Ranching Side-by-Side with Wolves

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:10/18/2011 Updated:03/23/2012

An Ecological Philosophy of Ranching

This is part of our Lava Lake series.  Brian and Kathleen Bean’s family-owned ranch is located just southeast of Sun Valley where the Pioneer Mountains meet the Snake River Plain.  They own 24,000 acres and control 900,000 acres of grazing allotment lands.  Posts continue Tues/Thurs through October 2011.

Ranchers face many challenges, certainly those in Idaho.  Not least are wolves and bighorn sheep - the latter because they transmit disease.  Domesticated sheep remain genetically very similar to their wild ancestors, so bighorn sheep and mountain goats can transmit disease to their domestic brethren.  “But we see it as a blessing to have so many of the charismatic megafauna - elk, deer, pronghorn, and even wolves - in our region,” Brian assures me. 

“You can imagine going into a state like Idaho, it’s very conservative,” says Brian. “We have very good relations with our ranching neighbors, who have largely welcomed us into their community.  We’ve tried to keep a low profile - we didn’t know what we were doing at first, and everything was a learning process.  Our neighbors had had tenure on the land for generations.
“We created a livestock advisory board made up of individuals from whom we purchased land.  We wanted to take advantage of their good humor (we have amused our neighbors) and learn from their years of experience.  I can’t express enough our appreciation on behalf of Lava Lake for the ranching community that accepted us and helped us do the best we could do.  We would have made far more mistakes had we not had their support.”

Since 2002, Lava Lake and its partners have been at the forefront of developing approaches that prevent conflicts between wolves and livestock.  “We want to do our part to make sure we can coexist with all forms of wildlife.  Wolves are hugely controversial and have been an issue for us from the very beginning.  After our focus on controlling the landscape, we shifted very early to a focus on science, beginning with presence/absence surveys conducted by Idaho Fish & Game biologists, and coordinated by Alan Sands, who worked for TNC.”

Our next post will explain how Lava Lake Ranch is successfully handling the wolf predation issue.

The entire Lava Lake Series:
Making Working Wildlands Work for Conservation

Cowboys, Heroes and Family Roots
How a Childhood Working with Cattle Led an Investment Banker Back to a Working Ranch

Getting Grazing Right
Using High Tech Tools to Manage the Flock and Follow the Grazing Prescription

The Heroes are the Herders
The duty of all staff at Lava Lakes Ranch is to leave the landscape in better condition than they found it.

Ranching Side-by-Side with Wolves
An Ecological Philosophy of Ranching

Co-existence with Wolves Through Research
How using nonlethal methods of wolf control has decreased sheep predation by more than 90%

Pronghorn: Spirit of the Grasslands
Using pronghorn antelope as a charismatic species to engage communities in maintaining and reconnecting rangelands

Thin Economics and High Quality Fat
How grass fed meat can support health while sustaining western ecosystems

Stepwise to a Grand Vision in Idaho
The many ways that ranchers in Idaho are contributing to the conservation of a great American landscape.