What Hinders the Implementation of Non-lethal Wolf Deterrents? A Qualitative Analysis of Interviews with Wolf Management Stakeholders



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Lethal control is criticized as inhumane and counter-productive. Fortunately, non-lethal options can help reduce depredations. Studies have shown that non-lethal measures may be superior to lethal means, yet Wildlife Services still relies on lethal control. This study intends to describe what forces underlie this disconnect and determine how stakeholders can increase the use of non-lethal deterrents.

The study was limited to the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Purposeful and network sampling was used to target experts. NVivo software was used to analyze 34 semi-structured interviews from environmental and wildlife non-profits, landowner and agricultural associations, and wildlife management agencies

The study found that the primary reason non-lethal methods are not used more frequently is cost. Ranchers feel non-lethal methods are not cost-effective given their limitations on large operations and over long time periods. Additionally, relationship-building is paramount. Participants recommended organizations employ representatives in situ or have their representatives remain in the area for the long-term. Participants also recommended having one-on-one meetings and offering something beneficial to ranchers, e.g. cost-sharing or convincing evidence.

Education was proposed to motivate greater non-lethal implementation, but should be conceived as information exchanges. Even better is facilitating a platform for ranchers to share their own successes. Peer-to-peer communication is more convincing and goes along with presenting ideas and opportunities instead of dictating strategy. Furthermore, participants stressed that programs should be based on rancher ownership as much as possible.

In terms of Wildlife Services’ role, non-profits should be open to collaboration. Although some operators may deserve their negative reputation, there are others willing to try non-lethal. Working with Wildlife Services can allow non-profits to leverage existing trust and take advantage of their unique skillsets. However, there must be frank discussion about goals to counteract concerns about cultural biases toward lethal management and to ensure that each stakeholder accomplishes something.





Drinkhouse, Eva (2018). What Hinders the Implementation of Non-lethal Wolf Deterrents? A Qualitative Analysis of Interviews with Wolf Management Stakeholders. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/16586.

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.