Non-Lethal Wolf Management Options


Op-Ed by Kurt Holtzen

It’s been nearly 20 years since the reintroduction of wolves to the west and one would think that we would no longer be in a debate over how we should handle “the wolf issue” and other large predators. Sometimes I get a sense that we have spent too much time engaged in the debate over whether they belong or not.   It’s time to change the conversation from do we need them to how can the impact to producers raising livestock be lessened in areas that large predators are a factor.

Most people are familiar with lethal management options but are unaware that this was never meant as a permanent solution.   The cost of implementing is high and there are other options available.  Many good organizations have been working on proactive Non-lethal management options over the last 19 years and Defenders of Wildlife has been at the forefront. In 1999 they partnered with the Baily Wildlife Foundation and formed and included a livestock producer’s council to provide input from the producer’s point of view. From this collaboration came “Livestock and Wolves, a guide to non-lethal tools and methods to reduce conflict”, an excellent publications outlining the application and use of Non-lethal management of large predators.

As a practical implementation of this publication the Wood River Wolf Project has become an excellent example of non-lethal management in action.  The wood river valley is nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho and provides grazing for more than 25,000 sheep each summer and is also home to an active wolf pack. Over a five year period, 2007 – 2013, the documented sheep losses to wolves in the project area were 90{0a3336b3da8cf935de4f3eb78fe29508c4b8b5ebd27d01af2d815614325d533e} lower than USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) reported Idaho loss-rate. Specifically, their loss rate averaged 0.05{0a3336b3da8cf935de4f3eb78fe29508c4b8b5ebd27d01af2d815614325d533e} compared to 0.54{0a3336b3da8cf935de4f3eb78fe29508c4b8b5ebd27d01af2d815614325d533e} NASS state-wide estimates during the same period. This cooperative program between Defenders and producers should be a blueprint for what is possible when non-lethal management is implemented.

As the director of Ranching outreach and non-lethal management at the National wolfwatcher coalition it’s my hope that this conversation to find long term solutions can be ongoing and I would be very happy to answer any question you might have about implementing a non-lethal management plan for your operation or if you are interested in the Defenders publication I would be happy to send you a PDF version. I can be reached at



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x