Wildlife and Range Riding Report

July 2017

Range rider Bree and her horse Shasta out for a morning's ride. Photo by Hilary Anderson. 

Range rider Bree and her horse Shasta out for a morning's ride. Photo by Hilary Anderson. 

Range Riding 

This month riders spent approximately 250 hours in the field and covered a minimum of fourteen sections monitoring six herds of cattle. In addition, riders also spent time tracking wolves, bears, and elk throughout the larger Basin, setting trail cameras and assisting ranchers with two depredation events. 

Of the six herds, riders are determining where and how frequently to ride through each herd based on: 

  1. Perceived risk or vulnerability of cattle due to:
    1. Historical depredation events with that herd in that pasture
    2. Current predator movements and encounter rates with the herd
  2. Level of other human presence in or around a herd (by ranch staff)
  3. Terrain difficulty and therefore likelihood of missing a depredation event if one should occur 

Over the month of August, riders will be concentrating their time on Forest Service Allotments with thick ground cover and rough terrain. Riders are observing that these conditions make it difficult for cattle to stay together, and the compromised footing makes cattle more vulnerable to predation. Because of these factors, high human presence in the area is required in order for riders to be effective at monitoring cattle. 


The calf skull from a probable grizzly depredation in July. Photo by Melissa DiNino.

The calf skull from a probable grizzly depredation in July. Photo by Melissa DiNino.

Carcasses

Riders found one calf that was confirmed as a "probable" depredation by a grizzly bear. This confirmation by Wildlife Services was supported by the riders' knowledge of the herd health and overall presence among this herd. The remains of this carcass were found in very thick ground cover but were not far from a human residence. 

A second depredation event occurred when fourteen goats were attacked, and some killed, by a single adult wolf. This depredation event occurred in late morning while the goat herd (1,000 goats) was grazing near some thick ground cover and was witnessed by some of the ranch staff as well as the goat herder. In response, riders assisted in setting up electrified fladry and fox lights around the goat night pen, monitored the area through field cameras, and were able to identify the individual wolf responsible. The following day the goats were moved out of the Basin to eliminate the potential for further conflict. 


Tracking

Grizzly bear activity continues to increase and riders are reporting an average of two bear sightings or encounters per ride. Grizzly bear encounters with cattle or overall presence around cattle (less than 400 yards from cattle) is very high but depredation events remained low this month, which is not uncharacteristic for this time of year. Each ranch has reported observing seven or eight bears on their respective properties, which we anticipate to be a minimum summary of grizzly bear activity across these ranches. 

Wolves are moving farther from their den area this time of year and have been traveling as much as five straight-line miles from their den site. The pups are old enough to be moving around the landscape now, although still with adult wolves. The pack relocated to their historical rendezvous site near the end of July, as has been the case in past years as well. 

Due to the availability of many small prey animals on the landscape this time of year, wolves often travel alone or in very small groups (as opposed to traveling together as a large pack unit), therefore, although these wolves have a very high encounter rate with cattle due to the nature of their territory amidst high livestock use areas, we have seen relatively low depredation by wolves on cattle so far this season.