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Sheep and Wolf Protectors Ready for Grazing Season

June 15, 2010

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - With better weather in the forecast this week, sheep are expected to start moving onto grazing allotments in Central Idaho's Big Wood River Valley, an area also home to wolves. Local experts are standing by to try to make sure no sheep, or wolves, are killed, and it's a project being watched in Wyoming. Trained field technicians use non-lethal methods to keep wolves away from the estimated 13,000 sheep that will move through the valley over the summer. It's been done successfully now for several years.

Jesse Timberlake, Defenders of Wildlife Northern Rockies associate who coordinates the project with the support of local ranchers, outlines this year's challenges.

"There are different wolf packs coming into the area - the local wolf pack, the Phantom Hill pack, hasn't been seen in its usual home. We haven't yet found the denning site. And so, it's kind of a guessing game as to where exactly they are."

Other methods being tested include portable fencing, guard dogs and bright lights, but Timberlake says they've found the most effective wolf deterrent is people. He says the only time they lost a sheep during the project last year was the one night when there were no field technicians with the herd.

"The wolves, they have pretty fine-tuned senses, they can tell when there are people with the sheep. So far it seems that is the best system to keep the wolves away, just to have people there."

He adds that there aren't any collared wolves in the local pack any more, although Idaho Fish and Game is going to try to collar a few this summer. The collars allow the use of tracking equipment and radio-frequency-activated alarm boxes, which automatically make loud noises when collared wolves approach.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY