Source: http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/st ... d/C41/L41/Stopping Wolves From Killing Livestock: Could It Be As Simple as an Electrified Flag Line?
Researchers looking at nonlethal wolf management make strides in a one-two punch known as "turbofladry."
By Brodie Farquhar, 2-14-11
None of the many tools for deterring predators from killing livestock is able to claim it’s the proverbial “silver bullet” for the job, yet an innovative combination of two such tools has generated some encouraging results.
Dubbed “turbofladry,” it consists of flapping flags tied on a wire fence and the electric fence itself, which delivers a stinging zap to anyone (human, predator or livestock) foolish enough to touch a charged wire.
Fladry, an east European term, is simply a string of closely spaced strips of flapping cloth. Hunters have used strings of fladry to block unsuspecting wolves, then driven the wolves into a fladry bottleneck, where gunners were waiting. Incredibly, wolves won’t cross a fladry line to escape, even when they are desperate to do so.
ny movement in the cloth strips stimulates a startle or flight instinct in wolves.
Fladry has also been used to surround livestock, creating a barrier that wolves won’t cross – at least for awhile. Tests in the northern Rockies have effectively blocked wolves from entering an area until the wolves’ investigatory probes teach them the fladry isn’t a problem or a threat – generally a two-month process. (Interestingly, the hyper-adaptable coyote has never been deterred by fladry, not even for a little while, according to Minnesota researchers.)
Similarly, an electric fence is effective until a predator figures out a way to go over or under it, without getting zapped.
For three summers, Lava Lake Land and Livestock, which grazes sheep on the Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis National Forests, made use of turbofladry and experienced only one lost sheep to wolves. And that sheep wasn’t inside the turbofladry fence.
With more than 6,000 sheep, Lava Lake runs one of the largest sheep outfits in the region on more than 800,000 acres of private and public land. A few summers prior, wolves killed 25 sheep on one of their grazing allotments. With the help of USDA Wildlife Services in Idaho and Defenders of Wildlife, Lava Lake utilized a newly designed solar-powered turbofladry system, creating highly portable night corrals to protect a sheep band. Lava Lake also used guard dogs, night watches by herders and shotguns and cracker shells to deter wolves from approaching the sheep band.
While these bands consisted of more than 1,200 sheep in close proximity to wolves during late summer, they did not experience a single wolf depredation.
Just a quarter mile away, wolves had killed sheep and a guard dog in 2005.
“Wolves are what we call ‘neophobic,’ meaning they’re afraid of what’s new and unknown,” said Stewart Breck, a researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in Fort Collins, Colorado. They come up against lots of fences, Breck said, and have learned not to give them much mind.
When confronted with something new, like a fladry line, “they lead with their nose and mouth. If they get zapped, that creates even more fear.”
Turbofladry plays off that, using one deterrent to reinforce the other—“You have a scary thing backed up by a shock,” he said. As a result, habituation doesn’t happen as easily or quickly as it does when wolves encounter only single deterrents. It is the combination of flags and electric shock the creates a powerful adverse conditioning tool, said Breck.
A Fish Story
Another strong test of the turbofladry concept, said Suzanne Strong of Defenders of Wildlife, happened in a stock pond in Idaho that Idaho Fish & Game used for hatchery fish before moving them into high country lakes and streams.
“It turned out that a pack of wolves had their den nearby,” said Stone, “and they quickly discovered a bountiful supply of sushi.” The wolves made short work of the stocked fish. Idaho fisheries biologists were loathe to give up the convenience of the stock pond, but needed to protect the fish from the wolves. Turbofladry was used around the pond and, for weeks, no wolf ever penetrated the turbofladry line, said Stone. It took a big storm to create a small hole in the line, said Stone, and sushi time was back.
“I wouldn’t call that the ultimate test for turbofladry,” said Breck, “but it was effective.”
There are operational and maintenance issues as well, he said. Electric fences short out if they come in contact with vegetation, so they aren’t suitable in thick grass, he said. Turbofladry also requires more wire than fladry alone – an added expense, as well as a power source (solar panels) and storage (battery).
Testing and Spending
In the journal “Wildlife Research” last year, Breck teamed up with researchers from Utah State University, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Wildlife Science Center in Minnesota on a paper titled “Biological, Technical, and Social Aspects of Applying Electrified Fladry for Livestock Protection From Wolves.”
The researchers used captive wolves to test the effectiveness of keeping them away from food and also ran field tests in Montana, where they erected 14 kilometers of electrified fladry around treatment pastures. They never found evidence of wolves entering the treatment pastures. Researchers then determined a completed electrified fladry system would cost $2,303 for the first kilometer, $2,032 for each additional kilometer and required 31.8 person-hours per kilometer to install.
Importantly, the researchers believe that electrified fladry can be adapted to regular barbed-wire fences, thus reducing future costs.
“Costs are dependent on how much labor is involved,” said Defender’s Stone. “We partnered on the initial research in the USA, using 9 miles of fladry to enclose a ranch in the mountains near Salmon. We had to ride or walk that fladry line daily to ensure that the flags were not getting caught on barbed wire or bushes. Though the test was very successful, we decided to never again try it on such a large scale. It’s much more cost-effective in smaller units such as night corrals, which are still large enough to contain more than 1,000 sheep.”
Defenders of Wildlife has partnered with several dozen ranchers in wolf country, utilizing turbofladry night corrals. And, so far, there’s no evidence that wolves have become habituated to turbofladry, she said.
“What’s really encouraging,” said Stone, “is that the concept is being adopted independently, by ranchers who are not partnered with us. We’re seeing reports of turbofladry being used in Europe, South Africa and Australia,” anywhere there are wild wolves or dogs preying on livestock.
Stone argues that although a single bullet is cheap, there are many other costs associated with lethal control, such as the expense of helicopters or planes used to shoot wolves from the air. And lethal controls are often a short-term solution, she said.
“Reseachers at the University of Calgary, led by Dr. Marco Musiani, revealed that new wolves will often move into vacant territory in less than a year after depredating wolves are killed,” said Stone. “If the original problems—carcass pits, diseased or injured livestock, untended animals, etc.—still exist, the new wolves will often start killing livestock on the same ranches, which starts the whole cycle over.”
Wolves are highly social, Stone said, and if an alpha pair learn to avoid livestock, then that learning is passed down the generations. If a pack’s leadership is exterminated, survivors and replacements don’t have their teachers, and they get to make their own mistakes, which, said Stone, can be fatal for livestock and wolves alike.
An interesting article. The article also has several side-blurbs that discuss other nonlethal wolf control methods; it's worth checking out.