Living with Wolves

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by Shawn Regan

With wolf numbers rising in the American West, ranchers are increasingly bearing the costs of their presence. This Guardian story has the details:

His farm equipment roster now includes a roll-out fence: a two-mile coil of electrified cable fitted with bright red strips of plastic. The sight of the streamers on the fence, called a Fladry line, stops the wolves in their tracks. "We have had them stop and just sit on the side," says [rancher Jim] Stone. But then the wolves grow accustomed to the streamers, forcing Stone to roll up the line and start all over again.

This summer, for the second year, Stone and his neighbours also clubbed together to hire a range rider to keep an eye on their cattle as they moved into remote areas. Peter Brown spent his days traversing the pastures by truck, motorcyle, on horseback and on foot.

The article goes on to describe other creative ways ranchers are coexisting with wolves, including using loudspeakers to play sounds such as sirens, helicopters, or gunshots when a wolf with a radio collar is in the area.

Livestock owners have often been compensated for the costs they bear by environmental entrepreneurs such as Hank Fischer and Todd Graham. Hank was the architect of the first wolf compensation program with Defenders of Wildlife, which has paid out more than $1.4 million to livestock owners who have lost livestock to wolves.

Todd Graham runs Madison Valley Expeditions, which works with private landowners to provide paying guests exclusive wildlife tours. Todd's business is turning wolves and other wildlife into an asset for landowners--not a liability.

As one rancher once told Hank, "It's easy to be a wolf lover. It doesn't cost anything. It's the people who own livestock who end up paying for wolves." Enviropreneurs like Hank and Todd understand this and are working to compensate landowners and enable them to coexist with wolves.

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Shawn Regan is the Director of Publications and a Research Fellow at PERC. He holds a M.S. in Applied Economics from Montana State University and degrees in economics and environmental science from Berry College. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Quartz, High Country News, Reason, Regulation, Grist, and Distinctly Montana. Shawn...
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