Fish and Wildlife approves wolf deterring rubber buckshot
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
By next spring, selected Idaho ranchers should be able to shoot rubber
bullets at wolves that pose a threat to grazing livestock.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Idaho wolf recovery leader Roy
Heberger, approval for use of the negative reinforcement-inflicting rubber and Styrofoam
bullets came from Fish and Wildlifes Washington D.C. offices this month.
Heberger said in a telephone interview on Monday with the Idaho
Mountain Express hes not yet sure if the projectiles will be bullets or
"This could go a long way toward preventing wolves from preying on
livestock, and, in turn, cut down on the number of lethal control actions," Heberger
The idea is quite simple, he said. Wolves that enter ranch property to
prey on livestock could be shot with the rubber projectiles, likely from a 12- gauge
shotgun, and would associate cattle and ranch property with pain.
"Basically we would be training wolves not to prey on
livestock," Heberger said.
Though details are still not worked out, Heberger said he hopes the
program can be in place by next springs calving season.
This spring, members of the White Cloud Wolf Pack became habituated to
preying on calves in the East Fork of the Salmon River drainage, east of the White Cloud
Mountains, and pack members were killed in response.
Heberger said that, were the tool available this spring, he would have
issued permits for use of the rubber buckshot to several East Fork ranchers.
Exact criteria by which permits will be issued are not yet set, but
Heberger said there will be "very limited issuance."
"Were not talking about something where wed be putting a
lot of permits out," he said.
Idahos wolf recovery program is relatively new in comparison with
that of Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources oversees management of
between 2,500 and 3,000 wolves statewide.
According to Minnesota wolf management specialist Mike DonCarlos,
"The most effective wolf control in Minnesota is lethal control."
He said certain negative reinforcement measures have been taken in
Minnesota, though rather unsuccessfully. Rubber projectiles, he said, have not been used
on wolves there.
Nationwide, rubber bullets and buckshot are commonly used to negatively
reinforce undesirable black bear behavior such as eating human trash or raiding bird
According to Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officer Lee
Frost, rubber bullets "do seem to have the desired effects."
"The few instances that weve had the opportunity to do it, it
seems to work really well. You create a pretty negative experience for [the bears], and
they shy away from that particular location, at least," he said in an interview.
Frost admitted that he doesnt have any experience dealing with
wolves, but said wolves are certainly smart animals that should be able to learn from
"Its probably something we should be trying before we get too
far into the run and gun mentality," he said.