Date of this Version
Society for Range Management October 2012 pp. 6-11
The reintroduction of wolves into their historical ranges in the North American Rocky Mountains and areas of the southwestern United States is possibly one of the most ambitious ecosystem restoration efforts of the recent past. This initiative has been controversial and has stimulated considerable debate among concerned stakeholders about the feasibility of harmonizing multiple land-use demands when preservation of a large predator becomes a central management goal. In many areas, ranching has taken center stage of this debate as ranchers and land managers seek to develop sustainable ways to manage livestock on landscapes with wolves.
The challenges associated with wolf restoration programs vary regionally and depend on a myriad of interacting factors. Wolf population size and consequent regulatory and legal frameworks; site-specific, biophysical features; and local traditions, perceptions, and attitudes of urban vs. ranching communities are only a few of the issues driving the diversity of situations. Because of this complexity, “silver-bullet” approaches are unlikely to provide answers that will satisfy all stakeholders in all locations. In this context, our article seeks to 1) provide a science-based perspective to inform the wolf–livestock ongoing debate; and 2) suggest research approaches that could lead to locally relevant solutions. Of paramount importance is better understanding of direct and indirect effects of wolves on livestock, and development of effective methods for minimizing impacts while maintaining ecologically relevant wolf populations on the landscape. We argue that progress (i.e., optimizing coexistence or minimizing conflict) is most likely if multiple tools and techniques are used in a context-dependent fashion and integrated into a science based operation supported by producers.