Biofence and Wolves

Gray wolves (Canis lupus) can conflict with livestock production throughout Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Generally, wolves that prey on domestic livestock are killed by management agencies or private landowners. These actions typically stop depredations for producers in the short-term but are not a lasting solution because wolf packs generally fill the recently vacated territory within 1 year and livestock predation often continues. Most tools currently available for non-lethal control of wolves are short-lived in their effectiveness or require constant human presence. Wolves, like most canids worldwide, use scent-marking (deposits of urine, scat, and scratches at conspicuous locations) to establish territories on the landscape and avoid intraspecific conflict. We tested human-deployed scent-marks consisting of scat and urine (i.e., “biofence”) to manipulate wolf pack movements in Idaho.

We deployed 64.7 km and 64.8 km of biofence within 3 wolf pack territories in central Idaho during summers 2010 and 2011, respectively. In 2010, location data provided by satellite collared wolves in 2 of the packs showed little to no trespassing of the biofence. Sign survey at predicted rendezvous sites in areas excluded by the biofence yielded little to no recent wolf use of those areas. We also opportunistically deployed a biofence between a resident wolf pack’s rendezvous site and a nearby (1.6 km) active sheep grazing allotment totaling 2,400 animals. This pack was not implicated in any depredations in 2010. In 2011, however, location data indicated some individuals showed little aversion to trespassing the biofence. Our study provides evidence that wolf movements can be manipulated by human-distributed scent-marks but not all individuals respond strongly to the biofence. Importantly, it appears that wolves’ response to biofencing diminished between years of our study suggesting that one would need to maintain a biofence continuously to ensure effectiveness. We believe more frequent refreshing of the biofence, year-round presence once the biofence is established, an adequate buffer distance from the area to be excluded, and the use of howlboxes may fortify biofenceing, but further study is needed to test this.

Learn more:

Ausband, D. E., M. S. Mitchell, S. B. Bassing, and C. White.  2013.  No trespassing: using a biofence to manipulate wolf movements.  Wildlife Research 40:207-216. PDF