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Summer 2011

Newsletter Archive


Cowboys and Carnivores: innovative solutions to carnivore conflicts

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The Miistakis Institute has partnered with the Drywood Yarrow Conservation Partnership (DYCP)- a group of ranchers who live near Waterton Lakes National Park in southwest Alberta. The partnership is developing an innovative citizen science program to reduce carnivore conflicts in the region while maintaining healthy populations of large carnivores. Click here to go to the Cowboys and Carnivores website.

Ranchers in southwestern Alberta share the picturesque landscape with large carnivores such as grizzly bears and wolves. Interactions between ranchers and carnivores are common and sometimes problematic. Grizzly bears are attracted to, and feed on, livestock and livestock feed, tasty crops and livestock carcasses left on the landscape. These interactions often result in an economic loss to the rancher and also lead to safety concerns. Wolves occur in the area and are involved in cattle predation, also resulting in economic losses. These conflicts may result in removal of the carnivores suspected to be involved in conflicts, which affects local populations of these species. The grizzly bear was recently listed as threatened in Alberta, with population estimates for the province in 2010 at 691 grizzly bears. Wolves, though not considered rare or endangered in Alberta, are an important part of a healthy ecosystem.

Ranchers already recognize the need to monitor carnivores (both conflicts and movements) to assist in the development of solutions that allow ranchers and carnivores to peacefully and safely coexist. The intended outcome of this project is to increase the ranching community's knowledge and understanding of carnivore use of the landscape, and the location and type of conflicts. With the establishment of a community of engaged citizens who work together to address carnivore conflict issues in the region, citizens can make informed decisions to reduce the number and impact of carnivore conflicts.

First, an online mapping tool will allow ranchers to record their carnivore observations and conflicts. This will result in ranchers knowing where carnivores have been observed across the region. Currently, when ranchers observe carnivores there is no mechanism to share this information with their neighbours, notifying them of when carnivores are in the area and allowing them to reduce the likelihood of conflicts. Knowing where and why conflicts are occurring will contribute to solutions to reduce conflicts.

Second, ranchers and a summer student will collect hair left by carnivores along fence lines or trees where animals are known to rub, which will allow project partners to identify what species are using the landscape. Hairs collected from grizzly bears will be sent to a genetics lab for analysis so that individual bears can be identified. This will help to determine which bears are getting into conflicts and contribute to provincial monitoring of grizzly bear numbers.

Third, remote cameras will be used to monitor the effectiveness of some of the solutions that ranchers are implementing to reduce carnivore conflicts such as electric fencing around feed or the replacement of leaky grain bins. Finally, using Cowboys & Carnivores and other Miistakis citizen science projects, we will carry out an evaluation of how to create positive change through this type of collaboration as well as realize strategies to maintain citizen engagement.

Ideally Cowboys & Carnivores will help work towards fewer economic losses to the ranching community and maintenance of healthy wildlife populations through increased tolerance and a desire to share the landscape with carnivores. Ultimately, the outcomes of this project will touch not only those who are directly impacted by carnivores, but those Albertans and Canadians who place value on having bears, wolves and other species on the landscape. Miistakis and DYCP would like to thank our funders Alberta Ecotust Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment and the Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association.Cowboys and Carnivores is currently in the running for a grant from Shell Canada.

Support our bid by going to Shell and cast your vote today.