Our range riders as well as the upper basin livestock managers are the center point of our work in wildlife conflict reduction and prevention on wild landscapes like Tom Miner Basin. The Association has employed seasonal range riders since 2013.
These riders travel through herds of cattle at first and last light in effort to monitor livestock and handle cattle in a way that re-kindles the herd instinct.
By monitoring cattle and consistently being on the landscape, riders are able to check cattle herds for sickness and injury, haze predators when necessary, track wildlife patterns in and around areas used by livestock, and find carcasses in a timely manner so cause of death can be accurately determined.
While with the cattle, riders handle cattle using low stress stockmanship techniques in effort to rekindle the herd instinct. (please refer to The Stockmanship Journal for more information about our methods). Riders gather cattle together when possible, keeping calves with mothers and mother cattle with other mother cattle thus making them less vulnerable to predation (similar to the strategy bison use to defend themselves from predators).
Studies have shown that wolves and other predators are triggered to hunt, as well as more likely to be successful at hunting, when their prey runs. We have observed through experience that if we can encourage mother cows to stay close to their calf, and all cattle (regardless of age class) to stay together in a herd, they are less likely to run when encountered by a predator. Thus when gathered together, cattle seem to be less vulnerable to predation.
In addition, our riders will compliment efforts to improve our range by keeping cattle gathered and moving across the landscape. This is different from the traditional approach to cattle management that encourages cattle to scatter out across the range. We believe that by managing cattle as a herd unit, grazing an area once and then moving on, we will be able to better utilize the range, allowing for more diversity and fewer opportunities for weeds.