SJ & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

A well-designed fence can help prevent conflicts with carnivores, but with so many options for materials, placement, and logistics, researchers can struggle to determine which strategies have the best chance of success. They turned to animal breeders for help. Author: Ian Canty

They say good fences make good neighbors, which is especially true when you share space with gray wolves and grizzly bears.

In places like Wyoming and Idaho, livestock breeders learned practical fencing strategies to reduce the number of unfortunate encounters between the hungry living nature, vulnerable livestock and valuable products. University of Utah researchers are learning to take advantage of this hard-won knowledge, according to a new study.

“Wildlife fencing research often lacks on-the-ground knowledge,” said Julie Young of the Queeny College of Natural Resources’ Department of Wildlife Resources and Ecology Center. “We wanted to reduce the cost and social burden of living with recovering wildlife populations, but we needed input from ranchers to do that.”

Considering all possible options for fencing material, location, and logistics, the team wanted to focus on strategies that had the best chance of success. They turned to ranchers who had worked for decades in the “trenches” of conflict with wildlife for help.

Young organized a group that included livestock producers, natural resource managers and researchers from universities. They met for four months – early in the morning to fit the producers’ sunrise schedule. Participants were exposed to the reality of fence design and considerations at a variety of scales, from hobbyist farms to orchard and apiary protection to large calf operations. The researchers learned about the regulatory implications and barriers to fencing in some pastures, which informed their views on adoption and the practicality of their research.

Once the research project began to take shape, they returned the plan to the ranchers for feedback.

“Our original design only looked at the effectiveness of fence structures to prevent conflicts with agriculture or livestock. human security was something we didn’t initially pay attention to,” said Ray Nickerson, a study co-author and graduate student in the Department’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

But the researchers learned that fence projects are often located near homesteads, and human safety was an important concern for the group.

“Some of the new things we learned from the process required flexibility in the process,” Nickerson said. “But he offered a unique way to prioritize our approach. He really took advantage of a diverse set of knowledge and experience.”

Researchers working on prevention strategies for wildlife often view the problem from the perspective of carnivore ecology, but this is not the only priority of most growers. The researchers learned that they needed to integrate not only how and where the fences were effective, but also how to make financing options and paperwork more flexible for growers. Livestock operations near the growing population large carnivores Information is needed quickly before problems get out of hand.

The group also planned strategies to communicate what ultimately worked after the study was completed.

“Often, the most promising and innovative tools are not shared among managers and ranchers because they are not recorded and widely disseminated,” Young said. “People who are discovering innovative new tools for wildlife conservation predators separate from livestock, granaries and beehives often do not have good ways of communicating their success to others.”

Word of mouth can work, she said, but many of these people are geographically separated from other growers who face the same problems. The team’s research will continue to look at the effectiveness of using non-lethal tools to reduce conflicts with wildlife and how best practices can be disseminated to more livestock owners.

The study was published in Frontiers in conservation science.

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Additional information:
Matthew Hyde et al., Multidisciplinary interactions in fencing research inform efficiency and knowledge sharing between ranchers and researchers, Frontiers in conservation science (2022). DOI: 10.3389/fcosc.2022.938054

Courtesy of the University of Utah SJ & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources

Citation: On the Fence: New Study Reveals Rancher Expertise on Carnivores Coexistence (2022, October 4) Retrieved October 4, 2022, from

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