result in financial losses to ranchers but are not currently reimbursed through the Coexistence Council. A proposal is being considered that would pay ranchers for the wolf’s presence to offset the costs associated with stress to livestock.
- Summary of Proactive Management Activities conducted in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in 2012
- Mexican Wolf / Livestock Coexistence Council Frequently Asked Questions
- 2014 Strategic Plan - Created by the Mexican Wolf / Livestock Coexistence Council to articulate the wide range of perspectives around wolf recovery efforts and outlines strategies to help ranchers in areas with wolves, including payments for wolf presence, funding for conflict avoidance measures, and funding for depredation compensation.
- Depredation Compensation Guidelines - Outlines compensation to livestock operators for wolf depredations from Mexican Wolf / Livestock Interdiction Fund.
- Reestablishment of the Mexican Gray Wolf: The Economics of Depredation - Evaluates whether there is a disproportionate burden or economic impact on a few individuals from rural areas for the good of the American society.
- Crying Wolf? A Spatial Analysis of Wolf Locations and Depredations on Calf Weight - Ranchers in Montana that experienced a confirmed livestock depredation by wolves had a negative and statically significant impact (~22 pounds) on the average calf weight across the herd, possibly due to inefficient foraging behavior or stress to the mother cows.