Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Human-Wildlife Conflict Training

It seems like more and more we are hearing about and dealing with human-wildlife conflicts which in many cases are more about conflicts between humans than about wildlife. As part of my job with the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project (GBOP) and my job as a zoo keeper this topic comes up a lot. Dealing with this topic can be touchy so I was very excited to hear about a course that teaches about conflict dynamics and how to address them.

I attended the Conservation and Conflict Experiential Training course taught by staff of the Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration (HWCC). The course was held September 9-11 2009 in Washington, D.C. Our class had people from the US, Wales, France and Africa. It was a great mix of people with varied backgrounds; grad students, the Humane Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society, USDA and the National Park Service etc. Having this mix of people really brought in some great ideas and information exchange which added to the wonderful learning experience of the class.

This is not a sit, take notes and listen to the instructors’ course. There are a lot of discussions and role play; the more you participate the more you get out of it.

”The objective of this course is to improve the ability of conservation practitioners to understand conflict dynamics and establish more effective ways to address them. Participants will accomplish this by drawing on tools, processes, and theory developed in the field of conflict resolution that have shown to be applicable to conservation realities. As a result, conservation practitioners will possess a broader set of skills to ensure that conservation solutions are more successful and sustainable.” (HWCC)

We practiced various roles: being a third party neutral, an observer and people involved in a conflict. Playing these different “characters” and being in someone else’s shoes brought a new perspective to the process and gave a glimpse into how the other side may be feeling. At the end of each role play the groups (usually made up of 4 people) would critique the people doing the role play providing constructive criticism and positive feedback. It was a safe environment to practice the new skills we were learning each day and to improve on the ones we already had.

I would recommend this course to anyone that has to deal with human-wildlife conflict; it really does provide tools and guidance to prevent or resolve conflict issues. As someone who has never been good at dealing with human conflict, I left the course feeling like I can go out accomplish my goals and when conflicts arise I can handle them.

For more information on HWCC and the training course go to their website:

Submitted by Wendy Gardner, photo credits: Joe Milmoe

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Loss Of Top Predators Causing Surge In Smaller Predators, Ecosystem Collapse

The catastrophic decline around the world of "apex" predators such as wolves, cougars, lions or sharks has led to a huge increase in smaller "mesopredators" that are causing major economic and ecological disruptions, a new study concludes.

The findings, published October 1 in the journal Bioscience, found that in North America all of the largest terrestrial predators have been in decline during the past 200 years while the ranges of 60 percent of mesopredators have expanded. The problem is global, growing and severe, scientists say, with few solutions in sight.

An example: in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, lion and leopard populations have been decimated, allowing a surge in the "mesopredator" population next down the line, baboons. In some cases children are now being kept home from school to guard family gardens from brazen packs of crop-raiding baboons.

In case after case around the world, the researchers said, primary predators such as wolves, lions or sharks have been dramatically reduced if not eliminated, usually on purpose and sometimes by forces such as habitat disruption, hunting or fishing. Many times this has been viewed positively by humans, fearful of personal attack, loss of livestock or other concerns. But the new picture that's emerging is a range of problems, including ecosystem and economic disruption that may dwarf any problems presented by the original primary predators.

The elimination of wolves is often favored by ranchers, for instance, who fear attacks on their livestock. However, that has led to a huge surge in the number of coyotes, a "mesopredator" once kept in check by the wolves. The coyotes attack pronghorn antelope and domestic sheep, and attempts to control them have been hugely expensive, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

The problems are not confined to terrestrial ecosystems. Sharks, for instance, are in serious decline due to overfishing. In some places that has led to an explosion in the populations of rays, which in turn caused the collapse of a bay scallop fishery and both ecological an economic losses.

Source and complete article: ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2009)

Submitted by Dennis Ryan

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

WDFW submits wolf management plan draft

Public review of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, as required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), will begin on October 5, 2009.

A series of public meetings will be held in October and November, (see schedule at the WDFW website), with the public comment period continuing through January 8, 2010.

This is the public's opportunity to meet with WDFW staff and give input to the draft plan prior to the release of the final version.

The content of the plan is published on the WDFW website for review prior to the meetings. A minimum goal of 15 breeding pairs of wolves would be neccessary to remove the wolf from the Washington endangered species list.

Submitted by Dennis Ryan

Montana cows share their food!

These pictures were taken at the Broken O Ranch on the Sun River near Simms, MT.

The grizzlies ignored the cows and the cows left the grizzlies alone.

Submitted by Dennis Ryan