Participant Perceptions of Range Rider Programs Used to Mitigate Wolf-Livestock Conflicts in the Western United States
Range Rider Programs (RRPs) are one example of a proactive non-lethal tool that has been implemented in western United States to mitigate gray wolf (Canis lupus) and livestock conflicts. Because RRPs are an emerging non-lethal tool that little is known about, I selected a qualitative research approach to examine participant perceptions to further contemporary understanding of how these efforts are implemented and potential benefits. I surveyed 51 participants from 17 Range Rider Programs (RRPs)
... in Montana, Washington, and Oregon to determine participant perceptions regarding effectiveness of RRPs as a non-lethal approach to mitigate wolf-conflicts. I developed a RRPs typology based on information provided by the participants interviewed. The typology identified 3 versions of RRPs programs that revolved around the role of the range rider. These roles included: 1) livestock monitoring, 2) wolf surveillance, and 3) livestock herding. The RRPs, although diverse in operations, shared traits exemplified by community-based conservation programs. Interview responses suggested a RRP's primary contribution may not be a direct reduction in livestock depredation by wolves, but instead a collection of indirect technical and socio-political benefits. To improve current RRPs and develop future efforts, programs should be realistic in expectations and the sponsors must work closely with rancher participants to develop an adaptive program that meets their needs, maintains transparent and frequent communication, and provides a forum for feedback.